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Making Your Own Airbrush Compressor

First of all; Be sure that the tank has no pressure left inside by opening the valve built on the tank itself because gas is extremely flammable and you will use welding torch.

  • Step 1 : Now the tank has no pressure inside. Even there is no pressure, there may still be some flammable gas, which we can not ignore. Drill a hole on the side of the bottom part of the tank. You will weld the copper pipe here, BUT NOT NOW. After drilling the hole, close the valve you just opened, and fill the tank with water by using the hole you just drilled. When the tank is full of water, you will be confident that the gas has already left the chamber. Now you are at the safe side.

  • Step 2 : Weld the copper pipe on the hole, such that there are not any holes left around the point where you welded it. We do not want the pressurized air escape. There are workshops with appropriate welding technology everywhere, especially in industrial zones of cities. You can have this step made there, but know that copper welding is expensive.

  • Step 3 : Attach the compressor and the tank with the plastic hose. Clamp the ends if you think is needed (I think it is needed, because sometimes the pressure makes the hose slip from one end-near disaster). You can use metal or plastic clamps for this, but I find them too strong, they tend to damage the hose sometimes, so I use tape used for packaging, over which I turn some thin rope to tighten.

  • Step 4 : Cut the plastic hose to let the safety valve attached. Attach the valve, be careful about the in-out directions of the valve.

  • Step 5 : Cut the plastic hose to let the pressure gauge attached this time. Attach the valve and clamp.

  • Step 6 : Build or purchase the extension cable with the switch on it. I will not explain how to build one on your own here, but you can learn it easily from an electrician.

    Now your powerful, home-made, cheap but ugly compressor is ready to function. Some people prefer to secure the components on a wooden plate with small wheels attached below, so that they stay tidy, but I perfer it to be in pieces, because this way it becomes more versatile. I can put the heavy compressor some place and just move the lightweight tank anywhere I go in the room. This is all personal choice.
    It is time to tell how this ultra-modern piece of nano-technological piece of ugly machinery works.
    Just attach the airbrush to the top outlet of the tank, close the valve at the outlet, close the safety valve on the hose, plug it in the electrical wall outlet, turn the switch on, and that is it. When the pressure comes to the level you want to use, open the valve of the tank, and use your airbrush. Check the pressure at times, if it increases too much, use the safety valve or just shut down the compressor.
    I suppose there can be some people who can think of an automatic safety valve or something.
    Low cost (less than 30 usd or 25 euros) and high performance, plus easy maintenance with abundance of spare parts make this compressor unit the favorite one among my friends.
    I hope this helps people who wish to have a cheap and "almost full-function" compressor for their airbrushes.
  • About the Author

    About Çağın Başaran (caanbash)

    Born in 1977, made my first model when I was 7. As an architect, model making is a part of my profession. But it also made me stop making plastic models for ten years, but architectural models. In 2006, I decided to return to my hobby. All the old models I had are ruined and gone now, during house c...


    Hai, I do not want to be to critical but there are a few serious risks to making a compressor system using this way of working. It is really dangerous to drill holes and start welding in a container that used to contain flammable (and even explosive) gasses. I know of cases where the operator got killed in the process! Besides, when the weld is not perfect then the piece of pipe can come of like a bullet once the system is under pressure. Also be careful and only use containers of which you know the history. A container that once upon a time could stand 10 bar pressure but that has spent a lifetime in a humid cellar or on a dump somewhere could have lost its strength. A container with only 3 bar pressure in it can do a lot of dammage to weak flesh when exploding. And, it is not necessary to drill holes or weld. When using the right equipment one can make a perfectly safe system. It could cost an extra few Euros but blowing up is a lot more expensive.
    APR 10, 2005 - 09:34 PM
    hi drabslad, thanks for the extra warnings on this. The author tried to explain the situation in Caution/Disclaimer and some more warnings in red letters. This feature only shows how he did his own compressor paying maximum attention to risks. thanks again for your corcern
    APR 10, 2005 - 11:04 PM
    Well, I have been working as an engineer for a number of years in several companies working with welded steel constructions and pressure equipment. And I have to say, I have seen frightening things when visiting clients (and these were supposed to be professionals!!!). A few times it went wrong, leading in most cases to a fantastic strong story for the next pubcrawl, and in other cases to a horrible disaster for the poor fellows immediately involved. You are right. The author very clearly points out the risks and warns that you should not do this unless you know a few things of mechanical stuff. Unfortunately, in too many cases people have "selective blindness" and only read what they like to read, in this case how to make a cheap compressor, paying insufficient attention to safety. Please accept that I don't want to be an [auto-censored] criticizing somebodies fair contribution to the site, I only suffer from some professional prejudice, I guess.
    APR 11, 2005 - 12:53 AM
    Apart from the (obvious) dangers, my personal feeling is that with cheap compressors available, is it really worth the hassle? I'm not diminishing the work done by Cannbash at all...Jim
    APR 11, 2005 - 12:57 AM
    I made it all by myself, and it works fine! I haven't problems with it. It is a freezer compressor on two large pipes. Those pipes are welded ''airproof''. The compressor is bolted on two plates, with rubber between it to catch up the vibration. Then a pipe to the large pipe (with that T bit) There comes the oil and those oil drops back to the compressor. The air goes to the large air pipes. At the back on one of the two pipes is a barometer (or PSI meter) That thing on the left front is the airregulator. This is the whole principel of my own builded compressor, and again, it works fine. I agree with you guys about the dangers and risks, but I think that a lot of people wouldn't spend a lot of money only for a compressor, that's why I made one all by myself. I build this for 30 euros or less. I hope you'll understand it. Greetz Hilbert Btw I'm not trying to confince people to make its own compressor!!
    APR 11, 2005 - 01:38 AM
    Drabslab, first of all;I want to tell that I highly respect your warnings and experiences as an expert and I am really thankful for your warnings. I believe people who read this post will be more careful if they attempt to make their own compressors. Please know that i didnt think you are auto-censoredcritizing on a contribution to the website, I understand your worries.Besides; as you may understand this is a How to Do article and General modelling section have lots of them with different risk levels.all of these explain the authors technique with some warnings of the possible risks. Thanks again for your interest .
    APR 11, 2005 - 01:48 AM
    Another optin may be to put a Tee at the top of the tank as the tanks really a Buffer to prevent Pulsing In an Ideal world.... seperate Inlets & Outles are best for a airtank..........
    APR 11, 2005 - 03:41 AM
    Hi all, Sorry I could not reply for such a long time, but I had business in a far away city. I am well aware of the fact that we are dealing with gas with high pressure. I warn everybody about this, if you plan to make your own compressor, do it with extreme caution. If you are planning to drill a hole on a tank which used to contain explosive gas, be extra cautious and use the method I used for mine (I mean using water to replace the gas first). And do this at your own risk. Mine did not explode, but that does not mean it yours will not explode, it can. While I understand and emphasize the risks involved in this process, I have to say that if weaker piping is used, the system overrides its own risks. First the hose explodes and it just gives some loud noise, nothig dangerous physically. I do not say this to encourage people, just to give a safety clue. Thanks for the responses. And thanks for pointing out that this process may be dangerous. It is better to write it everywhere, so people can see it here or there. Regards. Cagin.
    APR 12, 2005 - 02:17 AM