Back in the dim depths of the past, when there was still a company called GMC, selling cheap Chinese-made tools, I bought an air compressor.
It was a direct drive, GMC 40L air compressor, and I thought it might be useful in the workshop, but I wasn’t sure – the compressed air for cleaning up sounded promising. Well that was then.
These days, I am convinced that compressed air is a great resource for any workshop, and even so I am not maximising how much I could use it. I have used it to clean up (compressed air), inflate basketballs, pool toys. The impact driver to free rusted bolts from reclaimed timber, and nail guns obviously, large and small.
The one tool that came in the various kits of cheap air tools that I have never used is the paint/finish sprayer. With 30 metres of lattice to paint (15 m double sided), spraying was definitely the method of choice. My (budget) HVLP paint sprayer was missing the pickup nozzle (haven’t used it for a few years), so decided to try the paint spray attachment. (Similar to the one pictured)
Worked really well – perhaps not surprisingly, but I shouldn’t have been ignoring it for so long – would make an interesting finish applicator. (I have 2, so one dedicated to paint and one to wood finishes is easy enough to prevent cross-contamination).
It was a hot day, and although I had thinned the paint right down, it became increasingly difficult as the day progressed. A few blockages as the paint inside the container dried on the walls, then some flaking off blocked the jet. The paint that I had watered down (thinned for spraying) was trying to form a skin, so I used a kitchen sieve to capture any lumps of paint as I refilled the container. The 40L air compressor really struggled to keep up – I could have finished the job in half the time (or better) if the compressor had a larger reservoir, and/or refilled faster.
The heat of the day really did play a part, not only on the paint and the tools, but on me as well. Hydration only goes so far, I needed to keep the sun under control. A hat is fine, sunscreen as well, but I needed to really get the sun off me, and my solution would have made Ford Prefect proud.
Still, I am impressed with the air compressor – I have shown it no love for the years it has been languishing in the back shed, pumping away without care or maintenance. The last time I emptied the tank of water condensation, about 20L of water came out! I am constantly amazed the whole thing hasn’t failed years ago, but it keeps pumping away. It wasn’t until near the end of the day that I remembered the compressor was still buried in all that sawdust from the failed dust bag. When it does finally give up the ghost, I will replace it with a serious compressor with a decent reservoir, but until then, it can keep pumping away!
Back to the spraying, and it really got difficult – it was spluttering, bursting (as in a puff of paint, then just air, then paint), and often spraying so little paint that I was painting with air. It wasn’t until late in the piece that I realised what was happening. After the first few fills of the container, paint was building around the upper edge and lid, and it became (semi) airtight. The air was blowing, but without atmospheric air pressure inside the container, no paint was being drawn up! I solved it temporarily by opening and closing the container regularly, and finished the job, but in the long term it will need a hole drilled.
But despite the setbacks, and the lessons learned, it worked, and the lattice got painted. And my sprayer finally got commissioned – only been about 10 years!