If you’re shopping for a new air compressor, there are a lot of manufacturers out there and that can be a bit overwhelming. The following is a brief survey of both familiar and newer brand names, along with their website addresses so you can do some further research.
It’s a good idea to make a list of requirements before starting, just to narrow the field. For example, are you looking for electric- or gas-powered? If it’s electric, will it need to be 115-, 208-, 230- or 460-volt, single or 3-phase? Will the compressor be stationary or wheeled? Should the tank be vertical, horizontal or duplex? What size reserve do you need (how many gallons in the tank)? Do you want an aftercooler? How about an automatically draining tank?
If some of those questions are confusing, you might want to begin the journey at air-compressor-guide.com, and click on “Air Compressor Buying Guides.” Another great resource is about-air-compressors.com, which has a lot of basic information on things like the difference between pistons and screws.
Rolair Systems (www.rolair.net) has been building air compressors since 1959 at its plant in Hustisford, Wis. The catalog includes a comprehensive line of products from hand-carry to both wheeled and stationary gas and electric units. This company builds compressors and nothing else and its website is very easy to navigate.
FS-Curtis (http://us.fscurtis.com) operates out of a 144,000-sq.-ft. facility in St. Louis and manufactures air compressors from 1/3 to 300 hp with reciprocating, oil-injected screw and water-injected screw technologies. The company has recently added new variable-speed stationary units to its lineup. Ranging from 25 to 50 hp, the new compressors are controlled by a variable-speed drive to match energy consumption to demand. In addition, FS-Curtis’s iCommand touch controller is now standard on its 18-37 kW variable speed units at no additional charge. This feature provides a full-color screen that displays graphs to capture and track factual, real-time air usage by the hour, day, week and month. Historical data can be retrieved at any time with a touch of the screen. The collected data can have an impact on peak power usage choices, depending on the electric utility’s pricing structure. It also allows a woodshop to determine its pneumatic requirements more precisely, and plan accordingly.
BE Pressure (www.bepressure.com) is a third-generation, family-owned business located in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Its air compressor line includes direct and belt-drive models plus wheeled, stationary, rotary screw and oil-free units.
Campbell Hausfeld (www.ch-commercial.com) has a very handy tool on its website — an app called a “wizard” that helps a woodshop owner choose the right compressor for a shop. It covers the basics of compressed air and compressor terminology, power source options (electric, gas, etc.), how to calculate the shop’s compressed air demand, storage tank sizing and a roundup of features that the company provides to simplify operation and maintenance issues. This company offers a comprehensive array of rotary screw and two-stage models.
BelAire Compressors (www.belairecompressors.com) has a full range of piston and rotary screw compressors, as well as a complete line of accessories. The company’s Contractor models are available with electric or gas drive, delivering up to 25.3 cfm at 100 psi.
Champion Pneumatic (www.championpneumatic.com) is located in Quincy, Ill., and has been building compressors for more than 85 years. Champion has a huge support system with more than 800 distributors/service centers and a product line that includes just about every option from oil-free reciprocating models to 10-hp rotary vane compressors.
Atlas Copco (www.atlascopco.us) is a large multinational corporation that offers a range of small-capacity, oil-free compressors under the brand name LFx, with capacities that range up to 5.36 cfm. They come with a choice of single- or 3-phase motors and a maximum working pressure of 10 bar (145 psi). This company also owns Chicago Pneumatic (www.cp.com), which has been in business since 1894, and has been part of Atlas Copco since 1987.
Craftsman (www.sears.com) offers five models in its “professional” line, ranging from 25- to 80-gallon storage tanks and 1- to 5-hp, single-phase motors.
DeWalt (www.dewalt.com) offers 14 compressors and they run the gamut from a one-gallon hand carry trim unit to the new 80-gallon, two-stage, 7-1/2-hp stationary model that delivers 17.9 cfm at 100 psi. The motor is 230-volt AC and draws 60 amps.
Eagle Air Compressors (www.eaglecompressor.com) is a line of product from Wood Industries in Belmont, Miss. The company manufactures several brands including Eagle, Iron Horse and MaxAir. Among its offerings are small-carry and direct-drive units, portable electric and gas driven compressors, truck-mount units for doing installations, rotary screw, stationary, single and two-stage models. The six newest Eagle compressors are all portable and designed for job-site work. Four of them are variations on the company’s Hot Dog model and range from a 1 cfm at 100 psi (1-gallon) pick-up-and-carry unit to a wheeled 6 cfm at 100 psi (6-gallon) model with a built-in dolly.
Emax USA (www.emaxcompressor.com) is based in Dayton, Ohio, and is adamant about not using parts from China in its product line. The company has 23 employees and manufactures compressors designed for industrial duty, including rotary screw systems up to 200 hp and cast-iron piston units up to 30 hp. (If your shop compressor is cycling all day to keep up with demand, it might be time to switch from pistons to rotary screw.) Emax’s latest introduction is Silent Air, a low-rpm, high-cfm system that includes the Whisper noise suppressor that significantly reduces noise levels, even on stationary vertical models.
California Air Tools (www.californiaairtools.com) in San Diego manufactures ultra-quiet and oil-free models that are well-suited to casework installation jobs, where sound is a factor.
Grip-Rite is a trade name for PrimeSource Building Products (online at www.grip-rite.com), and the brand is familiar to woodworkers because of its gray boxes of nails and screws. But the Irving, Texas, company also offers a line of seven compressors, two of which are wheelbarrow units outfitted with Honda gas engines.
C-Aire (www.c-aireinc.com) is based in Dresser, Wis., and has been around for more than 30 years. The company offers 16 different models, each of which is hand-assembled. C-Aire has a strong reputation for customer service.
Ingersoll Rand is a familiar brand that is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, but has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1906. The company operates about 50 manufacturing plants worldwide and the U.S. corporate center is in Davidson, N.C. The complete IR catalog of air compressors can be found at www.ingersollrandproducts.com, under “Air Compressor Solutions.”
Thomas AirPac compressors (www.docs-llc.com) are made in the U.S. at a plant in Sheboygan, Wis.
Quincy Compressor (www.quincycompressor.com) is located in Bay Minette, Ala., and has been building air compressors since the 1920s. Quincy offers full lines of rotary-screw and oil-free models.
The Mi-T-M campus, located in Peosta, Iowa, spans more than 1 million sq. ft. The company website (www.mitm.com) currently lists 58 different air compressors.
PowerPro compressors are available through Power Equipment (www.powerequipmentdirect.com) and other retailers such as Sears.
Makita (www.makitatools.com) offers two wheeled compressors (one gas, one electric), and three pick-up-and-carry units.
Oasis Manufacturing (www.oasismfg.com) makes vehicle-mounted models and says it offers “the only 12-volt DC- and 24-volt DC-powered air compressors in the world capable of running a 1/2” impact wrench without a tank.”
Schulz of America (www.schulzamerica.com) is an Acworth, Ga., manufacturer with Brazilian origins that offers full lines of piston, oil-free and screw compressors.
Kaeser Compressors makes larger rotary screw compressors, Mobilair portable compressors, and oil-less reciprocating compressors. Based in Fredericksburg, Va., the website is www.us.kaeser.com.
Husky air compressors (www.huskyaircompressor.us) are produced by Campbell Hausfeld and Nu Air Corp. exclusively for Home Depot.
Puma Industries (www.pumaairusa.com) is based in Memphis, Tenn., and provides a complete line of compressed air solutions, from casual use to industrial.
Ridgid (www.ridgid.com), sold by Home Depot and Grainger among others, has a 5-gallon stationary model and an 8-gallon jobsite gas compressor.
PowerMate (www.powermate.com) offers an online air compressor selection guide that walks even a novice through the jungle of product choices.
Pulsar (www.pulsar-products.com) is an Ontario, Calif. brand that includes 2- through 28-gallon models.
Kobalt, sold through Lowe’s (www.lowes.com), includes eight single-stage models.
Jenny Products (www.jennyproductsinc.com) offers hand-carry plus single- and two-stage wheeled units.
Schrader (www.schraderinternational.com) carries gas-powered compressors in single- and two-stage configurations, industrial units at 15 and 25 hp and a range of medium duty and professional models ranging from 5 to 10 hp.
Mattei Compressors (www.matteicomp.com), which has an assembly plant in Baltimore, is an Italian company that has been in this business since 1919. Mattei actually pioneered the development of the rotary vane compressor in 1958, and offers larger solutions to woodshops.
Speedaire is a trade name used by Grainger compressors (www.grainger.com).
Stanley Bostitch (www.bostitch.com) offers a number of very portable and job-friendly lightweight models, plus 26-gallon vertical and 6-gallon horizontal stationary units.
Hitachi (www.hitachi-america.us) supplies large, industrial units.
Porter-Cable (www.porter-cable.com) has 17 models, ranging from a quiet trim compressor to an 80-gallon two-stage.
Senco (www.senco.com), has been in business since the 1930s and began manufacturing pneumatic fasteners in Ohio in the late 1960s. The company is an industry leader in pneumatic solutions and currently offers 11 compressor models, all of which are well-suited to woodshop installation needs.
There is a handful of other brands on the market and most of those are actually rebranded versions of compressors made by one or another of the companies listed above.
For contact information, please visit our online Resource Guide at www.woodshopnews.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue.