Air compressor questions

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by michael_r, Jun 10, 2012.

  1. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I searched the forums but couldn't find the info I needed. I'm thinking about buying a small airbrush compressor for blowing dust off negatives. I know these are more expensive than the ones you can buy at hardware stores but I want something smaller and less noisy, possibly tankless since I don't care if the stream is steady or pulsed for my purposes.

    A few questions here:

    1. How much pressure do I need? As a reference point, approx how much pressure comes out of typical "canned air" cans?

    2. My understanding is I need both a filter and a water/moisture trap. Most of these compressors seem to come with a water trap but the filter thing is less clear. Some of them come with an inlet filter. I'm assuming what I need is actually something that goes in the outlet hose? Most of these machines include a regulator - does the regulator include a filter? Do I even need a filter if all I'm doing is running room air through the thing? I've never really understood that. Also, how often do these filters typically need to be replaced?

    Any other advice or experiences appreciated.

    Thanks
    Michael
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 10, 2012
  2. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Canned air is somewhere between 65-75 psi, at room temp, but it all depends on room temperature. Yes you need a filter, you can use a high pressure fuel filter from a fuel injected car. I use one designed for a 98 Crown vic, a WIX 33595, it filters out the dust. 30-50 psi is about want you want for working pressure.

    You do want an oil-less compressor.
     
  3. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Thanks Bob. I'm hoping whatever brand I end up with has some sort of filter accessory rather than me having to figure out how to splice an automotive fuel filter into this thing.

    If the machine has an inlet filter, does it still need an additional filter in the outlet hose? Is this only to filter dust? Or is it also supposed to catch oil (even if the machine has sealed oil-less bearings)?
     
  4. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Michael,

    Rather than buying a specialized compressor and using it in your darkroom, a cheaper option may be to buy a regular compressor and a storage tank. There is a tank that is round and look more less like a small gas can. An idea is that you charge this can with your compressor, take this can and use it until it's empty, then charge it again.

    You can buy all sort of attachment at home improvement stores.
     
  5. Laurent

    Laurent Subscriber

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    I'd be very cautious with any compressor, and much more with regular ones. Humidity tends to build up in the tank, and therefore you's spray you negs with water (at bad days, my compressor may blow more water than air, if I forgot to empty the tank).

    Also, said compressors may blow some oil, unless they are equipped with a special filter.

    I'd also feel concerned about the cleanliness of the compressed air in these compressors.
     
  6. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    No matter which type of compressor you end up with, add an in line water seperator as well as a particulate filter. I personally would get a compressor with tank jst for the convenience of having reserve air. One thing you must do with this type is drain the air tank at least once a week or more depending on use.
     
  7. kerne

    kerne Member

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    Why spend boku bucks on all that hardware when these little bulb blowers are cheap and effective? I've used one for years.

    Spend the money you'll save on film or a new camera. :smile:
     

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  8. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I use canned air, my darkroom is humidity controlled, I see no use for a air pump. If you go to costco the cans are pretty cheap.
     
  9. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Kerne: I have one of those (actually several different kinds I've collected over the years) but sometimes I need a little more force than I can squeeze out of this little thing. In fact as I write this I'm thinking perhaps some kind of simple bellows with a coffee filter in it would do the trick. Or perhaps a foot pump or whatever. The compressor gives a nice continuous stream, but all this worrying about filters, moisture, oil, other crap from the tank etc might be more trouble than it is worth.

    Sometimes I feel like every photography problem to solve ends up becoming a complex mess. I mean, what the hell to I know about compressors? But to do this right I feel like I need to learn all about them and become a compressor expert just so I avoid buying the wrong thing, or running into some unforseen problem. So it entails (for me) all sorts of research into things that ultimately have nothing to do with photography.
     
  10. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    I use a very small low pressure compressor for several darkroom tasks. Pressure is only about 8-10 psi but it is very efficient.I have a moisture filter and use a cigarette filter to eliminate particles. It is an amazingly fine filter but I have no way to measure the remaining particles in microns.
     
  11. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I’ve found a regulated pressure of 5psi works best for me. Any more pressure and I would worry about damaging the negative.

    I presently use my large shop air compressor, which is an oil system, but I use an in-line filter and with the very small amount of air I need I’ve never had a moisture problem.

    I’ve also used a very small and light airbrush compressor, and it seemed to work fine. Airbrush compressors don’t compress air to high pressures, so you won’t have any problems with moisture, and since they use no oil I did not use ANY type of filter.
     
  12. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I would second this and with any sort of blower you are not creating a vacuum but replacing the air with more or less added dust.
     
  13. movin

    movin Member

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    The Moisture traps on airbrush compressors are usually pretty good. For Filters you could either use a fuel filter or spend 10-20 bucks and get a pistol grip filter. They are sold at airbrush stores and screw directly between pistol and compressor.

    I am using a pretty small airbrush compressor and in combination with a soft brush for really stubborn dust specks it solved almost all of my "dust-on-negative-and-enlarger-glass" problems.

    Movin
     
  14. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    i 'd heck into the compressor from calumet photo graphic.dos the job and was a great deal for $60.
     
  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I'd regard a good compressor a "must" for any serious darkroom. The cost of canned air adds up pretty fast and you get nothing in return. I'd avoid a tankless version - the air will pulsate without reliable regulation, and there's
    no place for condensation to cool and settle. Getting a small rig that's quiet, low RPM, reliable, etc is getting more and more problematic, since most small compressors are now made in China and the quality varies from OK
    to nearly worthless. Cheap compressors run at excessive RPM's to deliver more air based upon general inefficieny, thus run too hot and condense more water, make too much noise, and wear out fast. I'm not generalizing - I have over thirty years experience in compressor design, distribution, and repair, along with
    equal darkroom experience. I used to recommend Thomas compressors because they were the only oilless high
    quality small units made in the USA - but now, alas, have thrown in the towel in the face of the flood of dirt
    cheap imports. You get what you pay for. Expect to pay 2 to 3 hundred dollars for anything decent. Anything
    less is a toy. Airbrush compressors are generally overpriced (art store distr) and undersized, but whatever...
    Anything needs a decent regulator, and then a series of in-line filters going right down into the micron arena.
    You can purchase there separately if necessary. Flush all fitting and the line itself before darkroom use to get
    the particles and oil out. Avoid any compressor without a proper cooling coil - when you see those units with a
    plastic clamshell cover, it's a certain symptom of bad design - all the heat will be trapped in, and those plastic
    covers are just for the sake of disguising excess noise due to a junk pump. Beware of phony horsepower ratings-
    another symptom of sleazy marketing. Right now I'm experimenting with substitutes for the Thomas, and about
    the best I've found is the Rol-Air JC-10 - an import, but quieter than the avg refrigerator, and so far, holding
    up OK.
     
  16. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I have used a small air compressor from a big box hardware store. I have the requisite filters and regulate my pressure down to about 20 psi, which is more than enough to move the dust. Which I began thinking about right after finishing my new darkroom and running 2 air stations in...blowing just moves the dust from one place to, presumably, another. So I am currently retrofitting a vacuum system. It is a small $20 vacuum from Lowe's that fits onto the top of a 5 gallon pail. The vacuum sits outside the darkroom, and I reduced the 1-1/4" inlet hose to about 1/2" nylon tubing before it goes through the wall, and got a kit of wands and brushes meant to clean computer parts for the other end of the tubing. It is in the beta-test stage now but seems to work well. Plus, I now have a ready source for the vacuum easel I intend to construct.
     
  17. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    It is a good idea to have the compressor is a different room with a hose thru the wall. Vacuuming
    rather than blowing dust seems like a good idea, but it means you will have to contact the negative
    a lot more to pick things up. I personally clean negatives right beside an industrial air cleaner, so that everything blown off gets picked up by this. Overhead I have a machinist's inspection light,
    which is great for seeing any dust in the first place. You can use ordinary household air cleaner units, but mine is an older device which has banks of electostatic copper plates to attract particles
    prior to the filters themselves - works more efficiently, but would be very expensive to make today.
     
  18. rjmeyer314

    rjmeyer314 Member

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    I use a tankless compressor that I got with a paint sprayer outfit. It gives me about 25 psi, and seems to work fine for blowing dust off film and out of film holders.
     
  19. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Get an air tank. Add a moisture filter and a very fine air filter. Take it to the service station and fill it up. One fill will likely last you months and the cost is minimal.
     
  20. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    It always amazes me how people will go out and spend a thousand bucks for the latest tweak on some SLR lens and call anything for three hundred bucks junk, and will buy a dozen lenses they
    never use, but then never spend a dime on serious darkroom gear. You're only as good as your
    weakest link. I started out on a very tight darkroom budget myself, but as I was able, got the best
    stuff I could and have never regretted it. Compressed air is useful for cleaning cameras, loading
    filmholders in the dark, cleaning film, and with a branch line, also useful in the shop. Very few tools
    I have ever owned get as much use. But with good sense, you can find worthy used ones at good
    prices. However, make certain you have particulates and well as water well filtered.
     
  21. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    An air compressor is a very manly thing to own. We don't need much excuse to get one. Handy for many things in addition to the darkroom. If we had to get a tractor or chainsaw to fulfill some photo need which might also be accomplished with a hand tool, we'd get the machine if we could. Perhaps a sawmill and table saw to make picture frames?

    I've got an air compressor used for the garage with an extension to my darkroom, a separate regulator is in the darkroom, and 20-25 psi is plenty. I clean film holders and dust negatives with it. And fill air matresses, toys, balls, tires, etc...
     
  22. dehk

    dehk Member

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    If you got that much dust, look for a air purifier first. I put one in and it helped a lot.