Well, after a month of no sandblasting, our company’s new compressor has arrived and we just finished setting it up today. This is going to be a technical blog post, at least somewhat, so if you’re not interested in workshop equipment, this is a good place to tune out.
After a lot of looking and shopping, we settled on this beastie, a BelAire “Quiet Performance” 7.5HP, 80 gallon, 2 stage model with a lot of bells and whistles. The most obvious is the top cowling, which fully surrounds the motor and pump with sound insulating lining while including an extra air recirculating fan to keep everything inside cool and ensure good ventilation. This was an experiment for me, but I’m glad we chose it, since I’ve now run it with the cowling on and off, and the difference is noticeable – With the cowling in place, we can walk outside our garage and the compressor running at full tilt cannot be heard over the sound of the window AC unit. So, it should keep the neighbors happy. It’s still loud in the garage, but at least now it shouldn’t drown out my headphone audiobooks.
This one has some extras I haven’t had before, including a low level oil shutoff and an automatic tank drain – Something to make any pipemaker happy! It also has a triple pass aftercooler that lowers the temperature of air compressed into the tank (rated at 175psi), to cut down on the amount of moisture present in hotter air. And an oil filter the size of a Coke bottle…
The bit that I already dearly love, however, is this:
Quite expensive in itself (It was more than all the usual filter/regulator combos you see at hardware stores), it’s a precision dial pressure regulator that’s extremely accurate. Any pipemaker who has spent some years cursing and wrestling with those spring-top knob regulators, that you have to crank and crank and crank, and which are typically pretty vague on their actual pressure, would be delighted by this – I’ve barely used the system and it’s worth the money already to me. The dial is smooth and pressure drop-offs when dialing it down are nearly instant, and actually stop where you set the pressure. It’s going to make it a lot easier for me to change operating pressures to better match with different medias and different blasting needs.
I tried it out immediately, of course. Here’s the first test piece, a junk block that I had set aside due to way too many flaws. The surface texture on here was achieved in about five minutes of blasting. I’m hoping this will seriously increase our output, and have the first Ligne Bretagne bulldog blast lined up for finishing tonight. With luck, I’ll have it and maybe another couple ready to post in the next catalog update, which will be happening in a day or two.