For a while I’ve been pondering upgrading my HVLP spray setup. After exploring the turbine vs. conversion gun issue I decided to go with a conversion gun setup. The next step was deciding on a compressor. Initially I was looking at 20 gallon sized portable compressors and trying to find one that would supply enough air to spray with any gun that I wanted to spray with. That was hard to find. I was stuck on portable because I really didn’t have room in my shop for a big stationary compressor. While researching how to plumb compressed air lines I stumbled upon the RapidAir system. It seemed to get decent reviews and looked like it was a LOT easier than running copper. Black pipe really isn’t an option for spray finishing because of the internal rust issues – or so I read. Once I started thinking about that I realized that I could get a great stationary compressor with plenty of capacity for the same price as a marginal portable compressor. Plus, I had the infastructure in place to install it somewhere other than my wood shop and run the air into the shop. I ended up with a 60 gallon compressor that will put out 11.8CFM @ 40PSI – all day long. In addition, the 60 gallon tank means that I can spray for quite a while – which I rarely do – without the motor even kicking in. I found this compressor on Craigslist and got it for $250, but you can buy them brand new for about $400.
So, I ordered the RapidAir Master system from Rockler – through Amazon.com. Why through Amazon? Because Rockler was giving free shipping through Amazon, but not on their own site…beats me. It was a $99 package – with a heck of alot more tubing than I needed. That’s more expensive than I would of paid for copper, but it took a fraction of the time & effort and is easily expandable and repairable.
This is what was in the box. 100’ of tubing, 2 air outlets, and one distribution manifold.
Mounting the manifold and getting it hooked up to the compressor was step #1.
I added a quick release to the end of the filter line before the lead-in hose but I didn’t get a picture of it. The RapidAir instructions show the air line coming in to the end or the back and the out lines going out of the two holes on the front, but of course it’s a manifold so you can use any hole for anything you want I chose this setup because it minimized the number to connections (elbows) I needed to use.
When I was having my shop built I asked them to run some PVC down through the slab before they poured it so that I had a way to get utility stuff to the basement (which is my lawn tractor garage and general lawn-stuff storage area). That’s where the compressor is going to live. Fortunately I also had a 30 amp 240 volt line run down there for a welder. That outlet will now be shared with the compressor.
As you can see, the four PVC pipes are hidden underneath the landing for the stairs in my shop that run up to the attic.
I just fed the tubing through the hole then wen downstairs to hook it up to the manifold.
The connections couldn’t be easier. Just push the tubing in to the connector and it will click, then push it in a little more to get it fully seated then pull out on it to fully engage the retention teeth. If you ever need to disconnect it, just push the tube it and push the ring on the fitting in and it will release the tubing.
Next, it was time to install the air outlet in the shop. The fitting that screws into the back of the aluminum block extends about and inch. The wood on the side of the steps is 1 1/2” thick. I could have just drilled a 1” wide hole and everything would have fit fine, but I wouldn’t have been able to get to the release ring if I needed to, so I drilled a 1 1/2” wide recess and then drilled the 1” all the way through. Then I just stuck the outlet into the hole and screwed it to the side of the stairs, cut the tuning to length (using the included cutter) and inserted in into the fitting. Done.
Lastly I installed the second air outlet in the lawn tractor garage so that I can use pneumatic tools down there too. Same thing, but this time I screwed the fitting into the top of the block and blocked the port on the back.
Then I ran the tubing from the manifold over to the second outlet. I made this run down fill to that any water in that short run will collect at the access point end which has a ball valve on the bottom to vent any water.
I actually ended up switching the air line from the compressor and the line out to the second outlet, that way any water will run all the way down to the second outlet and not back down to the compressor.
That’s it. It was a VERY easy installation. After I got it all hooked up I brought the compressor up to 115psi, then I closed the shutoff to trap air in the lines. The pressure held for several hours, so there are no leaks. This project took me 3 hours to install from opening the box to having everthing cleaned up. I am very satisfied with the this system. It gives me a lot of flexibility. My only gripe is that I had to buy 100’ of tubing when I only needed 25’ at most. But, at least I have plenty on hand to expand the system if I decide to.