Sanding is a tedious process that requires a combination of a reliable air hose, a durable sander, and perhaps most importantly, a high functioning air compressor. When looking for the best air compressor for sanding, you'll need to find a unit that can provide ideal pressure for high-level performance.
As a general rule, you want to select the air compressor based on the sanding tool's requirements. As an example, a standard orbital sander is a massive air consumer. It'll require an output of 5-to-6 CFM (cubic feet per minute) at 90 PSI for an ideal pressure flow. Even if the label tells you otherwise. However, another option of providing the immense quantity of air this sander requires, would be to purchase an air compressor with a huge pressurized air tank.
Finding the best air compressor for sanding can be an overwhelming task, especially if you're relatively new to working with power and pneumatic tools. We've researched and found three that we think are worth putting on your short list. Here's a quick glance at each, before digging deeper.
3 Best Air Compressors for Sanding
When it comes to choosing the best air compressor for sanding, these are our top 3 picks. However, if you'd like to know our top pick we won't make you wait.
We really like the Porter Cable PXCMLC3706056 Air Compressor, despite its large size and equally large price. If you do a lot of sanding, you'll need the best power tools available, and that means the Porter Cable unit.
The Porter Cable air compressor provides all the specs (high horsepower, large air storage, and great CFM) necessary to fulfill the high demands of an orbital sander, which is one of the most efficient sandiing tools on the market.
With that being said, if you're constrained by your budget, then the Porter Cable air compressor is most likely out of your price range, and one of the other two units may be a better match. However, you may face some issues with the pressure supply if you opt to use a high-end sanding tool, since they generally require high compressor functions.
California Air Tools 10020C
The California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor offers a good blend of power and portability. It has an output rate of 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI (6.4 CFM @ 40 PSI) which is enough capacity to power tools such as air ratchets, 1/2" impact wrenches, and of course sanders. It should be able to handle the majority of pneumatic tools in a typical home garage.
It takes roughly 2-minutes for the 10-gallon steel air tank to fill from empty to 120 PSI, and can recover from 90 PSI to 120 PSI in under 30-seconds. Weighing-in at over 82-pounds, portiblity is not the California Air Tools 10020's strong suit, however, the wheel kit allows for relatively easy movement within a garage or work area.
Outfitted with a 2-horsepower SP-9421 motor, the California Air Tools 10020 air compressor is built for easy repair and an increased duty cycle. You can expect longer continuous run times due to improved heat dissipation. The 3000-hour rated Dual Piston Pump is oil-free and low maintenance.
- Ultra-Quiet operation - Just 70 dB of sound
- Thermal overload protection
- 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI air flow
- Weight: At 82.5-pounds portability is compromised
- Requires a dedicated electrical circuit
The DeWalt D55146 Air Compressor is a solid performer when it comes to sanding projects. You can expect quick recovery with the impressive output rate of 5.0 SCFM @ 90 PSI (6.5 CFM @ 40 PSI). With enough capacity to power tools such as a framing gun, impact wrench and a sander, the D55146 is ready for nearly any pneumatic tool on the job site. It's a great choice for deck building, light roofing and framing, as well as trim carpentry.
The heavy duty 4.5-gallon tank can build to a maximum of 200 PSI in under 30 seconds, and the DeWalt high-efficiency motor drives 1.8 horsepower and draws 15 amps. The oil-free pump requires little maintenance and operates at 1720 RPM and delivers 78 dBs of noise.
DeWalt built the D55146 to not only be a high performing air compressor, but to also be extremely portable. Outfitted with a collapsible handle and 10-inch non-flat foam tires, you'll easily be able to move the unit from one jobsite to another, and weighing only 80-pounds it's not too heavy to lift into your truck.
- Compact, lightweight and portable
- Heavy duty roll cage protects the components, pump and motor
- Tank and output pressure gauges
- Works with a 12 GA or heavier Extention cord (50-ft or less)
- Attachments and hose are not included
- Although it is built to be portable, it's still relatively heavy and may require two people to transport
Porter Cable PXCMLC3706056
If you're serious about using pneumatic tools, then you definitely need to take a close look at the Porter Cable PXCMLC3706056 Air Compressor. Designed as a stationary unit with an output rate of 11.5 CFM @ 90 PSI (13.4 CFM at 40 PSI) with a maximum PSI of 135. If you own pneumatic tools that require large amounts of air, this Porter Cable air compressor is up for the job, and it can easily handle multiple tools simultaneously.
Outfitted with an industrial grade, heavy duty 3.7 horsepower induction motor, and a 60-gallon tank it's unlikely you'll need to stop for refilling, even if you're running multiple high demand tools. The oil lubricated pump can operate on synthetic oil, which will extend the pump life. The oil fill location is easily accessible, and an oil level sight glass makes checking levels a snap.
The Porter Cable 60-gallon air compressor is designed for shop work, and it weighs over 230-pounds. It runs on 17 amps and requires a 25 amp breaker. Despite it's size, it's suprisingly quiet and only delivers 83 dBs of noise. Since it's belt driven it's much quieter than a direct drive compressor.
- The cast iron crankcase offers excellent thermal stability and durability
- Capable of delivering enough compressed air for a small-to-medium sized industrial workshop
- Low maintenance. Synthetic oil lasts 4x's longer than petroleum products which means fewer changes. Simply check the level periodically and change accordingly
- You'll need to purchase a power cord, regulator, and an air filter
- Reasonably priced for it's size, but there's no getting around that this is an expensive air compressor
- Repositioning is difficult. Despite it's small footprint, it isn't easy to relocate. It's heavy, requires a dedicated, high power supply, and should be bolted to the floor.
Selecting the Best Air Compressor for Sanding
If you're new to using air tools, you'll find them to be far more powerful than other more tradional electric tools you've used in the past. One of the biggest advantages of using an air compressor is the ability to get the job done faster due to the higher torque and RPM your air tools can deliver.
Air tools are also versatile and interchangeable. In addition, they have a longer service life than other electric tools, and frequently weigh less. But they are useless without an air compressor. This is why selecting the right compressor for your needs (and air tool requirements) is a critical decision.
Two Considerations When Selecting an Air Compressor
Portability Requirements - Will you be using your air compressor at a job site? or in a garage? Portable air compressors, for example, offer plenty of flexibility, but many don't have the ability to operate a sander. If you need a portable air compressor, you'll want to pay special attention to the level of air flow it can deliver, and whether it matches up with the air flow requirements of your tools.
Power Requirements - Finding an air compressor that can deliver the necessary air flow to run your tools is critical. If your compressor is under powered, you'll be incredibly frustrated. Sandblasters require constant air, so selecting an air compressor for sandblasting which has a larger tank will allow for plenty of airflow. Smaller tools and sanders will most likely be fine with a small air compressor.
The chart below is based on the average CFM @ 90 PSI.
90 to 100
6 to 9
70 to 100
What is an Air Belt Sander?
An air belt sander is a type of sander that is used with an air compressor to help smooth and contour materials. It's handheld, lightweight, and easy to use and control.
Protective gear, including googles, gloves and earplugs should always be used when using an air belt sander. The air belt sander can be connected to any size air compressor.
Prior to using an air belt sander make sure that the air filter and regulator are installed to ensure that the dust extraction component is in place. When the sander is operating, simply press lightly over the area to sand.
What is a Pneumatic Sander?
A pneumatic sander is a smaller, handheld power tool for sanding that is typically lighter than an electric sander because it doesn't have a motor. Since there isn't a motor, pneumatic sanders are usually much quieter than electric sanders, and they can run for longer periods of time.
To use a pneumatic sander, you'll need a decent sized air compressor. The smaller air compressors will continuously cycle since the tank is too small for the amount of pressurized air required. One of the biggest disadvantages of using a pneumatic sander is the lack of ability to collect dust. Since there isn't a connector for the dust you'll have additional clean-up at the end of your project.