When I was 12 years old, my father gave me a Ford straight six-cylinder engine and told me to fix it. I really had no clue what I was doing, but with his tutoring I stripped it down, replaced its worn and broken parts, and put it back together. After 100,000-plus miles, that engine is still going strong under the hood of a '65 Falcon.

So the first time I explored the innards of a pneumatic roofing stapler, I felt right at home: There was a piston, cylinder, rings, intake, exhaust — it was basically a simple motor. Since then, I've been responsible for maintaining and repairing the 30 or so pneumatic tools in my company's arsenal, several of which are themselves antiques. From...

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