Survey: Air Compressor Uses

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Forum topic by Jeff Terrell posted 12-29-2011 06:52 PM 3125 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Jeff Terrell

29 posts in 1761 days

12-29-2011 06:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question survey air compressor

I am about to upgrade my compressor and am interested in knowing what you all typically use your compressor for in woodworking. For me (so far) I’ve only used mine for some nailing and HVLP spraying. I’m trying to decide if I need to increase tank size in a very small shop. Thanks for the input!

-- "Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind." F. Scott Fitzgerald

12 replies so far

View MrRon's profile


3891 posts in 2662 days

#1 posted 12-29-2011 07:02 PM

Sounds to me like you already have enough capacity by the purposes you are now using it for. If you intend to get high air consumption tools, like impact wrenches, sanders or grinders, you will need more air. Go to a store that sells air compressors and look at the tanks, They usually have printed on it what air tools it can accomodate. Do you need portability or can it remain in the shop? Whatever you decide, stay away from “oil less” compressors. If you already have one, then you know what I mean. They are noisy. The oil lubed ones are so much quieter.

View DIYaholic's profile


19136 posts in 2094 days

#2 posted 12-29-2011 07:15 PM

I went for the 33gal Husky compressor from “The Big Orange Store”. I didn’t need regular portability and it provided me with more versatility. It’s small enough to fit in my small SUV, yet large enough to handle larger CFM tasks. I supplemented this with the Kobalt (from The Big Blue Store) CO2 portable regulator (clips onto your belt) for small nailing jobs “out in the feild” where even a pancake/hotdog compressor is overkill or when there is no power available. Just so happens that the Kobalt regulator is on clearence at my Lowes store for about $25.00 (I paid $80-$90), now I will have to find a paintball range to refill my two tanks.

I use my compressor to drive nails, power impact & ratchet wrenches, inflate tires, spay off tools & machines and to collect dust! Once my spraybooth/room is completed in the shop, I will use it for spray finishes. I like the fact that I have the flexibility to do more should I want/need to. I eventually want to do some metal/sheetmetal fabrication, where I feel the increased capacity will be beneficial.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View Chris 's profile


1877 posts in 3410 days

#3 posted 12-29-2011 07:21 PM

I also have a fairly large compressor… Uses?

1. Nail guns; mostly my brad and pin nailers.

2. I use it at the lathe for blowing out hollow forms as I get deeper into the piece.

3. Just started using a HVLP gun… I like it!

4. Cleaning up in the shop

5. I have an air powered sander that my dad gave me. It can hog off amazing amounts of material in short order

6. The kids sports equipment

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View Bertha's profile


12989 posts in 2112 days

#4 posted 12-29-2011 07:24 PM

I use it for everything I can! I mostly like the sanders. If you’re going to run a sander, you’re going to need a lot of air. I’ve got a decent compressor but mine struggles a bit with ROS’s. The good thing about pneumatic is that they’re cheap (once you have the right compressor). I’ve bought expensive; and I’ve bought Harbor Freight. Both are still holding up after years of use. I think a nailer probably deserves a bit of quality. I spent a bunch on a Grex and I don’t regret it.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Chris 's profile


1877 posts in 3410 days

#5 posted 12-29-2011 07:25 PM

as an addendum: I am considering getting one of those portable tanks that you fill from the compressor so that I can do finish nailing in other parts of the house / property.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View Bertha's profile


12989 posts in 2112 days

#6 posted 12-29-2011 07:29 PM

^I did what Chris is planning. I mostly use mine for airing up a tire away from the compressor. If I could, I’d mount one of those WARN powerstations to my truck! Winch+Compressor. Those things are sweeeeet.

At $1400, I won’t be, lol.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 1906 days

#7 posted 12-29-2011 08:30 PM

My way is a bit different.

I don’t have room in my RV for a large compressor so that limits what I can put in my shop where we are managers at an RV park. I have 3 cheap little 1.5 HP compressors with their own tanks feeding a couple of 100 pound propane tanks repurposed to air tank usage. These run my needs in the wood shop and also will handle my 3/4” impact wrench outside.
When I have to go farther away to work on a piece of equipment I only have to unhook one little compressor and put it into the bus and away we go. The bus has it’s own air system and will keep up with just about any job I can throw at it.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Tennessee's profile


2410 posts in 1933 days

#8 posted 12-29-2011 10:27 PM

I bought a 5HP Coleman for $300 from Sam’s years ago, still just fine. Devilbiss head, cast iron liner. Horizontal tank. Change the oil every other year or so.

Just recently I switched from blowing the dust from my shop with air to using a new blower attachment that came with the latest Rigid vacuum cleaner I bought. Yank the motor off, put on an extention tube, and it becomes an electric leaf blower made for shop blowdowns. I am surprised how well it works, and just an electric cord that I can plug in all the over the shop vs. the doggone hose always getting caught on stationary tool edges and cleaning off benchtops.

Use my compressor for everything from nail guns to taking off wheel bolts. Works just fine. Drain the tank a lot!!

I also bought a cheapy little twin tank thingy with a piston motor in it. 1/4 HP, I think. Tote it around for when I want to do crown molding with pin nailers. Way better than long air lines. I think I found it at Big Lots for about $55. It makes a lot of noise when filling, but puts out a nice 90-100lbs with no problem, plenty enough for an 18 gauge pin nailer.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2494 days

#9 posted 12-29-2011 10:37 PM

You need a big tank and a powerful motor if you are going to drive an air driven sander, grinder or similar tool. Otherwise a relatively small compressor will do.

I place a lot of value on portability. My little 1.5 gallon Husky Air Scout is very easy to move around and it is sufficient for all my needs. I run nail guns, clean out the inside of hollowing on the lathe and occasionally blow up a tire. I have used it with an air wrench and it is adequate for that, but in that application a little bigger compressor would be better.

I also use if for general “clearing out”. If I cut a mortise with a router and jig, I like to blow the chips out before moving the jig to make sure I have the clean cut I wanted.

With respect to cleaning things out, my first choice is a vacuum because it puts less dust in the air. But there are often situations where the vacuum does not do the job, so I use the air compressor and let the dust fall where it falls.

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

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2651 days

#10 posted 12-29-2011 10:50 PM

I have a basic little oil lubricated HF 2HP 8 gallon compressor. I use it for nailers, impact wrench, blow gun, siphon sprayer (for spraying automotive chemicals when needed, such as fuel system cleaner to clean out a nasty MAF on my truck…) airing up tires (my truck has 35×12.5 tires, you figure out how much air that takes!) and light HVLP usage.

Yes I would like a bigger compressor, I would actually LOVE a 60 gallon or bigger compressor, but space, and honestly budget concerns keep me away from much bigger. The newer 2.5HP 10 gallon HF compressor is rated at 6.2CFM @ 40 PSI, where my 8 gallon 2 HP is rated at 5.6 CFM, and my HVLP is rated at 5.5 CFM (Husky HVLP, the box actually shows 7 to 30 gallon compressors, intermittent use, which is what I do anyway…)

Long winded story short, unless I go a LOT bigger, going a little bigger won’t help me much… and with my space budget as it were, I don’t want to bother with anything bigger…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View jerkylips's profile


273 posts in 1989 days

#11 posted 12-29-2011 11:05 PM

for me, CFM & portability are the two biggest considerations. As we all know, those two are at odds with each other. I have a little Porter Cable pancake compressor. I’ve used it with framing & roofing nailers with no issues, no issues with an impact wrench. The one thing I can’t do is any kind of spraying because the CFM is far too low. If I ever want to have that capability, I’m thinking that I’ll have 2 separate compressors – a big, stationary, high CFM unit, and a small portable one..

View Bertha's profile


12989 posts in 2112 days

#12 posted 12-29-2011 11:30 PM

I have nothing more to add except that bus is awesome.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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