Cheap compact air compressors worth it?

Discussion in 'The DIY Tool Shed' started by highwaycat, Jul 20, 2018.

  1. highwaycat

    highwaycat Tele-Meister

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    Anyone try those cheap compact air compressors? Are they only good for inflating stuff with air or are they useful for blowing dirt and wood? What about for blowing and cleaning fret slots?
     
  2. trapdoor2

    trapdoor2 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    Dust off.jpg
     
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  3. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    I use a vacuum for cleaning inside amps or frets slots etc. Sometimes the compressor. Not sure which compressor you are talking about though. Small compressors don't keep up with a lot of things, but will do some. My cheap compressor is about 3/4 HP with maybe a 8 gallon tank and it doesn't keep up well.
     
  4. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    The tiniest compressors are useful if you need them to be portable. Cabinet installers and trim carpenters often compete to see who can have the smallest compressor (remember when it was cool to have a tiny candy-bar type cell phone?). However they won't be useful to actually drive air tools unless you're limited to the smallest pin nailers or finish nailers. And for spraying they don't have enough CFM to drive anything bigger than an airbrush. Cleaning with a blast of air will also require the motor to cycle almost constantly to keep up.
     
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  5. PapaWheelie

    PapaWheelie Tele-Meister

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    Just for the sake of versatility, IMO the smallest air compressor you should buy for your shop is the common 2 to 3 gallon hotdog style either oil-less or with oil. They are really practical for smaller jobs. I use mine for blowing dust and cleanup, small spray guns, air brush, and the smaller air tools like brad nailers. Even some of the harbor freight hvlp sprayers work fine for guitar bodies if you let them build up pressure. I believe they are usually in the $90 to $120 range and very portable.
    I have even used mine for running my large framing nailer with no problems if you realize you're only going to be able to use it a couple times before letting it build up pressure again. I have no trouble using it to drive 2" brads.
     
  6. Luthi3rz

    Luthi3rz Tele-Meister

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    My experience with one of the cheap small ones from Harbor Freight was it was super loud. Also it would take a long time to fill up the tank.
    But other than that it worked really well for blasting surfaces free of wood and such. is it worth it? Yeah I mean if that's all you want do.
    The CFM on those small units is pretty low so you're not going to be able to do much else with it.
     
  7. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire

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    I had a pancake Portercable compressor great for the portability running into a house installing baseboard, molding type stuff. That type would be fine for blowing off a project your working on. The biggest problem they recycle constantly and I don't think theres a quiet one to be found. You could buy some nice noise canceling headphones or get an extra 100' of hose and move the compressor outside.
     
  8. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

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    I recently bought one of those $99 porter cable pancake compressors, on sale for $80 I think. 6 gallon, and assembled in the usa ( they do just enough work here to write usa in giant letters on the box, but at least its something). Its noisy, but much faster than the old quiet antique I was using, so I dont spend much time hearing it. I don't run tools off it. I use it to inflate tires, including seating the bead on motorcycle tires I mount, and blowing chips off my metal lathe and mill.
    I have a 400 psi refrigerant reclaimer tank I plan to hook up as an auxillary, but I don't really need it. The advantage of the aux tank is I can keep it full and not worry about rust anytime soon because it's so thick. That pancake tank I expect is thin, so I always leave the drain open after use so it won't rust out right away.
     
  9. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Tele-Afflicted

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    I've got a 12V tiny compressor, oiless, plugs into a utility port. housing got crushed and is gone, just the bare solenoid, and piston/rod exposed! (watch your fingers..) Still working and inflating tires. I think it was my dads...30+ years old...

    Ive also got a 2HP 120V Porter Cable pancake. I put about 80 hrs straight on it the first 2 weeks of ownership painting cabinets 18 years ago. I use it mostly to power a lug wrench and air supply for tire rotations these days. I used to drain it, but just quit over 10 years ago. Also oiless.

    Does anybody experience tool failures anymore? About the only thing I've had happen in decades of abuse, is switches wearing out, and broken conductors in cables (likely from abuse, kinks, driving over cords, grinder marks, melted-away insulation, etc).
     
  10. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Holic

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    I've had the small 3 gallon hobbyist type (still have it) and an 8gal/2hp hot dog type on wheels. The 3 gallon has limited uses. I keep it on my indoors "clean" workbench; it's ok for occasional use blowing dust/debris away and would run an airbrush or gun for staples or small finish nails. The 8 gallon is much more useful. Can run just about any kind of nail or staple gun comfortably. Better for air gun because you can use it more or less continuously rather than just a few blasts then needing to wait to refill the tank. Still marginal for any air tool use.

    Recently I lucked into a free/salvaged 80 gallon tank and motor, just needed compressor and plumbing parts. This is obviously much more capable for using compressed air tools, painting, etc.

    But any air compressor is nice to have. You will wind up using it for things you are not anticipating now.

    Use eye protection because you can blow stuff into your eyes.
     
  11. cap47

    cap47 Tele-Holic

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    I have seen too many of those cheap pancake type go belly up.
     
  12. Joe Sailor

    Joe Sailor Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I have had my Porter Cable pancake compressor for 20 years now. Mostly use it for nailers, including a framing nailer, siding, etc. It cycles but I’m not a production framer.
    I’ve done some spraying with it.
    It’s not ideal, but it works.
     
  13. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    I use a pancake for inflating stuff and blowing dust. Totally worthless for spraying any coatings - not enough CFM for HVLP use (by MILES) and can't hold pressure long enough for convention al spraying.
     
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