Overview: Parts and planning
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Retractable air hose reel
End the hassle of unfurling and furling the air hose and keep it off the floor.
There's nothing like having
compressed air handy for filling
tires or running air-powered
tools in the garage. But what a
hassle it is to unfurl (and trip over) and
stow an air hose all the time. However,
you can reach up and pull the air hose
down from the ceiling if you install a
retractable air hose reel just like pros
have in their shops. It's really very easy
to do and quite affordable.
The whole job will only take an
afternoon. You'll need to have copper
soldering tools and the know-how to
sweat copper joints.
Many home centers carry air line
accessories. If yours doesn't, check out
local tool suppliers or online sources.
Hose reel prices range from $60 to over
$250. For the average DIYer, the
25-ft., $60 model will work just fine.
Expect to pay about $99 for a 50-ft.
model. The high-end models offer
smoother operation and a sophisticated
rewind mechanism that reduces the
possibility of “hose whip.” (Hose whip
is a great way to take out a windshield—don't ask how we know!)
Find a location directly in front of
the hood of your car or in the middle
of a two-car garage. Position the compressor
in a permanent, out-of-the-way
spot. Then measure the distance
across the ceiling and down to the
compressor, and also over to your
workbench. Add about 15 percent for
waste, and purchase that amount of
1/2-in. copper tubing. (Type L is fine.)
Consider adding an optional filter/pressure
regulator/oiler to your system. At
about $61, they're a little pricey. But the filter
and oiler will keep your air tools in top
condition. Use a snubber hose to connect
and disconnect the compressor from the
Buy whatever fittings you need to make
the runs. Use 45-degree fittings at turns
rather than 90-degree ells to reduce pressure
drops. Buy solder-on male pipe
thread adapters to connect to the air hose
reel and the filter/oiler.
Install the retractable hose reel
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Photo 1: Mount the reel
Predrill the ceiling-mounting holes and
hose reel–mounting holes in the 2x8.
Bolt the hose reel to the 2x8.
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Photo 2: Bolt the assembly to the ceiling
Hold the assembly against the ceiling and
lag-screw it into the rafters.
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Photo 3: Run the copper air line
Sweat the connections near the ceiling. Use a flame
protector between the fittings and the ceiling.
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Photo 4: Connect the compressor
Fill the oiler with air tool oil. Install a “snubber” hose with
a quick-connect fitting to connect the air compressor to
Start by measuring a 2x8 long enough
to span two rafters. Trace the mounting
holes from the hose reel onto the 2x8
plank and drill four 5/16-in. holes. If you
have a finished ceiling, countersink the
bolt heads on the back of the plank. Next,
predrill two 5/16-in. holes at each end of
the plank for the rafter mounting bolts
and matching holes in the rafters. Mount
the hose reel to the plank with the nuts
facing down. With a helper on the opposite
side to hold the rather heavy assembly
in place, mount the plank to the rafters
using 5/16-in. x 4-1/2-in. lag screws.
Assemble the fittings and copper tubing
from the hose reel up to the ceiling and
sweat the parts for that portion of the run.
After it cools, apply pipe dope to the
threaded fitting and screw the section into
the hose reel. Then assemble and sweat
the rest of the copper tubing. Anchor the
tubing to the framing every 4 ft. with
mounting straps as you work your way
toward the compressor.
Mount the air filter/regulator/oiler
securely on the wall and attach a quick-connect
fitting. Connect the assembly to
your air compressor with a snubber hose.
Note: A Materials List is available in Additional Information, below.