Friday, July 11, 2014

Outa Gas

Do you have one of these:

What is that? It is the Kobalt Portable Compressed CO2 Regulator distributed by Lowes.  The idea here is that you have a power source for pneumatic tools without the need of a compressor.  I bought one several years ago, worked great.  I loved being able to take air tools on site with me to jobs without having to haul out a compressor, and I love being able to use an air tool for half a dozen shots without feeling stupid.

The product worked on an exchange model like Sodastream.  When your bottle ran out of gas you would take it back to Lowes and exchange the empty for a full replacement.  In the entire time I've had mine I have needed to do this twice.  The first time I went to Lowes and the dude at the desk looked at me like I was crazy but when I found the thing on the shelves his supervisor was happy to ring the transaction.  The second time I needed a refill I happened to be at the store without the empty and thought I should look to see where the item was on the shelf so I would know when I came back.

Except it wasn't.  It appeared as if Lowes had dropped the item and so I would be stuck with a useless tool.

Interestingly this item is still listed on the Lowes webpage: here.  More interestingly is that it says it is not available for shipping, only for store purchase.  And then if you search for the item in a store you get this:

I did the due diligence to enter a bunch of other zips: 60035, 89117, 06405... all the same.  Although it appears Lowes is trying to give the impression this item might still be available my Spidey Sense is telling me it is not.

And so we mope for a while.

At this point I have three problems: the first is that the vendor appears to have abandoned the product (btw you might ask about going through Kobalt rather than Lowes - fwiw they are for all intents in this case the same).  The second is that I am out of gas.  The third is that the reason I am out of gas is that a gasket on the connection for the bottle has shredded itself.

Nothing to be done about problem number one.  (That line has a particular cadence.)  Maybe I can solve the rest.  Briefly toward the end of its useful life I overcame the gasket issue using teflon tape.  Lacking a better solution I guess I can go back to that.  So the real problem is gas.

I have no doubt that any number of the commercial gas dealers in the area could likely fill the bottle.  On the one hand though I think I would feel awfully stupid going into a commercial gas dealer with my 2.5# gas bottle.  On the other hand I have no experience with any of the local commercial gas distributors.  So that notion goes on the back burner.  It does occur to me that over the years a few people have had the same response to the tool when they first see it: "it's like a paintball tank."  So let's run with that.

Dick's refills paintball bottles in "the Lodge."  Off we go to Dick's.  Dude behind the counter looks at me like I am crazy but after a brief explanation he says "ok, I'll try."  Let me say at this point I was REALLY worried for dude as there's no max psi rating on the tank and I have no idea to what pressure they charge paintball tanks, so, you know: BOOM!  But the fates are with us this day and the threads match up and the tank takes a charge and the fine people at Dick's charge me $4.

This works so well I decide that teflon tape is for losers and I need to find a new o-ring.  I measure up the top of the bottle and head off to Lowes.  I haven't had to buy o-rings before and what I think I want is an assortment, but for the second time in this adventure Lowes lets me down and I can't find an assortment.  What I do find is a packet of No. 10 o-rings containing 10 each o-rings that appear to be the right size.  I take a chance and take them home - another $4.

This is a case of measure twice cut once letting me down as the No. 10 o-ring appears to be incorrect.  It fits the fitting all right, but when I go to screw on the regulator it stalls, feels like it is cross threading, and then shreds the o-ring.  So we're looking for something smaller.  Off to the store again.

This time we go to the Home Depot.  Not so much as I don't think I'll be able to find what I need at Lowes and more so because I hate going to the same store twice on the same day - some kind of summer-stock PTSD.  At the Depot I do find an assortment of o-rings (now fat by 9 No. 10 pieces) purchase it and head home having forked up another $9.

Selecting the No. 9 o-ring the regulator goes on and off with no drama and I have a working tool again!  All it took was about a year of moping, a day of errands, and about $20.  Next time maybe no moping.

Postscript: The next time I used the thing the regulator shredded the No. 9 o-ring.  I'm beginning to get an inkling of why they may have dropped this particular SKU.  So next time I will try a No. 8.  Good thing I got an assortment.  Also, while at Dick's I noticed that they have the same sized tank for $20.  Maybe it has a more robust gasket.  Have to check that out sometime.

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