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Tool-Test Preview: Compact Compressors

comments (23) December 7th, 2011 in Blogs
JFink Justin Fink, Senior Editor

Help us test compact compressors!Click To Enlarge

Help us test compact compressors!

Help us to help others choose the best compressor

In an upcoming issue, remodeler and Fine Homebuilding author Paul Johnson will be taking an in-depth look at compact air compressors. To narrow the field, we limited our test to models that have tank sizes of 2 gallons or less.

Jenny AM780-HC2

DeWalt D55140

Bostitch CAP1512-OF

Grip-Rite GR100

Grip-Rite GR152CM

Porter Cable C1010

Rolair FC1500HBP2

Senco PC1010

Testing has already begun

Paul is putting 9* qualifying models through their paces. Each tool is being evaluated on everything from durability, capacity, and engineering to weight, size, and much more.

We may not be able to tell you which of the compressors Paul will choose as Best Overall and Best Value, but we can share our list of contenders. That's where you, our faithful readers, come in. 

We want your help

Now, Paul is great at his job, but no individual remodeler is a substitute for thousands of informal tool testers using these compressors day in and day out for years. You are our long-term testers, and we need your help evaluating these tools.

Rate the compressors that you have used in our tool guide

So, if you own, have owned, or worked with any of the compressors on our list, follow the links below to let us know how you like (or how much you don't like) your compressor. You never know, maybe your feedback will become part of Paul's article...



You could be one of three lucky reviewers to win a copy of the 2011 Fine Homebuilding Archive DVD-ROM. With thirty years of how-to and design articles at your fingertips, the archive is a tool no builder, contractor, semi-pro, or serious DIYer should be without.

Please follow these links to the tool guide and review any of the compressors that you have worked with. From all the reviews received by 11:59pm on Friday, February 24th, three winners will be chosen at random and announced on March 1st.

*There will likely be a Campbell Hausfeld model included in the review, but we are still determining which model is the best challenger for this competitive group.

Also, you'll probably notice the blatant omission of Thomas compressors from the list, especially since they have traditionally ranked so highly in our tests. Unfortunately, Thomas isn't in the position to meet manufacturing demands, and felt it was best to decline participation in this test.

posted in: Blogs, compressor

Comments (23)

Mattmorr Mattmorr writes: Makita MAC700 has treated me well so far. It mostly just gets DIY use, but it did quite well with a framing nailer on my backyard fence job. For such a small capacity, it did really well!
Posted: 7:34 am on August 22nd

Jefe26 Jefe26 writes: Hi, I would just like to add that it's a shame that Thomas compressors are not in the test. Between the guys I build with we own two of the smaller compressors and one large double tank unit for framing. They are solid, quiet, and durable performers that are of higher quality than anything else we have used or had others inflict upon us. Check out a Thomas compressor if you want the best.
Posted: 11:33 am on May 1st

Harold63 Harold63 writes: I also have the Makita Mac700. Very good compressor. Solid construction. Compact design fits well in my truck and easy to carry around. Oil based motor which typically means a less noisy machine.
Posted: 8:02 am on February 19th

Mattmorr Mattmorr writes: I just ordered the Makita Mac700 based on user reviews. If I do a review on it, do I still get entered into the drawing for the Archive DVD?
Posted: 8:24 am on February 15th

bigrsc bigrsc writes: I'm not sure about these compressors but all I can tell everyone " Don't waste your money on any CRAFTSMAN ONES"!
Posted: 5:47 am on February 13th

finefinish finefinish writes: I was just raving about my little Senco that I bought 8 years ago to a co-worker. I have used and abused that little bugger and it has never let me down. At the time it came with the 18 gauge brad nailer for $169.00. Not too shabby. In the time I've had the Senco compressor, I've burned through 2 Porter Cables and 1 Bostitch. My only other compressor is a larger Thomas Air-Pac which has also been bombproof. I can't imagine buying any of the others offered. They are almost disposable.
Posted: 5:12 pm on February 2nd

energycarp energycarp writes: I agree, the Makita MAC700 should be included in this review! Yes it is heavy at 50lbs. and is an oil based compressor...but it's super quiet (80db), fills to full pressure (130 psi) in about a minute and kicks in from 100 to 130 psi in 15 seconds. It's "volume" is rated at 3.3 cfm @ 90 psi....this is a pretty slick compressor.
Posted: 7:22 pm on January 31st

Red Harmony Red Harmony writes: I own 5 compressors, but ninety five percent of the time I use the Mac700 because it is quiet, small and powerful. In my past experience: Porter Cable = junk, Campbell Hausfeld = junk, Grip Rite is illiterate and not around long enough to tell yet, most Bostitch is meant for homeowners, though some of the old ones are great.
Rol-air DeWalt and Makita are generally available and reliable, and most important they can be quiet, if you get the right model. Over and over your participants point to noise level as the most important consideration. Please focus on it. And don't leave Makita out.Though the seven hundred isn't perfect (unbelievably heavy for its size, and bound to tip over and spill oil in the back of the truck if not restrained)it is generally the best for its size and price. Don't leave it out of this review or the review itself will be compromised in its utility.
Posted: 10:31 am on January 28th

Wiremanjon Wiremanjon writes: Include the Makita Mac700 in your test. It's the best compressor in it's class.
Posted: 12:43 pm on January 25th

JCP_KES JCP_KES writes: It's unfortunate that the Makita Mac700 is excluded from the roundup. It seems to get very good reviews and I'd consider it in the same field.
Posted: 6:50 am on December 22nd

dan_k103 dan_k103 writes: This is for the comment "rf_engineer_5" posted: 10:13 pm on December 7th

You most likely have a leak in your air line somewhere. I have the MAC700 as well and it takes a minute or two max to get up to pressure (approx 120-130 psi). I used it w/a PEX stapler that I rented and the thing took forever to build pressure. I knew the PEX gun had a slight leak (I could hear it leaking when connected) but I didn't think that would cause the compressor to take forever to build pressure.

I disconnected the PEX gun and then it built up pressure immediately. I also have never had this issue when using my framing nailer or when just the hose is connected to the compressor. Try disconnecting your air-hose @ the compressor and see if that helps.

Once the MAC700 got up to pressure, I can connect the leaky PEX stapler and use it fine, it can also recover (kicks on at 90 psi and builds to about 130psi tank pressure) w/out any just can't start from 0 psi w/the leaky gun.

Posted: 11:35 am on December 19th

DanMorrison DanMorrison writes: This is great, we've had three people put reviews in the tool guide. Coincidentally, they all reviewed the Senco.

Thanks for adding to the Tool Guide. We'd like to add enough reviews to make this a useful little tool in itself.

Posted: 9:41 pm on December 17th

LocalHero LocalHero writes: Looking at the specs of the compressors in the review, the Bostitch is listed as 23.5lbs and offers 2.8cfm @ 90psi. Is that accurate? If so it would be about triple the cfm that others in that weight range offer.
Posted: 9:37 am on December 14th

LocalHero LocalHero writes: Maybe a couple of years ago you ran a compressor test and it wasn't very clear on decibel levels of the compressors but it was clear from comments that that was an important factor. Are you able to get some accurate db data for the compressors in this review?

Posted: 9:28 am on December 14th

sledge sledge writes: I recently purchased the Makita Mac700 based primarily on reviews I read in the last test of these little compressors. I see that it is not being tested in this article.

Whats up??
Posted: 2:43 pm on December 12th

DanMorrison DanMorrison writes: So DC, are you going to cut and paste that review into the tool guide for us?
Posted: 8:49 am on December 12th

byhammerandhand byhammerandhand writes: I've been using the Campbell Hausfeld Maxus EX2001 Xlite Aluminum Air Compressor for about 3-4 years now. It's everything you could want in a compressor -- quiet, light, very portable, "outlet friendly," easy to stow, and the drain water is clear because the tanks don't rust. There is a big brother to this model, that, if I remember correctly, has a slightly bigger motor & compressor. Most of my work is less than 100 fasteners at a time, so I didn't think I needed a larger one.
Posted: 7:35 am on December 12th

Dreamcatcher Dreamcatcher writes: I have the Senco PC1010 and I really like it. I have had it in professional use for about 5 yrs. without a single problem. I still remember my first time using it; I was trimming a kitchen and had it right next to the island and when it kicked on the HO asked if my compressor was in another room down the hall... yes, it really is that quiet. And it's very light weight. I'd almost bet it weighs less than a framing nailer. Not to mention it was only $120 at the time and came with a 23ga pin nailer (my first) man I love that pin nailer!

I am quite surprised not to see anything from Husky on the list. I trimmed a couple houses using a co-worker's 2 gal. Husky ( model#2G110DPNG) and found it to be a very nice little compressor.... especially for $60.

Posted: 10:18 pm on December 10th

tomas tomas writes: I have the MAX POWERLITE AKHL1050E which is definitely compact
and falls into the 2 gallons or less range.
This compressor is BRILLIANT!!! and will also work with 100-120psi tools.
You should definitely include this in your review.
Ok it is on the pricey side but they are CHEAP in the US.
In Australia they cost US$4000.00
Posted: 5:18 am on December 9th

mrsidejob1 mrsidejob1 writes: I have the DeWalt 55141 and it is currently at the service center for the third time for the same problem, blown seal. However I would buy this unit again for is compact size and ability to keep up with my trim guns.
Posted: 7:09 pm on December 8th

Danjer Danjer writes: I have the 2 gallon, .5 HP Thomas Air Pac, and I love it. Very quiet. Not sure what is happening with the Thomas brand though. Did they give up on these products?
Posted: 10:34 am on December 8th

rf_engineer_5 rf_engineer_5 writes: frogranch

I have the same Makita compressor. I like the compressor but it does take a long time to come up to pressure. I usually have to wait about 15-20mins before use. Is that your experience?

FHB should post how long all of the compressors take to get to a typical setpoint for running say a trim gun. Maybe 100psi? That would be a good method of sorting out details that are never reported in the datasheets.
Posted: 10:13 pm on December 7th

frogranch frogranch writes: Love my Makita MAC700, quiet, small and provided my basement wood shop with enough power for my Bostich guns and many other uses (blowing out my camper water lines). Easy to cary and cool paint job.
Posted: 12:02 pm on December 7th

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