Budget air compressor for the shop?

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Rottweiler, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. arcanum

    arcanum Been here awhile

    Feb 8, 2011
    Arcanum OH
    If you are looking for other, thinking outside of the box ideas, Harbor freight sells two different compressor heads. Most farms have a spare motor hanging around. Now all you need is an old tank. Used 100pound propane tanks are easily 20 gallons plus.
    The goddamn thieves stole my compressor out of the barn. I will put the head and motor up in the rafters and the air tank up there too.. Bring the air down and add a regulator to suit my needs
  2. baloneyskin daddy

    baloneyskin daddy bikaholic

    Oct 21, 2009
    southcentral PA.
    I use an oil less Porter cable pancake compressor for work and run nailers all day every day and they last about 3 yrs. It also pumps up to 150psi and many times my 20 gal shop compressor at 120psi won't allow my impact gun to break a bolt loose so I grab the PorterCable out of the van and presto the extra 30 psi works. If all you need is what you stated it will work fine,and if you have a small job,like blowing out dust or cobwebs or filling a flat it can be taken to the spot needed. I often use mine instead of the shop compressor.
  3. lightfighter

    lightfighter where does this go?

    Dec 23, 2007
    Sierra Vista AZ.
    My 30 gallon sears craftsman has been in a Rubbermaid shed outside the garage and turned on for 5 years. Of course, I live in arid Arizona.
  4. Truckin_Thumper

    Truckin_Thumper low profile

    Jun 28, 2007
  5. mattlikesbikes

    mattlikesbikes Been here awhile

    Feb 12, 2013
    I ended up just buying a pancake which can handle nail guns of all sizes and car tires. I then bought the Dewalt 110V plug in impact. For every car and truck project I've done since the Dewalt has been loads strong enough. It's also very easy to throw in the car to go help a buddy at his house. The pancake was great for nails since I could just move it easily from room to room with me while I was remodeling our house. It was also nice to use with my trim nailer just on the stored capacity.

    The two (pancake and dewalt impact) cost me $150.
  6. Brad-Man

    Brad-Man Adventurer

    Jan 8, 2013
    Marietta, GA
    You can also get a portable 10 gallon tank and attach it with t's to a pancake compressor to give you a bit more headroom when running more demanding air tools.

    You'll also have the ability to carry air some places that you don't have power...
  7. Plaka

    Plaka Brevis illi vita est

    Jun 19, 2010
    But that's what they are, brands. Underneath they are completely interchangeable Taiwanese crap. Couple of factories churn them out and brand them for whichever customer. Lot of auto stores, Harbor fright, etc. have them too. Fine for light duty and occasional use.

    Good compressors are costly. Rol-Air and Thomas make portable professional machines. But my little hot dog Thomas cost almost $500 new. I got an older weighs-a-ton Thomas pancake on craigslist for $75. A very rare find. The Thomases are oilless, start in any weather and can be run at any orientation. Top quality. I use the little one for small nailers and small paint guns, the pancake for big nailers and bigger paint guns. I also have an Ingersol Rand twin tank wheelbarrow which is kinda junky but it has a Honda engine that always starts. That handles remote duties and the die grinder, sandblaster, etc. Another craigslist score, got two of them off a guy that was going to start a driveway spraying business and flopped. Both nearly new. Flipped one and paid for most of the other with the profits.

    In general a used quality machine is the best value for the money. But I've seen a used Rol-air on craigslist like once. pros don't sell off tools unless desperate. An old American made Speed Air can be a good deal if intact.

    The pro machines are continuous duty, run them around the clock if you want.

    I used to have a 60gal tank to support a blast cabinet with a small compressor. Got it from a cheap upright with a burned out motor. Now I just have a portable 5 gallon that is turning out to be very handy. I've used it as a buffer tank with the small compressors and for a quick jobs where I don't want to drag out the gas machine. I've also used it as a buffer on the big one for seating beads (use a big hose too) I keep it full all the time so it's a grab and go for filling tires or shooting a couple nails. nice not to have to carry out the compressor and cord or roll out a bunch of hose.

    A used compressor should come up to full pressure and then hold it for 15 minutes or more. The drain valve should turn easily (indicating it got used), no rust on the tank anywhere. Some oil weepage is good, shows it hasn't been cleaned up to hide more serious leaks. missing belt guards are classic. You can fabricate one. Look at the duty rating and service factor on the motor nameplate. Duty=continous is good. SF<1.0 is very good. 15 amps is going to be your maximum on a 110VAC line. The starting amps will be over that but your breakers have a delay in them to handle it. Ignore any BS about horsepower. Only the motor amps (FLA), pressure and flow matter. Often branders (of the cheap ones) list the maximum pressure but then list the flow at a considerably lower pressure. Watch the fine print.

    Craigslist has more flakes than a snowman of course.

    Set some money aside for hoses and tools like air chucks, blow guns, car washers and the like. You can get cheap combo kits at the box stores. Decide on what pattern air fittings you are going to use and stick with them. Allow no others into your life. look over the kits and combo packs and see what fittings are in them. You can make up adapters for borrowed tools.

    You don't leave a compressor turned on. Turn the switch on to use it, turn off when done. You may need to add a ball valve to get really good tank sealing, as in holds full pressure for months. The bigger the tank the less portable and the more air you have on tap anytime without having to run the machine. I fill my portable tank at leisure off my smallest compressor---it's quiet and usually underfoot. Slow but I have other things to do in the shop.

    I don't know too many residential properties that don't have 230/240. Somtimes a dryer outlet or stove outlet. Sometimes no outlet and you have to add it. But the breaker panel is 230/240.
  8. euchre98

    euchre98 Just reading

    Nov 9, 2005
    Southern MD land of the 10oz Bud
  9. broncobowsher

    broncobowsher Long timer

    Apr 21, 2010
    Baking in AZ
    I have had (or delt with) compressors from the cheap HF up through my current IR 2-stage 60 gallon. For the most part the bigger the better.

    Worst choice ever was the late 90's when the oil-less direct drive compressors came out. Loudest POS ever. And they didn't like to live very long either. the few I knew about for some time all needed rebuilding very early in the life.

    For small and cheap, 2HP 2 gallon, direct drive, oil bath HF I got my brother for christmas one year. Tops off tires. Can run a few small tools. Nailer and impact no problem. Nailer just takes a burst of air. Probably run a little short if you tried to run one on a roofing job with pros that can lay it down fast. But for the amature home use it should keep up. Impact wrench it does fairly well, but does cycle after a lugnut or two. You are not going to hammer on a stuck bolt for long, but a short zap it works great. It did need a new drain valve after the first use.

    The 20-30 gallon horizontal are what I consider the bread and butter compressors for most homes. The fill times do stretch out. Tank capacity is better for an impact wrench but still not great. Any extended use and they will struggle (paint sprayer and die grinders for example)

    I was so much happier when I went to 220V. My first no name 60 gallon with a single stage compressor did very well. Only issue was when trying to port a cast iron exhaust manifold. I nearly burned it up. The IR temp gun showed nearly 400°F on the head after I started smelling it. the quality 2-stage IR 60 gallon is great. But like any of the 60 gallon uprights, it is not portable. You either need a lot of hose, the abality to bring the project to the compressor, or a plan B.

    For plan B I have high pressure cylinders, Not those 5-gallon tanks you fill with the home compressor, they won't power squat. 5 and 10 LB CO2 bottles do great. I have rebuilt a trailer suspenstion in a Las Vegas hotel parking lot with one. Galled threads and all. Very portable. I recall a rating or 20 minutes of continous impact use on a fill (I think that was off the Powertank website). If you can get a good deal on getting them refilled (some places are dirt cheap, others a fortune) that is another option. Perfectly dry air (disclaimer-not really air). While not perfect it is a good option if the conditions are right. Limited use, ready to use right now. At one time I had a friend with a dive shop, used a Scuba tank. Doesn't have the run time of CO2. but was easy for me to fill at the time. CO2 is great as it condenses into a liquid so the capacity of the tank is that of a liquified fluid, not a compressed gas. I forget how many hundreds more times the liquid energy is compared to just gas.