Why Use Air Tools

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Air tools, or otherwise known as pneumatic tools, are tools that use compressed air and a pneumatic motor to complete the jobs that are asked of them. Air tools have been used since the 1800s and are continuing to grow in popularity due to the many benefits they offer. But, it is important to know exactly what they are good for, and also their limitations before committing to a purchase, particularly if the tool that you are looking at is more expensive. 

This article aims to explain both the pros and cons for using air tools, and help you to see why using air tools for your home DIY projects will save you time, effort and money. 

Want to know more about air compressors, why not check out our air compressor buyers guide.

How Do Air Tools Work?

Before explaining how air tools work, there are some important key phrases that you will need to remember and consider when looking to purchase air tools:

  • Air pressure – The amount of air pressure provided by the compressor and needed by the air tool is likely to differ so make sure to set the correct pressure if you don’t want to damage the tool. 
  • Air consumption – The amount of air needed for a tool to work for a period of time. 
  • Cfm – cubic feet per minute – the output rate of the air compressor 
  • PSI – Pounds per square inch – how many pounds of pressure are exerted in a square of space. 

The science behind the air tool is really quite clever – a pump moves continuously to force air into a tank until it becomes pressurised. Then once the “trigger” is pulled the air is forced out of the tank to then move a pneumatic motor, which powers whatever tool it is that you are working with. Alternatively, the pressurised air will force “something” out of the hose of the tool – for example, water, paint or even nails! 

Air Nailer

Why Use Air Tools?

There are many benefits to using air tools – which is probably why they are used so frequently now, and yet there are still so many people who are “stuck” in still using electric tools. We have listed a number of reasons why using air tools will dramatically change your DIY experience – for the better! 

  • Air tools will be safer to run, largely due to the lack of electricity that is used to power the tool. If anything should go wrong with the tool then there is no risk of sparks, short-circuiting or electrocution from an air tool. 
  • Pneumatic tools will also be easier to maintain. Although the moving parts will still need oiling, in general, there will be a lot less maintenance that you need to do to keep the tools working for as long as possible! 
  • The fact that air tools use air to function means that the tools are usually smaller and lighter for the same amount of power! This means that they are more portable so better suited to individuals wanting to complete DIY jobs in various places. Another benefit of the tools being lighter is that you will be able to work with them for longer before feeling the strain of carrying the tools! 
  • Portability is also improved by the fact that these tools can be used even if a location has little access to power.
  • Air tools will usually be easier to operate.
Air Sander

Limitations of Air Tools?

It is important to remember that air tools aren’t perfect – if they were then there wouldn’t be any electric counterparts left on the market! You will tend to find that they will cost more initially, due to the fact that almost all air tools will require an external air compressor which adds to the initial outlay. However, as the tools tend to last longer and require less maintenance they will be more cost-effective in the long run – if you can make that initial commitment! 

Another slight disadvantage is that you are always going to need to be connected to the air compressor which stops you from being truly cordless! Although the air compressor itself will be portable, it can be difficult to get into harder to reach places if you need to be attached to the air compressor at all times! 

Air tools will be affected by moisture if they are not well maintained. When the moisture in the air is heated (while being compressed) it becomes vapour, which then turns into water again once cool. This can then damage the internal mechanisms of your tools if they are not well maintained and oiled regularly. 

Air Impact Driver

What Air Tools are Available?

The popularity of air tools means that their uses can now be applied to many different tools on the market. We have listed some of the main tools that you will find using pneumatic power to help your DIY jobs! 

  • Drills
  • Saws
  • Angle grinders
  • Nail guns
  • Sanders
  • Spray guns
  • Air ratchet 
  • Air gun
  • Sandblasting gun 
  • Blowguns 
  • Plus many, many more! 

Want to know more about air compressors, why not check out our air compressor buyers guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose the right air compressor for my air tool?
Choosing the right air compressor is almost as important as choosing the right air tool in the first place. The larger the air compressor the longer the toll will be able to work for before the air in the tank is depleted and needs time to repressurise. This means that you are usually best going for the biggest size that you can afford, but for a rough idea, you need to multiply the tools SCFM by 6 to get the minimum litre air compressor that you need. 

Will I still need to oil my air tools?
Yes! Air tools still have moving parts so will still need oiling. This should be done regularly if you are wanting your tool to work effectively and have a long life – it is recommended for many tools that they are oiled before every use! Most air tool manufacturers will advise of the best oil to use, however generic pneumatic tool oil can be purchased that should do the job!

About Mike Jones 155 Articles
I started doing DIY around the house and it soon developed into a hobby. I look for tools and products that are genuinely useful and get the job done. I enjoy writing product reviews, researching my buyers guides and putting tools through their paces. In my downtime, I like to run and I am a bit of a Netflix documentary geek.

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