Looking for help on buying air compressor

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Forum topic by Zvonko posted 10-21-2020 01:57 PM 789 views 0 times favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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101 posts in 727 days

10-21-2020 01:57 PM

Topic tags/keywords: air compressor framing nail gun recommendation


Will be building my workshop barn soon and I’m considering getting a compressor and nail gun for framing. I’ve done some research, but it’s a bit overwhelming. Especially since I don’t know anything about compressors.

I looked into renting, but an air compressor and nail gun end up going for $50/day and I figure I’m going to need it for about a week since I’m doing most of this myself. At that rate it seems like it might be better for me to buy my own even if I end up not using the framing gun much later.

I’ll probably get a bunch of different opinions on which brand is best. I’m more looking to understand pros and cons of different types and sizes of compressors. I also saw there are all kinds of different connections and hoses.

Basically, I’d love to get something that is strong enough to do framing, not too noisy AND that I can use for smaller type of projects later.

Open to ideas/suggestions.


-- You can't always control WHAT happens, but you can always control HOW you respond.

30 replies so far

View controlfreak's profile


1385 posts in 514 days

#1 posted 10-21-2020 02:08 PM

If you are going to use in the shop later on I would spend the extra for quiet. You will also need to know what the later use items will be. It doesn’t take much to run a framing gun but sprayers and air powered grinders will need more volume. I am clueless on dryers and oilers so I will let the experts advise on that stuff.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1780 posts in 3762 days

#2 posted 10-21-2020 02:13 PM

Since you’re going to be running a single tool, most any compressor can run a framing nail-gun it’s just the recycle time that can become a pain in the a$$.
1st question is what do you expect to do in the future with the compressor in the shop. If you expect to just use it for dusting and shooting brads & pins, I’d suggest looking at California Air tools Compressors They are very well known for quality and quiet, I have a large compressor and have been considering one of these to be able to take to projects etc.. If you do any auto work, use air sanders, or expect to spray lots of finish then I’d say go for a 30 gallon minimum, and if it will be in your workspace definitely look at a belt driven cast iron pump. Of course the 2nd and most important question is what do you want to spend but that’s for you to tell yourself, I worked for at least 10 years as a hobbyist with just an 11 gallon Campbell Hausfield direct drive that worked well, and only upgraded because of a job that was going to require spraying and I fell into a silly deal on CL.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View squazo's profile


204 posts in 2558 days

#3 posted 10-21-2020 02:25 PM

Id get a belt driven horizontal compressor. Make sure it puts out at least 120 psi. Get a 120 volt.

View avsmusic1's profile


671 posts in 1598 days

#4 posted 10-21-2020 02:40 PM

I have had a few different compressors though I don’t claim expertise. Started with an 8 gal oil craftsman horizontal tank, moved to a 15gal vertical oil free dewalt, and recently sold that for a small 2gal California air.

For my needs currently the smaller tank is a better fit. It’s light, mobile, and fast to fill. I’m not running air hoses through my shop b/c it’s small and L shaped. The smaller tank is light enough to simply grab and go to another spot when needed and the sound is WAY different. I have learned that I’m never going back to one of the louder models.

View Bill_Steele's profile


733 posts in 2644 days

#5 posted 10-21-2020 02:42 PM

If you are only looking for something that will run a single nailer at a time, then I think almost any small pancake compressor will do. You can also blow air and fill up tires with these small compressors. There are a bunch of options in this range so it all depends on how much money you want to spend and what sort of options you want (e.g. wheels, multiple hookups, low noise, lightweight, etc.). You might also consider those battery-powered nailers or gas power nailers…no compressor required.

I’m no expert on air compressors, but if I was going to buy a compressor I would first identify the type of air tool(s) I want to be able to use (e.g. air nailer or impact gun). Then I would go look up the air demands of those tools (e.g. 1.2 cfm @90psi or 5 cfm @90 psi). Then I would shop for a compressor that satisfied the air demands of the tools I wanted to use.

Here are some things I would look for in a compressor: duty cycle, tank size, cooling method (air/oil), noise rating, CFM rating.

If you’re only going to have 1 compressor and you think you will need to move it around or take it somewhere other than your workshop—then you need a smaller/lighter compressor. If you think you will be fine with leaving the compressor in one spot and running pipes/hoses to the compressor then I would go for a larger compressor with a larger tank.

Hope that helps.

View Robert's profile


4134 posts in 2393 days

#6 posted 10-21-2020 02:44 PM

There are plenty of reviews out there. Asking opinions on a forum is pretty subjective, so best to do your own due diligence – check the reviews and the warranty. Or, ride around a construction site, look for the crews with the nicer trucks and see what they’re using ha ha.

Any of the major brands will do the job, you don’t need an expensive one a pro framer would use. From what I know Paslode and Hitachi (now Metabo) are at the top of the heap.

The only ones I would avoid is Porter Cable and Harbor Freight. I also know if they sit in the case for 2 years between uses, you’re asking for trouble. Oil it up good before storage.

Compressor depends on what your future needs are. A pancake will run a framing nailer on a small job, they are just noisy as hell.

If you have thoughts about air tools then you need a 9CFM or higher rated compressor. Be aware of electric req’s on the bigger machines. IMO this is one of those machines you should probably buy new.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Ocelot's profile


2641 posts in 3551 days

#7 posted 10-21-2020 03:13 PM

If all you are going to do is nail and staple – and don’t intend to run sanders or other high-usage tools you can’t go wrong with the mid-size (2 gallon tank) quiet one from Harbor Freight. For less than $150, you can’t beat it. I pop the hose off and 2 months later go back and it’s still got 120 PSI showing on the guage. At 35 pounds or so, you can carry it anywhere you need it.

And it’s about as loud as a refrigerator.

It’s occationally on sale for less.

-- I intended to be a woodworker, but turned into a tool and lumber collector.

View SMP's profile


2853 posts in 818 days

#8 posted 10-21-2020 05:01 PM

I have a 6HP 30 gal upright. Its not quiet, but with 30 gallons you can let it fill while making coffee or whatever and then shut it off and do most small projects just off the tank. But when i need to use tools like die grinders and air saws etc its powerful enough to run those, where anything smaller just wouldn’t cut it. I have. Couple long hoses(cheap at HF) so i don’t need it to be portable, i can reach anywhere in the house by hose. But it is on wheels with air tires, so I have thrown it in the back of an SUv to take to other job sites.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6557 posts in 3406 days

#9 posted 10-21-2020 05:17 PM

Id get a belt driven horizontal compressor. Make sure it puts out at least 120 psi. Get a 120 volt.

- squazo

I agree, mostly. A larger one might be 240V, and that’s OK although it may not work for your nailer in the early stages of construction (hence the 120V). But a belt driven (reciprocating) will have a piston pump and be much quieter than any of the diaphragm types. It will also last a lot longer, my oldest one is going on 35 years old (in hobbyist use) and still going strong. Spec one for your shop before worrying about the nailer…anything you get for your shop will drive the nailer just fine.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View WoodenDreams's profile


1177 posts in 823 days

#10 posted 10-21-2020 06:29 PM

Depending on what your planning on using the air compressor for, will determine the tank size. If your only using it for a staple gun, then a 3 or 6 gallon tank good. If your using it for spraying finishes, then you want a minimum of a 20 gallon tank. The smaller the tank size the more often the compressor will kick-in to build the pressure back up. Example; when I use my 3 gallon 150psi rating air compressor to air up my tires on my car, the compressor will kick-on three times to build air pressure back into the tank. With a 20 gallon tank, it on kicks on once with a 150psi rating tank

For PSI rating, you want a compressor with 150psi rating. The air tank should come with two gauges (air pressure in tank and regulating output air pressure gauge). A air compressor with a 125psi rating will kick-on more often than a 150psi rating tank.

So called noiseless air compressors are a nice feature.

As far as coupler connections. All work fine. Just go with a set style that’s easily available in your area. And use that style on all. Then have a couple extra male connections handy to put on a someone elses air tools if they bring a air tool to help you. The coupler in this link is the easiest to use

View them700project's profile


272 posts in 1931 days

#11 posted 10-21-2020 06:38 PM

I would go cheep on the gun and spend on the compressor. a framing gun is pretty useless for fine woodworking. but the compressor you can use for finishing , finish nailers,brad nailers,staplers,etc Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 gallons would be great for finishing but a 2 gallon will be fine for brads etc.

If you go small on the compressor expect wait sometimes for it to refill when framing

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3558 posts in 4350 days

#12 posted 10-21-2020 07:19 PM

My 3 gallon little craftman runs my brad, pin, and framing nailer without any issues. It keeps up nicely. I have an 80 gallon one in the shop that I fire up if I need to do some spraying or any rotary tools like my random orbital sander. Anything rotary needs more volume. 80 is probably overkill but something bigger than my small compressor for sure. If you’re just using various nailers then any size would be okay.

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

View hairy's profile


3132 posts in 4445 days

#13 posted 10-21-2020 07:21 PM

I’ve been watching the prices on air compressors lately. I want to get one for the basement shop. I have a big one in the garage that will run anything I have. I also have the small harbor freight pancake in the basement that is too loud and too slow for me. I’ll give it to anybody that wants it.

I’d be good with either of these, but all of the reviews I have seen are just plugging in a brand new tool. I’d like to see one with a year of use.

I didn’t see any deals on Amazon Prime day, maybe Black Friday will be good to me.

-- I still love you baby, but I sure don't want you back. Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

View AndyJ1s's profile


471 posts in 668 days

#14 posted 10-21-2020 07:23 PM

What about cordless framing nailers (DeWalt or Milwaukee, etc.)?

-- Andy - Arlington TX

View Loren's profile


10784 posts in 4560 days

#15 posted 10-21-2020 07:40 PM

Those small compressors without wheels like cited above from Harbor Freight have a low center of gravity. They tend to be oiless anyway but I don’t imagine falling over is good for an oil compressor either. It used to be the oil compressors were less noisy and they’re probably longer lasting.

The quiet compressors used to be real spendy but there are cheaper ones on the market now. I was thinking of getting a 1 gal California air tools quiet compressor for carrying around on jobs but I’m already overwhelmed with tool and material storage problems. In any case, it seems like a quiet compressor (I hate the noise) but I’ve read reports of quality problems. Home Depot sells them though so if a problem is obvious it can be returned easily.

You don’t need a big compressor to run a nailer. It may run a lot with a framing nailer but a smaller one ought to handle it okay. You can get a 6 gallon or larger compressor which may be recommended for framing nailers but be warned they are not light even at 6 gallons.

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