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Air Compressor

1433 Views 15 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  abadcliche
I am looking for a small and hopefully quiet air compressor for my home shop to use to dry instruments after cleaning. I have up until this point been taking them to my day job to clean etc. after hours, but I am currently upgrading my home shop to version 4.0, and I've got more than enough instruments-in-waiting for my website to justify having my own air compressor.

Anybody have any ideas? We have an overpowered monster at work, so I don't really have any idea what my minimum goals should be for PSI or CFM for drying instruments.
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I use one of the small pancake compressors with a 4 gal tank...fits nicely in a cabinet under one of my built-in workbenches...I think that I got it from Harbor Freight. I also have a 10 gallon auxiliary tank mounted on the wall. I have set up the aux tank with quik-disconnects, so I can take compressed air elsewhere. In a closed cabinet it is pretty quiet.
Well, I know that home depot and lowes hardware used to carry these small pancake air compressors, that came with a staple gun for I think somewhere in the lower 200's.

I bought one for small project painting and it's worked well. It is a bit loud but I don't think I've ever come across a quiet air compressor. Definately check one out, they aren't so bad, your just going to have to buy an air chuck or whatever people call them.
I used to own a garage. I housed the compressor in an outhouse and piped the air to the workshop. That saved me listening to the noisey thing all day. Try that if you can.
Matt, I have no experience with these, but they seem to be small and quiet.
I don't have a lot of experience with different compressors either, but I find that using a squirter for drying instruments is quite heavy on resources.

My compressor is a basic 8 CFM with about a 6 gallon tank.

I would'nt want specs much less than this. If CFM was much lower then I would want a commensurately larger tank. Otherwise I would not finish blasting a sax before the pressure went unacceptably low.

The compressors in the link above seem to be of very low specs, more like what may be used by a dentist. Quiet operation is a lot easier with such a small machine.

I have my machine in an outhouse, with time clock so it does not recompress at night, and with a hose coming back to my house/workshop.

However a silencing box can be built around the compressor, but effective silencing materials for this sort of sound do not come very cheap.
Here in the UK air dusters are restricted to 3 cfm. No special controls are required. The jet on the duster does not allow higher volumes to pass. To figure out the size of machine you require find out the air consumption of the tools you will be using. If you use more than one at the same time, then the combined total. Air compressors are about 75% efficient. A 100cfm pump will deliver 75cfm of free air. The rule was to factor that in and buy the next one up. After the initial start up a fully automatic compressor will only clunk when you are using air. Just remember that the phone will always ring at this point. Air tools are great. You might want to think about an air powered drill for example. I hope some of this helps
Compressors reveal their tricks to the neophyte only slowly.

You start with a small compressor and an air duster, then you add a drill or orbital sander then they need oil and the air needs de-watered - then a spray gun seems like a good move - but there's the question of the pressure, and the oil - remember the oil?.....

Buy a generous sized sense of humour first.
Thanks for the responses everyone, you've given me a lot to think about.

I live in an 6-unit apt. building in Brooklyn, so that is why quieter is better.

I am on the ground floor, and below me is a basement that I have access to that nobody else uses, so maybe putting it down there and running a hose isn't out of the question.
Belt driven is usually quieter than a direct driven unit. An older belt driven unit can sometimes be found for less than the cost of those cheap new noisy small ones. Might require a new belt and a seal here or there, but they run much quieter and generally have a decent CFM rating. My old 2hp model puts most newer 5+ hp models to shame for capacity and noise.

Try checking Craigslist.
About ayear ago I got tired hauling my larger compresser to a vacation condo that I was remodeling and bought a smaller one from Kragen Auto.
It works well and was in the $30 range.
Look for something like this one.

They are quiet and parts are available, and they put out more air than the modern 5hp jobs.
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General rules are:
Cast-iron oil lubricated are quieter than oiless.

Pay no attention to HP ratings unless it is a high-end industrial grade unit. A 5HP compressor on a 120V 15A line in North America is impossible unless you are resorting to measuring trickery.

The important parameter is the flow rate at what pressure. The compressor should be sized to adequately supply your most air-hungry tool that you want to use with it.

A compressor that is rated to deliver 10 CFM at 40PSI will not deliver 10 CFM at 90 PSI. Plse substitute metric equivalents elsewhere.

A large tank does not compensate for a low compressor flow rate once the tank is exhausted. Now the compressor has to supply the tool and fill the tank.

If you are spraying finishes or similar you will want to consider oil and water traps.
Found one with the NYC markup duly applied:

I'll start looking on craigslist in earnest after the 4th.

Excellent info, guys. Thank you again!
To paraphrase Walter Mitty, the belt driven ones go


the direct drive ones go


The sears unit is good if you can get 220V. I got one used (obviously) for $50, a new belt was about $15.
Mike Myers is going to be playing Walter Mitty in 2009:

I think I've got 220v down in the basement, but my landlord may notice a surge in common area power usage...
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