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I carry a little compressor, like the ones pictured above, behind the seat in my truck, and my girlfriend carries one in the trunk of her car. And you’d be surprised at how much crap I catch for it. “Why do you bother with that thing?” they ask. “I’ve got a great [insert whatever compressor they bought here] back at the shop.” That’s the trick, though, isn’t it? It’s back at the shop. Incredibly, I have most of my tire leaks away from home. I can’t tell you how many times the one I carry has saved my ass.

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I’ve used it numerous times to pump up slow leaks, adding a little air to buy me another day to make arrangements to drop by my local tire shop. Hell, I even used one of these and some coffee to re-set a tire that came slightly loose from the rim — just enough that it wouldn’t hold air without re-seating. Years ago when I was more active, I used it to pump up basketballs and so on, too.

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TM reader GarethBell posted some pics of this awesome little compressed air/steam engine he built. He didn’t include a lot of other information in the Flickr pool, so I’m hoping he’ll stop by here and share some additional details. But from what I can see, this looks like it’s made from machined, anodized aluminum.

Besides the photo itself, he also included a small video of a similar engine actually running. Check it out, and let him know what you think in comments.

Compressed Air Engine [TM Flickr Pool]

 

Rather than buying a vacuum pump for clamping and veneering, connect Black Jack’s vacuum generator up to your air compressor as your vacuum source. You just need to make sure your compressor can supply 3CFM @ 90psi. Black Jack doesn’t state the pressure drop the generator can achieve, but all the retailers use 10psi drop in pressure for their example calculations.

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Considering that just last week I waited until 10 a.m. to fire up the big compressor in the garage (which can wake the dead) just to air up my truck tires, the press release for this little compressor couldn’t have landed in my inbox at a better time. Take a look at the above video to see what I mean. I’ll wait.

Pretty impressive, huh? Its stats seem pretty standard for a small pancake compressor: 3.8 CFM at 40 PSI or 2.35 CFM @ 90 psi (plenty to drive a pneumatic brad nailer or two). But unlike my old Harbor Freight which checked in at around 90 dB, the GMC Syclone 3010 claims just 60 dB. That sounds about right compared to what we see in the video.

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The 5-gallon Twin-Stack Ridgid compressor in the shop has been pushing nails and powering tools for the last three-and-change years without so much as a second thought. Though it took a little longer to fill the tank in the last few weeks it’s been as solid as can be — until yesterday.

Because it’s cold out, I had the door closed. This meant that all the dust I was making cutting miters right above the compressor started settling around  and on the compressor. This normally isn’t an issue since I get a brush and broom and sweep it all outside or into the collection bin. Did I mention it was cold? So I just kept going without sweeping and knocking the dust off.

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Ridgid’s engineers asked themselves “What’s the biggest pain in the ass about small compressors?” Their answer: Carrying it onto the jobsite. And they have a point. Though the units we employ to power small nailers are pretty light compared to older models, they’re still not light, especially when you sling all the weight from one arm. So they split the compressor in half, dividing and balancing the load. You can carry the motor and one small tank in one hand and the other two larger tanks in the other.

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Really. I’m not kidding. Every Toolmonger should own an air compressor. And while you should probably consider picking up a more capable/larger/sturdier (and pricier) model if you’re looking to run tools or do something more complicated, a model like the one pictured above — priced at $80 — will air up car tires or blow dust out of the garage just fine.

“But wait,” you say. “I want to paint cars and run scores of air tools!” I can sympathize. I’ve given thought to both of these ideas, and I’ve even gone as far as to implement the latter. But consider this:

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Pull the over-sized trigger on Thomas & Betts’ pneumatic cable tie tool to tension, accidentally snap, and trim a cable tie in record time. Using any compressor that can generate 85-100psi of dry, oil-less air, the tool works with their own proprietary Ty-Rap brand cable ties, but it will probably accommodate a range of other ties as long as they are .094 to .184 wide.

Made with an impact-resistant polymer housing and soft over-molded grips, it’s designed to be lightweight and balanced to reduce user fatigue. The tool holds the cut-offs until you eject them so you don’t have to go back and clean up after yourself. It also has two built-in hangers to keep it within reach when you need both hands.

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Recently, Rockler threw its hat into the ring of corrugated fastener tools with its own rebranded entry.  Think of a corrugated fastener as a type of wavy staple that can be used to hold face frames or any other two pieces of wood that butt together — simpler and faster than toe-nailing or using pocket screws. They’re driven by an air powered tool you’d have a hard time telling apart from a nail gun.

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Looking for a 23-gauge pin nailer to speed up trim work at home? Tool King currently offers Porter-Cable’s PIN100 — albeit in factory-reconditioned fashion — for just $70. If you’re willing to cough up another $20-$30, you can find ‘em new starting around $95. But unless you’re planning on using the thing day in and day out, that $20 might be better spent on nails. Or trim paint.

Or on other tools.

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