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Thread: copper vs. black iron for air

  1. #1
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    Sep 2007
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    copper vs. black iron for air

    I had one of those rare epiphanies recently. If I moved the medium sized upright air compressor to the basement I could free up a tiny bit more space in the shop.

    I'd need to run some piping for it though. If I went copper I'd use the expensive Oatey silver bearing solder because I cannot get a good sweat with the cheaper lead stuff (tried before to run some air in the basement for the little compressor - failed miserably, but I did successfully install a utility sink with no leaks ). I have a little copper on hand leftover from the failed attempt of basement air and the utility sink (I bought big contractor packs of fittings so I wouldn't need just one more to finish the task).

    Iron might be a little easier to work with, but I'd need to buy everything fresh. Maybe if I bought extra I'd have an excuse to buy pipe clamps (quote of the day from my wife, "What is the deal with all these clamps lately?").

    I suppose another option is just to get a couple 50' or 100' lines from Harbor Freight and be done with it.

    I mostly use the compressor with the impact wrench for vehicle maintenance. Might get a pneumatic drill if I get into turning more and pick up one of those sanding pad sets.

    What are the pros and cons of each possibility? And did I forget anything? On the off chance it matters, I'm using ARO style connectors.

  2. #2
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    For my air lines I went with galvanized pipe. Black iron also works well (ask Tod), but I splurged a few extra bucks to go with galvanized, mostly for the look more than the protection. Copper is considered my some folks to be the best, but it's considerably pricier. (This may be moot point it you already have most of what you need.) Iron pipe is more resistant to impact, so if you bang it with something accidentally you're not likely to mess anything up. My bar clamp rack was installed over my air drying rack, so I wanted something that could put up with getting banged by Besseys on occasion.

    Here's how it looked before I filled the empty floor space with the compressor:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Personally, I'd recommend against using a couple hoses for your supply lines. I'd think it would be harder to control (gather) the condensation, plus I'd be leery of the long-term durability. You really don't want to be around a broken hose at 135 PSI. DAMHIKT.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  3. #3
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    I ask my plumber this question he is also a builder & electrician. He said regular copper like you would plumb a house with for a small shop that run normal pressures you would expect to find in a small shop is fine. Its what he used in his shop. I have it in my shop with no problems & I used the regular solder too.
    "Forget the flat stuff slap something on the spinny thing and lets go, we're burning daylight" Bart Leetch
    "If it ain't round you may be a knuckle dragger""Turners drag their nuckles too, they just do it at a higher RPM"Bart

  4. #4
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    ozarks
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    another vote for black pipe.
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  5. #5
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    Compressor in basement? Mine goes into another room accesible from an outside entrance with the new shop am building this summer. I saw the aftermath of one of those little ones on wheels that blew sitting on the concrete apron of a guys home and a large one that blew at a body shop in Randolph Co.. It isn't pretty and wouldn't want to be sitting ontop of one of those. I might be all wrong and remembering two different things and putting them together as one, but if you are installing air lines in your concrete floor, you don't want to use copper because it reacts/breaksdown over time with exposure to concrete? Good luck on what you do and how you decide to do it.
    Jon

    God and family, the rest is icing on the cake. I'm so far behind, I think I'm in first place!

    Host of the 2015 FAMILY WOODWORKING GATHERING

  6. #6
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    The lines will be hanging on walls / ceilings.

    Vaughn, thanks for reminding me about moisture traps - don't think of it right now (sporadic non-spray use / dump pressure when done each time) but if I do get into spraying I'll want moisture free air.

    I know I'll want a port near the overhead door to the garage to bring the line outside for car repair. Maybe another port by the assembly table / lathe station and maybe one more towards the rear of the shop for spot blowing? Although I could just run a longer hose for spot blowing. For that matter, I'm able to reach the cars from the compressor currently located at the rear of the shop, so maybe just a single port near the assembly table? Need to make sure it doesn't interfere with the overhead door if I do just one port. For that matter, no port should interfere with overhead - don't want to invest in a fancy HVLP gun and leave it plugged into air, sitting on workbench and then wife open overhead to bring in groceries and BAM!

    Anything wrong with using up the copper I have and supplementing with iron? Maybe run a short length of hose between the two? I'd probably use a short length of hose between the compressor and the pipe system anyway to eliminate most of the vibration - I know this is bad for solder joints, and can't be good for threaded joints.

    Thanks for the replies. It might be awhile before I get around to doing this, but as I sit here wanting to do shop stuff but am limited by a slow healing back injury I'm thinking of ways to make the shop better, even if implementation will be awhile.

  7. #7
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    Within the 1755 post thread that detailed Marty Walsh's incredible workshop, he goes into detail about installation of black iron pipe (this part starts here) for his air lines.



    I have to warn you reading this post will take the better part of a day, but you will not be able to "put it down". He has a workshop others can only dream about.




  8. #8
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    well frank ,thanks for the dream revisited and that shot of the shop is old. its alot fuller now.. i too ran black pipe for the dryer system, and use good pipe dope or you will be chasin leaks forever.and it was from tods recommendation and me seeun how he did it..i got my filters from tp sales a good company and quick delivery..they have a diagram of how a proper setup should be from the compressor to the tool. also you are gonna want a rubber hose made for high presure, think hydralic hose to elimante the vibes between the pressor and the hard pipe
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  9. #9
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    Pipe dope. I feel like a pipe dope now. So a couple layers of teflon tape per thread joint ain't gonna cut it?

    Any recommendations for pipe dopes (like me )?

    Another question - can the moisture trap piping be done right after the compressor and then run straight out to ports? My basement is heated and the shop is not, so if I'm leaving the system under pressure I should have at least a minor moisture trap in the unheated garage also, right?
    Last edited by Mark Kosmowski; 01-24-2009 at 02:56 PM.

  10. #10
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    Both are good, both have their pluses and their minuses.

    I like copper for a few reasons, one, it is dead easy to install, a torch, and a pipe cutter and you are on your way, iron pipe can be a bear to get everything to fit together, you have to think about how it all screws into itself, and even then, you usually need a few of the twist together joints.

    The other nice thing about copper is that you can very easily tap into it where ever you want. Down the road, if you decide you really need to run a branch over there, just get out the pipe cutter, cut the pipe, and solder in a T and you are on your way

    As you have the copper now, I think you question may well actually be "Is there any reason I should NOT use copper?"

    I'd say "no" use copper, it works good.

    Cheers!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

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