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Background

 It didn’t take long before I started to realize the limitations of my Craftsman 25 gallon air compressor.  While it performed well when painting small items, I really saw its limitations when I needed to sand blast large objects.  The compressor ran continuously and the tank got so hot it couldn’t be touched for an extended period of time.  Since the air coming out of the compressor was so hot, it held plenty of moisture which condensed in the hose and sputtered out through the sand blasting nozzle even during the hot dry summer days with humidity around 10-15 percent.  (I remembered when I lived in Florida where moisture was an even bigger problem due to the humidity).   I needed a new compressor.  

I’m at the point in life where I’ve learned that it is much cheaper to purchase a quality tool at the onset.  For that reason I purchased a Quincy QT5 air compressor.  The quality of the U.S. made Baldor motor and Quincy cast iron pump stood head and shoulders above units manufactured overseas and available for two to three hundred dollars less.  But getting a quality air compressor was half the battle.  First I needed to run a 50amp 220volt circuit.  Second, I needed to design an air distribution system that would ensure high volumes of dry air over an extended period of time.

 

Electrical Service

 While my three car garage affords plenty of space, it was not designed for the serious hobbyist.  There were only 15 amp 110volt outlets on a single circuit and no electrical panel or sub panel to tap in to.  My service was on the opposite exterior wall of the house about 75 feet away.

I decided to install a four wire 50 amp 220volt receptacle that complied with the latest electrical codes requiring a separate ground (i.e. earth) and neutral path.  While my compressor could have used a 30 amp circuit, I also wanted something to plug my powder coating oven in to.  In addition, the service panel was 75 feet away so I wanted to make sure there wasn’t an issue with voltage drop when the compressor motor kicked on.  I used 75 feet of #6 Romex to complete the circuit.  While I was at it, I brought an additional 20 amp 110volt circuit into the garage.

 

Now I have plenty of power in the garage.

 

This four wire outlet meets the latest code (isolated ground and neutral).

 

Air Distribution and Moisture Removal

Air extracted directly from the compressor contains excess moisture making it unsuitable for most uses.  Air can be dried by cooling it to condense out the moisture or through the use of desiccant dryers.  I wanted to find a practical way to remove moisture that wouldn’t entail a lot of cost and/or maintenance.  

My research uncovered a number of designs using PVC pipe, steel pipe, or copper pipe.  I decided to use 1” copper pipe which I brazed together.  My research indicated that one does not want to solder copper pipe when pressures exceed 60 PSI.  My compressor was putting out 175 PSI so it had to be brazed.  The pipe runs for 50 feet which allows the air to cool and the moisture to condense out.  The pipe tilts back towards the compressor so the moisture can be removed from the tank (1” pipe was used to allow for condensed moisture to more easily flow in the opposite direction of the air flow).  The result has been bone dry air even after hours of sand blasting. 

 

Type of Pipe

Pro

Con

Copper

Wide diameters available for a reasonable cost.  Will not rust or corrode.  Light weight.

Has to be brazed requiring some practice.

Iron Pipe

Easy to join (just thread).

Will rust internally.  Heavy, especially in larger diameters.

PVC Pipe

Dirt cheap.  Light weight.

Can shatter upon impact sending out shards of plastic.  Does not radiate heat as well as metal pipe.

 

 

 

 My Quincy QT5 -5 compressor – all the air I will ever need.

 

Since the copper pipe was 1” in diameter, I didn’t want to create a restriction at the air compressor by using a ½” hose.  I found this 1” braided flexible stainless steel hose at the Air Tool Store in Sacramento, CA:

 

Notice the braided flexible stainless steel connector.  

 

When securing the tank, use isolation pads and DO NOT tighten the bolts until they are snug – that can stress the tank.

 

Notice that the copper pipe tilts back toward the compressor.  

 

The pipe works its way around the corner, still tilting back toward the compressor.

 

The pipe continues to the other side of the garage, again tilting back towards the compressor.

 

And finally the air is filtered and regulated.  Notice the purge valve to the lower left.

 

Here’s a close up of the moisture trap, regulator and filter.

 

Only a few drops of moisture will accumulate in the moisture trap even after heavy sand blasting.  The filter to the right has an element that looks like a roll of toilet paper and takes out every last bit of moisture and dirt.  (The filter is made by Motor Guard corporation of Manteca, CA.  The moisture trap and regulator are made by Coil Hose Pneumatics.  I purchased all the components from the Air Tool Store in Sacramento, CA.)  However, there is not much moisture to take out since the copper pipe does such a good job.  Finally, I used bronze pipe so there would be nothing that would corrode or react with the copper.

When I brazed the pipe, I did it in three sections which I hooked up with threaded connectors.  I didn’t feel comfortable brazing copper pipe up next to the wall.  This also has the benefit of making the whole setup modular in nature should I wish to expand it or move it:

 

Notice the threaded connector brazed onto the pipe.

 

Upon the recommendation of the local welding supply house, I used Harris Blockade brazing rods.  They don’t require any type of flux and create a nice visible bead.  I was told that they are much easier to use than conventional brazing rods.  I used a #2 tip on my oxy/acetylene torch.  I’ve noticed that MAP gas gets hot enough as well.

 

I used Harris Blockade brazing rods.