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November 04, 2006

Air Style

The joys of becoming an Air-ess.

I have respect for air.  I once drove through a tornado-ravaged section of highway.  Mere air had ripped the roofs off factories, hurled cars around fields, stripped trees of every branch, and all of this had happened in less time than it takes a peri-menopausal woman to get a turtleneck off.

149_dscn3908_2 Air and tornadoes have both been around since our planet was spawned 4 billion years ago, so it was inevitable that humans would get the idea of using air as a tool. It happened in 1959 when engineers at Paslode introduced the very first pneumatic tool, an upholstery tacker that shot staples driven by compressed air.  Those Paslode engineers were so excited that they stayed late at work and missed watching the inaugural episode of The Twilight Zone.  But their efforts yielded the first commercially accepted framing nailer, and that’s why today’s houses appear out of thin air.

Today you can buy an air compressor bundled with a brad nailer for as little as $200.  That compressor will inflate bike and car tires so you don’t have to go to the gas station, it’ll run nail guns, air sanders, impact wrenches, paint spray-guns, caulking guns, metal-cutting tools and my favourite girlish accessory - the sandblaster.

Because air tools are powered by tornado-in-a-can technology, they don’t need their own individual motors, so they run quietly and have fewer parts that wear out.  For homeowners, a 2 or 2.5 horsepower compressor will handle most jobs.  The compressor’s air tank holds a quantity of air within a pre-set pressure range.  The motor cycles on and off automatically to maintain the pressure in the tank.  Wear ear protection because the noise of the motor cycling on when you’re taking a break is enough to make coffee come out of your nose.

Whether you’re putting up wainscoting, building birdhouses, constructing kids’ toys or framing a barn, there’s an air system out there that’ll remind you of your first date; infinite possibilities, but none of the pimples.

Dscn3935 The smallest air tools are ¼-inch staplers for making crafts, assembling drawers or creating doll houses.  The next size up is the 1-1/4-inch brad nailer, which is indispensable for installing interior trim, paneling, and putting together cabinets and furniture.  Finish nailers are available in 2 or 2-1/2-inch sizes, and are great for cabinetry and interior trim.  You can even get framing nailers that shoot 3-1/2 inch twisted-shank nails into 2x6 lumber like it was so much butter.  Honestly, you won’t sleep well for weeks; that’s how exciting it is to own an air compressor. 

Many air tools require a few drops of oil in the throat of the coupling before each use.  After using your compressor, always drain the compressed air out of it.  Why?  Moisture condenses inside the tank and eventually rusts it from the inside out.  There’s a perky drain assembly near the bottom of the tank; loosen it off at the end of your job and let the compressed air spew back out into the atmosphere.

Some air compressors include accessories.  Mine came with a craft stapler and a 1-1/4-inch brad nailer.  They’re lightweight, amazingly reliable, non-jamming, well-balanced little units.  Look for a rubber comfort grip and a side-loading magazine for ease of use.  Some nail guns can be set to sequential mode (up to 5 shots per second for banging out a job so quickly that you’re probably going to have to re-do it).   I only operate mine in single-cycle mode because I like to control the speed at which I screw up.

DETAILS:  My compressor came in a rockin' combo pack - The Paslode Premium Workshop Kit - which includes a 2.5 horsepower compressor, 20 feet of hose, a pneumatic stapler and a brad nailer (PASCKT18) - the suggested retail price is $399.


gary ezma' cherry

Rod Serling: Some superstitions kept alive by the long night of ignorance have thier own special power. You hear of it through a jungle grapevine in a remote corner of the twilight zone. Ding, ding, ding, ding... Are you sure air has been around for 4 Billion years. My old pappy told us he used to have to walk ten miles up hill, through noxous gas, and volcanic dust plumes, twice, just to go to school. Actually bravo, air thiny majiggers are awsssooome man.( look robin I used the man thing, very hippy MAN ) Air compressors are the way to go. I agree with everything Mag wrote, anything that makes the job easier will enhance your ability to be creative. Many people give up projects because they just become laborious, but this is a way to savor the route you travel toward your goals, and really experience your achievement along the way, Who da fudge wants to be fustrated alone that road. But I must add, if you're going to spend the loot to buy these toyz, buy a condesation bleed. this is a very inexpensive little valve that hooks in line with your air hose, Since all atmospheric pressure contain a degree of hydogen and oxygen, this little puppy is used to seperate the two. You air tools will usually have some type of moving parts inside them. the dryer you keep them, the longer they will last. Then when you get old you'll have something to give to your grn-kiddies besides unbelievably ridiculus stories. But jeepers Robin what do I know I'm just a squater...( MAN )...Ezma'

gary ezma' cherry

Part II Ezma' Returns; If your going to run out to the store to get your little bleed valve don't forget to ask for a short section of air hose. the short section will go from the compressor to the bleed valve/ bowl dodad, and your regular hose leads from your bleeder to your tool. Please wear you eye protection, and use great care. These tools can run at tremendous speeds. P.S. Please excuse my horrorlicious grammer this evening, I had to meet a lady tonight, so I had to loose my glasses, because, well to be frank, I look dweebalious, and I was triumphant in loosing my glass's... Ezma'

Jacob Kennedy

Just picked up my first compressor/nailer combo based, at least partly, on your column. I was getting really tired of having my nailset bounce when doing baseboards and chair rails. I would have to caution about the SCFM of the compressor, though. If you're staying under the $300 level you're unlikely to be able to power more than the nailers (short bursts of air as opposed to long sustained flows). Pumping up a car tire may not be possible with the bargain bin compressors.

Unedited Meat

How do you stay so fabulous during every repair..!.

Loading the dishwasher I become dishevelled....

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