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Shop air lines what is the best material to use?

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  • Shop air lines what is the best material to use?

    As I progress into this for profit stuff the quality and usefulness of tools and equipment becomes more important. I have read many posts of guys setting up air in their shops. I see many say use pvc, some cooper, and other types of material.
    When I built my shop (for housing and working on the drag car) I was not thinking of using the shop everyday or even that often. I just used rubber air line from the compressor to wall mounted recoil reels. I see most use some type of hard line.

    I want to know the reasons for that other than being rigid and what type of material would be the best to use.

    I am in the process of redoing the redo.
    Life Is Grand

  • #2

    I aired up my 28x36 building in the last 3 years. I have a 5hp cast iron compressor in the house and had the 1 car garage and shed that are attached to the house plumbed with 3/4 in black pipe. Cutting threads is not a problem for us. When I put up the new building I buried a 3/4 in copper heavy wall tubing underground along with water electric, data, phone, and cable in 2 different trenches and some on a large conduit.

    The Copper enters the new building and then goes to 3/4" black pipe which I plumbed all over. The drops all have shut off valves, guages ( I can't hear the compressor run in the house) and moisture traps with small drain valves.

    I know you can use copper or steel. Stay away from any Plactic PVC . There are nylaflo?? or some kinds of newer "plastics" that might be able to be used, but the abs pvc stuff will get you in trouble. I don't do alot of painting but moisture is usually trapped at the compressor and I drain it there.

    Hope this helps



    • #3
      Central Location

      When I put air in my shop, I located a hose reel on the ceiling, in a central location and had enough rubber hose on the reel to reach any point in the shop. Has worked well as I can use air tools any where in my shop.


      Being ROAD KILL on the Information Super Highway and Electronically Challenged really SUCKS!!

      Every problem can be solved through the proper application of explosives, duct tape, teflon, WD-40, or any combo of the aforementioned items.


      • #4
        Wouldn't moisture be an issue for black pipe? I guess it would be an issue for anything but plastic or alloy.
        I too have a smaller compressor 5hp cast iron with a 30 gallon tank. I had much moisture issues so I went with a HF dryer. That really works well. I catch it before it gets to the lines but I do not run it all the time only when I am blasting or powdercoating or the like when I need real dry air. Just using the blow gun I do not run the dryer.

        I hope to hear from others as I would like to hear what type of line has been used for some time with no trouble.

        I wish I had the foresight to run everything underground as you did but at the time only electric was a real need. Now I have to go back and bury more stuff as a furnace is coming next.
        Life Is Grand


        • #5
          Originally posted by BigBoy1
          When I put air in my shop, I located a hose reel on the ceiling, in a central location and had enough rubber hose on the reel to reach any point in the shop. Has worked well as I can use air tools any where in my shop.

          Bill...I kinda did the same but with two reels as I have 2 rooms. I now find that I need air to each machine, lathe, mill,blaster cab, powdercoater, weld bench and the list grows.
          Pulling rubber lines with coiled hose on ends is a real spider web anymore and gets dangerous. I need drops at each location now with a rigid line. Just not sure what type to use.
          Life Is Grand


          • #6
            If you need dry air, look at the diagram at it is very helpful. I did my shop using this and get good air to my abrasive blaster.


            • #7
              I used flexible plastic tubing designed for air lines. Convenient to install, but just like it says in the link Steve posted, moisture goes through it and doesn't condense out. If I wanted a "proper" setup I'd probably use copper tubing. I guess the truly industrial setup is black iron pipe, as others have said, but I wouldn't want to deal with the cutting/threading. If that's not a problem for you, that might be the best.
              Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
              Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
              Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
              There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
              Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
              Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


              • #8
                That link is great. I will try blck pipe but threading will be an issue. I will see if I can rent a threader or may even look at HF as I think I saw one decent priced. I will be needing it again when I install the furnace as I have natural gas and will need black pipe again.

                Thanks fellas your help is appreciated.
                Life Is Grand


                • #9
                  HF sells a pipe threader kit for $20, I bought one and it has threaded all the pipe in my new shop building, no problem.
                  "four to tow, two to go"


                  • #10
                    i'd use copper if i did it agian, far easier than threaded pipe, no rust.

                    I used PVC. easiest, less safe, more water, no rust.


                    • #11
                      Dear sweet Jeebus, not air lines again...

                      I'm never one to offer that something has been discussed beyond ad-infinitum, but airlines have. Search function here or at The Practical Machinist will turn up dozens of pages of ummmm, "spirited discourse", the capsulized version of which is as follows:

                      PVC will blow up and kill you. Much in the same way that if you're a motorcyclist everyone you meet has a tale of their friend or relation who "lost a leg (or died) when they had to "lay it down'".

                      Copper is potentially deadly unless you use the correct schedule...


                      (Canadian, but pressure is pressure, and I suspect I'll be called out but someone from Canada here anyway)

                      Black pipe is the correct thing to use.

                      Personally, I worked in shops plumbed with ordinary residential water supply copper pipe air lines for decades and have never seen a problem. I bought 40-odd 10' lengths of 1/2 and 3/4" copper water pipe and a box of about 25 pounds of fittings, ball valves and hangers all for about $150 on Craigslist. I'm plumbing my 5hp/60 gallon vertical Speediare and corresponding refrigerated dryer to the machine shop and garage with drops all over plus one at the front of the garage for airing tires and air tools in the driveway. I won't worry for a second.
                      "Lay on ground-light fuse-get away"


                      • #12
                        cybor462 --

                        Two words for you: COPPER! BIG!

                        1. Copper pipe is lighter, easier to work with, and less restrictive than iron pipe, doesn't corrode under typical atmospheric conditions, and what threads are needed can be soldered on (using either soft solder or Sil-Fos-type hard solder).

                        2. Use the largest-diameter pipe you can afford, or, even better, borrow enough money to buy the next-larger pipe size. Ok, that's a bit of hyperbole . . . but I doubt that you'd regret investing in 1 inch copper mains with 3/4 inch copper branch and drop pipes.

                        Other points: "Horizontal" pipe runs should slope, a quarter inch (or more) per foot going downhill away from the air reservoir and compressor. Valves should be big enough to not throttle airflow; gate valves are good, as are ball valves . . . BUT the bore of a ball valve may be quite a bit smaller than the inside of the pipe the valve body fits. In such a case, there's nothing at all wrong with using a next-size-larger ball valve with pipeline "reducer" bushings. Except for end-of-horizontal-run water-drain drop pipes, drop pipes should T out the top of the horizontal pipe and make a quick 180 degree turn (as shown in the TP Tools drawing). Use plenty of clamps to hold the lines in place, but be sure that the clamps are loose enough to let the pipe expand and contract with temperature. Use a good isolator between the compressor and piping.



                        • #13
                          Copper, sure, everyone has $10k to spend on airlines for there homeshop.
                          "four to tow, two to go"


                          • #14
                            i used 3/4" copper. it wasn't all that expensive (well, this was several years ago, i haven't priced copper lately). as others mentioned, it's light, doesn't rust, and joints aren't too bad once you get the hang of soldering.

                            i originally used one long rubber air hose, but it was a pain to trip over and roll up. i then went to PVC but got scared by the posters here that it would blow up and turn into 10,000 shards of plastic daggers, so i went to copper. i still use the long rubber hose when i'm outside painting, but in the garage a 10' hose can reach any machine from one of the airline drops.

                            andy b.
                            The danger is not that computers will come to think like men - but that men will come to think like computers. - some guy on another forum not dedicated to machining


                            • #15
                              Copper is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$right now. It is being pulled out of houses (stolen) all over here and being sold to scrap yards. So much a problem scrap yards are not reselling it as pipe but crushing it for scrap. 10K may be closer than you think.
                              I will go with black pipe. Thanks to the boys here and that helpful link I have a plan and will attack it soon.
                              Life Is Grand