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Harbor Freight Air Compressor

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Harbor Freight Air Compressor
Posted by wdcrvr on Thursday, January 14, 2016 10:41 AM

Hi.  Harbor Freight has a Central Pneumatic, 1/6 hp, 58psi, oilless air compressor for $69.99.  Some of the reviews claim it to be quiet and capable for airbrushing duty.  I am looking for opinions from the MR community.  Thanks.

wdcrvr

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Posted by HObbyguy on Thursday, January 14, 2016 11:17 AM

I can't speak to the one you are considering but I bought an oiless pancake compressor for under $100 for the train shop. Far better for airbrushing than airbrush kit compressors. It's noisy but hardly runs and the pressure  to the airbrush stays rock steady.

Huntington Junction - Freelance based on the B&O and C&O in coal country before the merger...  doing it my way.  Now working on phase 3.      - Walt

For photos and more:  http://www.wkhobbies.com/model-railroad/

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Posted by fieryturbo on Thursday, January 14, 2016 11:40 AM

I bought it, and wish I hadn't.

It sucks, and none of the fittings are compatible with ANYTHING else.

It doesn't have a valve to adjust pressure either.

You get what you pay for.

I will replace it at some point.

Julian

Modeling Pre-WP merger UP (1974-81)

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Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, January 14, 2016 12:02 PM

They have 2 models, which look identical to me. This one has the most reviews, 2/3 love it the others have, leaks, overheating, failure.  http://www.harborfreight.com/1-6-hp-40-psi-oilless-airbrush-compressor-93657.html

I was just looking at their pancake compressors.  The regulators they sell in the store do not permit fine adjustment. 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

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Posted by fieryturbo on Thursday, January 14, 2016 12:42 PM

I'll reiterate again, learn from my mistakes and buy something quality.

Julian

Modeling Pre-WP merger UP (1974-81)

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Posted by Soo Line fan on Thursday, January 14, 2016 1:31 PM

The harbor is a funny place. Go there enough and you may get soaked. Their tool boxes are outstanding. Air tools are junk as are the floor jacks. The jack stands are fine. And so it goes.....

The online reviews tell a story. Read and heed and you can save some money on some good tools. Ignore the reviews and you will end up with junk.

Jim

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Posted by chutton01 on Thursday, January 14, 2016 1:51 PM

I purchased this Central Pneumatic (1/3HP, 3gal 100psi) model several years ago (or one very similar to it), works pretty well with no issues so far. I've only used it for airbrushing, I have a different heavy one for air-powered tools and inflating tires.
Lightweight and seeming pretty durable; yes it is somewhat noisy (but not Jet Engine loud).
I drain the air after use to prevent rusting of the tank. Takes standard quick-disconnect fittings, no problem.

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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, January 14, 2016 2:17 PM

Although I do not own this particular one it looks—to me—like a better choice than the Harbor Fright one (yes I spelled it correctly)

http://www.amazon.com/Campbell-Hausfeld-FP209499-3-Gallon-Compressor/dp/B002O15NRS/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1452802330&sr=1-2&keywords=quiet+air+compressor&refinements=p_89%3ACampbell+Hausfeld

I bought a different C-H compressor that is VERY quiet but it is no longer offered by C-H but instead by Dewalt:

I highly recommend it but again, at twice the price but it will last ten times longer and will DO the job:

http://www.amazon.com/Campbell-Hausfeld-FP209499-3-Gallon-Compressor/dp/B002O15NRS/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1452802330&sr=1-2&keywords=quiet+air+compressor&refinements=p_89%3ACampbell+Hausfeld

I have never purchased a single thing from Harbor Fright but from many conversations from people who have, I'll pass thank you.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Thursday, January 14, 2016 2:22 PM

My friends and I joke that Harbor Freight tools are one use only. If you just need a tool to use once, buy it there. If you want a tool that you are going to use over and over again get a professional quality name brand.

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
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Posted by fieryturbo on Thursday, January 14, 2016 3:53 PM

Their corner clamps are crap as well.  Loose and don't stay clamped.

Julian

Modeling Pre-WP merger UP (1974-81)

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Posted by JoeinPA on Thursday, January 14, 2016 4:27 PM

Rather than the tankless model for the same price or less buy a model with a tank such as Chutton01 linked or a pancake style such as http://www.harborfreight.com/3-gallon-100-psi-oilless-pancake-air-compressor-95275.html . Tanked models give you a smoother air flow and the compressor doesn't run continuously. I have the pancake model and have had no problems with it.

Joe 

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Posted by HObbyguy on Thursday, January 14, 2016 9:19 PM

I just looked and the pancake compressor I bought is an earlier version of this one from HD.  http://www.homedepot.com/p/Porter-Cable-6-Gal-150-PSI-Portable-Air-Compressor-C2002/203162815.

I added a fine adjustment regulator/dryer to one of the outputs to attach my airbrush hose, and left the other output the standard disconnect so I can also use a brad nailer, air blowoff, etc.  At $99 its a little more expensive than HF, but a whole lot more air for the money.

Stuff from HF is a mixed bag.  Some of it works great and some is absolute junk.  The little compressor that came with my airbrush kit worked poorly and kicked the bucket after just a few months.  No regrets on buying a "real" compressor to airbrush with.

Huntington Junction - Freelance based on the B&O and C&O in coal country before the merger...  doing it my way.  Now working on phase 3.      - Walt

For photos and more:  http://www.wkhobbies.com/model-railroad/

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Thursday, January 14, 2016 9:43 PM

chutton01

I purchased this Central Pneumatic (1/3HP, 3gal 100psi) model several years ago (or one very similar to it), works pretty well with no issues so far. I've only used it for airbrushing, I have a different heavy one for air-powered tools and inflating tires.
Lightweight and seeming pretty durable; yes it is somewhat noisy (but not Jet Engine loud).
I drain the air after use to prevent rusting of the tank. Takes standard quick-disconnect fittings, no problem.

 

I use the exact same one with my airbrush. Works very well. 

It is on the loud side, but, works extremely well.

It will also get enough PSI built up to inflate auto tires, and smaller items.

I also drain excess air from the tank, and added a moisture trap.

Works very well, and I highly recommend it.

BTW, mine is about 3&1/2 years old and still no issues.

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

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Posted by jrbernier on Friday, January 15, 2016 1:10 AM
I have that model - far quieter than the W R Brown model that it replaced. It turns off when at full pressure, and back on again when I press the trigger on my air brush. They come with standard 1/8" NPT fittings. My Badger hose has 1/4" NPT fittings. I picked up a reducer/coupler over the Internet for around $5. I have had it for about 6 months, it is still chugging along. I use it 3-4 times per week.
Jim

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, January 15, 2016 6:02 AM

I can’t speak on behalf the HF compressor but in general I haven’t had a problem with any purchase from them.  As stated above you have to pay for quality.  I take that in to consideration when I shop there.  I have several of their cheapie single stage airbrushes and they work as good as any I’ve used.  I prefer the HF airbrush hose over any other hose I’ve used.  It’s super flexible and the 10’ length give me a lot of working room.
 
I run in spurts when I paint with my airbrush, that’s about all I did last week.  I painted my new and old E7 fleet (18 units) using my HF airbrushes.  I have four airbrushes setup on a manifold so that I can paint with four colors in one session without having to clean tips between colors.
 
If my Airbrush City compressor takes a dump (it’s about 15 years old and still going strong) I’m going to give the HF compressor a shot.
 
I like quality tools but when they’re for my hobbies I rarely need them, when I feel the need to go with quality tools then I go else ware.  Their 5” Micro Flush Cutters at $4 cut track rail as nice and easy as a pair of Xuron rail cutters.    
 
 
Mel
 
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
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Posted by fiatfan on Friday, January 15, 2016 7:56 AM

I have the HF $70 air brush./compressor and am quite satisfied with it.  When I first purchased it the air brush was assembled incorrectly.  Once I figure that out I haven't had any problems with it.

 

Tom

Life is simple - eat, drink, play with trains!

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, January 15, 2016 9:07 AM

I wanted to get a compressor since my ex made my Sears compressor disappear some years back.  About year ago I started reading reviews of compressors which weren't top shelf, including semi-modest priced Sears, Home Depot etc. along with the HF variety.  Bottom line is there were random complaints of compressors not lasting more than a period of months so I bought an HF compressor for $40 on one of their big sales.  If I can get a year or two out of it, I won't complain.

Edit: as Chutton pointed out, HD and HF are in the mediocre category if you read the reviews.  So yeah, my feeling was why pay $1xx for a mediocre which could fail after 12 months when I could pay a fraction of it and hopefully get a similar life.  I can't really afford one of those wiz bang higher cost ones that the folks with lots of disposable income say are really worth it.  Sure, if you've got the scratch, why not?  If painting is a main stay for a person, they the investment of extra $$ may be too.  Just depends on your needs etc.  For the occasional painter...

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by chutton01 on Friday, January 15, 2016 9:08 AM

I did forget to mention the point that Ricky W. (who has the same HF 1/3HP 3gal compression as me) made, which is get a decent moisture trap if you live outside of a desert. It is helpful.
The HF compression resides in an uninsulated garage, and it does get freezing cold here in the depths of winter, but so far 3 winters have not affected it's performance (the winters do, however, affect any paint that I forgot to bring in after the last paint session - oops).

HF seems to do (well, source) compressors right; other things (such as a tap set - taps were dull and deformable) are junk. I guess do your reseach first...

As I have said in the past, Harbor Freight was founded to sell mediocre-quality imported tools and equipment at really low prices (OK, maybe not specificially, but I do recall those ads in the back of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science decades ago).
Sadly, Home Depot and Lowes have gotten the "sell mediocre-quality imported" stuff part down, but not the "really low prices" part.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, January 15, 2016 10:03 AM

In general I think everything quality wise has gone down hill or maybe more correct would be isn’t as good off the boat as it was when it was manufactured in the States.
 
I guess if it’s not high tech stuff it’s just mediocre and we the consumer don’t count anymore.
 
 
Mel
 
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
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Posted by HObbyguy on Friday, January 15, 2016 11:12 AM

I agree it's not worth spending a bunch of money just to airbrush. That HD compressor was on a super sale at the time- think I paid $79 for it. Otherwise I would have looked at HF too.

I do a good bit of car painting too and the HF "purple" spray guns are a great deal and cheap enough to be throw-aways. Just depends on what you are buying When it comes to HF.  But my garage compressor is a big 220V craftsman that I bought in 1985 and it's still going strong.  I wouldn't expect that sort of life from anything these days no matter where I bought it.

Huntington Junction - Freelance based on the B&O and C&O in coal country before the merger...  doing it my way.  Now working on phase 3.      - Walt

For photos and more:  http://www.wkhobbies.com/model-railroad/

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Posted by wdcrvr on Friday, January 15, 2016 7:51 PM

OP here.  I get the impression that some people like the item and some don't.  Coul be worth it.  I am wondering, however, if this compressor would be quiet enough that I coul use it in my basement without disturbing my wife who is watching tv upstairs?  How quiet is it?

Also, I started another thread about two other brands of compressor that I might consider.  I hope you don't think I am abusing the site by asking for so much information, but I really don't know who else to ask as a trusted source.

Thanks

wdcrvr

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Saturday, January 16, 2016 7:03 AM

I will only comment on the model from HF that I currently use and have, I cannot comment on any other model, with three exceptions:

While it is noisier than an actual airbrush compressor, it out performs them by a long margin. None of the "quiet" airbrush only compressors I have tried have been able to keep up with my airbrush, nor put out anything near the constant 32-38psi that I airbrush at. They simply do not have the power needed to do that. 

Of the three "quiet airbrush" compressor models I have tried, one from Testor's, one from Sears, ordered online, and one from a craft store, one is still around, two were returned immediately. The "best", (said very loosely), would "start" out at around 32psi, but then almost immediately fall to around 26psi during use. (And, by "during use", I am not talking about a long painting session, but one model, in HO scale.) This does affect the paint job. (And, it would not even power my dual action brush long enough to complete one coat on a boxcar!) The two that were returned immediately would not even hit the advertised psi, let alone sustain it. (Nor would they come anywhere close to maintaining the 28psi minimum for my dual action brush. NOTE: I use acrylics only, enamel based paints can use a slightly lower psi, but only under perfect conditions.)

Now, while I have not measured decibel levels, the "best" airbrush compressor that I still have, is not much quieter than the full featured model I do have. And, the full featured model I have from HF can more than keep up with my airbrush, once the tank if full, it shuts off. It will then start up only long enough to bump the psi back up to upper limit, then shuts back off. So, the noise level is not constant like with an airbrush only model.

And, while totally unscientific, my family complains much more about my drum set sound level (can't call music "noise", unless it's that annoying hip-hop rap junk Wink) than they ever do about my airbrushing with the HF compressor....... Whistling

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

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Posted by wdcrvr on Saturday, January 16, 2016 8:55 AM
ricktrains Great info. So, which HF compressor do you have? wdcrvr
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Posted by PennCentral99 on Saturday, January 16, 2016 9:29 AM

Many, many moons ago (more thn 10 years), I purchased a 3 gallon air compressor from Lowes. Never had an issue and it always performed with it's intended use (maintaining tire pressure on vehicles, blowing dust/dirt of workbench, brad nailer and other items). A few months ago, it could no longer build air pressure, could have been the reeds went bad, but didn't see putting forth the effort to troubleshoot. Especially since technology has changed in a decade.

For Christmas, Mrs Santa bought me a 6 gallon, 1.5 horsepower, 150 psi air compressor from Harbor Freight, on sale for $98. I have used this multiple times in the past 3 weeks and it has performed as expected, no problems. As a matter of fact, I was impressed with the set-up of valves, outlets, regulators, etc. All of my air attachments (hose, fittings, chucks, moisture trap, etc) transferred right over.

I took it to the garage to "test it". Plugged it in, turned it on.....wanted to make sure it built pressure to 150 psi and also see how long it took to build it to 150 psi. The first thing my wife said "wow, that's quieter than the old one". After a few minutes, build pressure to 150, the cut-off stopped the motor. I disconnected the hose and only left those items attached that came with the compressor....wanted to make sure it maintained pressure and no leaks. After several minutes, the needle on the tank pressure stayed at the same spot it was when the cut-off activated.

So, on to airbrushing......Since it winter and I don't have a heated garage, if I want to airbrush, I need to do it inside. Although this compressor is quieter than the old one, I'm not going to run it inside. So, I run the compressor in the garage, once pressure built/tank full, disconnect on bring inside. This also allows me to see how much "air time" I get operating my airbrush at 35-40 psi. I can get an hour or so between "fill-ups", which also gives me a break in airbrushing operations.

Bottom line....I'm happy with my Harbor Freight compressor. I bought it for light to medium use, I know it's not designed for air tools, impact wrenches, etc. My suggestion...if you can afford the additonal $20 or $30 for a 3 or 6 gallon compressor, get it. You'll be able to much more....

Inspired by Addiction

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Sunday, January 17, 2016 7:30 AM

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

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Posted by HObbyguy on Sunday, January 17, 2016 8:55 AM

There you go, sounds like one of the 3 gal HF compressors will do the job.  And the 6 gal Porter Campbell seems to be popular here for those wanting more.

One thing I find very interesting, coming from an engineer with experience specifying industrial compressors and also using large compressors for "hobby" automotive bodywork and painting, the ratings for small compressors are very misleading.  I mentioned in your other thread that the most important thing to look for is SCFM rating.  The motor HP and tank size do not tell you how big the compressor head is and the compressor head is what determines how much air a compressor will put out.  But the airflow ratings for consumer compressors are usually hidden away somewhere in the product specifications.

The airflow rating for mini "airbrush compressors" is generally 0.8 SCFM or lower at 40 psi.  And Ricky sums up my experience very well- that may be enough air for an artist using a very small airbrush tip, but borderline for our sort of use.  The 3 gal HF compressors are rated at 1.0 SCFM at 40 psi and based on responses here that sounds like it is enough to keep up, especially with the bigger tank to provide some surge capacity.  The 6 gal Porter Campbell is rated at 3.5 SCFM at 40 psi which is way overkill, and I am sure it is noisier than the smaller HF compressors, but it puts out three times the airflow so it hardly has to run when airbrushing.

Huntington Junction - Freelance based on the B&O and C&O in coal country before the merger...  doing it my way.  Now working on phase 3.      - Walt

For photos and more:  http://www.wkhobbies.com/model-railroad/

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Posted by hornblower on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 1:32 PM

I would also recommend buying a compressor large enough to power multiple air tools.  Years ago, I stumbled onto a DeVilbiss 4 HP 12 gallon compressor at a short lived big box DIY store for a rediculously low price!  Since I was racing cars at the time, it was purchased mainly to power automotive related air tools.  However, I used it to power a brad nailer while constructing my current layout and use it a lot for my various air-powered painting needs.  Yes, it is noisy but the 50' air hose I have allows me to leave the compresor inside my garage while I paint outside.  Another racing related item that is useful for airbrush painting is the portable air tank we used to adjust tire pressures in the hot pits.  If I want to paint inside my house and don't want to disturb others, I fill this portable air tank and use it with an in-line regulator as my air source.  A single charge of this tank (about 10 gallons at only 75 psi) gives me around 20 cumulative minutes of painting time with a Harbor Freight single action airbrush.  The portable tank will hold a higher charge but the vinyl hose of the HF airbrush can't handle more pressure as it will just pop off the airbrush fitting.  One of their nicer braided air hoses might solve this problem.  Aside from a slight shushing noise when the airbrush is in use, the portable air tank is otherwise silent.

Hornblower

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Posted by tietwiddle on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 3:20 PM

I bought this compressor a couple years ago and am very happy with it.  And it is very quiet, much quieter than my old Badger compressor.
http://www.californiaairtools.com/ultra-quiet-oil-free-air-compressors/1-2-hp-air-compressors/cat-1650a/

 

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Posted by DK.Alice on Wednesday, February 07, 2018 5:00 AM

chutton01

I purchased this Central Pneumatic (1/3HP, 3gal 100psi) model several years ago (or one very similar to it), works pretty well with no issues so far. I've only used it for airbrushing, I have a different heavy one for air-powered tools and inflating tires.
Lightweight and seeming pretty durable; yes it is somewhat noisy (but not Jet Engine loud).
I drain the air after use to prevent rusting of the tank. Takes standard quick-disconnect fittings, no problem.

 

Central Pneumatic 1/3HP, 3 gallons 100 psi air compressor is very small so it is very easy to transport to any place.

 

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Posted by rrebell on Wednesday, February 07, 2018 10:32 AM

People complain all the time about Harbor Freight but some of the stuff is great. I have lots of their clamps and picks. I bought some chisels, nice thing about them is they are so cheap that if I hit a nail (happens when working with old wood in construction) if it is damaged too much, you buy a new set and yes I have had the good stuff but they are not worth the extra unless you just work with new wood. One thing I wouldn't buy is their battery powered stuff because at HD for a few, very few $ more you can get Ryobi when on sale and these4 have worked well in real construction impressing even an old line carpenter and that was in the days of ni-cad.

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