What size air compressor do I need?

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Forum topic by Illinoiswoodworker posted 03-26-2013 09:42 PM 16446 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Illinoiswoodworker's profile


36 posts in 3347 days

03-26-2013 09:42 PM

My current air compressor is too small I fear. It is Craftsman 25 gal. 5.5 SCFM.
I will probably go 220V but how big? I want to spend $750, or less if I can.
I’m tired of hearing it run every time I use the air nozzle anyway.

Where are some good places to look and what brands should I look for and which should I avoid?

-- I love the smell of red oak in the morning..........

24 replies so far

View devann's profile


2260 posts in 4150 days

#1 posted 03-26-2013 10:16 PM

Size is hard to tell without knowing what you want to do with it.
I’m kinda partial to Rol-Air,Jacuzzi,Ingersoll Rand, & Emglo. I have worn out quite a few. I’ve gotten away from cast iron heads on the pump as they run hotter and tend to boil the oil. After breakin use I use Amsoil synthetic oil. My larger compressor these days is a custom built (from a compressor shop) that uses an Ingersoll Rand pump with a Baldor electric motor on a Gunslinger set of tanks. I’ve worn out one pump on it so far, motor is still going. The unit is pushing twenty years old but honestly it doesn’t see much use these days.
My smaller, pick up with one hand compressor is a cheap no name brand that I purchase at a auto parts store for less that $100. It does have a Jacuzzi pump. I’ve been using it a lot for several years now.

Be aware of the dry tank/wet tank situation on multi tank air compressors. I remember a fellow working for me years ago that showed up with a little Hitachi and it was plumbed backwards. The pump was piped to the top tank and and female air fitting came off the lower tank. Water runs down hill. To Hitachi’s credit they since reversed the plumbing.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 4251 days

#2 posted 03-26-2013 11:44 PM

Man. I have a 1.5hp 10 gallon. It seems to do ok but I only spray finish smaller jobs. But when I do upgrade it would be Rol Air or Ingersall like Darrell mentioned.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3714 days

#3 posted 03-27-2013 01:31 AM

I have a 3HP 60 gal IR and it seems to be a fine machine for my needs. I mostly only use it for spray finishing. Unless I am spraying a big panel, like 3’x5’, it keeps up just fine. I have not had any issues with it in the 5 years I’ve had it.

-- Art

View indianajoe's profile


55 posts in 3440 days

#4 posted 03-27-2013 02:08 AM

for whatever its worth I personally like oil lubricated air compressors. I understand some people say the oil gets into air lines but with a good separator and a well maintained compressor you wont have that. I think oil free compressors are very loud and don’t last very long. The best possible set up is a screw type compressor. You cant even hear them run but for your budget and most peoples that isn’t an option.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


10889 posts in 3866 days

#5 posted 03-27-2013 02:56 AM

Several good comments above. You did not say what you were using it for so hard to guess what would work best for you. But you did comment about the noise and this fix is easy but so few use it. Make a lean to outside your shop, plumb a main line through the wall using steel pipe and run a few nipples to spaces you use the most. Now the noise is outside let the birds and other wildlife enjoy it, and you have one less larger tool in the shop. I have had this for 20+ years and use a 6HP 220vt 80 gallon tank. Never had an issue and it stays “ON” all the time except for maint every 3 months and to drain the tank.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Kobra's profile


21 posts in 3357 days

#6 posted 03-27-2013 02:57 AM

I have the Puma. I was at Northern Tool and compared it with IR’s version. The only difference I could tell was the paint color. It does everything I need it to do.

I agree with indianjoe. My sister’s boyfriend has a Craftsman 25 gal oil less and I could not believe how loud that thing was. Oil lubricated air compressors are the way to go.

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3706 days

#7 posted 03-27-2013 03:03 AM

I love my IR and would recommend it to anyone. In fact I am selling it! It’s just TOO big for what I need it to do now. When I was doing automotive stuff it was great. Now that I spray finish and use brad nailers, a 20 gallon is plenty.


View redryder's profile


2393 posts in 4559 days

#8 posted 03-27-2013 06:45 AM

I agree with “woodbut” above. Build a dog house outside, insulate it and pocket most of that $750. Or use the rest to buy more tools. I moved mine to another room and can barely hear it running…..............

-- mike...............

View BUBBATAY's profile


58 posts in 3771 days

#9 posted 03-27-2013 03:20 PM

If you have a tractor supply in your area they have an upright ingersoll rand 3 hp 60 gallon for $599.

View Illinoiswoodworker's profile


36 posts in 3347 days

#10 posted 03-27-2013 04:21 PM

I’m sorry for being unclear in my first post.

I am spraying finishes on woodworking. My current spray gun is a DeVilbiss, model #GFC – 616 – 43FW.
I emailed Devilbiss, they said that it requires 15 CFM to operate??! Is that correct?

I am looking, and it looks like I will have to cough up about a $1000 for a bottom of the line air compressor that will produce >15 CFM.

I am contemplating selling my paint gun, which is brand new, never have been out of the box and buy a gun with less CFM and a smaller air compressor.

I might be a couple hunded dollars ahead that way.

Yes, I was thinking of moving the air compressor to another part of my building, which is not heated. My question is if I am spraying in my heated shop at 65 degrees and the air is coming from a 20 degrees F. Will I have condensation issues and finish problems when I spray?

-- I love the smell of red oak in the morning..........

View BUBBATAY's profile


58 posts in 3771 days

#11 posted 03-27-2013 04:42 PM

Compressor cfm rating are usually listed at different pressures i.e. 12 cfm 40 psi. , 15 cfm 10 psi. a hvlp spray gun would only require at most 40 psi which a 3 hp compressor would be sufficient.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6542 posts in 4271 days

#12 posted 03-27-2013 05:03 PM

I have been happy with my mid-sized Speed Aire. I have had it 23 years with no more maintenance than a few oil changes.
It will run everything but a sand blaster.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View pjones46's profile


1002 posts in 4100 days

#13 posted 03-30-2013 06:47 AM

Convert to an HVLP top feed gun for use with a conventional air compressor, some work well to as low as 3.5 CFM but many range from 4 to 5 CFM and working pressure is around 20-40 psi. You run your compressor at about 100 PSI but put an inexpensive inline regulator off of that. Keep your old compressor and save your money. Woodcraft has a faily inexpensive one, think it is a woodriver.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View Illinoiswoodworker's profile


36 posts in 3347 days

#14 posted 04-01-2013 12:54 AM

My Step dad gave me his old Craftsman 29 gal 5hp 9 CFM at 40 psi. I have an identical compressor. If I gang them together that will give me approximately 18CFM. I will go to ACE tomorrow after work and get the plumbing to link them together. I will try it out this weekend and let you guys know how it works.

If this isn’t enough, Ill buy a 60 gal 3 or 5 HP.

-- I love the smell of red oak in the morning..........

View JarodMorris's profile


167 posts in 3833 days

#15 posted 04-01-2013 02:31 AM

If 2 compressors putting out a total of 18 CFM @ 40 psi isn’t enough, then I’d really like to know what it is that you’re doing.

-- Dad: Someone was supposed to pick up his toys! Son: My name isn't "Someone".

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