Airbrush Compressor Repair

It’s not a technique I need that much anymore but spraying paint is actually one of the oldest methods of painting in the world, dating back to cave art. I started using airbrushes more recently than that, in the early eighties before computer graphics were something everyone could afford. However, I have been without a compressor for a long time and I’d been trying to figure a way of affording a new one. The cans of compressed air are expensive, wasteful and generally very frustrating to use.

ICK! Almost $60 for less than an hour of good spray.

Then a few weeks ago my friend Diane at Little Beehive Farm (amazing honey and beeswax products!) said they had one in the garage if I was willing to clean it up. “Great!” I said. She brought it in and it was pretty basic but I brought it back to the studio anyway. A basic compressor is better than no compressor at all.

 Before

Before

It’s been sitting idle for quite some time and the wires look a bit doubtful but it works and last weekend I finally got to dedicate some time to it. I got a brand new regulator for it (at less than the cost of two of those cans of air), a new plug and a wall switch, and gave it a bath. Then, I opened up the back and removed the dodgy wiring.

 The Surgery

The Surgery

Of course I am a little nervous in this area myself and wouldn’t recommend playing with electricity unless you know something about it. All my knowledge of high voltage comes from working in theatre so take it at less than face value.

 Brand New Regulator

Brand New Regulator

Next I added the regulator, which comes in pieces. This is a bit easier to deal with and I have quite a bit more experience outside the actual compressor.

What they might not tell you at the art store is this: Always use a regulator with a water trap to avoid your airbrush spitting condensed water vapor that gets pushed out of the compressor. Next you should use pipe thread sealant, which comes in rolls at most hardware stores. Just stretch it over the threads until it sticks to itself. Most compressor parts come in what’s known as 1/4″ fittings, though sometimes airbrush specific fittings come in 1/8″ just to be annoying. And lastly, always use cushioned tools (in this case pliers wrapped in duct tape) so as not to damage the screw threads.

The rest should be pretty obvious. The “in” hole goes to the compressor and the “out” hole connects to the airbrush hose and the leftover hole is where the pressure gauge goes.

 After

After

And there you have it, it’s not pretty and it’s noisy but it’s 35 p.s.i on demand!

Thanks Diane and Tony!