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Air Supplied Face Masks
  • Sump pump hose (black, corrugated, about 1 1/2" d. (Canadian Tire)
  • Small vacuum cleaner replacement hose (Canadian Tire)
  • Small blower, squirrel-cage type best. (Used from Princess Auto catalogue or from a junked car's air circulation system with a 12 volt plug-in adapter)
  • Duct tape (never go anywhere without duct tape)
  • Assorted PVC pipe connectors, hose clamps.
  • An old belt.
  • The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide, Monona Rossol. Order through ACTS, 181 Thompson St. #23 NYC, NY 10012-2586 about 20 bucks (cheap).

Respirator. This is the part you'll probably have to pay for although I can imagine adapting an old surplus gas mask. The respirator I base my units on is an MSA Comfo II Respirator, part #479860 black Hycar, medium (that's what the catalogue says). It is a half-face respirator with an over-the-shoulder hose that is meant to attach to a belt-mounted cartridge carrier. I have ordered the face mask with the hose minus the belt and cartridge holder. That makes it somewhat cheaper. You don't need the cartridge holder or the belt. Get a belt for 50 cents at Frenchy's. Express yourself. The above unit complete runs $205 from Chandler Sales in Saint John, NB. They don't have them in stock but can order them. They have managed to order just the parts I need for less than the complete cost in the past. 1-506-658-8000 but try 1-800-363-9611 first or find a local supplier.

I use my air-supplied face mask during dusty or fumy/smoky operations. This is a standard respirator with an over-the-shoulder air hose that attaches to a waist belt (so the hose won't pull on the face mask). This hose is connected to a length of replacement vacuum cleaner hose (because vacuum cleaner hose is durable and can take getting stepped on), which is connected to a long piece of sump pump hose (cheap and easy to find).

The sump hose runs to a blower (squirrel cage type is best) that supplies fresh air under pressure to the hose. The blower unit is kept or placed in an area of the building where there is fresh, uncontaminated air ( be sure to screen the intake to prevent inhalation of insects). Because the face mask is under positive pressure, no air leaks in around the mask (even if you have a beard) and there is no strain on your lungs from sucking through filters.

You also don't need to worry about having the wrong filter for the job. I use this system anytime I do anything where I should be wearing a respirator, even if I'm in front of an exhaust hood. Obviously, it isn't a life support system and should be used with a good dose of common sense, but I find it extremely effective.

You should never use any respirator or air system in dangerous situations in which the failure of the system puts you at risk. They are easy and cheap to build. The only disadvantage is that you are connected to a hose that tethers your movements. A little planning before harnessing up makes this a minor inconvenience.

Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for any conceivable problems anyone might have using a system as I've described, remember that you are responsible for being sure you understand the system, how it works and what the dangers are.