Sunday, April 18, 2010

Airbrushing-How to make a portable air tank

Ok, so, alot of people seem interested in airbrushing. Its not a cheap portion of this hobby-a quality brush can run upwards of a few hundred bucks, ditto for an air source.

I've talked about affordable quality brushes in other posts. Today, Im going to help with the second part- the air.

Some people swear by the little air pumps that the air brush companies sell. And sure, they can puff air out and make the brush work. But, like many things, you get what you pay for. The drawbacks of the entry level units include a pulsing air flow. Whats that? Well, basically everytime it the diaphram inside pushes air theres a push, then when it goes back down- no push. Its not much of an issue at lower pressures, since the hose will absorb most of that energy. If you start getting close to the lil compressors rating though, the pressure fluctuates a bit and gives the pulsing effect. If you're attmepting some fine finish sort of effect the pulsing can screw up the results you want.

Some of these lil compressors will list two numbers. Peak Airflow/pressure. And Continuous airflow/pressure. Peak airflow isnt really important on a practical level, but the continuous air flow IS. Continuous is how much air it can pump out all the time while you're spraying. Most of the affordable AB compressors like this, get up to around 25-30 countinuous PSI.

Another aspect of these lil compressors- some are noisy. And they tend to vibrate alot- so if its sitting on your desk or table, its going to shake things a bit. For the quiter ones that vibrate less, you're again adding cost.

So- I'll stopping pissing on the little AB compressors now. They'll work, but they arent cheap and they can only do one thing - work an air brush.

Now comes the useful part- the alternative to the noisy, rattling over priced AB Compressor.

The portable air tank. Think of it like a Mime thats good for something. Its quiet, and it blows. It doesnt vibrate, no pulsing air flows. Sure, its a little bigger than the AB compressor, but you dont have to plug it in either- so you can pretty much take it and use your AB anywhere you like. These tanks arent very expensive at all:

So, it wont work by itself- you need a pressure regulator- so you can dial in the proper amount of out going pressure:

Thats about as cheap as a regulator gets, but you dont need a super precision piece, so its good enough. Now, Youre also going to need some connectors & fittings.

Now, you have everything you need for the tank- minus a couple wrenchs to assemble it. Which is easy. Righty tighty, lefty loosey. The stubby little hose that comes with the tank is removed. Thats where the pressure regulator gets screwed in- make sure to use the white teflon tape on the threads- otherwise it will leak. Once you get theregulator attached- you connect one of the female couplers to it(it has another hole for the outgoing air) again, use thread tape.

After that done- all you have to do is play with the various connectors to get you brush set up and connected to the tank. But- we still have one more step!

We gotta air it up and make sure it works. Now- some of you are now thinking "Wtf!? I dont have an air compressor!!" Thats ok Heres a list of where to find air compressors-
1-Your parents garage. Go hang out with mom & dad for a lil while- so they dont feel liek youre jsut using them for the compressor
2-Your redneck neighbor thats always working on his cars- pretty good chance hes got a compressor.
3-Local gas stations- that tire filling station will fill your air tank. If you look around a bit some of them even have free air. Truck stops in particualr are good for this- since their compressors have more pressure for the truck tires. It might cost a dollar in change, but 80 or 90 psi in a 5 gal tank will last you quite a while (mine will run my brush at 30 psi for 40 straight minutes).

Once you find an air source and air it up- get it to about 80 or 90 psi. Theyre rated for 125, but airing it up that much wears it out faster, and isnt really needed. One its aired up- watch the pressure gauge- and see if its losing any air- check the valves and make sure theyre all off. You can also spray some soapy stuff on all the joints- if theres any bubbling thats where the leak is. Take that joint apart- add more thread tape- reassemble- and try it again

Other benfits of this tank- if you get that full connector kit- when your freinds have a flat- your portable tank can be used to rescue them and get them down the road without having to use that ridiculous donut tire.

And last resort- it will also inflate the chicks for the bachelor party

Parts list:
Portable Air Tank-25-35$
Harbor Freight Regulator-7$
Fittings & Connectors- 20$
Total- 50-55$ (not counting tax of course)

Compare that to 8.25$ that Gw sells a can of propellant for their crap sprayer- and you're coming out ahead after the first hour of spraying.


  1. lol- It stole the Orky smilies when I cut & pasted this from my dakkadakka post :o

  2. Nice
    I like the way you think. for about 90$ you can get air compressor with a one or two gallon tank. I would use it to fill a few of thees tank so i don't have to run it all the time save some green on the electric bill.

    By the way you might want to add a water trap to your list. moisture in the tank also might cause issues the your quality

  3. most deff need a water check valve at the lowest portion of the tank. warm compressed air builds condensation inside the tank making an ugly finish.

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