Sandblasting, also known as abrasive blasting, is a technique for surface finishing. The sandblasting machine forces out abrasive particles under high pressure to blast whatever is on the surface, off. It creates a smoother texture and evens it out as well. 

In order to run a sandblaster, you need the proper air compressor with the ideal CFM to operate the tool. Most sandblasters only require 2.6 CFM of air. Anything under that rating and the tool won’t perform as it should. 

The  Ingersoll Rand SS3J5.5GH made the top of our list because even though it’s louder than similar models, it puts out a whopping 11 CFM and has a maximum PSI of 135. If you want to check out some other popular choices, feel free to scroll down. 

Best Air Compressor For Sandblasting

ProductCFM @ 90 PSIHPDecibelTank SizeMax PSI
Ingersoll Rand SS3J5.5GH11 SCFM5.5 768-Gallon135 PSI
California-Air-Tools-200205.3 SCFM2.07020-Gallon125 PSI
Campbell Hausfeld DC2000004 SCFM1.3 8020-Gallon150 PSI

1.Ingersoll Rand SS3J5.5GH – Best Overall

The Ingersoll Rand air compressor is designed for maximum versatility, which is why it has been selected as our best overall air compressor. It offers a high CFM, PSI, and HP rating, ideal for sandblasting. 

 It’s powered by a durable Honda gas motor that delivers the ideal pressure for sandblasting. Its handy wheelbarrow design makes it simple to tote around if you’re working in multiple locations.

Additionally, since it’s gas-powered, it can be used where there’s no power available. 

As far as performance goes, this compressor features a powerful 5.5 horsepower motor that’s capable of producing 135 PSI of maximum pressure and a whopping 11 CFM @ 90 PSI.

As you know, a sandblaster only requires roughly 2.6 CFM. You could easily operate 4 sandblasters at the same time if you had to. With a 76 Decibel rating, you may need to secure the unit outdoors unless sound doesn’t bother you or you have earplugs. 

Lastly, there are two 4-gallon tanks within a cast iron frame that are supplied by the 0.825-gallon fuel tank.

You will also find an automatic start/stop pressure switch and a high-efficiency finger valve that are not only easy to maintain but also easy to operate. There is also a regulator gauge and an enclosed belt guard for additional safety. Ingersoll-Rand SS3J5.5GH-WB 5.5 Horsepower 8 Gallon Oiled Gas Twin Pontoon Compressor

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Pros

  • Durable construction
  • High CFM rating
  • High maximum PSI
  • Portable 
  • Reliable 
  • Powerful gas-powered motor

Cons

  • Louder than comparable units

2.California Air Tools – Best Overall Runner Up

California Air Tools is another company known for its reliable air compressors.

The 20020 ultra-quiet compressor is designed to be one of the quietest 2.0 HP compressors on the market. It puts out a mere 70 Decibels of sound, making it a good choice for an indoor unit. 

One of the most notable features of the CAT 20020 is its powerful 2.0 Hp motor that spins at only 1680 RPM, meaning there will be less noise and wear. These types of compressors are designed to have a higher duty cycle for more continuous run times.

It also contains an oil-free dual-piston pump system meant for high performance and ideal durability. The lifecycle of the pump is around 3000 plus hours before it begins to show any signs of wear.

Additionally, the CAT 20020 20-gallon compressor has an easy-start valve that allows you to start it easier using fewer amps. This valve releases small amounts of air from the pump that allows the motor to freely spin, producing a no-load condition. This also makes for easy starting in cold weather. 

As far as pressure goes, this compressor has the ability to put out 6.40 CFM @ 40 PSI and 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI, which is plenty for a sandblaster. It has a 125 max PSI and takes approximately 4 minutes to fill from empty to full. From 95 PSI to 125 PSI, it takes approximately 1 minute. 

California Air Tools 20020 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Air Compressor 2.0 Hp, 20.0 Gal. Steel Tank Air Compressor

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Pros

  • Ideal CFM for sandblasting
  • Quiet operation
  • Easy start valve for less amperage usage upon startup
  • Less maintenance
  • Wheels for better portability
  • Strong motor
  • Easy to read panel

Cons

  • May be subject to premature motor failure

3.Campbell Hausfeld 20-Gallon Compressor

The Campbell Hausfeld air compressor is a workhorse. It features a robust 1.3 HP motor that has the capability to push our 150 PSI of air whenever needed. It can be easily moved from place to place thanks to its sturdy horizontal build with back wheels and front stabilizers. 

The 1.3 HP induction motor is ideal for DIY jobs such as sandblasting. It doesn’t require any oil, meaning there’s less maintenance on your part. Along with its powerful performance comes ease of use.

It’s designed to bring exceptional performance and longevity to the table. With the help of this motor, the air compressor can deliver up to 4 CFM @ 90 PSI. You would be able to run 1-2 sandblasters at a time. 

Lastly, you can rest assured knowing you’ll have plenty of air when you need it thanks to the large 20-gallon air tank.

It will take around 4-minutes to fill up to 135-pounds and after, just 2-minutes to fill from 70 PSI. The only downside we could see to this air compressor is that it was louder than comparable models, coming in at 80 Decibels. 

Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor, 8-Gallon Horizontal Oil-Lubricated 3.7CFM 1.3HP 120V 10A 1PH (HL540100AV)

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Pros

  • Parts are easy to access
  • Large air storage tank
  • Comes with accessories
  • Portable
  • Decent CFM for sandblasting
  • High max PSI

Cons

  • Louder than comparable models
  • Lower HP than comparable models

Buyers Guide

Since the key component of sandblasting is air, it’s important that you select the proper air compressor to do the job. Along with that, you need to determine the size of the blast pattern and the accurate speed at which the surface can be cleaned.

There are even more considerations you need to make including CFM, PSI, air nozzle size, and more. It may be beneficial to understand how a sandblaster works first. 

How Does A Sandblaster Work?

In order to choose the right size compressor for your sandblaster, you should know how they work. There are actually a few types of sandblasters available and each one provides air in different ways: 

Siphon Sandblaster

These sandblasters have two hoses. When the air flows through the first hose, pressure is created and sand is pulled from a tank through the other hose. The air and sand then are released together through the gun.

Pressure Blaster: This gun is connected directly to a canister that contains sand. The air and sand are then blown through the canister and gun at the same time.

Gravity-Fed Sandblaster

This sandblaster has a hopper on top of a pressure gun. The hopper will open when it senses the compressed air and the air being pulled will allow sand to be drawn through the hopper and out of the barrel along with air.

Nozzle Size & Pressure

The key to figuring out what size air compressor you need is to know what size sandblast nozzle you are going to use along with the pressure you’re going to need. If your nozzle has a larger opening and higher pressure coming from it, you will need more air from the compressor. 

CFM

Once you have determined the size of the nozzle, you will then need to acquire CFM information. CFM stands for cubic feet per minute and it’s essentially the speed at which air leaves the compressor. 

If your air compressor has a higher CFM rating, it means that more compressed air is going to come out at the desired PSI. If you are operating a sandblaster that has a high air volume requirement, you need a compressor with both a high CFM and PSI rating. 

Additionally, different nozzles will require different CFM standards, but most are in the 2.6 CFM range. Once you know the CFM, a good rule of thumb is to have an additional 30% to 50% compressor capacity.

There are many individuals who choose to use a low-duty compressor that has low demands. If this is an option you are looking for, then you may want to take a look at a two-stage compressor rather than a rotary. Rotary compressors constantly run, but they become more of an inconvenience if it’s not operating consistently. 

PSI

In terms of PSI, you should use a tank that disperses a minimum of 100 PSI for maximum efficiency. If your compressor has a low PSI, you are going to spend more time on the project than you want to because it’s going to reduce your blasting pressure by half. It may even increase your project time by four times. 

Horsepower

CFM and horsepower go hand-in-hand. The more horsepower a compressor has, the higher the CFM will be. This is another consideration that you need to make when choosing an air compressor for sandblasting. 

Voltage

Make sure you take a look at voltage type as well when choosing an air compressor. If the voltage on the compressor doesn’t match the voltage from the power source, the compressor is going to be a dud. 

Single-stage compressors will utilize a standard power supply that is found in homes, apartments, and even smaller businesses.

f you don’t have another choice for a power supply, then a single-stage compressor would work, but it does come with restrictions. Single-stage compressors can only go up to 7.5 HP. If you need a stronger motor than that, you may have to look at a three-phase compressor. 

Three-phase units are more commonly found in commercial or industrial applications. These are more efficient and bring smoother power, but it costs a pretty penny to install than a traditional compressor would out of the box. However, if your building already has a three-phase power hookup, then this type of compressor would work well. 

Two-Stage vs Single Compressors

A single-stage compressor is different from a two-stage compressor in that single-stage compressors are ideal for homeowners and hobbyists who don’t need a lot of CFM or horsepower. 

Two-stage compressors are better suited for commercial facilities or manufacturing applications because it can keep up with the high air demands of powerful pneumatic tools. Two-state compressors work by using the same air twice, which means more PSI and more power than a single-stage compressor. 

Decibel Rating

If your air compressor is going to be used indoors, the Decibel rating is important. 85 Decibels and over have the ability to cause hearing loss when exposed to an extended period of time. Most compressors have ratings of 80 and below, which is fine for indoor use. If it’s over 85 Decibels, the compressor should be hooked up outside. 

Tank Size & Orientation

Lastly, tank size and orientation are additional factors to take a look at. Tank size is important because the larger the tank, the more air it can hold and the more time you can spend working. It can run for extended periods, but it will take longer to fill with the larger tanks. 

Tank orientation refers to the shape of the unit. There are pancake, twin, and horizontal-type compressors available. There are also large boxier units, but those are more for industrial use.

Before choosing an orientation, consider where you’re going to store the compressor. Horizontal air compressors are easier to store in a corner whereas pancake compressors are best for storing under shelves and out of the way. 

Optional Air Compressor Types

If you are looking for a different type of compressor that isn’t reciprocating like the ones on the list, then you could take a look at the other two options. The other two types are rotary screw and oil-free compressors. 

Rotary Screw Compressors

If you want a more powerful compressor, then a rotary screw would be a good option. They are quieter and run constantly rather than off and on. If your job or tools require 60% duty or more, this is what you want. There is also the option for variable-speed drives that will only utilize the level you need them to operate at. This saves power, energy, and is more efficient.  

Oil-Free Scroll Compressors

Oil-free scroll compressors are meant for clean, oil-free, and dry compressed air conditions.  They are ideal for heavy-duty manufacturing and because they don’t require the use of oil, there isn’t much maintenance that needs to be performed on the unit. 

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a ton of considerations you have to make before choosing the right air compressor for sandblasting. You really need to think about the CFM rating, size of the nozzle, PSI, and HP ratings. Without the right compressor for the job, you aren’t going to receive the best performance. 

In our honest opinion, the  Ingersoll Rand SS3J5.5GH is still our top choice because it has all of the requirements needed for optimal sandblasting performance.

Ingersoll-Rand SS3J5.5GH-WB 5.5 Horsepower 8 Gallon Oiled Gas Twin Pontoon Compressor

It may be a little louder than other comparable models, but it’s not to the point of being deafening. We hope that we were able to help you pick the best air compressor for your sandblasting projects. 

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