Educator-Designed Manifold Makes Airbrush Station Possible on High School Budget

02/07/2018

Salem High School (VA) educator Steve Edwards knew his students would enjoy airbrushing just as he did when he was a collision repair student.  “It’s a way to get students into the shop and keep them interested,” he says.  But the best Steve could do with his high school budget was a show and tell lesson. He showed videos and did a demo with the class’ sole airbrush paint gun. 

Steve researched setting up an airbrush station.  The biggest cost was portable air compressors for 18 students, at $200 per student.  That sent Steve back to the drawing board, where he gave a second look at an existing resource--the school’s central air compressor.  Housed in a separate equipment room, the 125-gallon compressor serves the auto collision, auto mechanics and welding programs. 
Steve came up with an idea and headed for the scrap metal pile in the school’s shop with his Lincoln welder.  Working on and off for two months, he refined his design and built two portable manifold units.  Total cost for both: about $150. 

Picture2.pngEach manifold is designed with a 200 PSI-capacity tank fitted with an air pressure regulator and nine couplers and is welded to a stand with casters for easy portability.  The manifolds continuously draw pressurized air from the main compressor through shop hoses, allowing students to airbrush as long as they want.  An advantage of using a remote compressor is “there’s no noise.  Running portable compressors for 18 students would have been very loud,” Steve points out.
With most of a $3,000 budget still intact, Steve was able to purchase 18 airbrush spray guns.  Each attach to one of the manifold couplers with a 10-foot hose.  Other purchases were: paint, airbrush holders/cleaning pots, tabletop easels, and aluminum panels to paint.  There was no charge for I-CAR courses Introduction to Custom Painting ISP01 and Custom Painting ISP02, since Salem High School uses the PDP-EE curriculum.  

Another bit of ingenuity on Steve’s part was temporarily re-purposing the shop’s frame machine as an airbrush work station.  Covered with automotive grade masking paper, the frame rack provides an ample work surface for 18 students.

When the bay doors are left open in fall and spring, chances are an airbrush lesson is in progress at Salem High School.  Steve teaches airbrushing to students at all levels.  If you’d like more details on how Steve created his portable manifold units, contact him at smedwards@salem.k12.va.us