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 Introduction: Basic Airsmithing
As an industrial design student in college, I took all kinds of courses in machining and manufacturing technologies under the department's theory that you couldn't design something (or build a prototype of it) if you didn't know how it would be made. In addition to a few years designing and building all kinds of mechanisms, I've done a lot of work on spring piston airguns and target .22 rifles, and have managed to accumulate most of the proper tools and techniques for this kind of work over the years. The most useful tools are available through local hardware stores or can be easily made in a woodshop. If you already know tools, much of this will be obvious. Hey, I'm just trying to be thorough for the folks coming up to speed.
Outline of Topics
Inside this Page Tools: Descriptions and use of Airsmithing Tools
Files and Whetstones, Grit and Polish, Punches, Bench Blocks, Mallets, Allen Wrenches, Pliers, Picks, Oils and Cleaning Fluids, Miscellaneous
Inside this Page Tool Lists: From Basic to Obsessive Machinist
Basic Setup, Advanced Setup, Dreams
Inside this Page General Information: The Practice of Airsmithing
Materials, Lubrication, Attention to Detail, Packing for the Field
Inside this Page Resources and Links: Airsmithing Supplies
Resources, Links, Mailorder

 Tools: Descriptions and use of Airsmithing Tools
Files and Whetstones
You'll spend a fair amount of time filing and grinding parts when you work on your marker. Using the right kind of file or stone can make the process a lot easier and give much better results. With enough time and patience you could use these steps to polish the entire gun to a mirror finish, but for most jobs going that far isn't needed. All of these steps can only remove material, which can cause sloppy fits if you go too far. You've gotta play it by ear and look at the specific situations on moving parts. Many times it's enough to just take down the high spots to improve sliding quite a bit.
Metal Files: Files come in two varieties, metal and wood. While you can use a metal file on wood, you cannot use a wood file on metal. Metal files are manufactured of hardened steel with finer cuts, and should not dull under normal use. Wood files are softer steel and usually have rougher teeth. When cutting metal, you'll get better results if you use some Machine Oil to carry the chips away from the work. In a pinch, even 3in1 works wonders. A very useful thing to keep your files in good shape is a File Card. This is a flat wire brush that is used to remove flakes of material from the grooves. You can also use regular wire brush or blow out the chips with compressed air.
Files only cut in one direction, so lifting the file at the end of each stroke to return it works much better than sawing back and forth. For smaller parts lay the file down on a flat surface (clamp it if you need to) and move the part across the file. Keeping a surface flat when filing takes practice and attention, there are no shortcuts. Sorry.
One specialized file that is really useful is a 'Feather' file. This is a fine file that is a very elongated diamond cross-section, about an 3/4 inch wide and 3/32 inch thick. These are kinda expensive (US$20) and hard to find, but perfect to dressing up damaged threads and filing the inside of deep slots.
Needle Files are usually sold as a group in a plastic organizer. These are thin fine files in a variety of contours; round, square, flat, rounded, etc. Very handy for getting into tight spots, but they cannot remove material quickly. Be careful not to use a needle file (or any file, really) to pry at edges. The hardness of the file steel holds an edge a long time, but makes the metal weak in bending movements. They'll break.
Whetstones: Flat or contoured graing stones should always be used with Machine or Cutting Oil which 'whets' the stone. If you don't use oil you won't get a good finish and the stone will wear. Stones are available in different grits; hard and rough for material removal to soft and fine grained for finish work. Also handy for sharpening knives and chisels! Stones cut in all directions, so a circular or sawing motion works best.
Diamond Grit Plate: These are relatively new, and bridge the gap between files and stones. A flat section of steel is treated with a binding coat and diamond dust is then fired into the surface in an oven. The diamond grit will not come off, and makes a fine flat grinding surface. These are usually sold near whetstones at hardware stores and also at hunting and fishing stores. I find myself using this more than any of my files or stones; it is a good size for fine removal and leaves a very smooth, almost mirror finish when used with oil. I use this exclusively for trigger and sear work, it's slow but makes a very flat surface with sharp edges to the parts. In fact, I have to go back and work the edges on the diamond plate when I'm done with the sides, they're TOO sharp otherwise. Like stones, the diamond plate cuts in all directions, so a circular or back-and-forth grinding motion works well. The plate I bought has a small groove running lengthwise to carry off chips when you use the circular motion. These are about US$12, and worth every penny.

Grit and Polish
There are a variety of materials, polishes, and grinding compounds to take the finish of a part the final step from finely filed or ground to shiny and slick. The trick is patience, moving step by step through finer and finer methods. Many times, I find that I need to go back a step and use the rougher method again where I missed a spot. It's really kind of relaxing and meditative if you're not in a hurry. The following are covered in order from rough to finest finish.
Sandpaper: For metal and fine plastic work, only buy the dark grey 'Wet or Dry' sandpaper. A good variety would be a few sheets each of 220 grit, 400 grit, and 600 grit. You can also use Emery Cloth, which is sandpaper with a cloth backing, but I've always had better results with 'Wet or Dry' lubricated with water or oil. Always use a thin oil for sanding. The first thing to do is tear the paper into quarter sheets, and then take a quarter sheet and tear off a piece about 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches to use. Keep a trashcan close by. Oil the paper and start sanding a small area, flipping the paper around to use fresh sections frequently. When all of the piece has been clogged and discolored, throw it away and tear off another piece. I know it sounds wasteful, but the paper will not cut right when it is clogged and you'll end up spending a LOT more time than you need to, only to get the same results.
Work from 220 to 400 to 600 grit, or stop at 400 and go to the next method...
Metal Wool and Synthetic Abrasive Pads: Steel wool used to be the only choice here, but over the past few years things have gotten a lot more complicated. Fortunately, the grading system for 'abrasiveness' seems to be holding so far. The useful grades run from 1 to 0, 00, 000, and 0000; 1 is rougher, 0000 is very fine. You don't have to purchase (or use) every grade, you can skip every other one in a pinch. 3M and others now make 'Scotchbrite' type synthetic pads in these same grades, you can find them at auto parts stores and they are very nice since they don't shed small fibers of steel on your work. Yet another alternative is bronze wool, used by gunsmiths for fine woodworking (because steel fibers trapped in layers of wood finish eventually rust and cause discolorations).
Anyway, I'd get some 1 and 00 steel wool, and sheets of 0, 000, and 0000 scotchbrite.
Lapping Compounds and Polishes: The final step to a mirror finish is metal polish. Again, there are a variety of grades. Unlike sandpaper or steel wool, the grades are not standardized (or even noted on some products). In general, the order is something like: Valve lapping compounds (auto parts stores, rougher), automobile rubbing compounds for paint (medium), special metal polishes (medium to fine), automobile waxes (fine), household metal polishes (fine). Like the methods above, working in steps from rough to fine works best. If you've done a careful job with previous methods and the surface is already looking good, you can skip to the medium to fine polishes and usually get good results.
Hands down, the best specialty metal polish I've ever found is a German product sold in bicycle stores and through Brownells; 'Simichrome Polish', manufactured by Happich. It's a thick pink paste and leaves a protective layer behind that makes the part stay shiny and slick for a long time. You use it like Brasso, with a good rag (old cotton T-shirts are outstanding). First you apply some paste to the cloth and start rubbing; the fabric will turn totally black as the paste grinds the surface. Then you move to a clean spot on the rag and rub off the black film left on the metal to finish. Works amazingly fast on aluminum or brass, and also does a good but slower job on steel. Flitz polish looks identical and is used the same way as Simichrome, but it has no ability to 'cut' the metal. Flitz is great at removing little flecks of rust from a gun-blued surface without removing the layer of color, and is also good at cleaning anodized parts without taking off the finish. It will not change raw metal from dull to shiny like Simichrome or other paste polishes.
Dremel, the Ultimate Weapon: Until you have one of these you probably think like I did, 'Man that looks like something I just don't need'. My Dad gave me one as a gift a couple of years ago, and it's awesome for the right jobs. Use the cut-off disks to shorten bolts or trim parts, use grinding bits for fine work, use buffing wheels with polish to make quick work of final finishing. Amazing how the right tool can speed things up! The downside: it's not good for making perfectly flat cuts, and there are hidden 'impulse purchase' costs when you visit the bits section at the hardware store...

Simple and inexpensive tools, but so much better than using a nail or a screwdriver instead.
Cylindrical Punches: Also called 'Pin' punches, these are the only way to get the assembly pins for your trigger assembly out of the marker frame and safely back into place when you're done tweaking (~US$3 each). These are hardened steel punches with long, cylindrical pins on the 'pointy' end and a flat cut-off. These come in various diameters and should exactly match the size of the pin you are removing. Measure your gun pins to make a list before you go to the store and get these, carrying in the receiver may spook a few salespeople. For ICD markers you'll need 3/32, 1/8, and 5/32 inch sizes (though a 3/16 punch can be sanded down to fit the trigger pivot pin if you cannot find a 5/32 size).
To remove pivot pins you lay the frame flat on a surface with a hole beneath the back of the frame and drive the pin punch into the side to push the pin out the other side. The punch should just fit into the hole so that you can drive the pin all the way out the other side, yet still remove the punch by hand (a sliding fit). Inexpensive pin punches have a rough finish, but you can easily polish the pin areas to make them the equivalent of the high-priced gunsmithing sets.
Some markers use roll pins, which are rolled out of sheet stock and hollow in the middle. You can use a pin puch on these, but you can also dmage them in the process. Brownells sells specialty Roll Pin Punches (~US$4 each), but that's a pretty esoteric tool. If you have to deal with roll pins, you can usually pick up spares at the hardware store. If one gets bent or mushroomed, just replace it.
You can also use a pin punch as an alignment tool if you have more than one. It's much easier than trying to drive the pin through and hold everything in place, which may require three or four hands. For example, to assemble the trigger with a shim on an ICD marker, slide the pin punch through the frame and the trigger and use it to hold everything in place, then drive the real pin through using it to force the tool out of the hole... well, hopefully, you get the idea.
Center Punches: A center punch is a hardened metal chisel with a sharp conical point. It is used with a mallet or hammer to make a depression in metal before you drill a hole, this keeps the bit from wandering as you start the hole. Very simple, inexpensive, and really the only way short of a drillpress to get holes where ya want 'em.
Awls: Awls are woodworking tools that look like punches. They usually have a wood knob handle. Awls are useful for picking out debris from crevices and for scratching the surface of metal when you are laying out dimensions for holes, cuts, etc. But don't try to use an awl as a center punch, you'll just ruin the awl (I've seen it, not pretty), the metal is just too soft.

Bench Block
For driving pins and and other hammering on your trigger frame, a block is needed. This can be a 1 foot piece of 2 x 4 with several different sized holes, or better a 'gunsmithing block' made for this purpose (I have a green nylon gunsmith block, about 5 inches around and 2 inches thick with various holes and a 45° groove across the middle, US$12 at Brownells).

Since punches are made from hardened steel, you don't want to strike them with another piece of hardened steel like a normal claw (carpenter) hammer; they can shatter. A mallet with rubber or plastic or brass faces, or a rawhide mallet is much better. Another useful mallet design is the 'deadblow' mallet, which is usually black plastic with a lead-shot- or sand-filled head. The shot absorbs the bounce so the punch is easier to control. In an emergency, even the heel of a heavy soled boot is better than a hardened hammer.

Getting to the simpler stuff now. One thing you'll definitely need is a set of inch sized hex wrenches. The longer 'L' shaped individual ones are the best, much easier to use than the folding sets. It's nice to have both the long and short ends available for getting into tight areas. I'd recommend two sets actually, a set of ball-end hex wrenches for off-center driving, etc., and a set of long 'L' normal wrenches for when you need leverage. The ball-ends are convenient but should not be used to loosen tight bolts, or for final tightening, since the ball reduces the contact points so far that you can easily strip a head with them. That's why they only put the ball drive on one end. Really though, the only long-sided 'normal' size you'll need for an ICD marker is a 3/16 inch for the grip mounting bolt.
And, a couple of adjustable Crescent Wrenches are required for air lines, etc. Avoid the el-cheapos if you can, the jaws are not parallel and the screw adjustment doesn't hold well. The US$8 and up ones are much better than the grocery store junkers.

A good set of pliers is a joy forever when you are trying to unscrew stuck regulator sections. Get a pair of 10 inch channellocks or clones with curved jaws and don't let your girlfriend or wife borrow them! You can use other pliers or vise grips, but channellocks are more adjustable and easier to control. While you are at the hardware store pickup a foot section of rubber or vinyl tubing just big enough to fit over one jaw. Cut off a couple of sections 1 1/2 inches long and keep them near the pliers. When you need to grip something you don't wanna scratch (like the air chamber on the 'Fox regulator) slip them over the jaws for padding. The sharp teeth on the jaws will eventually cut through the tubing, so keep some spare sections around.
Other Clamps, like spring grip clamps and C-clamps are handy when you need to hold a part for drilling or cutting.

A thin pick for pulling O-rings out of grooves and picking detritus out of threads and crannies is inexpensive and indespensible. I found dental picks (like the metal ones they use to scrape your teeth) in a jar by the register in the local hardware store one day and bought 2 for US$4. These are double-ended with sharpened tips and edges, perfect for scraping, etc. I filed the hook on one end with a needle file so that it was dull and wouldn't cut O-rings, then marked that end with heat-shrink tubing to make it easy to identify.
General also sells sets of various single ended hooks for pulling springs and picking at stuff, I believe a set is US$8 or so at Home Depot.
Tweezers are, well, up to you. I use 'em when I need 'em.

Drills and Taps
Taps are used to thread holes so that a standard sized screw can be attached. It used to be you had to have a full set of drill bits (fractional, 1 to 60, and lettered A to Z, 115 bits total!) and a lookup table to determine what size bit was needed for each tap size. Over the past couple of years I've begun to run into vacuum packed sets with a tap and the correct bit size at Home Depot, Ace Hardware, etc. Great Idea! Now you can buy both together for around US$4 and be sure you've got what you need. The tap has a square shank and you'll also need a 'T' shaped Tap Wrench, about US$8, which adjusts to hold most small taps. You can also use vise grips to hold the tap, but that's much harder.
Basically, you drill a hole just undersized for the screw, and the tap is threaded into the hole. It has cutting edges which remove the material where the threads rest. The trickiest part is holding the tap square when you start screwing it into the hole. When you use a tap, you should always use a forward and back rotation: ahead 3/4 turn, then back 1/4 turn, then ahead 3/4 turn, again, again, again. This keeps the chips from binding up the tap and gorking up the threads. Oh yeah, and use a heavy oil (even motor oil is OK) on the tap to help clear the chips, it'll make work much easier. If you are threading a deep blind hole (doesn't go all the way through the part), then drill the hole 1/4 to 3/8 inch deeper than you want threads; the tap is tapered at the start and the threads aren't formed all the way down. Also, back out the tap completely every 1/2 inch or so and clean off the chips. You'll get a better cut. Just be careful not to cross-thread the tap when you re-insert it.
Dies are used to thread the outside of a rod, and use a different wrench, but the same back-and-forth movements apply.

Oils and Greases
It's important to have a couple of different lubricants to use for different purposes.
Metal Oils: Petroleum-based machine oils are the best for working metal. I use Beeman MP-5 (Beeman sells awesome air rifles and air pistols) which is a fine metallophilic (metal loving) oil. Also useful is cutting or tapping oil, which is thicker and stickier to hold chips. Beeman also sells a specialty Spring Oil for mainsprings on spring-air pellet guns; it's thicker and clear and works well on spring guides and housings. Keep this well away from rubber seals though.
Silicone Oils: are the only oils you should use on the sealing parts of your marker. Petroleum oils can soften O-rings. There are also silicone-based brake fluids and transmission fluids that can be used. Be careful, some of these are not friendly to human flesh.
Greases: Silicone grease is thick and clear. You can buy it from paintball mailorder, or from a scuba store (Divers use it on regulator seals and rubber parts, if it's good enough for a life-support application, that's proof it works damn well). Perfect for O-rings when applied in a thin layer; too much will goop up air passages. Some folks swear by Lithium Grease, a white grease for machinery. It works well but often has a petroleum base, so read the label. Avoid regular machine grease, wheel bearing grease, etc.
A specialty grease for use only on triggers is moly-grease like Beeman 'Metal-2-Metal Moly Paste'. It has particles of molybdenum disulphide suspended in a petroleum base making it slippery but able to stick between loaded surfaces (like Trigger/Sear contacts). It can smooth up a trigger, but apply Very Sparingly, or the sear may not latch up reliably.

The rest of the stuff, things you'll probably have around the house...
Either multiple screwdrivers, or a single multi-bit screwdriver. There are not many screws to contend with on a marker, but the right size screwdriver bit can save you when you need it.
A pair of large Angle Cutters for cutting down springs. Spring steel is tough so leverage is important. For really heavy springs use a hacksaw or file.
Rags, a Dowel, Cotton Swabs, and Rubbing Alcohol for cleaning parts.
A Bench Mat for a clean working surface. The black desk mats at an office supply store are perfect. Should be rubber or plastic so you can clean off oil that lands on it.
A Razor Knife and spare blades.
Loktite, or thread locking compound. Look for the blue medium-strength variety (sold in a RED tube). The high-strength stuff is for all intents and purposes permanent, don't need it, don't use it. Threadlocker is primarily cyanoacrylate (super glue), so be careful not to get it on your fingers, in your eyes, or on O-rings.
Plumbers Tape, white PTFE (poly tetra-flouroethylene?, usually called by the Dupont registered brand name 'Teflon'), for sealing gas connections and locking threads.
Electrical Tape, good for what ails ya. Used for shimming parts, and as a good all-purpose clamp to hold odd parts together for drilling or fitting.
Calipers: Accurate measurements are important! A set of plastic 6 inch dial calipers run about US$25. Very handy and surprisingly accurate (to 0.01 inches), they can measure inside and outside dimensions, and depths of holes and slots. If money is no object then a set of stainless steel digital calipers can be had for US$90 to US$130 (accurate to 0.0005 inches). At least get an accurate metal ruler.

 Tool Lists: From Basic to Obsessive Machinist
Looking at the list of tools above can be pretty imtimidating to a beginning tweaker. In an attempt to reduce the noise, here are some lists with estimated pricing. You probably already have many of these tools; but then, it's always easy to rationalize more...
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Six's Airsmithing: Another List of Basic Tools

Basic Setup:
Here is a list of basic tools you'll need to handle most airsmithing.
  1. Flat Machine File, medium sized with handle (US$8 + $4 for handle)
  2. Diamond Sharpening Steel (US$12)
  3. Needle Files Set (US$20)
  4. Metal Polishing Pastes (US$3 ea)
  5. Sandpaper and Steel Wool or Synthetic Abasive Pads (US$10 for multiple grades)
  6. Cylindrical 'Pin' Punches in sizes for your marker (US$12 for 3 sizes)
  7. Gunsmithing Block or 2x4 with holes for driving pins (US$8 at Brownells)
  8. Allen Wrenches, one set Ball-end, one set regular long shank (US$9 + $6)
  9. Channellock Pliers with spare tubing for padding (US$12 + $2)
  10. 2 Adjustable Crescent Wrenches (US$15 for 2)
  11. Medium Angled Wire Cutters (US$10)
  12. Screwdriver with interchangeable tips (US$5)
  13. Dental Pick with one end filed dull, or spring picks (US$4)
  14. Tweezers (US$4)
  15. Selection of Machine Oils, Silicone Lube, and Silicone Grease (~US$15)
  16. Plumbers tape, Electrical tape, Loktite (~US$8 for all of it)
  17. Utility Knife and extra razor blades (~US$4)


Advanced Setup:
Includes all of the above (just more of them), plus...
  1. Dremel Tool and a variety of metal cutting bits (US$60+)
  2. Bench Vise with jaw pads (US$30 + $8)
  3. Air, canned or via compressor (US$6)
  4. Rubber Mallet or Deadblow Mallet (US$15)
  5. Needle Nose Pliers (US$10)
  6. Spring Clamps or C-Clamps (US$12)
  7. 6 inch Calipers (US$25 plastic, to US$130+ digital)
  8. Magnifier with support arm, illuminated if possible (US$30+)
  9. Rubber Work Pad (US$12, office store)
  10. Drill Press and clamp (US$70+)


If I won the lottery, I'd get a coupla more tools...
  1. Vertical Milling Machine (US$500 to 2500)
    Kinda like a drill press on serious steroids; has an indexed bed for work that moves in three directions and a can be fitted with a variety of cutting bits. Higher cost versions have digital readouts for x and y position to 1/1000 inch.
  2. Machine Lathe (US$800 to 2500)
    Used for creating threads and cylindrical parts, boring, etc.


 General Information: The Practice of Airsmithing
Materials used in Markers
Aluminum: Almost all markers and most barrels are made from aluminum alloy. It's a good choice because it's light but strong, easy to machine, and finishes well. I won't go into the various grades here, but some alloys can be hardened, but that can make the parts more brittle as well. Aluminum is nearly always finished with anodizing; a process of soaking the parts in an electrified bath and dying the metal. Bare aluminum can be polished to a high shine but it quickly dulls as it oxidizes unless protected. Anodizing also makes the surface harder to better resist scratching. Hard anodizing actually binds oxides at the molecular level to the surface of the aluminum to form a thin layer of hard ceramic compound (not to be confused with 'Ceramic' barrels, which uses a different technique to give a thicker and even harder layer). Anodizing varies quite a bit in hardness and protection depending on the alloy, process, and quality control used.
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Jim Bowes' Home Anodizing guide at WARPIG
What to do about scratches in your anodizing?
  1. Ignore them
  2. Paint the scratches with modeling paint or a paint pen (clean the metal thoroughly with alcohol first)
  3. Polish the entire part
  4. Use a spot 'anodizing' chemical like Birchwood Casey Aluminum Black
  5. Coat the entire part with a baked on coating like Brownells Teflon®/Moly Oven Cure Gun Finish or Brownells Aluma-Hyde

Steel: High stress internal components like sears and hammers are usually made from steel. Steel is available in many grades with very different properties to suit different applications, from hardened spring steels to soft billet for parts machining. Steel will rust and pit quickly if left unprotected, so parts exposed to the weather are usually plated or painted. Trigger parts are almost never plated, and are instead protected by the oils on the mechanisms. You can also use a gunsmithing blue like Birchwood Casey Perma-Blue wiped on the (cleaned) parts to help protect steel parts.
Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is an iron/chromium/nickel alloy that resists corrosion, but still can rust under poor conditions. Interestingly, true stainless steel is non-magnetic due to it's molecular structure. Stainless does have a couple of drawbacks. For one, it is difficult to machine, tending to gall instead of cutting cleanly (Galling is a tearing and rolling of the metal under the cutting edge, it has a rough appearance.) Some stainless alloys are formulated to be more steel-like (with less chromium and nickel) to make them easier to machine; these alloys are usually magnetic and can corrode more easily. Another drawback is that stainless is relatively soft and will not hold sharp edges as long as most steel. Finally, while stainless is not magnetic, it can be electrically active in contact with other materials like aluminum. As it exchanges electrons with the other metal the parts corrode. Stainless screws can actually freeze into aluminum unless the aluminum is anodized or grease is used to coat the contact points.
Plastics: A variety of plastics are used in paintball markers. The ICD guns use Delrin Acetate for the bolts as this material is light, easily machined, and has a natural lubricity that makes the markers cycle more easily. Using the right plastic in the right place can improve a gun quite a bit. For example, the Angel marker also uses a plastic bolt; when they tried aluminum bolts in tournament guns they had a rash of failures. The speed of the bolt heated up the part to the point where it would literally weld to the inside of the receiver. Yikes!
Most plastics can be reshaped a little with sandpaper and then re-polished with a non-abrasive metal polish like Flitz. Some plastics are more rubbery due to additions of plasticizers and may be very difficult to sand, but they may be cut with a very sharp razor knife.
O-rings: Paintball markers control pressurized CO2 or compressed air at up to 800 psi via seals and O-rings. These are usually made from one of four materials:
  1. Nitrile O-rings are black or grey, though they are sometimes coated with other rubber colors. They are essentially rubber, and should not be lubricated with petroleum-based oils or greases. Avoid WD40 or Vaseline, as these will make the seals swell and fail. Nitrile O-rings are used for static applications since they do not take rubbing (shear) movements well. Use a thin coat of silicone grease to lube Nitrile O-rings all-over before installing them.
  2. Urethane O-rings are usually milky white or amber. They are chemically inert and take rubbing well, but are not as springy and do not seal as well as other types. They are used for Tank O-rings, and for the piston O-ring on the Automag and Desert Fox. Though they are not as sensitive to lubricants as other seals in your gun, it's easier to use the same lube on all seals, so use the same thin coating of silicone grease as nitrile O-rings above.
  3. Silicone O-rings and seals are usually clear or tinted blue. They are very 'rubbery' and seal exceptionally well, but are sensitive to some chemicals. Like Nitrile, they are destroyed by shearing movements and are usually used for cup seals and other linear applications (cup seals pull straight away from seals and have no shear). The most compatible lubes for silicone seals are KC Trouble-Free and Semi-Lube V.14 Silicone oils can make silicone seals swell when applied too heavily; be careful.
  4. PTFE, an opaque white material, is also sometimes used for flat seals like powertubes on Nelson-style markers and the vertical valve on ICD 'Cats. PTFE is used for laboratory gear since it has amazing resitance to almost all chemicals. You can pretty much use any oil on these seals.


Compatibility: As the section on O-rings above notes, seals are the most chemically sensitive part of your marker. The safest path is to look at your seals and use the most compatible lubricant for everything so it will not migrate to a sensitive part. The exception to this is grease, which will usually stay where you put it.
Don't use: WD40, Pentrating Oils, Vaseline, Motor Oil, or Brake Fluid.
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Lubricant guide at WARPIG
Silicone Oils and Greases: Most compatible with Nitrile and Urethane. Read the labels carefully to avoid petroleum bases.
Other Oils: KC Trouble-Free is expensive, but like the name, very safe for most uses. Other folks swear by White Lithium Grease, but be careful again to read the label as most have petroleum bases.
Specialty Lubes: The Pellet/Airgun suppliers have special oils for everything: Chamber Oil, Spring Oil, Moly Lube, etc. Of these, two are interesting for markers. Spring Oil is a heavy 'tenacious' oil which will stay put on heavy springs and spring guides. It can give a smoother recock, but it is usually petroleum based, so use carefully. Metal2Metal moly lube is a thick grey grease which can do wonders on trigger faces if a thin coat is applied. Be sure to test the marker to make sure that the trigger is latching reliably and safely if you decide to try this. Moly lube is petroleum based, but should stay on the trigger and not get onto O-rings if you use it sparingly.

Cleaning and Storage
Let's face it, paintballs are filled with, well, goo. This glycerine and gelatin cocktail will definitely gork up a paintball marker if left to dry. It's hard to get a gun or barrel really clean at the field; many times you end up with a thin coating of paint on everything. If you get into the habit of cleaning the gun thoroughly and then re-lubing when you get home, then it will always be ready to play.
Remove the barrel and field strip the marker. Use a clean rag soaked in a safe cleaner like Simple Green and push it through the receiver using a dowel. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Check the bolt and/or hammer and use another clean rag to wipe off any paint or flakes of shell. Get them squeaky clean, then re-lube and assemble the receiver.
Go by the local fish store and get a large tubing brush to clean your barrel (US$3). Use plenty of running water in the kitchen sink and dishwashing soap on the brush, then brush out all the crud. The good thing about these brushes is that the bristles will also clean out all the ports. After a good lathering with the brush run water through the barrel to clear the soap. If you have ports hold your hand over the bottom to force water out through the holes. When you are done almost all of the water should sheet out of the barrel when you take it out of the water flow. Then use clean paper towels and a dowel to wipe out the water. Ta-daa, a very clean barrel. Make sure to clean up your mess afterwards so your wife/girlfriend doesn't wig out when she comes back into the kitchen.
Remember to fire off a few rounds sans barrel whenever you re-lube the marker, this will prevent oil from contaminating the barrel and degrading accuracy. Some markers may not cycle completely without the back pressure of the paintball in the barrel, if this happens try using a barrel with a barrel plug to simulate the loaded condition. Of course, now you have oil in your clean barrel, so you'll have to clean it again (or just wait to clean the barrel last?).
If you are going to store your marker for a long period, you may want to back off the mainspring tension or even remove the mainspring to keep it from sacking in. Springs under tension get fatigued and loose unsprung length over time. If you buy a replacement spring you can usually see this by comparing the length of the new and old springs.

Attention to Detail
One of the most important things for doing good quality work is finding a good place to work. Your workspace should be clean enough to not lose parts, and large enough to lay everything out, and well very well lit to see what you are doing. Like, um, your dining room. Ideally, it should also be somewhere that you can leave things out for a day or two if you cannot finish up in one night, so maybe the dining room isn't such a good place after all.
The next important thing is to pay close attention. Paintball guns are complex mechanisms, and not all of the procedures are detailed fully; be observant and thoughtful about the fit and function of each component. Each gun is also a little unique, they all have their own little differences.
Organize your tools and parts. It's too easy to lose something if you're pushing everything on the bench around constantly looking for tools. Sometimes a quick field strip for lube turns into a real multi-day project unexpectedly, if you get in the habit of placing things carefully you'll have no problem getting the marker back together later. A box of snack-size ziploc baggies can come in very handy for keeping screws and springs out of the way (and cleaner too).
Be patient when you are working, and use frequent trial and testing of assemblies. Better to be conservative and take the time to test repeatedly than to go too far and have to sit and wait for a replacement part to be shipped before you can use the marker again...
Failure is inevitable and good, as long as you learn from it. It's a normal part of working on mechanisms.

Packing for the Field
What to bring, what to leave behind? Some folks bring everything, some folks don't even bring a screwdriver. Lately, some of the fields here in Atlanta have adopted a 'no tool loan' policy, but regardless, you may not be able to borrow the right tools anyway if you don't have them. As you can probably tell, I belong in the 'bring everything' group. Here's what I normally throw in the car:
Toolbox: packed with everything in the 'Basic List' above, plus a few odds and ends like a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol and some clean rags.
Lube: Silicone Grease and silicone spray lube or KC Trouble-Free oil.
O-rings: Full set of spares for the marker, plus a few extra tank O-rings. I've never needed them, but they don't take up much room.
What to leave behind? Hammer, Drill Press, Dremel, well, you get the idea.
Tools On the Field: I carry a squeegee and a rag. That's it.

 Links: Airsmithing Resources on the Web
Gunsmithing Tools:
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Brownells
Far and away the best source for gunsmithing tools and parts, grips, etc. is Brownells. Be sure to order a catalog, an astounding 460+ pages of dense information; it can take weeks to read through it. If you've never been in a gunstore or seen the kind of work a professional gunsmith can do, it's an eye opening experience; Brownells is the place they buy most of their supplies and tools. From sights, to mounts, to grips, to woodworking tools, metalworking tools, screws, pins, springs, metal stock, chemicals, yadda, yadda, yadda. And everything is in stock, ready to go. Want a set of engraved pewter 45 grips?
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web B-Square Company
Manufacturers of really nice accessories and distributor for smithing supplies and tools.
Airgun Supplies Links:
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Airgun Express
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Airguns R Us
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Airgunwerks - CA
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Beeman Airguns
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web BSN Enterprises
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web James Maccari's 'Springman' site
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web M.L.Greene Engineering
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Nygord Precision
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web The Outdoor Store - FL
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Pamona Airguns - CA
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Dynamit-Nobel RWS
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Shooter's Choice - Ontario, Canada
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Airgun Letter - List of Manufacturers
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Six's Airsmithing: Supplies Store Page
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Woodcraft
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Micromark Specialty Tools
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web OK Direct Tools
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Grizzly Imports: Milling and whatever
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Jim Bowes' Home Anodizing guide at WARPIG
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Lubricant guide at WARPIG
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web Six's Airsmithing: Another List of Basic Tools

Paintball guns are usually not difficult to work on, but there is some chance that things could go wrong. If you are uncomfortable about working on the mechanisms, regulator of trigger or your marker, Don't Do It! These tips assume some mechanical aptitude and use of the correct tools. If you mess something up, you'll have to replace it.
Most Paintball marker manufacturers offer excellent warranties, and they stand behind their guns. If you have a problem call them.
ICD wants me to make it clear that this is not an official ICD site. Any changes you make to a marker under warranty may void that coverage. Don't blame them, don't blame me. There, that should cover it.
Links to a Page elsewhere on the Web the ICD Official Corporate Website
Finally, Don't use an unsafe marker, and Be Careful with CO2 and Paintballs. Paintball markers are not toys, so be an adult and take responsibility for your own actions...
 Links: ICD info on this Site

Links to Another Page on this Site 98 Desert Fox: Main Page
Links to Another Page on this Site Getting Started: Tips for a New Owner
  Links to Another Page on this Site 98 Fox Exploded View and Schematic
  Links to Another Page on this Site Classic Fox Exploded View and Schematic
Links to Another Page on this Site Troubleshooting the Desert Fox
  Links to Another Page on this Site Troubleshooting: Air Leaks
  Links to Another Page on this Site Troubleshooting: Cycling Problems
  Links to Another Page on this Site Troubleshooting: Ball Breaks
Links to Another Page on this Site Fox Tweaks and Accessories
Links to Another Page on this Site Regulator Theory and Tuning
Links to Another Page on this Site Trigger Work and Bolt Polishing
Links to Another Page on this Site DIY Dial Velocity Adjustor
Links to Another Page on this Site ICD 'Cats: Main Page
Links to Another Page on this Site 'Cat Theory of Operation and Differences
  Links to Another Page on this Site Bobcat Exploded View and Schematic
  Links to Another Page on this Site Puma Exploded View and Schematic
  Links to Another Page on this Site Thundercat/Alleycat Exploded View and Schematic
Links to Another Page on this Site 'Cat Trigger Work and Bolt Polishing
  Links to Another Page on this Site Trigger Work
  Links to Another Page on this Site Bolt Polishing
  Links to Another Page on this Site Adding a Rear Trigger Stop
Links to Another Page on this Site Accessories: Aftermarket Parts for the 'Cats

Links to Another Page on this Site ICD Barrels: Aftermarket Barrel Review
Inside this Page Basic Airsmithing
Links to Another Page on this Site Links to ICD Resources on the Web

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All Text Copyright © 1999 pRCarter and Cognitive Event Horizon, except as noted. All rights reserved.
Indian Creek Designs, and the Panther, Puma, Bobcat, Thundercat, and Alleycat are registered trademarks of Indian Creek Designs of Nampa, Idaho. Teflon is a registered trademark for PTFE manufactured by the Dupont Corporation.