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Air Compressor Recommendations

kazm's picture

Any recommendations for air compressors? Looking to purchase one soon.

(post #126883, reply #1 of 24)

Depends the usage.  Just you?  Framing?  Finish?

I just bought a Thomas T2820 ST.  Expensive but oiless, made to run continuously and can supply 3 framing/roofing nailers. 

4 guys siding off it at once with long hoses and no problems.

I also have a makita mac 700 hotdog unit that has been great.  Smaller but will run 1 framing gun.


(post #126883, reply #2 of 24)


  Chevy and Ford debate here.  Chevy guys like Chevy's and Ford Guys like Fords..

  I've never known anybody who bought two compressors and used them side by side to compare fairly.

 The guys who have problems with one brand switch brands and buy another brand.. they forget to change oil drain tanks, they drop"em and bounce 'em around and call it a lemon. 

  I bought a really cheap ($50.00 new)  made in China compressor decades ago and that little wonder has been flawless and taken a lot of Abuse..

  Doesn't mean I would recommend it though.. I don't know what has changed in the decades since..

  Same with  those with a lot of experiance.   What was a durable reliable machine may have been cheapened up in an attempt to either make more profit or make it price competitive.  (or one supplier simply changed something) 

 Buy a well established, well serviced piece and you should be fine.  (

 One comment, if gas powered make sure it's a Honda motor.. universally it seems to be a great little motor..  

(post #126883, reply #3 of 24)

Found this site recently. This looks like a killer deal on a small compressor, if you don't some bumps and grinds.



Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end. 


Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end. 

(post #126883, reply #4 of 24)

It depends on what you're planning to use one for. If you just need something light and easy to carry around (like for doing trim and moldings), I can recommend the little blue Campbell-Hausfeld, 1 gallon, oiless, pancake compressor.

I got one for $40 a couple of years ago when I had a job replacing 10 interior doors and casings, and running all new baseboards for a customer. I was really tired of lugging my "big" pancake compressor around - or dealing with 100' of hose, so I bought the little C-H figuring that it would be worth it even if it died after one job.

That little rascal is one ofthe best tools I've ever bought!! It handles any nailer I plug in - including a framing gun. It won't handle production framing, but it it's great for slow work.

They cost ~$80 now at ACE Hardware, but if mine dies, I'll get another one.

Edited 10/4/2008 1:22 pm by Dave45

(post #126883, reply #5 of 24)

Take a look at this thread:

and specifically, this post:

There's lots of good information there.  I recently bought a 3 gallon Craftsman air compressor for trim guns, but it will handle a framing nailer in a pinch.

I'm very happy with it and it only cost a little over $100, but the the hose that came with it was absolute junk so I had to spend another $50 to buy a decent hose.

(post #126883, reply #7 of 24)

I just bought a compressor so just curious-

Can anyone break down the specs as they relate to real life?

For example the one I got is-

Grip Rite GR254CTS

2.5 peak HP
4.3 gallon tank

Looking around I see many others with larger tanks and lower CFM,
Or viseversa. I always heard the larger tank helps even out the
pressure swings, and the CFM must relate to the recovery time.

So why aren't the ratios more consistent from brand to brand?

(post #126883, reply #6 of 24)

Another vote for Thomas. I have the T-200ST will run two framing guns no sweat. Reasonbly quiet. Runs fine on a 15 amp circuit and starts well when cold. Made in Sheboygan, Wisconsin fwiw. Easily rebuildable. Downside is it's heavy- 60+ lbs. What do you want to do with it? Thomas also has the T-617HDN. Very quiet (60dB), light (26 lbs) ......... for trim work it's just the ticket.

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the uneven division of blessings while the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal division of misery"
Sir Winston Churchill

(post #126883, reply #8 of 24)

All good points, and good advice here so far,  but KAZM.... None of these recomendations mean diddly until we know what your own specific situation is.

  So,  what is it?  production framing?  roofing?  interior trim?  punch-out? filling up bicycle tires and doing one small home improvement project a year?  Are you planning to drag it all over creation, hauling it in and out of the truck, up and down stairs every day? Or will it be stationary in a shop somewhere?


  Answer these questions and we as a group can give you actual useful advice that will be pertinant to your own situation.

" If I were a carpenter"
" If I were a carpenter"

(post #126883, reply #9 of 24)

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Husband and I are building a house ourselves. We have been working on it since June this year. Mainly just the two of us supplying the labor.

We are in the process of testing our plumbing drain and we are having trouble with inflating a test plug to the proper psi (59) with any of the compressors our friends have loaned even though they are rated at 100 psi.

We have determined we need to get our own compressor since it is a hassle borrowing from our friends. Also we figure it will come in handy for future use in our building project, framing, roofing, texturing, etc.

This is our one project and it will probably not get much use other than to air up a tire or two or in a small project after our house is complete.

We don't want to pay a fortune but don't want to buy junk either.

(post #126883, reply #11 of 24)

In your situation I would just go to sears and get a craftsman.  Expect to pay somewhere between $100 and $150.  Craftsman compressors generally are not heavy duty enough to handle life as a jobsite compressor for the long haul, however it will last you for many years considering the fact that you are only going to be demanding that it do any real work for the duration of this one project. and will at least have a decent warranty and stuff starting out, as opposed to going to a pawn shop and buying a "mystery tool"

I bought a new craftsman compressor in 1990 expecting it to "get me through' a side job that I was doing at the time. to this day I use it every day, 8 hours a day and no matter what I throw at it, I can't seem to kill that old beast!  I would love to run it into the ground just so I have an excuse to get a nice little senco that I can carry around with me.

Nevertheless, I do recognize that this is the exception, not the rule.

" If I were a carpenter"
" If I were a carpenter"

(post #126883, reply #12 of 24)

I bought a craftsman compressor in 1978. Still runs fine. I changed the oil once. And the spring in the regulator rusted in two, so I put a new one in it. It's a two cyl cast iron 1 hp, which is called a 5 hp now. It's pump runs slow which has led to it's longevity. The newer ones run twice as fast at least and are noisier and shorter lived.

(post #126883, reply #18 of 24)

I bought a new Craftsman 3 HP in 1988. I was concerned about rusting out the tank over the years so I took the compressor apart and removed all the tank plugs. I looked inside and found that the interior of the tank was painted but then all the plugs and outlets were welded in place after the interior coating was applied. I scrapped away, as best that I could, the burnt and blistered paint with a coat hanger. Next I plugged the openings, except holding back on the last one, and through it I dumped in a quart of "gas tank sealer/coating".  I put the last plug in and rolled and tipped the tank to cover all interior  surfaces. I drained out the free liquid, unplugged all openings and let the tank dry out a few days. The compressor still works like new and no rust through on the air tank. It was worth the extra effort to have a long life air tank.

Upper Michigan

(post #126883, reply #23 of 24)

i have a westinghouse 60 gal tank/compressor. mfg  date is 1937 still good. tanks last a long time normally.only thing is if one starts leaking a little it's time for a new one.patching can get you in trouble. larry

if a man speaks in the forest,and there's not a woman to hear him,is he still wrong?

the older i get ,

the more people tick me off

(post #126883, reply #24 of 24)

Yours is probably built with 1/4 inch steel compared to the light weight units that are built for average consumer use. Westinghouse built air brake systems for railroads, yours is probably off of a steam locomotive :-) it could last a hundred years.

Upper Michigan

(post #126883, reply #14 of 24)

well i hate to say this,but any compressor will pressurize your lines to 60lbs within at the most 5-10 minutes,even if its a little compressor. if you can't get the pressure up,you got a leak.first place to look will be with screw in plugs,paticulary the 3 and 4"

now back to compressors,almost any will do what your looking for,that hitachi that someone linked would last you way past house building,i have a simalar one in a emglo that is probably 20 years old and just last week i used it to spray the finish on some cabinets. larry

if a man speaks in the forest,and there's not a woman to hear him,is he still wrong?

the older i get ,

the more people tick me off

(post #126883, reply #15 of 24)

My 15 year old emglo still works fine too, but I heard somewhere that they had tank corrosion problems. Do you know anything about this?

(post #126883, reply #17 of 24)

i hadn't ever heard that,and i'm not the kind that drains a tank,maybe once a year! but even if mine goes today it's done well and don't owe me anything. larry

if a man speaks in the forest,and there's not a woman to hear him,is he still wrong?

the older i get ,

the more people tick me off

(post #126883, reply #19 of 24)

When Dewalt bought out EmGlo, they started buying the compressors from China. I agree though the older ones are work horses, and are easily repaired when things go wrong. I have a twin tank Quincy. They are known more for their larger compressors, but my little one is nice. It recovers quickly, and is well made. I fine that all of them are heavy and loud, so pick a good american made unit in the color you like. If you can, buy it from a dealer because they will stand behind what they sell you and they will service it for you as well.

(post #126883, reply #10 of 24)

rolair and thomas are probably the best....

rolair's Bull series seems to be a good buy...


Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming

WOW!!! What a Ride!
Forget the primal scream, just ROAR!!!

"Some days it's just not worth chewing through the restraints"

(post #126883, reply #13 of 24)

In your situation I would go to one of the big box stores and look for a combo kit. They regularly have pancake or small hotdog units by Porter Cable or Makita that come with a finish nailer and staple gun for under $150. These will run anything you are likely to use, are easy to carry, and have a max pressure of 150 psi.

(post #126883, reply #16 of 24)

Stacked tank CH has worked out for me. Usually no more that three guys. They now have cages but mine didn't so welded it up. The CH is oil-less. Has worked out the best for mobile use. Don't use extension cords unless 10 or 12 gauge. Go for longer hoses instead. I use the hoses in 50 foot lengths with quick disconnects. Care for the hose (rolling it up right) and sealing it by connecting male and female ends is something you should learn. Have the oil lubed twin cylinder compressors in shop (paired together). Came from Grainger (Dayton) but I don't know who really made them. Stationary use, regular oil change (non detergent oil) and air being bled from tanks every use keeps the condensate from rusting tanks. I can use the little CH for small texture jobs without it running all the time.
I can get 125psi for a short time out it so could probably blow out a sprinkler system--just never tried it. Tyr

Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.... Roman Poet Phaedrus 15BC–50AD

(post #126883, reply #20 of 24)

Checkout craigslist, local pickup ebay,  etc.

Have 8 compressors in different barns/sheds and have give 3 away.  Never paid more than $100 and that was for a near new 50gal 5 HP Ingersol-Rand.

Not much diff. imo between unbranded, sears, and IR.  One I gave away was a Mont. Ward airless with integral motor, no press switch, just blowoff valve - worst one I ever bought, but it was only $5 also.

Little 1 HP Craftsmans often go for under $20 used and will do any nail gun. Have even gotten a 4 HP sears at garage sale for $5, just needed the reed valves replaced which cost about an hours time (made reed from old bandsaw blade)


(post #126883, reply #21 of 24)

Campbell Hausfeld 4 gallon twinstack- Oil lubed, Less than 200 dollars on Amazon. Can't go wrong. HL5502 I Believe is the model number.

(post #126883, reply #22 of 24)

For reliability, stay away from oiless go for the oil lubed- More reliable and quieter to boot.