Trim Gun Compressor Choices

A good small compressor can pack plenty of power for trim work, light framing, and cabinet installs. April 10, 2009

My compressor started on fire! I have been using a Bostitch 6-gal "pancake" type compressor and it has held up fairly well until recently when it seized up and started smoking! Needless to say I am in the market for a new compressor. I am looking at the Makita MAC2400 and the Dewalt twin stack compressors, but they seem a bit large for what I do (cabinets, laminate counter tops, and some finish work). Can anyone suggest a good compressor? Three of my coworkers have had their Porter Cable pancake compressors literally start throwing sparks and smoking so I think I'll stay away from those.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor R:
I have two Hitachi 2hp twin stack tanks. They are excellent compressors, but kind of hard on the back on a long walk to a job. The next one for me is the Senco PC1010. Itís a very light, 1.5min run on startup, 35 sec cycle. At 20lbs it looks like a good compressor for cabinet installs and light trim.

From the original questioner:
I forgot to state that I do already own the Senco compressor, and it is great for doing small stuff here and there. I use it mainly for callbacks and remodels.

From contributor P:
I had one of those Dewalt twin tube compressors a few years ago. It had a gas engine on it, 5hp I think, and was absolutely the handiest thing I owned. It was heavy, but it was on wheels and the majority of the time I just left it on or next to the truck anyway.

I think the same rule for the shop holds true for the field and that's that you just can't have too big of an air compressor. If I were doing a lot of work outside the shop I'd mount as big a gas powered compressor on a truck or trailer as I could.

From contributor V:
I donít know how much volume you need but our pancake just went out recently. All we use it for is installs and that usually just means crown and trim. We ordered this little tiny Senco and it will actually hook onto your belt. Itís a trip - not hard to carry all over the place.

From contributor D:
I have a couple of the Senco 1010ís and received the ultimate insult from another contractor (framing). He commented it looked like something that fell off of a keychain! Ouch. He also recommended I not buy tools at Toys-R-Us anymore.

After watching me tote it around the house under construction he did gain some respect for the compressor but never cut me any slack about my tool selection. My bigger jobsite compressor is an Emglo twin tank - great machine but very heavy. It has been bolted semi-permanently to a cheap hand truck with pneumatic wheels, allowing it to be hauled around a little easier.

From contributor F:
I have the Hitachi twin tube compressor and it works great if you leave it on the shop floor. Honestly it just got too heavy working in condo's on the second or third floors. Now I use a little Husky compressor from the box store and it's fine for install work. It's small, lightweight, and comparatively quiet, but it does tend to run a lot.

I think the best bet may be what I see a lot of the finish guys do, get yourself a twin tube or similar compressor and leave it outside the home. Then run yourself about 100' of hose or so, and you can go anywhere in the house.

From contributor R:
My little Senco goes with me on every job. My 80 lb. Hitachi is jealous. So, I am forced to keep the Senco in my trailer and the Hitachi stays in the shop. I don't want any sparks flying between those two.

There are limitations with the Senco but that's okay. It still saves my back. I use it for everything when installing kitchens. The only time it can't keep up is nailing repetitively for rough decks. Otherwise, trim and crown are no problem at all. I think it comes down to the macho look vs. the cute look rather than the actual functional differences.

From contributor B:
In the past three months I have been delighted with the Thomas Renegade. We have run up to three hoses while doing trim in the kitchen, framed walls for a remodel and easily carried it from room to room doing punch in an 18,000 square foot home. It is quiet compared to the Emglo 4 gal - one can continue a conversation as it runs, and it never faltered running the framing nail gun. I will by another soon as we start cabinet installs in a condo project.

From contributor L:
The Makita is a fantastic compressor, although quite heavy. The Senco hotdog is lighter, but won't last as long. The little 1010 works fine for a brad nailer and micro-pinner. It's real slow for a finish nailer though.

From contributor J:
I would recommend the Makita 2 hp MAC700. It is awesome, I love it. I also have the Makita 3 hp MAC5200 for the shop. They are great compressors.