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Thread: New Air Line System

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM

    New Air Line System

    If you’ve been following along, you’ll know I got a new compressor last week. Before I got the compressor, I spent a couple weeks worth of evenings researching and building an air line system to hook it up to.

    I’ll be the first to admit that what I built is bigtime overkill for my current needs, and is likely more than I’ll ever need in this shop. If I were doing production work, then a system like this might be warranted, but for my evening and weekend use, I went a bit overboard. Still, I figured a decent compressor deserves a decent air delivery system to go with it. And when I eventually move into a bigger shop, most of this will be able to go with me.

    The system consists of two main parts: the drying/cooling rack and the air station. The drying rack is intended to cool and thus help dry the air on its way to the air station. The air station is where I have a couple outlets on separate regulators, and that’s where most tools will be plugged into the compressor.

    Here’s the sketch of the drying rack:

    And here’s how it looked partway through the build. This was at a stage where I was pressure testing it for leaks, so there are some valves, gauges, and plugs that aren’t in the final installation:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The rack was initially assembled on the floor, and the 2x2 wood pieces were attached then, to keep it from twisting as I moved it around. Next, I lag bolted the horizontal 2x4s through the stucco to the studs, positioning them so I could simply set the 2x2s attached to the pipes on the 2x4s and screw them in place from the top. Sort of a French cleat, without the angled parts. Since I needed to attach my clamp rack over the piping, I used vertical 2x4s as standoffs, again lagged to the wall studs. Here’s how it looks with the clamps in place:

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    And a bit more detail of the gate valves and the horizontal drain collection tube. (This pic was taken after installing the final valve at the end of the line.)

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    Once the compressor was installed, it became difficult to get any photos of the drying rack, so these in-progress pics will have to do. Now…on to the rest of the system.

    The air exits the compressor via a 3/4" ball valve into a 3/4” ID flex hose:

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    From there, it goes 5’ to a Parker regulator, which is attached to the drying rack. I've capped the line at the point where I plan to install a pressure relief valve:

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    And a bit more detailed look at the regulator:

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    After the air goes through the rack, it goes to the overhead line and to the air drop by the door. I put it there so we can use the air hose to sweep the back porch and patio. In this pic you can see the 40 amp disconnect I installed for the compressor. I didn’t really need it, but it didn’t add much to the cost, and it gives me a convenient location from which to kill power to the compressor. This is also where the drain valve is located for emptying the water out of the drying rack. I’ll probably put a flex hose on this valve so I can blow the water outside:

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    There’s also the overhead pipe run, which goes from the drying rack across the shop to the air station. It has a jog in it to miss the ambient air filter:

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    More red flex hose takes the air down to the air station near the end of my lathe, which is where the vast majority of my air use happens.

    And here’s the air station. It’s got a Beach filter/desiccant dryer (retails for over $1000 with the extra bleeder valve…I got it on eBay for $50), and a pair of Harbor Freight mini-filter/regulators. Using dual regulators lets me run the sander at 85 PSI and the blower nozzle at 125 PSI or so.

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    And another, more detailed shot. The whole thing is attached to a piece of scrap OSB I had laying around, and the OSB is attached to the side of my metal rolling drawer cabinet/workbench:

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    The red flex hose was not my original choice. When I initially hooked everything up, I used 5/8” ID clear plastic hose with nylon braid in it {rated at 200 PSI), attached to hose barbs with standard hose clamps. When first I pumped up the system to 135 PSI, I had some small leaks at the clamped connections, so starting at the compressor, I tightened up each joint until the leaks stopped. When I got to the last fitting, where the hose attaches to the air station, I bent down to tighten the clamp, and just as I was starting to tighten it, BLAM! the hose blew off the hose barb, and became an angry snake hanging from the ceiling, trying to take my head off. I did have the presence of mind to duck as I ran away trying to get out of the range of the whip. It did end up whacking me pretty good in the arm, and it felt like it punched me in the face. Later examination indicated that the hose itself didn’t hit my face, since there were no bruises or other marks. I’m guessing it was the blast of air that just felt like a fist. Whatever it was, it blew my prescription safety glasses off my face and out into the driveway. (I was standing at nearly the back wall of the garage.)

    That experience caught my attention, and made me not trust the clamped fittings. The hose didn’t rupture, but for reasons I still haven’t figured out, the clamp stopped clamping. Even the guy at the hose shop where I bought the red hoses couldn’t understand how the hose blew off the fitting. He said it sounded like I did everything right. All I know is that I’m no longer comfortable with that type of fitting, so I bought beefier hoses, with machine-crimped male pipe fittings on both ends. I know a lot of folks have had good success with hose clamps and barb fittings, but no more for me, thanks.

    After I got the red hoses installed, I pressured everything back up, and after checking all the joints with soapy water, I only found a few small leaks, which I’ve now tightened up to my satisfaction.

    As I mentioned earlier, this system is overkill for my current needs (just running a little 2” sander and a blow nozzle), but if I decide to run a sandblaster or spray gun or die grinder in the future, I should have plenty of clean, dry air at the tool.

    That’s it for the delivery system…thanks for following along. I’ll post pics of the compressor and its installation in another post.

    Comments and questions are welcome.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Constantine, MI
    This is facinating.
    I've been toying with the idea of piping for air for a couple of years and your little saga has got me thinking really hard about how I would go about geting it done. Thanks for posting this!
    “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Hey Vaughn, you Blow!

    Very well done indeed, I think that while it may certainly be overkill for your needs at the moment, I do think you have done it right the first time, and should not have to add much to it in the future.

    VERY nice clean install!

    Now, about the chicken.......
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    DSM, IA
    Overkill,....did you say overkill? There's no overkill in woodworking!

    Lots of research and work went into it, but as Stu said it's great to do it right the first time. Well Done
    A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. -Henry David Thoreau
    My Website

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Jiutepec Morelos, Mexico
    Well done.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Melbourne, FL

    Hot Wet Air!

    Beautiful work and beautiful system. Maybe you should look into pipefitting?

    Just a observation - I was out and about the other day and saw the air system at what I would call a "fly by night auto repair center"

    They had a very small compressor sitting on a makeshift wood box/pallet next to a small rusty tank. It also looked liked they sunk at least $0.79 into the piping/regulation system next to the tank. Their setup made Harbor Freight look like high end stuff.

    Now keep in mind this place has been in business for years and I doubt anyone has ever checked into their air source.

    I bet they sometimes wonder why their air system is pumping water (Florida humidity about 100% ). But it looked to me like it all was working.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Wow! Impressive.

    I know next to nothing about compressors or regulators etc, so much of the details went right over my head. Still, very impressive.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan
    nice setup there vaughn,, very good steal on the ebay dryer,, i too dont trust barbs those flying hose are bab ombres.. ben hit one to meny time from bad air hose's the flex will keep the vibration down too.. did you anchor your compressor to the floor or just the weight of it on some heavy rubber pads? good use of a small space too the clamp rack idea was a good one
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    Very well done. I don't think you went overboard per se. You won't have to rip it out and upgrade later so, in that sense you did it just right. Like some other folks have mentioned, I have the transition from 'hose on the floor' to 'pipes' on my list of to-dos. I will definitely refer back to this when it floats to the top of "the list".
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Ablett View Post
    Now, about the chicken.......
    That's no chicken, he's a rooster. I got it as a "white elephant" gift at a Christmas party a few years ago, and I dunno why, but SWMBO doesn't want this fine piece of art in the house. I do sort of deserve the banishment treatment, though. When I opened the package at the party, I exclaimed "Cool...LOML has always wanted me to have a huge rooster". (Except I used a different work for "rooster", if you catch my drift.) People were howling...not so much at the statement but at LOML's reaction.

    Quote Originally Posted by larry merlau View Post
    ...did you anchor your compressor to the floor or just the weight of it on some heavy rubber pads? ...
    It's not bolted to the floor yet, but I figure I will once I decide exactly where I put it in the little space available. For now it's sitting in slippery plastic/foam pads so it can be slid on the floor pretty easily. It runs real smooth, though, and even on slick pads, it hadn't moved on its own at all.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

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