Airsmithing

An airsmith is a person who works on paintball markers.  In my opinion, there are 4 types of "airsmiths" - Gun Techs, Certified Gun Techs, Airsmiths, and Certified Airsmiths.  Every paintball store has its own gun techs - people who know enough about paintball markers that they can disassemble, reassemble, and trouble shoot most markers (some gun techs only specialize in certain markers, and know very little about other ones).  A certified gun tech is someone who has the same skills, but has attended classes put on by marker manufacturers and has been certified by the manufacturer to work on their guns.  Most "airsmiths" that you will find fit into one of these two categories.  In fact, I believe that EVERY player ought to be able to act as a gun tech for their own markers.

So what is a true "Airsmith"?  In my opinion, a true airsmith is not only a gun tech, but also a machinist.  He can sit down with a block of raw aluminum and MAKE a marker from scratch.  If anything goes wrong with your marker, he can MAKE a replacement piece.  A "Certified Airsmith" is an airsmith who holds a gun tech certificate from the maufacturer.  Gun Techs cannot make you new parts - they can replace existing parts with pre-made parts, but they can't sit down and fabricate you a new part.

To be a true airmsith requires avialability of maching equipment - lathe (preferably CNC), miller (preferably CNC with a rotary table or a universal table), and surface grinder.  Most paintball stores simply cannot afford this equipment, so they don't have it.  A true airsmith can make performance modifications to your marker, as well as cosmetic ones.  They can enlarge air chambers and surface mill your marker.  True airsmiths are very hard to find - if you are lucky enough to find one that you can trust, do your best to patronize his store and keep him in business!  If you can't find a true airsmith in your area, you can contact Doc Nickel at Doc's Machine on my LINKS page.  If you would like to hire me to mill your marker, please email me.

Learning how to become a gun tech requires a lot of patience, and a lot of trial and error.  You will need tools, the assembly diagram that came with your marker, a large, bright, CLEAN space to work in, and any instructions that came with your marker.  The tools that you will probably need are:

Open-end Wrenches (SAE or Metric depending on your marker)
1 Medium Adjustable Wrench
1 Small Adjustable Wrench
1 Large pair of Channel Lock Pliers
1 Small pair of Channel Lock Pliers
1 Small pair of Needle-nose Vise-Grips
A COMPLETE set of Allen (Hex-head) Wrenches (SAE or Metric depending on your marker)
#1 Phillips Head Screwdriver
#2 Phillips Head Screwdriver
Small Regular Screwdriver
Medium Regular Screwdriver
Set of Tiny Regular Screwdrivers
Dental Pick (to remove O-rings)
Magic Marker
Paper
Painball Marker Oil (never use any oil that is not specifically designed for paintball markers)

It is also advisable to have the following:

Assortment of Small Bolts (SAE or Metric depending on your marker)
Assortment of Cap-End Bolts (Allen head bolts) (SAE or Metric depending on your marker)
Assortment of Small Set Screws (SAE or Metric depending on your marker)
Assortment of Small Washers
Set of Taps and Dies (SAE or Metric depending on your marker)
Screw/bolt Pitch Guide
Teflon Plumbers' Tape
Blue LocTite
Red LocTite
White LocTite (Pipe Sealant Formula with Teflon)
Assortment of Small to Medium Sized O-rings

When I take a marker apart, I always try to lay the pieces out on my workbench the same way they go together in the marker.  When I have several small pieces (like a sear assembly), I not only lay them out the same way they go together, but I also trace their shapes onto a piece of paper with my magic marker, and I might even label the pieces themselves with the magic marker.  This makes it much easier to figure out what goes where when I put it back together.

A word about LocTite.  Blue LocTite is the kind used most often.  While not providing an air tight seal, it is relatively easy to remove parts that have Blue LocTite on them, but the LocTite will prevent screws and bolts from vibrating loose.  Red LocTite forms an air tight seal, and is almost permanent.  The only way to loosen parts that have been joined with Red LocTite is to first heat the parts with a propane torch.  This softens the Red LocTite and allows you to remove your pieces.  Never put Red LocTite anywhere that you can't heat (like pieces of metal that contact O-rings) or don't want a permanent bond.  White LocTite has Teflon in it, and can be used in place of Teflon Plumbers' Tape.  It has the strength of Blue LocTite, but creates an air tight seal.

Because machining removes the outermost layer of metal, your newly-machined marker will have no protection from oxidization.  I therefore recommend a cosemtic finish for your marker.  I personally prefer anodizing - it is the least amount of trouble for me, the anodizer polishes my marker (which does a GREAT job at hiding all my little mistakes), and I think it is the best looking finish.  The other two options which you have are nickel-plating and powder coating.  Both of these add material to your marker, so you will need to plug all holes and seal the inside of your marker so that nothing can get in.  Some nickel-platers will polish your marker before they plate it which will help hide any blemishes.  Most powder coaters will not.

Here are some pics of some markers that I have machined and had anodized, or powder coated myself.  I use PK Selective as my exclusive anodizer because I think they are the best.  They also do nickel-plating and powder coating.  If you would like to get in contact with them, their website is listed on my LINKS page.  If you would like to hire me to powder coat your gun for you, please email me.

Paintball Marker Projects

3/08/99  1998 Autococker Project
2/10/00  EXC-68 Project
2/19/01  The Edge Project
7/14/01  Dual Bottle Tippmann Pro-Lite
7/21/01  Powder Coating
7/24/01  Micromag Project
1/2/02    1995/1996 Autococker Project

Technical Pages

In the Technical Pages you will find things like tips on how to time an Autococker, as well as assembly diagrams for many markers and other paintball stuff, and suggestions on milling (where TO mill, and where NOT to mill).

CLICK  HERE  TO  GO  TO  THE  TECHNICAL  PAGES

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