So, leading up to this Tool Tuesday I faced a bit of a quandary… which tool was my No 4 most important power tool? That really hadn’t been a big factor with the first three… they fell into place very easily. But with number four there were a bunch of contenders for the spot… you’ll see them all but it was a very close finish for the next group of tools.
But of course if you can read the title you’ll know that the winner of spot Number 4 on my Essential Power Tools list is the air compressor.
So why did it win out. Well, units that are capable of doing home shop level work are reasonably priced. As I write this Harbor Freight has a 2.5hp unit on for $159, and it needs to be broadly applicable to the work you’ll find around the home, homestead and garage and shop – specialized tools aren’t in this list.
This package really needs a bit more to be of any use – the compressor is just the equivalent to buying a generator and being able to then use power tools. Really the first air tools to pick up are a combination brad nailer / stapler (for $20) and a tire infiltrator. This starting tool kit will allow you to do a lot of small and detailed woodwork – whether it is putting on baseboards or molding around the house or nailing together bee hive woodware (especially important while the glue is setting) the brad nailer and stapler is frequently used. The same applies for the air chuck. Sure I could go to the garage and use that compressor but having my own means I can top up my tires as part of my vehicle checks – which reduces my fuel consumption and extends my tire life – both money saving propositions.
A smaller gravity fed HVLP spray gun runs about $15 and allows you to bypass the expensive cans of spraypaint an instead pick up liquid paints and a can of paint thinner. In this role alone it’s saved me a load of cash!
Then there are the larger nailers – for framing, roofing and hardwood flooring. These run about $75 and up for good quality units – but man are they ever a time and body saver. I spend a great summer working as a caprenters assistant – earning an awesome education and getting payed as a bonus – but I can honestly say that swinging an eastwing 22oz head framing hammer for a summer is work. Now I wouldn’t dispense with it by any means, but as we were putting up an addition to a bunky at the cottage my eight year old daughter was able to drive 3″ framing nails using the air nailer! For an adult – well construction time was cut to about a quarter of what it would have been with only old fashioned manual nailing – and that is a pretty paying proposition.
Likewise, if you are installing hardwood flooring having the specialized air nailer for that task is practically a requirement. I think mine has done at least two dozen homes as folks have borrowed it and it is no worse for wear.
The air die grinders and sanders, ratchets and impact wrenches are very nice pieces of kit as well and can be had on special at very reasonable prices.
But for all of this capacity and efficiency improvements you need to start with the compressor… so consider picking one (and a few accessories) up and adding them to your shop if they aren’t already there.