Compressor to Power an Air Sander

Air sanders do a great job, but they use major air. Here's how some cabinetmakers provide for that. March 26, 2008

This question is for the shops that are using air sanders for their finish work. I am looking into a setup that will include a couple of Dynabrade sanders and I am wondering how large and what brand of air compressor would be required.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor T:
Get at least a 5hp 2 stage, with an 80 gallon tank. This will run a couple of Dynabrades, but will work the unit pretty hard. You can hook up an additional tank to take some of the stress off of it. Champion has a good line to look at. I used to air sand years ago, but now I use all electric. Look into getting a Fein sander with vac. They are a little pricey, but sand fast, super clean, and use much less power than air sanders. The shop will stay cooler running these instead of your compressor, too. Festool and Bosch make decent units also.

From contributor K:
With due respect to contributor T, I disagree with his point about adding a second tank to an air compressor. That would only give you a larger reservoir and require the compressor to work longer and harder to keep up with that volume. I have an 80 gallon 5hp unit from Sanborn that runs one Dynabrade very well. It could run two okay, but anything more than that I don't know. I also would like to add that I find electric sanders to be generally heavier and have more vibration, and as a result more fatiguing. I love the Dynabrades. If you are sanding cab doors or products with narrow parts, look into a 3 1/2" Dynabrade. It runs at a higher RPM and is quicker and leaves a nicer finished surface than a 5" or 6".

From contributor R:
It is less efficient to use air sanders, but the reward is the Dynabrade is very user friendly. I do recommend a larger than 5HP compressor though. I have a 7HP and the Dynabrade worked it too hard. Instead of upgrading my compressor, I opted to get a Festool 6" electric. It is heavier but does a nice job. Another downside to electrics is you burn up motor brushes that air sanders don't have. I also bought the Fein 6" orbital electric and it is not near as nice as the Festool. I got rid of it. It jumped all over and sucked itself to larger surface, making it a chore to move about.

From contributor W:
I will never buy a piston type air compressor again! I have one as a backup to my rotary screw. It is quiet and provides never-ending air. I have a 7 1/5 horse Eaton but when I buy another one, it will be at least a 20 horse. The difference is that piston pumps are about 60% duty. Which means they are designed to run 60% of the time. If you are running 2 orbitals on a 5 horse piston compressor, it will run out of air even if it is running all the time. It will also burn out really fast. Rotary screw compressors are 100% duty, so you never have to worry about running out of air or working your compressor too hard. You can find good used rotaries for a couple thousand bucks.

From contributor L:
I run a rotary screw with backup tank that allows us to run our ptp, three sanders (Dynabrades), and bander while someone is spraying glue. There are so many solutions out there, but my opinion is you should take the money spent on a recip and buy a rotary screw packaged unit. The unit comes complete and is literally a plug and play. A friend of mine is stone shop foreman and bought a Chicago Pneumatic from Northern Tools 10HP, packaged at a great price - they have been through four - yes, four - Ingersol Rand 10HP recip compressors - blew rods on all of them. One note, the frame of a 10hp is usually the same as a 15hp and it is very cost effective to buy up on the capacity.

From contributor S:
I don't use the air sanders but I am thinking about going that direction. I do, however, do a lot of glass beading, which uses up a fair share of air. I have a 5 HP Quincy dual stage with an 80 gallon tank and if I don't sit on it for 10 minutes at a time, it will keep up fairly well. I am considering adding another pump only for when I need more air. Check out Harbor Freight for the pumps only. They are so cheap that you can buy a new one every six months and probably be ahead of the game. Other than that I suggest two compressors hooked together and valved so you can isolate one if you don't need that much air.
I absolutely suggest an automatic drain valve. I saw a fairly inexpensive one at (again, I know) Harbor Freight that seems to work off the air only and the bleed valve of the compressor. I personally have an electric one that I plumbed into the drain of my sink and I don't have to worry about water coming out of my hoses anymore.