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View rcflyer's profile

Which Portable Air Compressor To Buy?

by rcflyer
posted 12-12-2010 06:50 PM

24 replies so far

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3090 days

#1 posted 12-12-2010 08:04 PM

I have the PC and it works well. Here is a review that I wrote on it:

If the Husky tools look ok, that is a great price. I ended up getting the 6 in 1 framing nailer from HF:

There are typically 20% off coupons floating around for HF, so the nailer comes in at $80. I am generally not a fan of HF, but for occasional use this nailer is outstanding, and allows you to shoot a number of different size and style nails, so I like the flexibility a lot.

Having said all that, I don’t do a lot of large framing projects. I recently picked up an impact driver, and if I would have had that before getting the nailer, I would not have gotten the nailer. For building an occasional stud wall, shed, etc., the impact driver is fast enough, better for toe-nailing, WAY easier to “undo” if you need to make a change, etc. If I were framing a house, no question I would get a framing nailer, but I don’t see using mine much moving forward, given my new love of impact drivers.

-- PaulMayer,

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2794 posts in 3462 days

#2 posted 12-12-2010 08:24 PM

I’ve got that little craftsman oil compressor. The one that costs $125 and goes on sale for $99 sometimes. It has a single elongated cylinder. I’ve had it for a few years now. It easily runs my framing and finish nailer. I’ve been using it regularly for about 4 years now with no problems.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View rcflyer's profile


9 posts in 2930 days

#3 posted 12-12-2010 08:44 PM

That is great info guy’s never thougt about using an impact driver. I am wanting to frame the basement and would the impact be adequate?

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3099 days

#4 posted 12-12-2010 10:08 PM

I’m very happy with my Husky compressor. It is adequate for any nailer. I use it with a finishing nailer, brad nailer and pinning (23 gauge) nailer. I don’t have (or need) a framing nailer.

I particularly like how portable the Husky is.

Advice – I found the hose that came with my Husky to be unacceptable and I almost immediately bought a better 25’ hose.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3295 days

#5 posted 12-12-2010 10:28 PM

I have the little Hitachi pancake 5 gal and it has powered everything I throw at it….It is a portable unit for job sites…so no large tank…but it puts out enough to handle a couple nailers. I used to have the PC pancake…but the one I had kept blowing out the switch and motor (I have heard that the newer ones are not of the quality standards that PC had been known for)... so I bought something else this time.

If you are going for a shop compressor…I’d get something with more storage – at least 15 gal….I use alot of air in my shop blowing off the tools, Air sanding, air drilling/nailing….the list goes on a bit sometimes. I would also recommend an oiled compressor for the lessor noise…

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3737 days

#6 posted 12-12-2010 10:32 PM

I’ve got the Porter Cable pancake compressor; actually I have two…sortof. I bought the first one to do the hardwood floor in our previous house. Worked great had it for about 5 years doing typical handy man type work. Then, about a year ago, the idiot that owns my shop left the compressor turned on and forgot about it while he went to work for over a week without ever coming back in the shop. I guess it cycled so many times that it just died, and I am not sure what exactly happened, it just won’t run for longer than a few seconds if at all. Anyway based on that great performance (except for my stupidity!) I bought a second one expecting the same kind of reliablity. Didn’t get it with this one, doing the hardwood floor in our new house the compressor will work great for a couple of hours than will do something strange, it seems to vent (somewhere, I cannot find where) the high pressure out and will do this for quite a while. It just happened to me yesterday in the shop whilst I was planning some boards ( I use the compressed air to clear out dust chips and stuff while working), it vents and basically is useless. I should have returned it while it was still in warranty but didn’t (another point toward the stupid rating:-). I will not be buying another PC pancake compressor, and from what I have been reading here I will probably invest in a compressor that is lubricated as I understand they are MUCH quieter.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3090 days

#7 posted 12-12-2010 11:02 PM

“That is great info guy’s never thougt about using an impact driver. I am wanting to frame the basement and would the impact be adequate?”

I bought my framing nailer for the same purpose. I used it, but ended up using screws more than nails, and if I would have had an impact driver when I framed it, I would have used nearly all screws. It is a bit slower, but toe-nailing with a framing nailer is a pain for me, so I ended up driving screws a lot anyway. Also, I used different fasteners for tying into the bottom plate which is green treated, and it allows easy switching back and forth.

The approach that I used was to put the upper and lower plates in place, then measure each stud so that it was perfectly sized for the height of the ceiling, varying with the sloped concrete floor. This is slower, but is generally considered a better approach to framing. For this approach, screws were much easier for me, since it is all toe-nailing. The versatility, easier “undo command”, better ability to toe-nail, better fit into tight spaces, lighter weight, better control, and easier one-handed operation make it a good choice in my opinion. If you ever watch Holmes on Homes, they use impact drivers for framing all the time.

But, even if you skip the framing nailer, you will still want a compressor and a brad nailer as well as a finish nailer for trim. If you go that route, this combo is worth a look:

Also, the comment that Rich made about the included hose with his compressor applies to my PC as well. Junk.

-- PaulMayer,

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20594 posts in 3130 days

#8 posted 12-12-2010 11:35 PM

What ever you get, I would recommend an oil sump air compressor over an oil less one. The oil less ones are terribly noisy- I had one given to me and it will drive me out of the barn when I fire it up.
As far as brand goes, it depends on how much you want to spend. You can get a small (non name brand)oil sump compressor for $80. I have one I bought 5 yrs ago at Big Lots and it is still going strong. I use it for air nailers and staplers in the shop and occasionoally spraying lacquer. It has a small tank so it runs down pretty quick for spraying big jobs. It is portable and can be used on jobs away from home, too.

That Husky one with a framing nailer does not sound like a bad deal at $200. A framing nailer is easily $100.

Look at Consumer Reports on the best buy for the money. They usually have a good range of brands for comparison. Good Luck….......

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3722 days

#9 posted 12-12-2010 11:47 PM

Picture shown is an oil one works fine I also have pancake on oil less that I don’t use my shop is small and I don’t like the noise.

View TheDane's profile


5441 posts in 3688 days

#10 posted 12-13-2010 12:05 AM

I have been pretty happy with my Bostitch …


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View rcflyer's profile


9 posts in 2930 days

#11 posted 12-13-2010 01:11 AM

I was wondering with the oil sump pumps if they have a tendancy to want to mist a small amout of oil in the air? All this advice you guy’s are giving is really helpful., thank you.

View rcflyer's profile


9 posts in 2930 days

#12 posted 12-13-2010 01:33 AM

Just came across this one with an oil sump – Campbell Hausfeld Campbell Hausfeld Maxus 4 Gallon Aluminum Twinstack Compressor

Model # EX8016

View Brian's profile


79 posts in 3736 days

#13 posted 12-13-2010 02:48 AM

Take a look at the reviews of the Makita.
I couldn’t be happier.
If you need a little more portability there’s a smaller model that’s just as good.


View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 2855 days

#14 posted 12-13-2010 03:14 AM

If you want something for the long haul, check out Rol-Air .
I have had one for 20 yrs. and have abused it beyond belief on construction sites. Sometimes it would run for hours nonstop. Only have had to put a $17 head gasket in it about two years ago. They are not that much more than the big box compressors. No free nailer

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3737 days

#15 posted 12-13-2010 03:22 AM

There are de-oilers for compressed air (there are also de humidifiers) to keep the oil or water out of the spray, especially if you are spraying paint or other finishes. Usually the oil in a compressor is is not a problem because the small amount of oil into a nailer or wrench is not a bad thing (as mentioned earlier) the tools need oil anyway.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View cstrang's profile


1832 posts in 3193 days

#16 posted 12-13-2010 03:30 AM

I would get the porter cable pancake compressor, we use them a lot at work and let me tell you they can sure take a beating, I also have one in my own shop to take out on installs when I need it. I picked mine up not too long ago at home depot for $199 and it came with a 18 ga. brad nailer, I sold the nailer for $100 because I already had one so really the compressor only cause me $99… not a bad deal!

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3505 days

#17 posted 12-13-2010 04:15 AM

I have a friend that bought the PC pancake compressor kit which came with 3 nailers from HD. They really like it. I have a Bostitch and it has always worked well. Mine is a double tank oil type. Pix in my gallery.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3673 days

#18 posted 12-14-2010 01:35 AM

If I were buying a new one, I’d look only at models with a low center
of gravity, usually the ones with the two small tanks and the motor
mounted next to them.

If you knock over a compressor with oil in it, the oil can leak out,
making a mess. Hence the advice to get one with low gravity center.

Of course many people go oil-less but they are noisier and less durable
than the oil models.

View thiel's profile


387 posts in 3317 days

#19 posted 12-14-2010 02:15 AM

+1 for the Makita. It purrs.

-- Laziness minus Apathy equals Efficiency

View chickenguru's profile


45 posts in 3019 days

#20 posted 12-14-2010 02:28 AM

I just bought the Makita mac700. nice and quiet but at 50 lbs a little on the heavy side. Works like a champ though.

View rcflyer's profile


9 posts in 2930 days

#21 posted 12-15-2010 09:00 PM

Thanks again everybody, I think I will go with one that has an oil sump, still deciding on which brand.

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2947 days

#22 posted 12-16-2010 12:52 AM

For a contrarian view, I volunteer with an organization that has quite a number of aluminum sectional flooring arrangements that get put down once a month for a tournament, taken back up a few days later, put into a big plastic crate and shipped via truck to the next tournament (or a storage warehouse in Iowa). The darn things were made with aluminum rivets that just don’t last, and even with steel rivets, they need maintenance once a year or so. To do that, we have an air powered HF rivet gun and a tiny HF pancake compressor. It’s loud, it shakes, and it’s only a gallon or so, but the damn thing just keeps on truckin. We’ve had it for 2+ years now, it travels with the crates and we’ve probably installed 8,000+ pop rivets with it.

It has no oil sump :)

View ChrisForthofer's profile


150 posts in 3092 days

#23 posted 12-16-2010 01:30 AM

Also +1 for the Makita, I bought mine to replace an oil-less Porter Cable pancake. The PC was NOISY, so much so that when it kicked on it would drown out any machine in the shop I had running save for my Dewalt planer. Bought the Makita after reading several reviews, all of which raved about it. The Makita recovers very quickly and when its is on, its incredibly quiet, so much so you wouldn’t have to raise your voice to talk over it.


-- -Director of slipshod craftsmanship and attention deficit woodworking

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3572 days

#24 posted 12-16-2010 04:01 AM

Gotta throw my 2 cents in. We have had some bad luck with air compressors the past month. We were down to the Makita everyone here is raving about. Believe me, I feel the Makita is nothing but high quality. But on the job yesterday, I was spraying one final coat of lacquer on a job with 120 LF of cabinets. The Makita did not turn on, my pressure disappeared before my eyes. In a pinch and in desparate need for an air compressor because of deadlines, I went to Lowes, paid 349.00 plus tax on the DW 4.5 gallon with 5.2 CFM at 90 psi. Went back to the site, finished the deal, on my way home checked at HD, it was 330.00 there, went back to Lowes with my reciept, they beat HD by 10% and I walked out 56.00 richer. Said and done I bought it for 297.00 plus tax. It is simply an awesome air compressor, no doubt about it. I love the two pneumatic wheels it has, it is much easier to move around. I was hating moving that little Makita around since it was so darn heavy.

I will say this, I will fix the Makita and we will use it a lot also. I am sure the pressure switch is bad on the Makita, just preliminary thinking.

Also, for longevity, go with Rol Air as someone already mentioned. If I had the time to wait, I would have went with the rol air. My vote is for the DW, I much prefer it over the Makita, both are very comparable, the DW has a little better specs but the winner goes to the fact the DW can be moved around so much easier.

Both the DW and the Makita are perfect for most things such as nail guns and spraying with.

Just my 2 cents, for whatever it is worth.

I would fully advise against going cheap, spend a little and have it for the long haul.

-- .

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