Professional Results From Cheap Air Compressors

The portable air compressors sold at big box hardware stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot are perfectly suited for the jobs they’re advertised for: namely throwing some nails into the wall or filling tires. But if you try to respray your car with that $50 Black Friday pancake air compressor, you’re going to have a bad day. The relatively small amount of air they hold is almost guaranteed to be contaminated with oil and moisture, making it unsuitable for painting or even just blowing the dust out of electronics.

But all is not lost. [Stephen Saville] has done an excellent job documenting his work to turn these low cost homeowner-grade air compressors into something suitable for spraying auto body panels. But even if you aren’t looking to put a sick pearlescent finish on the family minivan, these tips are worth checking out. From increasing the usable volume of air in the system to separating out contaminants, these modifications can unlock a whole new world of pneumatic projects.

The big one (literally and figuratively) is the swirl tube [Stephen] builds out of an old CO2 cylinder. The idea is that this will centrifugally clean the air, not unlike a cyclonic dust separator. As the air enters the top of the cylinder and spins around, contact with the cold metal will cause any moisture to condense out and collect down at the bottom. Oil and other particles in the air should also get spun out, leaving a central column of cleaner air. The collected water and contaminants at the bottom can be occasionally purged out by way of the cylinder’s original valve.

With a source of clean and dry air sorted, [Stephen] next wanted a way to get it around his shop. Using scrap metal pipes he puts together a system that not only gives him air where he needs it, but also increases the volume of compressed air he has available. By using large smooth metal pipes rather than something like flexible rubber hose, the plumbing puts very little resistance on air flow. The pipes therefore can be considered something of an extension of the compressor’s primary tank.

In the video after the break, [Stephen] shows off his new air system by laying down a very nice looking coat of paint on a car hood, but he also goes through the whole build process if you want to see the nuts and bolts of his system. He gives some great tips on welding and working with dissimilar metals which are worth the price of admission alone.

Outfitting the workshop with an integrated compressed air system sounds like the perfect second project to tackle once you’ve got the built-in dust collection system up and running.

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Failed Tool Turned Exploded Wall Art

Few things hit a hacker or maker harder than when a beloved tool goes to that Big Toolbox In The Sky. It can be hard to trash something that’s been with you through countless repairs and teardowns, made all the worse by the fact most employers don’t recognize “Tool Bereavement” as a valid reason to request time off. Maybe next time one of your trusty pieces of gear gives up the ghost, you can follow the example set by [usuallyplesent] and turn it into a piece of art to hang up on the shop wall.

The shop had gotten years of daily service out of this air powered angle die grinder (not bad for a $14 Harbor Freight tool), and he thought they should immortalize it in their waiting room by turning it into an interesting piece of art. After all, it’s not everyday that some folks see the insides of the sort of tools the more mechanically inclined of us may take for granted.

After taking the grinder apart and cleaning everything up, [usuallyplesent] decided to simplify things a bit by tossing out the assorted tiny components like seals and washers. By just focusing on the larger core components, the exploded view is cleaner and reminds us of a light saber cutaway.

Using a piece of scrap cardboard, [usuallyplesent] made templates for all of the major pieces of the grinder and used that to sketch out the placement and spacing on the white background. He then cut out each shape so the parts would be partially recessed into the board. This gives the effect that each piece was cut down the middle lengthwise but without all the hassle of actually cutting everything down the middle lengthwise.

We’ve previously seen similar displays made out of dissected consumer electronics, but there’s something rather personal about doing the same thing for a well-used tool. If any of our beloved readers feel inspired to enshrine a dead multimeter into a shadow box over the bench, be sure to let us know.

[via /r/justrolledintotheshop]

DIY Air Compressor Made From Refrigerator And Fire Extinguisher

[Giorgos] wanted to build a pneumatic solder paste application tool but needed an air compressor to power it. Instead of going out and buying a compressor, he decided to build one himself. It sure is an ugly duckling but we’re impressed with it’s performance.

The air tank is an old spent fire extinguisher. The stock valve was removed and the insides were cleaned out. Out of curiosity, [Giorgos] figured out the volume by filling the tank with water, then measuring how much water came out. It turned out to be 2.8 liters. Two holes were drilled and threaded bungs were welded on to attach inlet and outlet lines.

The compressor portion is straight out of a refrigerator. Besides the compressor being free, the other benefit is that it is super quiet! Check the video after the break, you’ll be astonished. [Giorgos] did some calculations and figured out that his solder paste applicator needed about 8 bar (116 psi) of pressure. The refrigerator compressor easily handles that, filling the tank in 1 minute, 25 seconds.

On the output side of the tank resides a pressure switch for automatically filling the tank and a regulator for ensuring the solder paste applicator gets the required pressure. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a refrigerator compressor used as an air compressor. Check out this dual setup capable of 400 psi.

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Going Mobile With Your Air Tools

airtank

If you’ve ever worked with air tools outside of a shop setting, you know that lugging the air hose around can get more and more annoying the further away you are from the compressor. [headsplosive] posted a video (embedded after the break) showing how to go mobile with your air tools.

Air tanks made for paintball are high-pressure in a tiny space, and make a very convenient energy source. In this case, [headsplosive] used a 68 cubic inch, carbon fiber wrapped tank rated at 4500psi. The normal regulator only steps that pressure down to 800psi, so he added a second regulator to hit the 120-140psi that air tools need. He then attached a ‘remote line’, or a coiled high-pressure hose, and added a standard air tool coupler at the end.

The yield is pretty impressive. With a half-charge of the tank, he managed to drive 100 two-inch nails. [headsplosive] has a scuba tank handy, and uses that to recharge the paintball tank. He estimates a scuba tank will last you about 2000 shots from a nailer, and only costs about $7.50 to recharge. Not bad at all. We can’t help but wonder how long you’d get out of an air-powered cutoff wheel, or even a hammer drill. While the parts aren’t terribly cheap unless you buy them used, it will still pay for itself in convenience if you have the need.

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