How to Build Your Own Air Spade for Around $50

My air spade turned out to be about 5 1/2’ long. I find it useful for most applications, but a bit long for tight quarters like under low branches. I keep meaning to build myself a shorter air spade but have not gotten around to it. For $50 bucks it is no big deal

Note that the pictures are not to scale they are just to show what things look like.
Note that pipe lengths are approximate.


A. One ¾” female npt air coupler I bought mine from the place that rents me the compressor. If you can’t find one buy one on line. Aprx. $4

B. OnSteel Pipee steel pipe ¾” About 2’ Long. Npt threaded both ends. Aprx. $8

C. One ball valve. If you can find one that has a ¾” to ½” npt thread reduction then you don’t need the reducer. Aprx $14

steel pipe
D. One Steel pipe ½” about 3’ long. Npt threaded both ends. Aprx. $8

E. One ¾” to ½” npt reducer . $2.50

F. One thin ½” npt nut. Aprx 50 cents. No picture.

G. One round electrical ceiling box cover. I have heard people use a funnel here but this works well for me and I could not find a funnel I could attach.You will have to remove the center knock out. Aprx. $2.50

supersonic nozzleH. One “supersonic” nozzle.I.e. a brass hose barb, just a little smaller diameter then the ½” pipe. These are cheap so you can experiment with
different sizes. Buy a couple of these, they do wear out. Aprx. $2.00

Pipe wrap. The foam insulating stuff that you put on hot water pipes. Aprx. $2.00

Duct tape and Teflon tape. Aprx. $1.00s worth.

Total cost = about $50

I have not included the price of the hose here as I rent it along with the tow behind diesel compressor. It costs me about $90 per day. If you don’t own the compressor then there is no point in buying the hose, and even a used compressor in good condition will run you several thousand dollars.

Assemble as seen below. Use the teflon tape on the threads and cover the pipe wrap with duct tape. Red Green eat your hart out. If you want to get fancy, instead of the pipe insulation and duct tape you can go to a good bike shop and get some of those wraps with Velcro covers that you see on kid’s bikes. You will need insulation for comfort and protection from the heat build up.

She isn’t pretty but works great. See how this works on this video.  Compare it to the real thing. Maybe it does not dig quite as fast as the real deal but I have used both and I can’t tell the difference.

If you build one have fun and let me know how it turns out. Also if you come up with anything better then the electrical cover let me know that as well.

Oh I almost forgot – Build and use your air spade at your own risk. I can’t be responsible if you use shoddy materials or put it together wrong. Mine is tough as nails and takes a constant 150psi with no trouble. Always wear appropriate safety gear when using an air spade.

6 responses to “How to Build Your Own Air Spade for Around $50”

  1. Ed in California says:

    So I just built an AirSpace from these instructions. I had to order the air coupler ($7), but got the rest of the parts at our local hardware store for about $65 bucks. That includes two roles of duct tape, and an assortment of “nozzels” of various sizes and a couple extra washers and nuts to hold the shield firmly when changing nozzels, so your prices are very close.

    I’m wondering if I should get a trigger style valve, that will stop the airflow automatically if it slips out of my hands. Has that ever happened to you? Is it dangerous?

    Also in general, are you still happy with your homemade tool?

    We’re excavating a narrow strip of our lawn between the house and a row of tall italian cypress next to a large native oak. We’re making a patio. It’s on a slope and we’ll need to dig about two feet at the deepest, and there roots everywhere. I’m hoping the airspade will make quick work of them.

    Any suggestions?

  2. California says:

    Thanks for great guide. It helps me in my works.

  3. dan says:

    Just made one of these. Siked about using it. Does this thing need a pressure relief on it? Was curious on how a tool like this relieves pressure when is totally closed. Appreciate your work on this.

  4. Josh says:

    I know this is an old post, but I just built my own and found this to be invaluable, so I wanted to do a quick post and provide a couple of tips for anyone wanting to do this in the future:

    1) I rented a tow behind 185 CFM compressor and found it suitable but a little underpowered. Would have preferred a little more in some places.
    2) The airspade worked well in some areas and not in others, it just depended on the soil. We have sandy soil in our neighborhood and the airspade blew through those spots quickly. Other areas it barely dented.
    3) BUY A FACE SHIELD. I saw a lot of photos and videos of people doing this and thought it was just a safety precaution. I spent about an hour blasting my face with dirt (with eye protection of course) before I sped off to home depot for a face shield. It’s not just safety, it’s incredibly annoying not to have one on and you’ll be hocking up sand filled phlegm for the next few days otherwise.
    4) These things get hot! Buy some decent quality pipe insulation (extra too) as the place where you grip the wand will melt eventually.
    5) Xavier says to buy multiple brass tips, but I found that two lasted me the whole day (around 7 hours of airspading).
    6) Wet the soil a few days before you begin. It’ll help soften up those hard spots.
    7) You cannot control the direction that the dirt sprays. 1/3 of the time, the air creates a pocket instantly, which then forces the dirt straight towards the user. 1/3 of the time it goes in the direction the wand is pointing. And 1/3 of the time it goes sideways. If you have trenches you need to dig near a property line, ensure that there’s nothing valuable within a 5-10 foot radius as it will get blasted and dirty. I’ve also seen people use some sort of stand up shield which I created out of some plywood (3 pieces @ 45 degree angles) which work ok. Still threw dirt straight into the air though which ended up on my neighbors patio.
    8) BE AWARE: your trenches will refill themselves as you move down the line. This is unavoidable. The dirt flies in every direction, even sideways into your newly excavated trenches. The only way I found to (sort of) deal with this is to go back over the whole trench a few times after you’re done “digging” to remove the dirt. It will never get it all though unfortunately…

    • Xavier Asbridge says:

      I have no trouble going through any but frozen soil. Try different nozzles and make sure the compressor is turned up as high as the rental place will let you go. Yes good insulation is helpful for the heat. I use simple pipe insulation.

  5. Tom Dunlap says:

    I made two ‘home spades’ using a spring loaded valve that is similar to a gas pump

    Read about it here:

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