In 2008, I was installing a kitchen every week, on average. As you can probably imagine, I was bringing in a lot of equipment each time to set up shop: miter saw, work bench, table saw, screw guns, levels, and of course nail guns, compressor, hose, and cord—even though there isn’t a lot of need for air guns in kitchen installs, you still need them.
I was installing prefinished trim with Liquid Nails and a 23g pinner, but I also used an 18g brad nailer and a 16g finish nailer—frequently. I had a Senco mini compressor, which was good, but when it got to the restart cycle my 18g brad-nailer would half-fire a brad and I’d have to dig it out—those little compressors, which seem so cool because they’re weightless and take up hardly any space in your truck, are so frustrating! The motor is too small to power the compressor, and they break down easily—what a shame they can’t engineer a compressor that size that’s actually reliable!
I was looking for a solution when, in 2008, I discovered the JACPAC. The JACPAC kit came with a 9-oz. canister, which did not last at all, so I purchased several 20-oz. cans from the local paintball supply store. With two 20-oz. cans, and eventually three, I could install several kitchens before I needed to head back to the paintball store for refills.
I didn’t mind all the trips to the paintball store because it cut down so much on the tools I had to carry in and out of the jobsite—no more compressor or long hose—and on some jobs, it meant stretching a 10g extension cord from a power pole in order to run the compressor.
|I found I only needed to carry a 20-oz. CO2 can and the required guns (16g & 18g), allowing me to cut back significantly on the amount of tools I was hauling into each home.|
Jump ahead to 2013, with 2009 in the rear view mirror. My large compressor, which I take when I am doing a medium-to-large job, broke. I had it repaired, but it never seemed to work as well as it did in the beginning. And that’s how I got the idea to look into a larger CO2 unit.
I began by purchasing the tank adaptor, reserving a rebuilt aluminum tank, and I was going to use a custom regulator with parts from Ruberline—Ruberline is an industrial supplier of hydraulics and industrial rubber products. In the midst of planning my CO2 unit, I was asked to review the Power Tank 10-pound unit. I live in Canada, so the shipping of the unit was around $80.00, and I had to pay taxes and handling fees of $35.00—for a unit that retails at $500, it’s not a cheap investment. For reference, you can find a general-use Makita compressor for about $375 where I live.
|CO2 is a liquid that, as it ‘boils,’ becomes a gas. It’s that gas which powers the tools. The liquid form allows for more storage volume than a compressed air tank.|
|I let the tank warm up because the guns are also supposed to warm up so that the gaskets and o-rings are pliable.|
I take my tank to be filled at the Evan’s Fire Equipment shop here in town, but you can fill CO2 at some welding gas suppliers (just phone ahead!).
I actually have plans to purchase a second tank for this very reason.
If you don’t have a shiny new Power Tank, the units can be exchanged just like your Propane tanks. But the nice thing about having the large 10-lb. Power Tank is that I can use it to refill my older and smaller 20-oz. system, too.
|I was loading my 20-oz. system at the paintball supply store, but now I have a Power Tank fill-up kit and I can handle refills myself.|
|The rigid fill unit requires a feel for loading the units and is much faster and easier to use for the advanced user, as you learn what a full tank feels and sounds like.|
|The hosed unit is a little slower but much easier since you can weigh the tank as you fill it.|
This will be the unit I use for a little while longer, as I’m just starting to get the feel of refilling my tanks.
|Prior to receiving the fill kit I put together my own system for the JACPAC from a Paintball gun hose and CO2 tank adaptor.|
It’s good to have some type of refill system that you can do yourself. Sometimes you run out at an inconvenient time (in my case, the paintball store changed their hours!) and you can’t rely on third-party refills. Once you’ve gotten the system set up, it really pays for itself after twelve refills.
|The 20-oz. tanks come with two different tops, either with a valve or with a pin—the valve units are far superior and will allow the gaskets on the tank to last longer.|
While I was reviewing the 10-pound tank, I also added the Power Tank Sidearm 20-oz. kit to my arsenal.
|This kit happened to contain a coiled hose, which is braded and has actual substance.|
It’s a high-quality hose and, in fact, it’s the first coiled hose I’ve ever kept! It’s extremely handy.
I have been working on developing a protocol to help determine which unit I use where: The 10-pound tank is best for a larger job that will require more than one day. I can bring in the tank and leave it overnight, since most of my work is in occupied homes. I would not suggest this on a new build. The 20-oz. is best for the half-day jobs, punch lists, or ‘while you’re here’ jobs. Believe me, the 20-oz kit makes me feel like I’m not even carrying nail guns onto the job.
But in truth, I’m also finding that even the 10-pound tank, which actually weighs around 20 pounds, is much lighter and more ergonomic with the handle than my compressor ever was. And I’m growing increasingly sensitive to carrying weight. As I have matured like a fine wine, weight has become an issue! The 20-oz. tanks are still in the tote that they were shipped in, and the air guns for the day get thrown in that bag and brought into the house, making the job easier.
I am really looking forward to getting a larger trim package for a new-construction job. I see a huge advantage for the CO2 tank as the power is often on a power pole—everyone has to bring their power into the house via extension cords, and each trade has one circuit as a rule. The CO2 doesn’t need any power, so while you are cutting trim on the chop saw you don’t have to worry about the compressor kicking in and blowing that circuit, which requires a trip to the power pole—in the cold and snow—to throw the breaker back on. I plan to put a manifold on the tank so that my partner and I can use the one unit and have a second tank out in the truck.
I have been using the 10-pound unit for approximately six months now, and part of that time I was away doing a non-carpentry job. I just made sure the main valve was shut off, and put the tank in my basement. When I came back two weeks later I needed it for an onsite door installation and not a beat was missed.
|While I haven’t kept the best record of my usage of the 10-pounder, I was able to install baseboard in a 1,500-square foot condo and 1,600 lineal feet of crown on a single fill-up.|
|There were a few small jobs in between, and of course mileage would vary depending on the size of the gun you use and if your gun has any leaks.|
Like I said earlier, the 20-oz. unit is definitely my go-to system for typical jobs. I’ve been using a version of it since mid-2008, and it’s ideal for a single kitchen install. On one job, I used that small system to trim out a personal elevator—a simple panel unit—where I was gluing and 23g-pinning to the walls. The holster was on one side of my belt and the gun was hanging off of my hammer loop, which worked very well as I ran back and forth to the saw. I’ve also used this unit for a job where I was hanging school cabinets. The shop wanted us to use 18g brads to hold on the filler strips, so I left the tank and gun on my cart as I moved from room to room.
There are a few unexpected advantages for the CO2 system. For example, my guns are running much better with a lot less moisture in the line and less oil. I don’t have to wait for the compressor to kick in and build up pressure before firing a nail—there’s always pressure, so there are never any misfires or nails that stand proud. Even when I run out of CO2, I’ve found that the last shot is always a good one, and then there’s just nothing left.
On one job, I was trimming out the upstairs of a home and the homeowner was around the whole time, working from a home office. Trust me, it was nice not having a noisy compressor running in that house. The CO2 worked quietly all day so I hardly disturbed them. I also managed to get myself into a condo on a Saturday. The building had a no-contractors-allowed-on-weekends-rule, but I was able to set the chop-saw on the wall furthest from the adjoining condo, and I did my work without getting in trouble with security.
Sure, there are other options, but I haven’t found one I like more than the C02 tank. Several nail gun manufacturers offer portable guns that operate on a combination of lithium batteries and different types of onboard energy systems, but the guns are heavy and aren’t reliable, especially for firing nails into hardwood. And there’s also gas-powered guns, but they’re really noisy and they give me a headache, plus the gas cylinders have expiration dates—use them or lose them.
When I’m doing finish work, it’s nice to have a quiet environment—at least when the table saw and miter saw aren’t running. And when I fire a nail, I want it to fire perfectly, every time—no misfires, no partial fires. And besides, no one makes a portable 23g pin nailer, so I need air for that anyway!
Several years ago I built a horse shed. I had 100 feet of cord and then another 75 of air hose to run the strap shot putting in hurricane ties. I think the 10-pound tank would have been great, a 25-foot hose and shooting in all those hurricane ties with my Bostitch Strap shot…
I began a career as a carpenter during my first summer in university working for the maintenance department. Leon Parker was the old, wise, traditional carpenter who could do anything and do it fast. I was teamed up with him and we took on the university for several years. His favorite way of teaching was to ask me to do something, and then half way through he’d say, “You want to see the easy way?” I gained a lot of experience through him and had a lot of fun. As I moved on in my education I became a small contractor, doing built-ins and trim work.
I spent some time at Texas A&M, where I began racing bicycles. And I went on to get a seminary degree and became a mission pastor. When carpentry became a majority of my income, I began to make custom furniture in my garage. I rented a shop and ran it for several years until the economy took a slow-down in 2000. At that time, I became a project manager for a shop that did a lot of very high-end millwork in Manhattan and other major US cities. I thoroughly enjoyed the work, but I was on the road more than I was at home.
I decided to go back to being a contractor, doing additions, renovating kitchens and bathrooms, and working as a project manager.
I am currently finishing up a contract where I’ve gotten the chance to travel across the United States working in the IKEA Market Hall renovations for the last two years.
When I’m not working and traveling, I am an avid cyclist, I like to walk my three dogs on the trails around Brantford, and spend time with my wife, Heather, and my daughter, Céline.