If there’s one thing missing from most DIY boatyards, it’s adequate electrical power for a job the size of this refit. No matter what anybody says about how great their 120VAC compressors and welders are, when you’re talking about welding 1/4″ aluminum plate and fairing and painting a 46′ motor yacht, you’ve simply got to have 240VAC equipment. I checked into a lot of equipment options while the refit project was stalled because of the paperwork SNAFU. Once the SNAFU was resolved in 2012, I made the investment in equipment that would get the job done.
Not only can this bad boy put out more than enough power to weld 1/4″ aluminum plate with constant voltage, constant current, MIG, TIG or stick processes, it’ll simultaneously provide 8,000 honest watts of AC electricity at 120 and/or 240VAC…and it can do it all day long. The downside is that the Onan V-twin engine in this thing is dang noisy. It’s also a thirsty beast, which makes the electricity it generates about 30x more expensive than line power. But when adequate line power doesn’t extend out into the yard, you gotta do what you gotta do.
When the painter calls for more compressed air than my little Craftsman 120v oil-free unit can provide, which is most of the time, Step One is to fire up the Trailblazer. Then I hit the switch on the Campbell Hausfeld compressor. The compressor works well enough, but a key take-home lesson on compressors is that whatever you think will be big enough won’t, in fact, be enough when the project is in full swing.
Air-powered equipment really varies in how much air they need, and this compressor, which is rated at 12.9CFM @175psi, can barely keep up with even one DA sander of the type the fairing crew prefers to use. With other, more frugal air equipment, the compressor keeps up fine with one or even two users. But when the whole crew is onsite, they need five of those air-hungry sanders going all day long!
There are all kinds of compressors that can crank out 34 to 50CFM, but at that point you’re talking 10 to 20hp motor requirements to drive the things, and that means 3 phase power. The Trailblazer makes plenty of juice, but I’d have to buy or build a phase converter to operate 3-phase equipment. It’s always something…
There’s also the practical usefulness of the equipment once the project is done. I may or may not keep the Trailblazer and the spoolgun and weld controller that go with it once we splash the boat, but the Campbell Hausfeld compressor is perfect for a well-equipped home shop. A bigger unit that can keep up with five hard working Boatamalans is just too much once the project’s done–I’d end up selling it, potentially at a loss. So, we get along with the Campbell Hausfeld even though the guys (who are spoiled by the unlimited air supply at their Weaver Boatworks’ day jobs) complain about running out of air.
No matter what compressor you use, though, compressed air tends to carry lots of water. And water in the air damages tools and creates havoc for painters.
After the compressor runs for 15 minutes or so, the air exiting the tank becomes warm enough to make the outlet port slightly warm to the touch even on cold mornings. Warm air carries more water, and you get drips from air tool exhausts after a while. When painting, this can be a disaster. I could significantly reduce the moisture in the air with an aftercooler between the high pressure side of the compressor to the tank, but I haven’t had time to make one. Since the air coming out of the tank doesn’t exceed 135*, I picked up a refrigerated dryer on ebay that can handle medium-temperature air. It works great. I put a filter before the unit to separate bulk water and particles, with a drop and valve to collect and drain water that condenses on the relatively co0l pipe wall. When it comes out of the dryer, the air is cool, clean, and very dry.
From the dryer it’s three feet over to another tee with a drop and valve at the bottom and a 10′ pipe up to the boat deck level. The iron pipe throughout the system acts as a passive aftercooler and helps to force any remaining moisture to condense on the cool pipe wall.
This bad boy is the last filter in the fixed lines, and it captures whatever moisture or particles have managed to make it through the other components. The painter is happy with the results and says the air quality is good enough for spraying “the shiny.” Coming from a guy who paints multi-million dollar sportfish boats for Weaver Boatworks, where they’ve got a $40,000 compressed air system, I take that as high praise. 🙂
When we’re done with it, I may end up just selling this tent and equipment all together as a portable boat shop and spray booth…any takers??? 😉
This weekend we’ll longboard the Awl Quik we sprayed last weekend and, hopefully, spray the Awl Grip 545 prime coat on Sunday.