Air Compressor Question

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Forum topic by BreakingBoardom posted 02-26-2010 08:43 PM 2396 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View BreakingBoardom's profile


615 posts in 4132 days

02-26-2010 08:43 PM

Topic tags/keywords: air compressor nailer stapler 3 gallon pancake

So, I’m thinking about buying an air compressor today. There are two that I’m looking at. One is a 3 Gal. 100 PSI, 1/3 HP pancake compressor and comes with a brad nailer and hose and fittings. The other is a 3 Gal. 125 PSI, 1 HP Horizontal tank copressor with no accessories. The pancake one with accesories is about $30 cheaper but obviously the more expensive one has more power. My question is, how much HP do I need? I’ll just be using it to run staplers, brad nailers and probably finish nailers, maybe blow off some dust around the shop and maybe air up vehicle tires on occasion. Will the 1/3 HP do? Is there a reference somewhere that tells you waht you can do with the different compressors? Thanks for the help.

-- Matt -

12 replies so far

View lew's profile


13332 posts in 4806 days

#1 posted 02-26-2010 08:59 PM

Tim “The Toolman” Taylor always said MORE POWER!

If you decide to step up to a finish nailer, it will require about 100 psi.

Just a thought.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View PaulfromVictor's profile


232 posts in 4397 days

#2 posted 02-26-2010 08:59 PM

I have the Porter Cable pancake compressor kit that comes with 16 and 18 gauge finish nail guns. For operating nailers and staplers it is plenty of air. It would never be powerful enough to run continuous draw tools like sanders etc. Occasionally I will use it for inflating a kids snow tube, etc. That will usually require the cycling the engine two to three times to re-fill the pancake. For tires, etc. it is good. For blowing things off, you will exhaust your air quickly, and need to wait for the compressor to refill the pancake often.

View PaulfromVictor's profile


232 posts in 4397 days

#3 posted 02-26-2010 09:04 PM

The PC I am referring to is a 150 PSI machine.

It has been good for what I have used it for, although bigger is better. I would love to have one of those 5 foot tall deals.

View PaulfromVictor's profile


232 posts in 4397 days

#4 posted 02-26-2010 09:06 PM

Don’t get the littlest machine if you don’t have to. You will always want to upgrade.

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2659 posts in 4577 days

#5 posted 02-26-2010 09:12 PM

Get the biggest one you can afford and have power for, ie 60 gal… buying a little one you will kick your self later on for not getting a bigger one…

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View surfin2's profile


51275 posts in 4187 days

#6 posted 02-26-2010 09:13 PM

View JohnGreco's profile


284 posts in 4106 days

#7 posted 02-26-2010 09:27 PM

I bought a 2 gallon 150psi DeWalt about a year and a half ago. Came with a brad nailer, finish nailer and stapler plus it has 2 connectors on the machine so you don’t need to keep swapping tools off of the same hose. Great little machine!

-- John

View BreakingBoardom's profile


615 posts in 4132 days

#8 posted 02-26-2010 09:33 PM

Does the HP matter? Or does the HP just determine how fast it can refill the tank? Are the PSI and tank size really the only important things?

-- Matt -

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 4125 days

#9 posted 02-26-2010 09:36 PM

My little 1.5 gallon Husky is perfectly adequate for my finishing nailer, brad nailer and piner.

It doesn’t take much power or capacity for these tools.

If you get into power wrenches or a power sander you need a lot more capacity.

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

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 4159 days

#10 posted 02-26-2010 09:43 PM

The things to consider are… Max PSI – “impulse” tools like nail guns need a certain minimum pressure to work properly (listed in the tools specs)

CFM (cubic feet per minute) – “constant” tools like sanders and sprayers need a certain amount of pressure delivered continuously to the tool to function properly. usually it will say “X.X CFM @ Y psi”

Volume (generally gallons) – the higher the volume, obviously the longer you can work between the motor kicking in to refill it. For impulse tools this is less important than for constant tools, which go through a volume of air much faster. Running out of air in the middle of nailing, you can just wait for a bit, running out in the middle of spraying a finish can mess up your project. You can purchase 5 gal expansion tanks fairly cheaply so this is the least important IMHO.

Check the specs on the tools you plan to buy, then compare it to the specs of the compressors.

-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

View RedShirt013's profile


219 posts in 4713 days

#11 posted 02-26-2010 09:51 PM

It’s the CFM and duty rating to watch out for. HP is not a good indicator. Just make sure your compressor’s CFM output is higher than the requirement of tools you want to use.

If you’re using it to run nailers only the pancake will be fine. But I’ve owned a Stanley Bostitch pancake before, and the one thing I really really hate about it is how heavy, awkward to carry, and unbelivablely noisy it is. You can hear it running in the basement from 2 floors up.

I would suggest buying a small and quiet one that is easy to carry around. You only need a small one if you’re using nail guns or blowing off sawdust in shop. And you’ll be thankful that you’re lugging around a 20 lb compressor rahter than a 60lb monster when you’re doing trims in your house.

The 1HP 3 gallon one will really struggle to run most air tools anyway, including spray guns. When you do need to run air tools in your garage later on, then you go buy a bigger 5hp horsepower one. You’ll still be able to use the small compressor for home renovations.

I have the dewalt 55140 and it’s very quiet for an oilless. I would also suggest the Dewalt 55141, Senco 1 gal trim compressor, and the Maxus or Ridgid aluminum ones. For bigger ones the low RPM Makitas are quiet also. From what I heard newer PC nailers are overrated anyway, so I’d rather get an ideal copmpressor and buy a much cheaper but still fucctional no-name-brand nailer.

-- Ed

View LeeG's profile


40 posts in 4072 days

#12 posted 02-26-2010 10:07 PM

If you are just using burst type tools (nailers) in a non-production environment, most compressors will be fine. If you want to use continuous flow tools such as grinders, sanders, or sprayers, then you need to worry about the required cfm (cubic ft/min) of the tool compared to the compressor. The PC compressor linked on Amazon will do about 3.7cfm @40psi. A framing nailer, for instance, requires about 2.2cfm @90psi. A larger tank will allow a smaller compressor to run a larger device longer, but still not continuous.

-- Lee in Phoenix

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