Air Tools

Whether you're installing crown molding, changing a car tire in your garage or reupholstering your favorite chair, air tools make the job go easier and faster. Perfect for the home handyman who's suffering from a little carpal tunnel or for the master craftsman putting in a full day's work, air tools take the hard work out of a number of jobs, saving you time, money and aches and pains.

Today's pneumatic tools come with a wide array of attachments and add-ons, so it's important to know exactly what's available so you can choose the right air-powered tool for the job. Types of air tools include:

Staple guns-An air-powered staple gun is ideal for any job for which you would be required to use a hammer and staples, like on a reupholstery job. Driving staples with a hammer all day can wreak havoc on your wrist and arms, but using an air-powered staple gun makes the job much faster and easier. You just position the tip of the gun where you want the staple to go and pull the trigger. The air drives the staple exactly where you want it to go.

Staple guns come in a range of styles and sizes, with some better suited for certain jobs. For instance, there are standard and heavy-duty versions, as well as long-nosed versions of each for jobs that require staples in hard-to-reach places.

Staples also come in a range of sizes depending on the job:

  • For general upholstery, use 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch staples.
  • For installing paneling, use 1/4-inch staples.
  • For installing webbing, use 5/8-inch staples.
  • For installing 3/8-inch-wide crown, use #7 staples.
  • For installing 1/2-inch-wide crown, use #8 staples.

Spray guns-Air-powered spray guns are used to apply an even coat of paint on everything from automobiles to furniture. The paint is stored in a sealed cup that gets attached to the air gun. Most air spray guns utilize one of two paint-feed methods: siphon feed or gravity feed.

A siphon-feed air sprayer has the paint cup on the underside of the nozzle, while a gravity-feed spray gun has the paint cup positioned above the nozzle. While siphon-feed sprayers were once the standard, gravity-feed air spray guns have since become the sprayer of choice, especially since environmental laws were initiated to require the use of HVLP (high-volume, low-pressure) sprayers. With HVLP, gravity-feed air-powered sprayers seem to work better.

Unlike pneumatic spray guns, airless spray guns don't use air to deliver the paint. Airless spray guns use hydraulics to send pressurized paint through the nozzle. This type of spray gun is most commonly used in commercial and industrial paint applications. It produces a thicker coat, which requires fewer re-coatings.

Grease guns-Air-powered grease guns are similar in function to spray guns, but they are used to deliver grease and lubrication materials instead of paint or finishing materials. You attach a specially made grease cartridge or, in some cases, a tub of grease with a hose to the bottom of the nozzle, and the grease gun works in similar fashion to a siphon-feed sprayer. The grease is forced up into the nozzle and pushed out through the tip of the flexible grease hose. As long as the trigger is pressed on the pneumatic grease gun, the grease flow continues, which results in much faster packing.

Caulking guns-Pneumatic caulking guns offer easy and comfortable operation for improved control over your caulking jobs. With an air-powered caulking gun, you don't have to keep depressing the trigger for long runs of caulk. All you have to do is hold the trigger down, and the caulk continues to be forced out of the tube until you let go of the trigger.

Unlike an air-powered grease gun, a pneumatic caulk gun uses standard tubes of caulk, which sits at the front of the gun. The gun works similarly to a traditional manual caulk gun with the exception being that the plunger is pushed automatically when you hold the trigger down.

Pneumatic ratchets-Pneumatic ratchets provide you with powerful loosening and tightening action for every size of nut. This tool is ideal for loosening the lug nuts on your car's wheels and for any other situation in which loosening a nut could cause extreme strain to your body.

Air compressors-The power for all of these air tools comes from the air compressor tank. Available in many sizes, air compressors can be small, for hobby use, or large, for busy mechanic shops. Most typical-use air compressors range in size from having 1-gallon tanks to holding over 200 gallons, and they produce anywhere from less than one CFM to well over 120 CFMs (cubic feet of air per minute). With pneumatic tools, you lose the portability factor offered by cordless caulk guns, cordless grease guns or cordless staple guns, but you get improved power and faster results, all because of the air compressor.

Air Tool Accessories

Most air compressor and tool kits come with all of the accessories you need to get the job done, but over time, you may need to replace certain things. Some common accessories you may want to consider having on hand for your pneumatic toolset include the following.

Air tool oil-Air compressors have pistons inside them that generate a lot of friction, like the pistons in a car. To help maximize the life of your air compressor, the pistons need to be lubricated regularly. This is what air tool oil is used for. It's also recommended to place a few drops of air tool oil between the air fittings to help keep the metal lubricated and cool during use. If you are using the tool for more than a few hours, it's recommended to oil the fittings a few times throughout the day.

Air tool fittings-Over time, air tool fittings could start to wear down. This can cause leaks to develop, which will diminish the air compressor's pressure, which will then reduce the air tool's effectiveness.

Air tool hose-The air tool hose is what delivers the compressed air to the tool. If it starts to show wear, again, pressure could be lost, and the tool will be less effective.

Air tool filter-Air tool filters are generally installed at the point where the hose connects to the tool. The filter prevents any dirt, dust or debris from entering and possibly damaging the tool. Many fittings come with preset filters included, but some can be purchased separately.