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What Is the Best Air Compressor for Woodworking? 7 Things to Look For


In recent years, an increasing number of tools have been air-driven.
As a result, you will need to have an air compressor that has been adjusted for the tools in your workshop. After all, it is the horse that will provide you with the necessary power to operate these tools.

Even if you have almost no air tools in your workshop right now, you will need to consider the best air compressor if you want to add air tools in the future.
Thinking about it today means you’ll be able to get the proper air compressor straight away.

To determine which is the best air compressor for woodworking, you must evaluate them based on the meaning of numerous factors such as:

  • Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM)
  • Air Pressure (PSI)
  • Horsepower (HP)
  • Tank Sizes
  • Single Stage or Two Stage
  • Direct Drive or Belt Drive,
  • Oil or Oil-Less

With this article, I want to assist you in understanding the many aspects of an air compressor and what you should look for when purchasing the best air compressor for your woodworking workshop.

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Why do you need an air compressor for woodworking?

The first thing that most people think of when they think about woodworking is a table saw and a planer.
However, most woodworking tasks require the use of more than just these two tools. To produce high-quality work, woodworkers use a wide range of tools and machines. Air-powered tools are one of them and are becoming increasingly popular.

I also frequently use my air tools in my shop!

When I’m in my workshop and notice how frequently the compressor kicks on while I’m working, it impresses me how much of a role it plays in the construction of my projects.
That’s why I think it’s highly recommended having an air compressor in your workshop too!

You will need an air compressor for woodworking to blow dust away from materials, clean projects, or even clean your workshop. But I think, the reason you need an air compressor most in woodworking, is in combination with a nail gun.

For me, It would be impossible to be without my nail gun when working on my projects.
In my opinion, everyone should have a nail gun, but it isn’t the topic of this article right now. If you want to learn more about nail guns, you may read the article I published about it a while ago.

But there is more than just the use of nail guns as an air tool in woodworking workshops.

I’ve compiled a list of common air-powered tools for woodworkers in this table to give you an idea of what’s available. It also shows the most significant features, such as air consumption and air pressure, that are required to use this equipment. You may use this chart later in this article to help you decide which air compressor is best for you.

Air tool Air consumption L/min Air consumption CFM Operation pressure Bar Operation pressure PSI
Blowguns>300>108115
Nail guns80 – 1703 – 6 6 – 890 – 115
Staplers80 – 1703 – 64 – 860 – 115
Sanders40014690
screwdrivers2308690
Ratchets1154690
Spray guns340 – 40012 – 142- 5 30 – 70
Air consumption & air pressure chart for woodworking air tools

How to choose the right air compressor for your needs?

To pick the best air compressor for your purposes in your workshop, you must compare the many devices available.

Remember, there are no poor brands, only the wrong choices in the type of product you buy.
To avoid this, you will need to understand the most important features. Only that way, based on those features, you can compare different compressors and make the best choice.
Therefore, I clarify each feature individually.

Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM)

When you want to use air tools in your workshop, these tools require a particular amount of air to operate. The volume of air produced by a compressor is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM).

On smaller air compressors, the ones that are most used by DIYers and even some professionals, the most essential CFM rate is at 90 PSI because that is the pressure necessary to run most tools.

Air Pressure (PSI)

PSI (pounds per square inch) is the most used unit in the United States for measurement for air pressure. In the rest of the world, the air pressure will be expressed in Bar.

Most air tools used in woodworking require 90 PSI to operate effectively, You can see that in the chart I included on this page above. However, to provide that 90 PSI at these tools, you will need an air compressor with a higher shut-off pressure.

Many industrial compressors are two-stage, which means they increase pressure to shut-off pressure in two phases. The first stage is roughly 90 PSI, while the second stage can go up to about 175 PSI. The majority of hobby and light commercial duty compressors are one stage and shut off at around 125 – 135 PSI. This appears to be a lot of air pressure, but they normally kick in at about 100 PSI.

When you include the pressure loss caused by constraints in the hose and couplers, you may not have enough pressure at the tool.

Horsepower (HP)

Another thing to look at is the horsepower. The number that represents the horsepower should be a decent method to determine what size of compressor you need.
However, those numbers can be misleading. Manufacturers can use higher numbers than the actual horsepower of the air compressor.

A method to check the horsepower correctness is to check the amount of electrical power required to run the compressor.
A compressor, that requires to be plugged into a normal wall plug, can’t be more than 2 real HP.

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Air compressor Tank Sizes

The air produced by the pumps and motor is stored in compressor tanks. Many people seem to believe that a larger tank is better, but is this truly the case? No, not at all!

It is preferable to look at all aspects of the pump and motor rather than the tank contents. If these are large enough, you can generate enough air to power your air-powered tools. This way, no matter how small the tank is, you will never run out of air.

However, if you only need air on a regular basis, It can be a good idea to choose a compressor with a smaller motor and a larger tank. The main advantage of choosing this type of compressor is that you may save some money on the purchase price.

But before you buy, make sure there will always be enough air in the tank to serve the air-powered tool you are working with. For this, never buy a compressor with a lower CFM rating than your tool’s CFM rating. That way, the compressor can continue to create enough pressure to finish the job.

However, if you want a tool to perform consistently, it must always create enough surplus air when needed.

A smaller tank has the benefit of being more portable and achieving pressure considerably faster.
On the other hand, a bigger compressor with a huge tank in front of it will not start and stop as frequently. These compressors are bigger and less portable, but the wider gaps between air pressures allow the compressor to cool down more effectively.
As a result, it may appear like a huge tank is running less, although this is not the case. Even though a bigger compressor begins and stops less often, the run time is the same as for smaller tank units.

Single Stage or Two Stage

Compressors may be manufactured with two types of motors: single-stage motors and two-stage motors.
This has nothing to do with the number of cylinders, but rather with the manner in which the air will be compressed.
Single-stage compressors will force air directly into the tank through one or more cylinders.

Two-stage compressors, on the other hand, contain at least two cylinders, with the first one compressing the air and the compressed air being pushed into the tank via the other cylinder.

When the task you do or the air-powered tool you use necessitates high pressure, a two-stage compressor can be advised.

A two-stage compressor is not necessarily superior to a single-stage compressor, which is sometimes misconstrued. Because they are manufactured to industry standards, most industrial compressors are two-stage. Most amateurs and DIYers, on the other hand, will be more than satisfied with a high-quality single-stage compressor.

Direct Drive or Belt Drive,

Compressors are available with either a belt drive or a direct drive.

Direct-drive compressors are connected directly to the motor shaft and hence revolve at the same speed as the motor.

These engines typically run at speeds ranging from 1,725 to 3,450 RPM.

The majority of high-quality direct drive compressors are low-speed.

However, most compressors sold in big-box stores operate twice as fast, which means that in order to create these compressors at a lower cost, twice as much air may be compressed.

The disadvantage is that these high-speed compressors sometimes have a life expectancy that is just a fourth of that of a low-speed compressor. Furthermore, these gadgets produce twice the amount of noise.

In addition, there are belt-driven compressors. These are often oil-lubricated, and I will go into further depth about this later in this article.

The benefit of this sort of compressor is that the motor speed will be reduced, thanks to the belt, to the pump’s low rotating speed. Because of the slower speed of the pump, there is less chance of wear and considerably less noise.

The downside of this type of compressor is that it is huge and difficult, if not impossible, to move. This is ideal if you have a permanent location for the compressor in your workshop, but it is less practical if you need to transport it to a construction site.

Oil or Oil-Less air compressor

The majority of direct-drive compressors are oil-free. If you are considering purchasing this sort of compressor, I recommend that you select one with a low speed because this type will last a long time. So, it’s better not to buy a fast oil-free compressor.

There are, however, direct drive oil-lubricated compressors. These are lightweight and portable, making them ideal for transport. Because of the oil lubrication, these types will last longer.

The majority of belt-driven compressors are oil-lubricated. These pumps have a long life but are slightly more expensive.

Are portable air compressors better than stationary air compressors?

Portable air compressors and stationary compressors are two types of compressors, where portable units can be further divided into pancake models and mobile models. Small portable air compressors may be conveniently transported everywhere you need to use air-powered tools.

Because of their size and weight, among other factors, stationary air compressors are immobile and must remain in one location.
Stationary air compressors offer the benefit of being more powerful than portable air compressors in many circumstances.

Because portable air compressors are smaller than stationary compressors, many people feel that they have little capacity, which is not always the case. For tasks that require lower pressure and CFM, a portable air compressor will be perfect and less expensive, which is perfect for most DIY-ers.

In this part, I will go deeper into this, so you can discover what type is best for your needs.

Portable air compressors are best suited for domestic appliances and garage chores.
The somewhat larger portable variants may be fitted with wheels, making them easy to transport anywhere you wish.

The bigger stationary air compressors are primarily used for industrial applications. However, for a DIYer employing an air tool like the one shown in the map above, these units are overcapacity and an overinvestment. But, because every workplace has distinct requirements, you must choose which equipment is most suited for you.

Portable air compressors provide the following characteristics :

Portability: Compact units are lightweight and may be carried anywhere. There are exceptionally tiny compressors available on Amazon, such as this pancake compressor. These are great for little tasks like inflating tires. To make movement simpler, the somewhat bigger versions have wheels and a handle.

Capacity: The majority of these portable air compressors are piston-type and can be single or two-stage. A single-stage air compressor can produce up to 150 PSI of air pressure, while a two-stage portable air compressor can produce up to 175 PSI of air pressure.

Stationary air compressors have the following characteristics:

A bigger tank: Stationary air compressors have a big volume and a variable tank capacity. Because of the size of the tanks, the main disadvantage is that they must be fixed in one location and hence cannot be moved.

Higher CFM: The capacity of stationary air compressors to generate huge quantities of air, indicated in CFM, distinguishes them from smaller portable units.

Higher PSI: Because of their higher horsepower, these compressors can reach higher PSI levels in less time than portable units.

Continuous airflow: Because huge tanks can store more compressed air, a stationary compressor can generate continuous airflow.
Working with paint guns or impact wrenches necessitates this.

Low noise level: As said before, stationary compressors often use a belt-drive, which minimizes the speed of the pump. This enables a stationary air compressor to work quietly. Most air compressors produce around 90 decibels of noise. This may be decreased to 70 dB with stationary units.

How to Compare Air Compressors?

The ideal air compressor for you is one that can accommodate the requirements of your air tools.

That is why it is a good idea to evaluate the three various varieties and select which type, a pancake model, a portable model, or a stationary model, would best fit your demands.

As a result, the table below provides a comparison of these three types, comparing the most relevant average parameters, PSI, CFM, and HP. Using the information in the table at the top of this page, you may select the tool you use or will use and determine which sort of compressor is appropriate for it.

Once you know what type is best for your woodworking workshop, you can compare different brands like Dewalt, Bostitch, Wen, and many others, and select the one that suits you best.

FeaturesPancake compressorsMobile compressorsStationary compressors
CFM0.8 – 12 – 7>7
PSI120 – 150150 – 200>200
HP11 – 2>2
Tank1 – 6 gallons5 – 10>10

As you can see from the comparison table, a pancake air compressor is great when you need to do small jobs like repair tires, toys, or dusting.

For most air tools, such as nail guns or blow guns, a medium-sized portable air compressor is sufficient. There is sufficient PSI, a higher CFM, yet you can easily move the compressor from one place to another.

For air tools where higher pressure and constant airflow is required, a stationary air compressor is the best solution. The disadvantage is that this compressor must be given a permanent place and cannot be taken along. This type of air compressor is, most of the time, not recommended for DIYers because of its overcapacity and size.

Best pancake air compressors

What is the best air compressor for woodworking_ (2)
BOSTITCH BTFP02012-WPK
Features:
  • CFM: 2.75
  • PSI: 90-150
  • HP: N/A
What is the best air compressor for woodworking_ (2)
DEWALT DWFP55126
Features:
  • CFM: 2.6
  • PSI: 165
  • HP: N/A
What is the best air compressor for woodworking_ (2)
Craftsman Air Compressor
Features:
  • CFM: 2.6
  • PSI: 155
  • HP: 1.5

Best mobile air compressors

What is the best air compressor for woodworking_ (2)
Dewalt D55146
Features:
  • CFM: 5.2
  • PSI: 200
  • HP: 1.6
What is the best air compressor for woodworking_ (2)
WEN 2289
Features:
  • CFM: 5
  • PSI: 150
  • HP: 1.5
What is the best air compressor for woodworking_ (2)
Industrial Air IPA1882054
Features:
  • CFM: 5.7
  • PSI: 155
  • HP: 1.5

How to maintain an air compressor

Following the selection of the appropriate air compressor for the project, your next responsibility is to keep the compressor in good working order. By maintaining the air compressor properly, the lifespan can be increased and the number of problems, resulting in lost working hours, be lowered.

The first thing you need to do is, if you have a lubricated compressor, is checking the oil level on a regular basis.

Drain the compressor once a week or after each usage to allow moisture to escape.

To prevent moisture from crawling into the air compressor, keep the compressor in a dry location. Another good idea is to eliminate the moisture problem by utilizing an air filter.


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