The View from Faraway Farm: Squeezing air and being patient


When my oldest daughter went off to college I wanted her to have a safe vehicle. My little green Chevy S-10 pickup had served me reliably for years, and I really trusted the drivetrain. So I figured I'd give her that to use. However, the body was beginning to rust just above the wheel openings in the rear, and along the bottom of the doors. It needed bodywork and a new coat of paint. With a kid in college, I couldn't afford to send the truck out to a body shop, so I did the work myself.

The critical tool for the whole project was a compressor. With a grinder, a sandblasting gun, and a paint sprayer, I could do the job myself. I went searching for a compressor and ended up with a Sears 30 gallon unit. To run the air tools it really had to work hard, but it did work. I spent hours upon hours sandblasting away the rust, riveting in metal patches, spreading filler, sanding filler, and prepping the rest of the body for paint. After wrapping the interior in plastic and wetting down the floor, Bob Mallilla from Walpole, N.H., painted the truck one evening in my garage. It came out pretty nice and I presented it to my daughter. Four years of college and it never let her down once.

As the years went by, my trusty Sears Craftsman compressor went with me. I used it for all sorts of projects, including using a nail gun to build a shed. I can't remember all the times that the little compressor saved my bacon, like inflating flat tires on cars, trucks, and tractors. I even used it to change a tire by jacking up a lawn tractor and shoving an inner tube underneath and inflating it to lift the unit. After one job in the back yard I was moving a truck and the compressor hose caught on the step bumper, flipping the compressor over. After that, I just couldn't get it to run now matter what I tried. It sat in one of the garages for a couple of frustrating years. After more than a year I plugged it in and it actually worked! I got a few jobs off my list over a period of a couple of months, and then one day I went to use it and it had died once again. My solution was to search for a big capacity compressor that would be able to handle the bigger jobs. I found a used one and bought it.

I was able to get a small concrete pad poured (by hand with a cement mixer I bought on Craigslist) and moved the big compressor into the garage with my tractor. I had 220 power in the garage but needed an electrician to hook the thing up. Before getting it hooked up I noticed an area on the 80-gallon tank that appeared to be brazed. That was it for me. The last thing I needed was a compressor tank failing because someone had attempted to repair a hole in it. How many other weak spots were in it? It just wasn't worth finding out. Out of frustration I just walked away and spent another year thinking about it.

One day I had a little epiphany about the compressor. By cutting the iron tank in half I could make two very neat outdoor fire pits. At least we could get some use out of the darned thing, and I could recover a few bucks by selling the motor. With that plan in place, I saved up some compressor money and started shopping. I ended up finding a brand new Ingersoll Rand two stage unit with an 80-gallon tank at a sale price locally. This thing has the cubic feet per minute capacity to run just about any air tool for hours. I've wanted an industrial strength compressor for decades, but like they say, the good stuff is worth waiting for.

My fiancee's son and his girlfriend were visiting today and I mentioned that the new compressor had arrived at the store today and that they had called me to come pick it up. He helped me get a heavy temporary shelter kit out of the back of my pickup, and we went to the store to retrieve the compressor. Thank goodness they have a forklift. We got it into the bed of the pickup and hauled it home. Getting then old compressor out and the new one moved into the garage is going to be another challenge.

I've already got a couple of projects waiting for this new compressor, and I can't wait to get to work. It's amazing how much faster you can get work done with compressed air. It can provide the torque and power to turn tools into super tools, cutting the amount of time and effort it takes to do many jobs. It only took several decades to make this long term desire come to fruition, and I'm hoping that the wait was worth it. Moral of the story? Never give up.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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