I love it when an air compressor system comes together

9 05 2012

You’d think an air compressor system would be simple enough to set up. Actually, scratch that – you probably don’t think an air compressor system would be simple enough to set up, because you probably don’t spend much time thinking about air compressors at all.

Neither did I, really, until last summer. I decided it would be a great idea to invest in a nice 80-gallon stationary air compressor. It was supposed to be the key unlimited automotive restoration opportunities. Cutting. Drilling. Impact wrenching. Sandblasting. Painting. Nothing would be out of my reach!

Except that things didn’t really work out that way. Turns out that, while compressors are simple in principle (obnoxiously noisy motor crams a bunch of air into a beefy metal canister) there are a lot of other variables at play. Before the air goes from the canister to whatever air tool you are trying to power, it has to pass from through a complex system of lead hoses, air filters/desiccators, regulators, turbo encabulators, etc. image

If you’ve never done it before, setup can get very confusing very quickly. End result? I never got the sand blaster working correctly. After a bunch of trial and error and hours of staring at hardware store shelves full of hoses and couplers and mysterious widgets, I think I’ve got it worked out.

If you’ve ever tried to do this, or have any intention to do so, learn from my mistakes. Do it right the first time. For example, the regulator/filter. Mount it securely to a wall or something  – mine wasn’t at first, so it swung around annoyingly. I hung it from a hanger bolt into the garage wall stud, then belted it to the stud (against a high-density foam pad) with some beefy zip-ties.It might not seem like much, but you should have seen the first bracket I hacked together.

Then there’s the red lead-in hose. I originally used one 2′ hose, which was just barely long enough to connect the filter to the compressor. Barely doesn’t cut it; the hose was always slightly pinched (and only got moreso when the filter swung around). Today I doubled it up, and the 4′ length gives plenty of flexibility. Simple, but maybe not immediately obvious.I’m confident my slightly improved setup will allow me to make the most of my investment. Tomorrow I’m going to try some media blasting. We’ll see what happens.

If nothing else, I’ve managed to once again confirm that there are two ways of doing things: my way, and the correct way. After a few decades of stubbornly forging my own path and tripping over my own feet, you’d think I’d be able to bypass the former and skip to the latter. No a chance. But I might have a working air compressor system now, so there’s that.

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