PaintPRO, Vol. 6, No. 2
March/April 2004
Vol 6 No 2

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Other articles in this issue:
Choosing the Right Wood Stain
Wallcovering Adhesives
Caulking Guns
Traffic Paint
Learning New Skills
Paint Stippers
Estimating, Etc.
Contractor Profile: The Flood Company
Manufacturer Profile: Siegner & Co.
Paint Industry News
Product News
Product Profiles
Painting Tips


PaintPRO Archives
Newborn Brothers 114d
mNewborn Brothers 114D



Caulk, Caulking Guns

The better the caulking gun, the less it will interfere with your skills. Caulking depends much on your gun, cutting the nozzle, angling the gun, and moving it along smoothly are what create a smooth, uniform bead, free of voids and blobs.
by Gail Elber

If you can spend $1.99 on a caulking gun, why would you spend $199, or even more? Beyond the wall of identical-looking do-it-yourselfer caulking guns at your local home improvement store are some guns designed with professional painters in mind.

The basics
You may think that the quality of your caulking depends very little on your gun. After all, your skills at cutting the nozzle, angling the gun, and moving it along smoothly are what create a smooth, uniform bead, free of voids and blobs. Nevertheless, the better the caulking gun, the less it will interfere with the exercise of your skills.

Caulk Master PG100Caulk Master PG100

For example, a gun that’s too heavy will wear you out. Cage-type guns are lighter than cradle-type ones. (They also take up less space in your toolbox when they’re empty.) Ten-ounce cartridges are lighter than quart ones, though the effort of getting up and down the ladder to change the smaller cartridges more frequently may reduce that advantage. If you use sausage-pack or bulk caulk, you’ll need a gun that accommodates it.

A gun whose grip is too big or small will be hard to control. As you close your hand to grasp something, your grip is weak at the beginning, strong in the middle, and weak again at the end. Some rainy day, squeeze all the different guns at the store and see which ones seem to operate in the strongest part of your grip. These will reduce fatigue and cramping. A trigger whose curves conform to your hand is also more comfortable than one apparently designed for the limbs of some alien species. Dripless makes the ETS-2000, a gun whose grip you can adjust. This gun is also relatively light because it’s made of composite instead of metal.

Different guns offer different amounts of leverage — the ratio between how hard you squeeze and how hard the plunger forces out the caulk. Depending on what kind of caulk you use, you might want two guns — one with low leverage for soft latex and silicone caulks, and one with high leverage for stiff urethane materials. Newborn Brothers makes guns with leverages ranging from 3:1 to 26:1, and the company also has several models, including their #114D, whose leverage you can adjust.

Newborn Brothers Caulk Buddy
Newborn Brothers Caulk Buddy

Finally, a gun so insubstantial that it breaks when you drop it will make you get in the truck and go to the store to replace it. You can’t produce a good bead when you’re on the other side of town.

Helpful features
Most guns in the over-$1.99 category have some feature that releases the pressure on the cartridge when you come to the end of the bead, so that caulk doesn’t drip from the nozzle. Some require you to click on a button; others release the pressure when you release the trigger suddenly but leave it on when you release it slowly. In guns from Dripless, the pressure is always automatically released when you release the trigger. In guns whose push rod is ratcheted, releasing the pressure is generally a two-handed operation, whereas guns with round or hex rods usually have a thumb button for releasing the pressure.

Good-quality guns often have a spout cutter built into the handle and a poker for opening clogged spouts.

Power up
If you do a lot of caulking, as on new construction, consider a power-assisted caulking gun. They’re also helpful if you frequently use stiff urethane caulks. Air-powered and cordless electric models are available. Flow is controlled by how hard you squeeze the trigger, and both kinds back off the pressure when you let go of the trigger to eliminate dripping. The cordless ones are heavier, but the air-powered models tether you to a compressor and require you to manage a hose on the ladder. Still, the reduction in hand fatigue may be worthwhile.

Milwaulkie 6560-21Milwaulkie's 6560-21 12-V cordless caulking gun can be converted to use 10-oz cartridges, or sausage packs.

Milwaukee makes cordless caulking guns in 2.4-V and 12-V sizes. The 2.4-V gun can develop up to 300 lb of pressure on a 10-oz cartridge, and the 12-V gun can develop 620 lb on 10-oz or quart-size cartridges or sausage packs.

The lightest guns are the air-powered ones. Some CaulkMaster air-powered caulking guns have lightweight Valox polymer bodies and weigh less than a pound in the 10-oz size. The company also makes aluminum models that are heavier.

Before buying a power gun, install a cartridge in it to make sure that you like the process, since different guns must be loaded in different ways.

Myro makes little reusable tips called Perfect Bead that screw onto the spout of your caulk cartridge, making cutting the spout less of an exact science. Just cut the spout straight across and select the screw-on tip that will produce the correct size bead. If you change your mind mid-cartridge, you can just change the tip, even to a smaller size, which you can’t do with a nozzle that you cut to size yourself.

Finally, for the finishing touch, Newborn Brothers has a gadget called the Caulk Buddy, which is sort of an artificial finger that allows you to smooth the bead perfectly. The device clips onto a caulking gun and can also be used as a cap for the nozzle of an opened cartridge.

With the time you save using the products described here, you can devote yourself to thinking about higher things, such as, “Why is a 10.3-oz caulk cartridge called a ‘1⁄10-gallon’ cartridge, and a 30-oz cartridge called a ‘quart’?”


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