Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How I Made My Copic Air Can Refillable

I like the Copic airbrush I bought recently, but the idea of having to drop $12 each time my can of air runs out, or buying an air compressor, just isn't that appealing to me. So, I tried to make the original can I bought refillable.

This photo shows what my original $50 investment got me. 1 D60 can of compressed air, one grip, and 4 markers.

Disclaimer: Many reviews of similar ideas done to other canned products online shows that this might be dangerous, so I'm telling you here to not do this at home, school, church, or the this at your friends home!

My wife and I thought it would likely be possible to fill the can with a bike pump. First I had to get a valve into the can so I could have a hole into the can.

I decided the cut the valve out of an old soccer ball and use that in my can. Using a razor blade I cut the piece out around the valve, then cut the valve out of the air bladder.

Cut the piece first
The valve before it was completely removed.

Trimmed up the edges.
At this point I wanted to see the inside of the valve as it was in use so I put the inflation needle into it and showed it off to the kids so they could learn how it worked.

Clear through
Then I took the empty can to work and asked my friend Dave to drill a hole in the bottom. This hole had to be bigger than any drill bit I had so it could accommodate the valve I stole from the soccer ball. 

The can's hole and soccer air valve

I decided to wash out the inside of the can to remove any dust or metal filings from the drilling. I heard that water inside the can might cause rust so I dried it out in the sun and used a hair dryer. However, moisture in the air that I plan to put inside the can might cause rust in the end anyway. We'll see.

After it was cleaned I roughed up the can and valve with sandpaper and used JB Weld to seal it shut.

Ready to mix the two parts

Applied some to the inside of the valve

Applied some to the can

The squeeze out

Cleaned up the squeeze out
 I let this sit for almost 24 hours before I tested it by filling it with air.

Bike pump and refillable can

I inserted the inflation needle to test it. Removed it and put it inside a laundry basket.

Inserting the inflation needle
The reason I put it in the laundry basket, through the side, was in case the thing blew up, the hose would be restricted in it's movement, and the blanket would hopefully absorb most of the shrapnel. 

Laundry basket testing safety system. Patent Pending.
After I pumped it up with one pump of my floor stand bike pump (measuring about 20psi) I removed it from the needle, resulting in a little air release sound....likely from the hose, not the can.

1 pump = 20psi
 I loaded the airbrush with my black marker and gave it a test spray. You can see the black mist in the image below.

My first proof that it worked!!!
 Pumping it once, to 20psi, gave me about 5 seconds of spray. Not that much spray time. Since the official air compressor setup can Copic sells states to set the air compressor for 30-40psi I thought it was safest to stay in that range, or under it. So, I pumped it twice and got just a little over 40psi into the can.

2 pumps = 40psi
With about 40psi I got about 8 seconds of spray time. Still not any remarkable length of spray, but workable for sure.

Some of my kids initials for the test
Only getting about 8 seconds of air out of each fill of the can, I thought I could just keep the needle in the can, and the pump going. My very eager to help (at least this time) 4 year old son started pumping and providing a much more constant stream of air. He couldn't pump it too well, so there was no concern of going past the tested 40psi. Since there was no concern of running out of air, I often took the marker out and ran it with just air to help quickly dry the popper before the next color.

Putting the kid to work!
I found on 2 pumps, 40psi, I could paint around the whole popper. When changing markers I pumped it again, even if some air was left.

My first bike pump popper
After testing the setup, and being extremely pleased with the results, it was time to paint the rest of my poppers. I was able to paint about 25 with the original air in the can, so I painted the remaining 25 with the bike pump system. Here are some of the favorites from the night.

I see frogs in my future
I got the spots on these by wrapping the popper with some fish net material from my wife's fabric stash. You simple wrap it up and spray through it. Keep in mind, if you pull too tightly on the fish net it will stretch and give you a slightly different shape.

Next up, eyes, epoxy, feathers and legs!


cliftz said...

ahhh,very nice. so, much for the porta-pottie idea. ;-}

Looks like it worked like a charm.

GFP said...

Nope, no porta pottie this time.

It did work pretty well, but thinking a foot pump would free up my hands to work the fly and sprayer. I might invest in one of those for the next batch of flies.

Bryan said...

What about using a 12V bike pump that you plug into your car or one you can plug into the wall. I think some of those are not to costly and you can set the PSI (I think) on some of those so you don't over pressurize. It would make it much more useful I think.

GFP said...

Bryan - I'm sure that would work, but I'd be cautious of the psi. The only reason I haven't gone past 2 pumps (40psi) on my setup is because I don't want the soccer ball valve to blow off. I'm not sure what the limit of the bond for the valve is, or the limit of the can. If you buy the official can from Copic that hooks up to an air compressor, they say to set the compressor to 30-40 psi. However, I can't say if the can I drilled is the same as the can they sell for the compressor. So, I keep it about 40psi or less, because that works far...hasn't broken the setup.

Let me know your results if you try an electric pump...and the price.

Unknown said...

Ok, I am the least likely to know anything about this. However I still have a question. Would an old Nebulizer give it a more consistant flow on the cheap?