Small Air Compressor Recommendation - Tools - DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

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Old 07-24-2009, 09:59 PM   #1
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Small air compressor recommendation

Hi, all. New to the DIY forum. Good to be here & glad I found the site - LOTS of helpful stuff here.

I'm in the market for a new air compressor. Specifically, I want it primarily for small-to-medium nailing applications. While framing isn't in my immediate future, it would be nice to have enough "oomph" that if I need to do a little (never know when someone at church or in the neighborhood will call and say, "Could you help me?"). Secondary use would be to run other home-shop tools (probably not sander or sprayer as those take higher volume/cfm compressors than I want to buy), maybe an impact wrench for small jobs (change a tire on a mower or car). Truly, this would be mostly for craft & small-to-medium furniture. As far as frequency of use, "now & then" would be best description - couple hours/month, probably, on average with an occassional extended run (I have a deck that will need rebuilding in the next couple years).

I've been doing some reading. While oil-less compressors are cheaper, the oil-filled seem to last longer. Upright vs horizontal vs pancake seems to be dealer's choice. I want electric, not gas.

My budget is <$250 - preferably if I can get a couple basic nailers for that price, too.

What are opinions of Harbor Freight compressors - keeping in mind my limited use? Here are two I found that still will leave me $$ for a couple of nailers: and While these two are less expensive, they are both oil-filled.

A smaller Craftsman costs more than the HF compressor.

Stepping up a good bit of $$, Home Depot has this three-gun plus compressor kit from Porter Cable: It's a little outside my budget, but I can swing that considering three nailers come with it.

Lowes has a similar one, a Bostitch:

I have no great preference nor do I have a brand loyalty. What I need is a good entry-level air compressor that will let me build small furniture pieces (shelves, desks, tables), weekend projects (picture frames, boxes), and an occassional (couple times a year) heavier-duty application. But, I don't want to save a bunch of money now, just to have to have the thing rebuilt next summer or have to buy another compressor 2 years down the road.

I checked eBay & Craigslist. Problem there is a) most compressors look like they came through hurricane Katrina AND Ike; b) can't see before buying, in most cases; and c) no support if the thing dies.

Recommendations of what you like, thoughts/comments of the ones I mentioned above are appreciated. FYI, I picked these as examples because these stores are near me. So, if you have other suggestions, fire away!



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Old 07-24-2009, 11:01 PM   #2
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I just bought this one from Lowe's for $179. It is for around the house use. So far, the only tool I have used with it is a 18 gauge nailer used to install trim. I'm 60, and not in the best of health. I don't work very fast, or for very long, so I think this will suit me just fine. I doubt if an air sander would work for very long without running out of air.


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Old 07-24-2009, 11:26 PM   #3
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I bought the little Porter Cable in your link about 3 years ago. I've used it with my brad nailer to redo all the trim in two houses; with a hardwood flooring nailer to do about 1,000 sf of maple; and am currently residing my house with Hardi so it's powering both a roofing nailer and a finish nailer. It's been awesome and completely bullet proof, call me impressed.

I've bought a lot of tools over the years and that little red compressor is one of my favorites. (knocking wood right now 'cause I want it to still work in the morning )
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Old 07-24-2009, 11:42 PM   #4
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I bought a H.F., the first pictured, about 6 years ago. Way quieter than the pancake ones, just get the oil bath. The oil-less ones wear out their Teflon valves after some time. You don't realize it as they gradually take longer and longer to fill the tank. But they are lighter. If you don't use it every day it would be OK. Compare the CFM's, and the recovery time, not the operating pressure as most tools don't need much over 100#. Be safe, G
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Old 07-25-2009, 09:36 AM   #5
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I think for what you are going to be doing the Porter Cable is your best bet. I have one that I use for small jobs when I don't feel like dragging my Dewalt around. You can use it to power air tools for automotive work but any small compressor used for that will kick on a lot. For the amount of use it sound like you are going to give it I don't think oilless or oil makes a difference.
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Old 07-25-2009, 12:50 PM   #6
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Did some more homework on the various machines I first mentioned and decided to go with the Stanley-Bostich for two reasons. #1 was price - I found a reconditioned compressor unit with new nailers for almost $100 less than Home Depot (shipping was free, so after tax in store, it would have been $100). Second reason is that the three SB nailers all have a 7 year warranty - the Porter Cable only has a 1 year. (A third reason was that the SB staple gun will shoot a full 2" staple; the PC only 1 5/8). Both units, the SB and PC, are 1-year on the compressor. The Harbor Freight's warranty is only if you purchase the extended warranty and I've read mixed reviews of their oil-filled units. By the time I bought the three nailers at HF, I was over the price of the SB kit!

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Old 08-01-2009, 08:53 PM   #7
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Impact wrenchs use a lot of air. The price point you state won't get you there. Any nailer produced will work in a residential setting for that compressor price.


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