Tools of the studio: AIR TOOLS

This post will outline many of the tools I use the most in the studio: air powered tools. Much of my work is made in stainless steel and that requires polishing for that beautiful finish, this is usually done with a die grinder and a 3M polishing pad or two or ten. The benefit of air tools is they are much lighter than electric without the motor, but you are tethered to an air hose.

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Air tool, angle die grinder for sanding and polishing
My most used air tool: angle die grinder

This tool I could not live without in my studio, I use it everyday and wear them out yearly. This particular one is pretty costly so hoping to get a bit more life out of it. I have two of these exact ones so I can have a sanding disc on one and a 3M polishing pad on the other, just plug and play. These bad boys run super fast and put a lot of dust out so air filters and fans run non stop in my space and I wear a full respirator most of the day long.

Air belt sander 1/2″
Air belt sander 1/2″

An air belt sander is a very handy tool, used for cleaning inside edges and openings in steel when space allows. This tool saves your wrist and arm much pain, you can blow though belts very fast but it is still a savior for your body. The belt can be somewhat aggressive so care must be taken and attention to detail is paramount, a full range of sanding grits are available for this tool, the belt must keep moving and not stay in one spot or a depression is easily formed.

Straight die grinder W/ diamond blade

A handy tool when needed, this grinder will make a close cut in the right place and can also be used as a grinder in tighter places. This particular one came from a factory but was bought in a garage sale, it was used in the auto industry in Detroit. This brand (DOT) is very high quality, very expensive and fast moving, as well as being a lifetime tool.

Dies and attachments for grinding and polishing

The angle or straight air grinder can do many cutting jobs, there are thousands of specialized blades that will cut, grind and polish steel to your specs. These tools are invaluable in the manufacture of steel items and can save any hours of hand work. Dies can cut and shape steel faster than your hand with a file and save lots of time, but care must be taken as they can eat a hole very fast if not controlled.

Steel nibbler or cutter
Steel nibbler or cutter

When sheet metal needs cut this tool will do the job, with a straight line or a curve you can follow a form and make freehand cuts in thin sheet metal with this nibbler. Each stroke takes one small part circle away at a time giving you a cut line very fast.

Air powered 5″ sander
Air powered 5″ sander


Air powered sanders are much lighter than their electric cousins, they cost more and need a compressor with lots of CFM to keep driving them under heavy use. I mostly use this one for wood but sheet steel can be sanded no problem. Notice the exhaust and intake for air and sanding dust, hooked to a shop vac this tool becomes a clean and lung friendly tool.

HPLV spray gun, seals wood, metal and stuff

Most wood, metal and other materials need protection and a spray sealer is more economical than buying single cans or paying another craftsman to seal your work. You may also spray paint, stain, or clear coat with this gun, a clean area and exhaust are a must when using. Clean up is never any fun but is a must every time this tool is used, complete take down is required.

Brad nailer and staple gun

Wood working is a part of my past and I love it as a material, this is a 2″ pin nailer that also shoots staples. A great machine to make crates or do trim in that new home remodel. Some tools you use infrequently but they are invaluable when needed, this is one of those. You also have to oil your air tools, one drop in the air intake every use to keep water from rusting the gears in the interior.