Monday, July 23, 2012

Pumping Air

This post is, somewhat serendipitously, a follow-up to my previous garage-related post.  While that one was all about speakers, this one is all about a bunch of hot air. Or cool air.  Or whatever the air temperature happens to be at the moment.  Anyway, the point is I finally got an air compressor.  Whee!

Two horses and four gallons of air-compression goodness
I have wanted one of these for years, and way back in 2004 I even went out and bought a cheesy 1-gallon unit from Menard's. It took several minutes to bring its tiny little reservoir to maximum PSI, but it worked for filling up car tires so I didn't complain. I gave it to my cousin about two years later, and didn't really miss it that much until my wife and I bought the house we currently live in.  The big attached garage sure is nice, but there have been a host of times since we moved in that I said a variation of the phrase "If only I had an air compressor..."  And not just for filling up tires, either (though that certainly does come in handy).  Here's a couple examples of why an air compressor is a great tool to have around:

• Cleaning dirt and dust off the lawnmower and other small engine tools
• Cleaning dirt and dust off engine parts under the car hood
• Cleaning dirt and dust off kids' toys
• Cleaning gunk and residue off old household items
• Bringing new life to an old shop-vac air filter
• Drying off wet objects
• Quickly removing sawdust, dirt, and dead bugs from the garage
• Working with pneumatic tools like impact wrenches

Until now I haven't had one though, which means any time a tire is low or something needs to be cleaned with a burst of air, I've had to take it down to the gas station or (gasp!) use one of those little cans of compressed air you can buy at Staples. I remember a time last February when my friend Jon and I actually had to walk our bikes a mile down the road to the gas station to fill up the tires, just so we could start our bike ride.  Not cool :(  The problem is, these things aren't cheap.  A decent compressor runs at least $150-$200 new, and prices kind of skyrocket from there.  Some are meant for different applications, some are bigger, some fill up quicker...yeah, you never thought compressed air was such a hassle, eh?  Fortunately, my dad came to my rescue several months ago with this little gem:
A medieval torture device? No, not quite...
It's a portable air tank he made from an old propane canister, and is great for all the aforementioned tasks...except when it runs out of air.  Fortunately there are several places in town, from tire shops to gas stations, which will fill it up for free.  It's a nice stopgap measure but there's just something nice about having your own for-real air compressor :) But since the price tag was holding me back, I went to the internets for some help.

I belong to a group on Facebook where people here in town post things they want to buy or sell--sort of like a less creepy version of Craigslist.  It's a perpetual online garage sale of sorts, which is continually updated with all manner of clothes, tools, old electronics, nicknacks, and other tchotchkes that people in town and the surrounding communities want to trade. I posted that I was looking for a small air compressor, and less than two hours later someone responded that they had one to sell.  The next day he and I met up on the university campus where we tested it out, and $55 later I drove home with this little blue fella.

It's clearly not new, but not that bad overall.  The oil dipstick is broken off (it's the small circular protrusion sticking up from the solid grey motor), the oil needs to be changed, one of the pressure gauges doesn't work, and the tanks had a fair amount of brown condensate that had to be drained out, but other than that it's in great shape.  I also picked up a good rubber air hose (tip: don't mess with the polyurethane or PVC air hoses. They're more of a hassle than they're worth) and sure enough, it works like a charm.

Like a shop-vac or most power tools, an air compressor isn't one of those things you find yourself using every day unless your job depends on it.  But the times when it's handy to have, it's really handy.

1 comment:

Ben Rush said...

"I belong to a group on Facebook where people here in town post things they want to buy or sell--sort of like a less creepy version of Craigslist"

Greatest. Sentence. Ever.