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Recently we were shooting the bull with some friends in the tool business when the following topic arose: Do DIYers (or pros not at work) use air tools — non-fastener tools, like impact wrenches, air ratchets, air chisels, etc. as opposed to nailers or staple guns — at home? And if so, which ones and for what purposes? If you’ve got a sec, drop us a line via email or comment below with a bit of detail about the following:

  1. Do you use air tools at all at home?
  2. If so, which ones?
  3. What type of work do you do with them?
  4. What kind of air compressor do you use?
  5. What’s the minimum tank size, in your opinion, for home air tool use?

We appreciate it, because all of us sitting around the bar had dramatically different views on the subject. One of these days we’re going to set up a full survey engine here on TM. I’d love to be able to do a detailed poll among readers. I’d say we have a hell of a knowledge base here.

 

Next time you need to go logging underwater, your gas-powered or electric chain saw isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to need a tool like one of these air powered chainsaws from CS Unitec. They manufacture a few models of air-powered chain saws, including the underwater model with an exhaust valve.

Besides underwater, air-powered chain saws are safer in hazardous or wet locations. Drawing 92CFM at 90PSI to produce 4HP, the low maintenance saws start easily and the motor and chain have separate lubricating systems.

The saws come with 17″, 21″, or 25″ bars and a standard “Super Chisel” chain. You can also buy carbide tipped and ripping chains for the saws. One of these air-powered chainsaws will run you about $3000 new, but it looks like you can rent them for $130 a day.

Air Powered Chain Saws [CS Unitec]
Street Pricing [Google Products]

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Driving a few posts by hand with a post driver can be fun, but driving a bunch of posts is too much like hard work. Next time get a little help driving from your air compressor by hooking it up to the Striker TS air operated post driver.

The post driver can drive posts up to 1-3/4″ in diameter using only 2 CFM of oiled air at 80-90 PSI. To use the driver, connect your air hose to the air port in the handle and place the driver over the post. Hold onto the driver with both hands and lift the black handle which lifts the internal weight. Then pull down on the driver with both hands to drop the weight. The driver can produce up to 60 drives a minute.

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This little 3-gallon air compressor from Bosch looks pretty much like the others you’d see, except for the fact that it mounts its tanks vertically instead of horizontally. This not only makes ’em easier to drain — just open a single valve in the central control panel — it also moves the center of gravity inward so the whole rig feels more balanced in your hand when you carry it.

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Benjamen’s recent post about swivel connectors for compressed air lines brought to mind a little sanity saver. This Dynabrade swivel connector has a similar mission but adds a degree of freedom. It can rotate about the male 1/4 in. NPT connection, and the two composite sections can twist relative to one another. When I used this it was with a very light self-coiling hose, and even that was enough to pull the connector straight downwards. When you’re working above something, that can be a problem, but getting the hose out of the way is a simple matter of throwing it over your shoulder. In nearly every other situation, leaving the hose free to rotate is a boon.

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Attach one of these variable angle swivels to an air tool or air hose and it’ll allow it to move more freely, or so Milton claims. The fitting allows the hose to both swivel and bend farther than a rigid coupling without kinking. It’s not mentioned in the available information, but presumably there’s a ball fitting of some type under the flexible rubber boot.

Besides 1/4″ MNPT to 1/4″ M-style plug, the swivels come in 1/4″ MNTP to MNTP, 1/4″ MNTP to FNTP, and 3/8″ MNTP to 1/4″ M-Style plug.  Any of these chrome-plated variable angle swivels will run you $6 before tax or shipping.

Milton [Website]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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Instead of adjusting the air flow at the compressor, Astro Pneumatics’ digital flow regulator screws right onto your spray gun or other air tool to precisely control the flow of air. Love it or hate it, instead of a analog gauge it uses a digital readout.

Constructed with a mirror-plated finish, the regulator’s electronics are sealed and the display is behind impact-proof glass. Unfortunately this also means the battery’s not replaceable, but the display shuts off 45 seconds after you press the button to give the battery a life expectancy of 5,000 readings.

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You wire your shop for electricity and run ducting for your dust collection system, so why not outfit your shop with compressed air outlets where you’ll need them rather than dragging the air hose around?

RapidAir makes running air lines throughout the shop as easy as running PEX water line. You don’t have to cut and thread pipe or mess with pipe dope at the fittings. The system can handle pressures up to 150 PSI using just flexible 1/2″ nylon tubing and simple push-on fittings.

Pricing for the master kit starts at $140; it includes one compressor manifold, two outlets, and 100′ of 1/2″ blue nylon tubing. Outlets, tubing, and fittings are also available separately.

Master Kit [RapidAir]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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I run a coolant mister on one of my benchtop CNC mills. The mister provides cooling to the toolbit as well as clearing the chips away from the cut, reducing the chance of the bit jamming (I use small end mills) in deeper cuts. The problem is, I have an old horizontal air compressor in my attached shop supplying the air. When the thing kicks in (usually every 15 minutes or so for at least 5 minutes, and programs typically run a half hour to an hour) the noise is deafening, even in the house. So I figured I’d ask what fellow Toolmongers suggest. I need around 60-80 psi and a relatively good flow, although I sometimes run the mister through a timer system. I also like to use it with an air gun to blast chips from finished parts, dry things off, etc.

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Ever have an air line or tool go shooting off accidentally when you disconnect it? Besides being dangerous, it could damage the connector as it whacks the ground. To prevent this uncontrolled reaction, safety couplers like this one from Milton Industries make connection and disconnection a two-stage process.

Several retailers of the safety coupler describe the operation as follows: “First click locks coupler and plug; second click engages air pressure. When disconnecting, first click will relieve air pressure; second click allows coupler and plug to be safely disengaged.” Not having laid our hands on one yet, this sounds a little vague. Has anyone used one that could provide a better explanation of how the coupler works?

This 1/4″ M-style safety coupler comes in either male and female 1/4″ NPT threads. Milton retails the safety couplers for $10.

Milton Industries [Corporate Site]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]