Best Air Compressor for Sandblasting

Best Air Compressors For Sandblasting (7+ Top-Rated in 2023)

Sandblasting can be a necessity when it comes to restoring old metal projects or preparing surfaces for painting. It can remove rust, heat marks, and even paint from any metal surface to give it a new look.

However, you’re going to need a proper air compressor to deliver the optimal air volume to your sand blaster.

I’ll explore the best air compressor for sandblasting, the different types of air compressors, and much more. Let’s dig in!

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Things to Consider When Purchasing an Air Compressor

When purchasing an air compressor, it’s critical to consider several factors before putting any money down.

Price

Price is the first thing I recommend considering when purchasing an air compressor for sandblasting. Although there are plenty of affordable options out there, the strongest air compressors will cost thousands of dollars.

Well-known brands like DeWalt and CRAFTSMAN make amazing electric air compressors, but they aren’t always the most affordable.

You may also want to look for sale opportunities on more expensive products. Although they don’t happen too often, it’s critical to be ready. Father’s Day, Christmas, and Labor Day are all excellent times to hunt for an air compressor sale.

If you want a quality project, you may need to spend a good chunk of money on a quality air compressor. It’s worth it to spend more now, rather than creating additional expenses if you have to fix a failed sandblasting project.

CFM

Another item to consider is the CFM, or cubic feet per minute.

CFM is critical because it can impact the effectiveness of your sandblasting. The lower the CFM, the less air pressure your compressor will produce making it more difficult to get the right air flow for your job.

Air compressors can be all over the place when it comes to this value. It’s critical to remember that just because an air compressor is large does not mean it has a high CFM.

The low end of the CFM spectrum hovers around three to five. You want to aim for at least ten CFM – and even that may not be enough for the most effective job. Ideally, your air compressor of choice should be at least twenty CFM.

Sandblasting requires a high-intensity output of air. The higher the CFM, the more effectively you can get the job done. Don’t settle for anything weaker than ten CFM if you want an easy job.

Gas or Electric

Another item to consider is whether the air compressor is gas or electric.

This can make a big difference when dealing with the operation and maintenance of the machine. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, particularly with sandblasting.

Many people love electric models for a few reasons. They don’t require as much of a cleanup thanks to their lack of fuel. They also cost less, as there is minimal maintenance required. There are no dangerous fumes in the air with an electric-powered air compressor. 

On the other hand, some people prefer gas-powered systems. They might cost more than the electric option, but they are often a more powerful air compressor that will make your job easier. Gas air compressors typically boast high CFM, PSI, and horsepower.

Of course, it’s up to you to determine what you value most in an air compressor. Do you want to gas avoid fumes in the air? Do you want the convenience of just plugging in your air compressor and starting? Or do you want a compressor that offers maximum air pressure and power?

Nozzle Size

Nozzle

Nozzle size is another factor many people overlook when selecting an air compressor for sandblasting.

If you want a high CFM, there needs to be enough room for the air to come out of the tank. The larger the nozzle, the more pressure you will find coming from your compressor.

Here are a few examples of nozzle size and the CFM you can expect:

  • #2 Nozzle: ⅛ inch orifice, 18.5 CFM
  • #3 Nozzle: 1/16-inch orifice, 41 CFM
  • #4 Nozzle: ¼ inch orifice, 74 CFM
  • #5 Nozzle: 5/16-inch orifice, 126 CFM

The pressure continues to rise as the diameter of the nozzle increases.

The more CFM, the better when dealing with a sandblasting project.

It’s critical to determine the size and needs of your work to decide on the minimum CFM necessary for a successful project. Once you have a number, you can determine the air compressor that fits your budget and needs. Nozzle size is often forgotten – but I think it’s vital to success.

Capacity

If you want to complete a sandblasting project, you need to be ready for a lengthy process. Unfortunately, even if you are prepared, many air compressors are not because of capacity issues.

If your compressor has a low tank capacity, you might find yourself waiting for it to fill back up. This can longer than you’d like if your compressor isn’t powerful.

I think capacity is one of the most critical components of an air compressor, especially when sandblasting.

The higher the capacity, the better off you will be. Of course, it’s critical to note that a high capacity air compressor may not be as portable and they also tend to be more expensive than their counterparts.

Horsepower

Horsepower is another factor many people consider when purchasing an air compressor for sandblasting. It falls in the same ballpark as CFM – without high horsepower, you may have trouble getting the job done. However, many consider CFM to be a better indicator of power than horsepower.

It’s critical to note that horsepower ratings have shifted over time. An older model might look a little different than a newer model in operation, even if they have the same horsepower out of the box.

While horsepower is important, I don’t thinks it’s necessarily a dealbreaker as long as the unit offers a solid CFM rating.

Use Time

How often are you planning on using your air compressor? Will it be something that goes to work several times a year, or will it be a one-time thing? It’s vital to consider your use time to determine which air compressor is worth your money.

The more often you plan on using the air compressor, the higher the duty cycle. If you only plan to use it a few times a week, you can invest in an air compressor option with a 50/50 duty cycle.

Putting thousands of dollars into a tool you will use many, many times will be well worth the investment. If you only want to use it once, get one that will work just well enough to get the project done. There are different price points associated with various uses.

7 Best Air Compressors for Sandblasting

I’ve picked seven air compressors that are great for sandblasting. These air compressors are hand selected to deliver great air pressure that’s essential for sandblasting.

Northstar 20-Gallon Portable Compressor

Sale
NorthStar Portable Electric Air Compressor - 2 HP, 20-Gallon Vertical Tank, Super-Quiet Operation, Oil-Free Pump, 5.4 CFM @ 90 PSI
2 Reviews
NorthStar Portable Electric Air Compressor – 2 HP, 20-Gallon Vertical Tank, Super-Quiet Operation, Oil-Free Pump, 5.4 CFM @ 90 PSI
  • 2 HP, 20-gallon portable electric air compressor delivers 5.4 CFM @ 90 PSI; 6.7 CFM @ 40 PSI
  • Oil-free dual piston pump produces cleaner air for tools and maintenance-free operation
  • Compressor runs very quietly at only 70dB
  • 2 HP, 115V, 13.5 Amp, 1750 RPM electric motor has low amp draw for easier starts
  • 10in. non-flat tires and handle provide stable and easy transport on jobsite

If you are on the hunt for a portable air compressor for sandblasting that can produce the power needed for sandblasting equipment, the Northstar 20-Gallon Portable Compressor is your answer.

This is also a moderately priced option priced at around $620 on Amazon. I appreciate the portable and space-saving qualities of this compressor so if you don’t have a ton of room in your woodshop or garage, this could be the best air compressor for you.

This compressor is slightly smaller than some other options with a 20 gallon tank capacity, but this should be more than enough to get the job done.

What I Liked:

  • Medium capacity – 20 gallons
  • Very powerful
  • The wheels make it easy to move

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Slightly higher priced than other options
  • Can be loud

My Thoughts

In my opinion, the Northstar 20-Gallon Portable Compressor is the perfect mix of affordability, capacity, and power. This is a great air compressor for sandblasting that I would highly recommend if you need a larger capacity than a pancake compressor can hold but you don’t want to spend a fortune.

DeWalt Two-Stage 80-Gallon Compressor

DEWALT 80 Gallon 7.5HP 175PSI Vertical Stationary 2 Stage Air Compressor (DXCM803.COM)
  • Cast iron, 2 stage, oil lubricated pump & Heavy duty 240 volt induction motor
  • 80 gallon tank is ASME certified to meet all safety standards
  • Durable wire formed belt guard to protect vital components
  • Shipped with synthetic oil for optimum pump performance and long life
  • Equipped with tank pressure gauge and pressure switch

Another nne of my favorites is the DEWALT Two-Stage 80-Gallon Compressor, which goes for $2,500 on Amazon and Home Depot.

This is the best air compressor for sandblasting for several reasons.

First, it has a large tank that can generate and store 80 gallons of compressed air – which is important because you need a large volume of compressed air for sandblasting.

With a 7.5 horsepower motor, it can generate up to 175PSI of air pressure – making it perfect for sandblasting.

This electric air compressor has everything you need: power, capacity, and a quality build that’s made to last for decades.

The only downside is the price. However, if price isn’t your biggest concern, this is my favorite option.

What I Liked:

  • Extremely powerful – 175 PSI
  • Large capacity – 80 gallons
  • Quality build

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Not easily moveable

My Thoughts

The DEWALT Two-Stage 80-Gallon Compressor is a great air compressor for sandblasting thanks to it’s large capacity, power, and quality build. This air compressor will last for years and is well worth the money if you sandblast often.

DEWALT Pancake Compressor

DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126)
4,480 Reviews
DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126)
  • 165 max PSI 6.0 gallon tank (22.7 L) and 2.6 SCFM delivered @ 90 PSI pump, enable long tool run time with quick recovery for the portable air compressor
  • High efficiency motor of the electric air compressor is made for easy start up in cold weather or extension cord application. [14 ga or larger, 50 ft. (15.2 m) or less]
  • 78.5 dBA noise level of the 6 gallon air compressor is made for a quiet work environment
  • High flow regulator and couplers of DEWALT portable air compressor are designed to maximize air tool performance
  • Long life oil free pump for maintenance free operation

The DEWALT Pancake Compressor offers a unique shape for sandblasting with the pancake design.

I love the quietness and portability of this machine. Despite the size, you can still unleash a decent amount of air pressure at 165 PSI.

This pancake air compressor is another great option if you don’t have a ton of space but need to power your sandblaster. It can hold 6 gallons of air, which is enough for most sandblasting tasks.

What I Liked:

  • Very affordable
  • Portable

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Not as powerful

My Thoughts

If you want a good mix of affordability and power, the DeWalt Pancake Compressor is your best bet. Compared to the Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor, this one delivers more PSI and is priced similarly. Also, DeWalt is a good brand known for manufacturing quality products.

CRAFTSMAN Pancake Air Compressor

CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K) & Camco Blow Out Plug With Brass Quick Connect-Aids in Removal of Water From Water Lines (36143)
  • Product 1: 6 gallon pancake maximizes portability and stored air
  • Product 1: Durable, oil free pump for long life and no maintenance
  • Product 1: 150 max PSI to ensure adequate cut in pressure for a variety of applications
  • Product 1: 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI allows for quick compressor recovery time. Voltage – 120 volt
  • Product 2: Aids in removal of water from water lines

The CRAFTSMAN Pancake Air Compressor is another option for those who love this shape and size, available for around $180 on Amazon.

It’s a great portable air compressor that provides stability, so you don’t have to worry about the machine falling over. It also doesn’t need oiling, so there is less maintenance than other machines.

What I Liked:

  • Affordable
  • Portable

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Not as powerful
  • Low capacity

My Thoughts

If you’re looking for an affordable air compressor that will get the job done, this one is a great option. While I wouldn’t purchase this one if you plan on sandblasting every week, it can get the occasional project done.

Quincy QT-54 Reciprocating Air Compressor

Next is the Quincy QT-54 Reciprocating Air Compressor, which goes for $2,500. I love this compressor for sandblasting because it’s made in the USA and is very powerful with a 5 horsepower motor.

With a pump life of over 50,000 hours, it offers durability and reliability, making maintenance affordable for any owner.

It’s worth noting that this is a single phase air compressor, which means you’ll actually generate more CFM than a two-phase compressor. It produces great air volume that can power heavy duty sandblasting jobs.

What I Liked:

  • Large capacity – 60 gallons
  • Powerful single-phase system

What I Didn’t Like:

  • More expensive

My Thoughts

This is another solid large-capacity air compressor for sandblasting, but it’s hard to recommend over the DeWalt 60-gallon option. It’s priced similar but you don’t get the name brand of DeWalt. It’s still a great option for both large and small sandblasting jobs.

California Air Tools CAT 4620 Air Compressor 

CALIFORNIA AIR TOOLS CAT-4620AC 4GAL 2HP Twn Compressor
  • Ultra Quiet only 70 Decibels
  • Powerful 2. 0 HP (Rated/Running) Motor
  • Oil-Free Pump for Less Maintenance & Costs

If you’re looking for the best air compressor at a great price, the California Air Tools CAT 4620 Air Compressor is an awesome option.

I recommend this tool because of how quiet it is – it only produces seventy decibels making it perfect for your garage.

It’s also lightweight and oil-free, making transportation and maintenance simpler than other air compressors.

What I Liked:

  • Very quiet
  • Oil-free pump
  • Portable

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Smaller capacity – 4 gallons

My Thoughts

This is a decent air compressor that offers a portable design and is very quiet. It is powerful and great for sandblasting. However, for the money, I’d just go with the DeWalt or Craftsman Pancake compressors for about half the cost.

California Air Tools 10 Gal Air Compressor

Sale
California Air Tools 10020AC Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free 2.0 Hp, 10.0 Gal. Aluminum Tank Air Compressor
  • Ultra Quiet only 70 Decibels
  • Oil-Free Pump for Less Maintenance & Costs
  • 10. 0 Gallon Rust-Free Aluminum Tank with Wheels

If you want a medium sized air compressor for sandblasting, this 10-Gallon California Air Tools option is definitely worth considering.

This compressor is quieter compared to other similar sized options which might be the difference maker for some people.

I like this option for someone who doesn’t want the cheapest option, but also doesn’t want to break the bank. It’s a great mid-tier compressor for sandblasting that will get the job done.

What I Liked:

  • Higher capacity – 10 gallons
  • More affordable
  • Easily portable with wheels

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Not quite as powerful as other options

My Thoughts

This is a great medium capacity air compressor that has a pretty solid mix of capacity, power, and affordability. It’s a perfect mid-tier compressor that can easily handle sandblasting.

Types of Air Compressors

There are several types of air compressors out there. It can be tricky to tell the difference!

Reciprocating Air Compressor

The first type is the reciprocating air compressor.

This type takes advantage of positive displacement to operate. That process involves taking in air, placing it in a small chamber, then pressurizing the added air. It’s an effective mechanism that works well in an air compressor.

Reciprocating air compressors need a piston to power the process. This tool works to take in the air and compress it before dispelling it for whatever function that’s needed. There are also spring-loaded valves that open when the proper differential presses against them. 

The compression ratio needs to be accurate for a reciprocating air compressor to function properly. If the absolute discharge pressure or absolute intake pressure is too much, there could be an excessive discharge temperature from the imbalance.

Reciprocating air compressors, also known as piston compressors, are one of the most popular styles of compressor used on the market today. You will find most major tool companies with at least one reciprocating air compressor in their lineup.

Single Stage Piston Air Compressor

Next is the single-stage piston air compressor. This variety occurs when a piston only uses one side for the process of compressing air. It might seem like this wouldn’t be ideal, but there are plenty of benefits to a single-stage piston air compressor.

A single-stage air compressor works in a few steps. The air is first drawn into the system. From there, it is compressed with one movement of the piston. The average single-stage piston air compressor can hit up to 150 PSI with this singular motion.

Often, a single-stage piston air compressor allows more CFM than a two-stage air compressor. While it might seem like two is better than one, the utilization of a single side of a piston permits more air to be drawn and compressed with each rotation of the compressor.

Many companies have single-stage piston air compressor options in their lineup. DEWALT is perhaps the most notable with at least four options currently available.

Two Stage Piston Air Compressor

The two-stage piston air compressor is like the single-stage piston air compressor except it uses both sides of the piston to compress air and create power for sandblasting. It typically does not have as much CFM as the single-stage air compressor.

There are two steps to the compression process with a two-stage piston air compressor. The air is brought into the system and pushed into a slightly warmer temperature. Then, the air goes inside an intercooler to cool and is compressed again.

The best two-stage piston air compressors can hit up to 200 PSI. Although many single-stage piston air compressors can hit higher PSIs, two-stage piston air compressors are more effective thanks to the cooling stage in the middle. 

Rotary Air Compressor

Rotary air compressors are another type of positive displacement air compressor. The most common is known as a single-stage helical, which has two rotors in a casing with no piston. These compressors are simple to work on and don’t need much maintenance from the owners. They can go on almost anything that can hold their weight.

Most rotary air compressors work by lowering the air temperature with air or water, allowing the machine to create a continuous form of cooled, pressurized air. It’s an effective and portable system.

You can pick a rotary air compressor without oil or with oil. There are benefits and disadvantages to both choices. Oil-based options are very efficient, but they require more maintenance and cleanup as you use it. Oil-free is less work for you.

Centrifugal Air Compressor

A centrifugal air compressor is what is known as a dynamic air compressor. They are an oil-free option on the market, designed for minimal maintenance. Centrifugal air compressors work by changing the direction and pressure of the air.

This type of compressor works continuously. They only have a few parts that move, so they’re excellent for high-volume situations – especially oil-free choices.

Most of the time you will find centrifugal air compressors in a professional, industrial situations. They have a higher flow rate and stronger horsepower than other air compressors on the market. These factors mean it’s more expensive to purchase a centrifugal air compressor and nearly impossible to locate at small hardware stores.

Centrifugal air compressors are designed and built for massive projects. Unless you work in a large shop, it’s not the right choice for your sandblasting project.

Not sure where to start with sandblasting? Check out the video below!

Safety Tips for Sandblasting with a Compressor 

It’s critical to stay safe when sandblasting with your air compressor. Even if you feel like an expert, safety should still be at the forefront of your mind.

Keep the Environment Safe

It’s critical to consider your environment when sandblasting. You may be working on one project, but you can’t forget about what’s around you.

When thinking about the environment, you should consider the following:

  • Getting rid of falling hazards: If there is anything on the floor you could fall over, remove it. You don’t want to slip as you’re sandblasting.
  • Creating a working blasting space: Ensure everything is in working order before beginning the process. Create ventilation and check all working components.

When you sandblast, it’s critical to ensure you have the safest environment to prevent injuries and potential damage to your workspace and project.

Wear Protective Gear

Protective gear is a must for sandblasting with an air compressor to protect from toxins and particles shifting through the air. If you don’t take on protective gear, there is a chance you could suffer internal or external injuries.

Here are two forms of protective gear you should have:

  • Protective garments: There needs to be gloves, helmets, clothing, footwear, and protective eyewear to make sandblasting as safe as possible.
  • Respiratory equipment: Workers need a respirator that covers the head, neck, and shoulders. Anything less would expose them to dangerous toxins.

Examine your protective gear before and after every use to determine if there is any surface damage. If there is, repair or replace the product as soon as possible to stay safe on the job.

Examine Equipment First

It’s vital to examine the equipment before beginning sandblasting. If there is something out of place, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible for the safety of you and everyone around you.

Here are a few ways to keep your equipment in check:

  • Examine the blast hose: Check for any leaks or cracks that may have appeared in the hose.
  • Test carbon monoxide and breathing filter items: Ensure all filtration systems prevent breathing in toxic fumes.
  • Try non or less-toxic abrasives: Go for abrasive choices that don’t have as many toxins inside to prevent excessive exposure. 
  • Check for damage: Ensure your equipment is free from damage ahead of time, such as cracks or leaks.

Sandblasting can be a dangerous task if you don’t take the proper precautions. I always going through these safety steps to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Cleanup Properly

It’s critical to clean up after the sandblasting process to remove dangerous chemicals from your space.

Here are a few things to consider for proper cleanup:

  • Don’t use concentrated air methods: Avoid compressed air. It will dispel dust in the air and cause dangerous breathing conditions.
  • Clean the location with water: Use a HEPA vacuuming system and water-based tools to clean up the results of sandblasting.

Purchase Wisely

Finally, it’s critical to purchase wisely. Find an air compressor that fits your area so you don’t end up tripping over it.

You should also take care of protective equipment. Purchase quality items to keep yourself safe and out of harms way.

How To Maintain Your Compressor

Like any tool, you need to maintain your compressor to keep it in quality shape over time. It isn’t too tricky to maintain the tool – all it takes is a little work after several uses.

Ensure you examine the user manual to determine the specific directions for your compressor. From there, ensure the machine has proper lubrication to work properly. Run clean air through the system after every use to ensure there are no blockages that could lead to further damage.

The more money you spend on your compressor, the more critical it is to maintain the tool.

Final Thoughts on the Best Air Compressor for Sandblasting

When it comes to choosing the right air compressor for sandblasting, there are a few things you’ll want to consider: the price, the capacity, and the CFM rating.

Ultimately, I recommend the Northstar 20-Gallon Portable Compressor for sandblasting thanks to its medium capacity tank, portability, and overall power. It’s a great compressor for the money.

If you want something a little less expensive, I recommend the DEWALT Pancake Compressor. It’s an affordable option that’s still very high quality.

Finally, if money isn’t a deciding factor for you, I recommend the DEWALT Two-Stage 80-Gallon Compressor because of it’s quality, capacity, and power.