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How to build the ultimate garage air station

Makita Air Compressor with Flexeel Air Hose and Reelcraft Hose Reel

Garage & Workshop

How to build the ultimate garage air station

How to build the ultimate garage air station

Having the right air compressor and accessories will provide the ability to do a variety of jobs.

When owning a home long enough there’s a chance you’d like a do-over for several product purchases and home improvements. I know I have my list of buyers remorse, but building an air station is one of the better investments I’ve made. Besides the usual compressor oil maintenance, purchasing a quality compressor and accessories has provided me with years of trouble-free use that goes way beyond keeping my car tires properly inflated.

NOTE: Check the compressor owners manual for oil change interval recommendations.

There are quite a few tasks that can be accomplished with an air compressor, but the extent of these jobs will depend on the type of air compressor and accessories, which we’ve outlined below.

Projects Include:

  • Dusting a cars interior vents and hard to reach places, as a more aggressive dusting process to using a swiffer pad.
  • I have a garage vacuum with a blower port, which works great for cleaning the garage floor, but an air compressor works better for the bench and and other areas that need a more focused and higher psi of air. e.g., cleaning sawhorses and tools after cutting projects.
  • For any household furnishing or electronic that requires compressed air for cleaning; quit wasting money on air cans. Take the item to the garage or if you have a long enough air hose, just pull the hose throughout the house, adjust the compressor regulator, and get to work. E.g. part of my Spring cleaning is opening up all the windows and blowing out the window sills.
  • After washing your car, blow the standing water from mirrors and lights so you don’t get water run marks after all that hard work.
  • Inflate toys, exercise equipment, large amounts of balloons, portable pools or whatever.
  • For DIY building projects, a hand-carry compressor is suitable for air nailers.
  • Use an air sprayer to put a professional finish on furniture restoration, paint a fence or your whole hose.

Air Compressor Accessories

There are some compressor combo kits, but for the most part compressors are sold individually and you’ll need to buy all the needed accessories and tools. But this is a good thing, you can pick and choose the accessories that suite you. If you don’t want a compressor combo kit, but also don’t want to personalize each accessory, you have a third option in compressor accessory kits that will include all the basics, and are readily available at any local home improvement store.

Parts for a complete air station

Main components needed for a complete air station.

Air Hose
After the compressor, an air hose will be the next main component needed. There are enough hose choices to cause confusion, so we reached out to a leading air hose manufacturer to add their credentials for clarification.

Deciding factors would be CFM or flow requirements necessary for the application and simply how long of a hose you need. For all of the tasks you mention and 98.9% of all applications one would have in their home garage, a 1/4″ I.D. air hose would supply plenty of air.
Coilhose Pneumatics

That takes care of hose sizing, now you just need to choose between a traditional rubber or polyurethane air hose, which depends on what kind of possible chemical exposure the hose will be subjected too, and / or what kind of extreme temperatures the hose may be used in.

Wondering about the hose in the featured image and my personal choice? I went with a 1/4″ I.D. x 50ft. flexeel straight hose. Why? My initial purchase was based on the lightweight polyurethane material used, which is also easy to wipe clean, and the many colors available helped me coordinate my setup. The remainder of the decision is explained in the hose reel section. Long term regular use of the tasks mentioned in this article has proven the flexeel hose to be 100% reliable and durable, while more than adequate for any quick inflation needs as well as operating trim air nailers, and everything in-between. Just as the Coilhose Pneumatics rep confirmed.

Fittings and Tools
A compressor will have quick connect couplers installed as part of the package and some hoses can be bought with quick connect fittings already attached too. As mentioned earlier, compressor accessory kits will include common fittings, otherwise you’ll need to purchase individual fittings to connect a leader hose and tool accessories, including air powered tools. Also, make sure to match the right sized fittings to your compressors couplers and throughout all your accessories. E.g., a 1/4″ MPT connector needs a 1/4″ FPT coupler.

NOTE: Don’t forget to buy a role of thread seal tape for all the threaded fitting connections.

Two very useful and common air compressor tool accessories will be the blow gun and air chuck, including one of my favorites, the Milton Dual Head Inflator Gauge (# S-506). This particular inflator has a built-in liquid filled pressure gauge that reads between 10-160 psi, the dual head chuck ensures any car wheel and valve combination can be fitted, and is made in the USA. This is the type of tool you’ll see in professional shops and should last a lifetime.

Hose Reels
Keeping an air hose sprawled across the garage floor is a tripping hazard, and if you don’t like chaos, you’ll definitely want an organized and compact solution. A coiled hose is one answer to having a more closely-packed hose, or you can hand roll a straight hose after every use and drape it over the compressor. I did the hand rolling for a few years, but eventually that got tiring.

If you have the means, a hose reel combined with a straight hose is optimal and the setup used in many commercial applications. High quality brands include, Coxreels and Reelcraft. A hose reel can be purchased in several mounting configurations to conveniently attach to a wall stud, ceiling stud, or thick bench top.

Another deciding factor in purchasing an air hose depends on the hose reel. I had to consider my budget and space constraints. Obviously, the larger the diameter and the longer the hose, the bigger the hose reel. The answer for me was the Reelcraft 5400 OLP. This reel permitted me to buy and install my own hose, which I wanted to support at least 50ft. of so I could reach throughout the majority of my home, yet needed to fit between my compressor and underside of a Gladiator workbench, where I wanted to mount the reel.

I was also very impressed by Coxreels, who have a helpful hose reel selector guide. Honestly, I chose Reelcraft as the red color blended better with my Makita compressor. It’s always about the details.

NOTE: A hose reel will not allow the full length of hose to be unwound. Expect to lose approximately 3-5ft. of overall hose length.

Eventually I had a few projects that required more than 50ft. of hose. Sure, my Makita compressor is portable, but the hose reel with the hose is not. No problem, I just bought a 25ft. length of the same flexeel hose for those very random projects, giving me a total of 75ft. and I don’t need to move my compressor around either. The 25ft. of hose barely gets used, so manually winding it up and storing it isn’t a concern like the main air hose. I went to my local Home Depot and picked up a Velcro Brand One-Wrap strap to keep the hose wound when stored.

Leader Hose
If you choose a hose reel, you will need a leader hose to connect the compressor to the reel. These are one of the parts you may need to buy and attach couplers and connectors to the threaded end fittings. E.g. in the featured image setup, I needed to purchase a leader hose with 3/8 NPT(M) threaded end fittings to fit the Reelcraft 5400 inlet, then purchase a 3/8 NPT(F) to 1/4 FPT(M) connector to attach the opposite end of the leader hose to the compressors 1/4″ quick-connect outlet.

Hand-Carry Air Compressors

At the bare minimum, you’ll need a compressor with an air tank. The 12V portable compressors won’t allow enough sustainable pressurized air beyond slow inflation.

A hand-carry compressor will have a capacity of around 6 gallons or less and can plug into a common 120v outlet. These types of compressors are the best choice for homeowners when considering cost, size, usefulness and portability. Depending on your wants and needs, carefully compare smaller tank compressor (1-gallon) specs to that of a larger tank (6-gallon) compressor. E.g. a 6-gallon tank compressor will have a higher tank reserve for longer continuous use before needing to recycle, but can cost substantially more and weigh twice as much.

Brands Include: Briggs & Stratton Makita, Bostitich, DewaltPorter Cable, Powermate, Campbell Hausfeld, Hitachi, Ingersoll Rand, and Craftsman.

Hand carry single tank and pancake style air compressors

Uses: These class of air compressors have the ability to tackle just about any home job minus automotive pneumatic tools. Air tools for automotive use will require a bigger tank capacity and quicker recycle time for adequate CFM.

  • Tire inflation.
  • Sports ball inflation.
  • Cleaning (cracks & crevices, window sills, auto engine bays, auto vents, appliance coils, benchtops).
  • Inflate balloons. Models with regulators are especially useful for jobs like this, I find 40-50 psi to be a good level.
  • Air nailers for building purposes.
  • Blowing water or moisture out of small unwanted areas.

Wheeled and Stationary Air Compressors

When I was younger and doing a lot of car modifications and maintenance, having a large stationary compressor was part of the dream garage. I imagined a tool chest full of automotive air tools, and possibly an air powered portable car lift and tire changing machine. My goals and dreams are a little different these days, but maybe others still share my previous aspirations.

For home garage use that offers a bit more than many of the hand-carry compressors, a wheeled 8 to 20-gallon air compressor is a nice upgrade, while still being able to be plugged into a standard 15A / 120V outlet. For the ultimate in compressors, you’ll need to provide 240V for that dream garage.

Brands Include: BelAirePowermateCampbell HausfeldIngersoll RandCraftsman, and Mi-T-M.

Wheeled and Stationary Air Compressors

Uses: These compressors will handle any of the tasks mentioned for hand-carry compressors, plus operate all pneumatic automotive tools.

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