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Thread: Suggestions on what type of Air Compressor for building

  1. #1

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    Suggestions on what type of Air Compressor for building

    I am considering starting on a tail kit and would like to know what size/type of Air Compressor are most builders using. There are so many choices, I want to make sure I get the one that will get the job done. Any suggestions would be most appreciated!!!!!

  2. #2
    Mike Switzer's Avatar
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    This is a case of bigger is better, and you will always wish you bought the bigger one. I have an older craftsman 5HP 33 gallon, which at the time I bought it in the early 90s was the biggest they sold, and the largest motor available without needing 3 phase power. The compressor itself is probably big enough, but at times I wish it had a bigger tank (like when I am using the impact wrench on a stubborn nut). At the time my living situation was such that I needed the flexibility of a rollable unit, but if I was to buy one now i would get one with a larger (much larger) tank.

    The 2 biggest things to consider are 1) the air pressure & volume required by the tools you will be using, and 2) the electrical supply available in your shop area. If you don't have 220v in your shop you will have to get it there somehow, and make sure the circuit is big enough. Dad's compressor is a 3/4hp, and when I moved back home for a while my 1HP compressor would trip the breaker.

  3. #3

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    As Mike said, more is better...to a point. Stay away from an oil-less unit if at all possible. The noise will drive you nuts in aboiut 5 minutes. Couple that with the fact that if you are using much air, you will surpass the duty cycle in a hurry. Adding tankage is easy. You can either buy an additional tank from any decent industrial supplier or compressor company, or gang together several of the small 20 gallon portable tanks. If you scrounge well, watch for cheap compressors on craigslist and scavange the tanks from them.

    For most things you will run, ie drills, grinders, sanders....look up the air consumption rates and verify that the compressor you are looking at will support it without struggle. Tool usage rates are generally specified as CFM @ 90 psig. Be very careful in reading the ratings labeled on new units. Often the listed delivery rate is at a lower pressure.

    If you live somewhere that humidity is fairly high, invest in a good water trap and empty it often. You want to minimise the entrained water getting to your tools and your blow gun. It's highly aggrivating to expend a lot of effort to keep an assembly clean while you build it up and then try to dust it off with a blowgun and splatter it with condensate from the air line.

    When you buy, settle on one QD fitting style and stay consistant. It's frustrating to be setting things up and suddenly find that fittings don't properly mate or won't mate or one tool has a fitting that will only mate with a particular hose. There are numerous brands and styles available. Quality ones will last forever and more importantly, will flow consitantly every time they are coupled. Also, buy quality hoses. You will be highly frustrated by the cheap ones. They often have kinking and collapsing problems as well as being fairly thin walled and easily damaged. If you damage one, you usually can't trim the them down and add new ends. I'd start with a a couple of 25 foot hoses as a minimum. I'm down to 3 50 footers now and actually need to get more hose and fittings. With the longer hose lengths, if you have a portable type compressor, you can move it as far away from the work area and keep the noise irritation down. Conversely, if it's a stationary unit, you don't have to invest in fixed air lines initially.

    I'm about to get my big compressor up and running for my shop. It's an early IR T-30 rated at 54 SCFM @ 250 PSIG. It sits on a 120 gallon tank and I have an auxillary tank to add that is made out of a 650 gallon propane tank. I hate having to stop and wait on a compressor to catch up when I doing something that requires lots of air. My blast cabinet is an air hog and this way, the cabinet doesn't stop anyone else from using air.

  4. #4

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    I took a different approach and built my own compressor. Started with an automotive air conditioner compressor. You need the big York piston compressor, not the round vane types, because the piston compressors have oil in the crankcase while the vane compressors require oil in the refrigerant mix... the Yorks were used, I believe, on Fords and AMC (I got mine from an AMC Eagle). It's belt driven by an approximately 1HP motor that a friend gave me, with two forklift size propane tanks (about double the size of a barbecue tank). Relieving pressure switch and safety valve from Mcmaster, gages and associated plumbing from the junk pile, all together on a frame of glued and screwed 2x10's. I have the switch set for 120 psi and a regulator to reduce it to whatever is necessary.

  5. #5
    Mike Switzer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    the Yorks were used, I believe, on Fords and AMC (I got mine from an AMC Eagle).
    Most over the road trucks also used them, as well as Caterpillar & many of the farm tractor manufacturers, up to around the time the refrigerant type changed.

    You can still buy them new, until recently they were made in Decatur IL by Climate Control Inc., now they make them in china.

  6. #6

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    the biggest one you can afford

  7. #7

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    Bigger is better is true for compressors and tanks, but thousands of aircraft have been completed with smaller 120v units. I built, primed, and painted my RV-6 using a 1.5 hp, 20 gallon Craftsman wheeled unit. That compressor still works and is/was a great $200 tool. You can get a better compressor, but you don't really *need* a better compressor.

  8. #8

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    You didn't say which aircraft's tail you're building!

    I have a dinky little compressor like Kyle, and it's plenty "gooder enough" for me, as it runs a rivet gun and I work slow. It also runs a paint gun, but my parts are small and so it doesn't really cramp my style - it usually keeps up with me okay.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

  9. #9

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    Thank you for all the responses to what type of Air compressor to use for building

    I am starting on a Breezer Aircraft - company based in Germany. I picked up the tail kit this past weekend @ Sebring Sport Expo. Looking forward to getting into my project - tooling up at this time.

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