What Air Compressor Should I Purchase

By July 30, 2015Tools and Equipment
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What Air Compressor Should I Purchase?

I get asked this question a lot, but there is no one right answer.

I wanted to give you a synopsis about air compressors, and what you will need for running a high-speed engraver.

Air Compressors

Depending on your living arrangements; house, apartment, how much you can spend, or other factors are what will determine what someone can purchase. Assuming that you are in a Home setting you can go with just about anything you want as long as it matches the requirements of the tool.

Noise is a consideration, but if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Right now, I am using a 2.5 hp oil cooled motor with a 26 gallon tank. I purchased it at Harbor Freight. No problems with it, and I have a warranty if something should happen.

As a general rule the larger the motor the better. The larger the tank the less often it will have to fill.

I have used air compressors with as small as a 1.5 hp motor with a 6 gallon tank to what I am using now. The smaller the motor and tank the more it will run, and the more stress it places on the motor. I would not recommend using something with anything less than 1.5 hp. unless the cfm rating is sufficient to handle this load. 
(More on the cfm rating below)


You can also purchase compressors that have no tanks. They run continually to supply air to the hand piece when switched on or used with a foot pedal. Both SCM Systems and Profitable Hobbies offer models like this. Depending on your budget and living arrangements this might be a better option. These units are small, and take up little space if that is a concern for you.

There are also Silent air compressors available. They have an internal muffling system that keeps the noise down.

The two brands that I have used and recommend for silent compressors are:

  • California Air Tools (more reasonable in price, and good quality)
  • Silentaire Technology (more expensive)

Silent air compressors are more expensive, but if you need quiet, these are the best.

This is one of those situations where bigger is better (if it is within your budget). There are so many different factors that go into purchasing an air compressor. Budget, noise, size, function, cost all play a part for each of us.

Basic Average Minimum Requirements For An Air Compressor

These figures are averages only, and the specific requirements for the air compressor will relate to the particular high-speed engraver that you purchase. Each air compressor has minor variations and requirements, and so knowing what those specific requirements are will be beneficial.

In general look for an air compressor with at least a rating of 1.5 CFM at 45 psi. This is the basic standard for high-speed engravers with or without a tank.

There are lots of options out there depending on your budget, space available, noise requirements/restrictions, and wants.

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