Because of the great variety of jobs that can be accomplished with compressed air, many regard a compressor system to be as much of a “luxury” in a woodshop as electricity. Clean, high- pressure air provides many conveniences, which many modern woodworkers call necessities, such as the following.
• Blow guns for dusting off work-pieces and benchtops. They’re also great for cooling off tools that get hot during use, such as drill bits and hollow-chisel mortisers.
• Spray guns for applying finish. Using either standard guns or more-efficient high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) conversion guns (which run on high-pressure air in lieu of a turbine), compressed air provides a very fast and effective way of coating large surfaces of cabinets, big furniture pieces, or complex sculptural work with surfaces that are difficult to finish by hand.
• Nail guns that drive brads, staples, and finish or construction nails. Even if you do only fine furniture, nail guns provide a rapid means of building jigs and fixtures and shop cabinetry and accessories.
If you build cabinetry inner carcase or sub-assemblies can be nailed without the fasteners showing on finished surfaces. And pneumatically driven brads are absolutely the easiest way that I know of to mount prefinished moldings.
• Sanders, hand-held drills/drivers, and other portable power tools that come in pneumatic models. These tools are lighter in weight, mores compact, and often more affordable than their electric counterparts.
• Air clamps for clamping parts during machining or glue-up. An air clamp uses a pressurized cylinder to hold parts firmly during machining or assembly.
• Vacuum valves use compressed air to produce suction to hold parts in fixtures. These are especially useful for operations where regular clamps get in the way of machining or when parts must be loaded and removed from production jigs very quickly.
• Sand blasting, caulking, and more can be done economically and efficiently with com pressed air. It’s likely that once you install a compressor system in your shop, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!To get satisfactory performance from your air- powered devices, your shop must have a com pressed-air system that’s correctly set up. First, your compressor must be powerful enough and have enough capacity to run the various devices you wish to use. Second, the air should be cooled and filtered so that it is free of oil and water. Third, the pipes and hoses used to convey the air around your shop should be convenient to use and allow rapid change of air tools and devices. Start by selecting a compressor that suits your needs.