Abrasively blasting an item is called sandblasting and is done with a tool called a sandblaster. It’s the process of using compressed air to essentially throw abrasive materials, such as sand, onto the item you want to remove rust, paint, oil and grease stains, or scales from heater treatment on.
The pressurized air allows you to quickly clean and smooth a variety of surfaces. Because it uses compressed air, you’ll need the proper air compressor for sandblasting.
The size of an air compressor for sandblasting depends on CFM, PSI, and sandblaster nozzle size.
For smaller sandblasting projects that use a #2 nozzle (⅛”), you’ll need a compressor that can deliver 20 CFM @ 100 psi or more. Larger sandblasting jobs that require a #4 nozzle (¼”) will require 80 CFM @ 100 PSI. Lastly, heavy-duty sandblasting jobs that require a #6 nozzle or higher will need over 175 CFM or more at 90 PSI.
We researched and reviewed a handful of air compressors that we thought would work well for sandblasting. Here are our top five favorites based on what they’re being used for.
|NorthStar||6.0/5.0 CFM @ 40/90 PSI||Single Stage||135 PSI||2.0|
|Campbell Hausfeld||5.0/4.0 CFM @ 40/90 PSI||Single Stage||150 PSI||1.3|
|DeWALT||35.5/35.2 CFM @ 40/90 PSI||2-Stage||135 PSI||5.0|
|Mi-T-M||30.5/29 CFM@150/175 PSI||2-Stage||175 PSI||9.1|
|Makita Mac24||5.2/4.2 CFM @ 40/90 PSI||Single Stage||130 PSI||2.5|
Our Top Picks Sandblasting Air Compressors
1. NorthStar Single-Stage Portable Electric Air Compressor – Best for Sandblasting Cabinets
The NorthStar Single-Stage Portable Electric Air Compressor was proven to be a great asset to us for sandblasting cabinets. With its large 20-gallon air capacity, we were able to perform both simple and complex sandblasting tasks with ease.
For starters, the compressor has a 2 HP motor that provides the unit with plenty of power. Upon the first startup, it took about 4 minutes to fill from 0-135 PSI. We used it for a little while to see how long it took to fill from 70 PSI and it was roughly 2.5 minutes.
You’ll want to ensure you’re blasting on an intermittent basis to allow the compressor to cool even though it has a 100% duty cycle. For best results, allow a 50% overload factor.
The compressor has a max PSI of 135 and works best when using a 3/32” nozzle to conserve air pressure. You can even use a long-wearing Carbide nozzle. Additionally, there’s a generous CFM rating of 5.0 CFM @ 90 PSI and 6.0 CFM @ 40 PSI. It performed better than our expectations and wasn’t too loud. The built-in regulator controlled the air pressure quite well and with proper care, the compressor has a lifespan of 20,000 hours or more.
Upon further inspection, we noticed how well-built it seems to be. It has a cast iron pump and V-style cylinder to help eliminate hotspots and provide consistent cooling. There are also dual crankshaft ball bearings that allow the compressor to run smoothly at 3,400 RPMs. The unit comes with wired for 115V operation with a 6ft. Cord and plug, but can be rewired for 230V.
If we could change anything about the compressor, it would be the position of the drain valve. It’s not directly at the bottom of the compressor to allow full drainage of condensate water. Rather, it’s on the side of the tank. Additionally, the regular is slightly restrictive.
2. Campbell Hausfeld 26 Gallon Air Compressor -Best For Sandblasting Glass
Sandblasting glass is a delicate task that requires the proper tools and air supply. Based on some tests we ran, we concluded that using 120 grit aluminum oxide blast media at 50 to 60 PSI gave us the best results.
Since this application only requires around 60 PSI, a high-pressure compressor isn’t necessarily needed, but we thought that this compressor performed the best. It has a maximum PSI of 150 and a 26-gallon air capacity. It took 5 minutes to fill from empty to 150 PSI and 2 minutes to fill from 75 PSI to 150 PSI. It wasn’t as quick as other comparable units, but this one was more reliable when it came to performance.
The compressor has a decent rating of 4.0 CFM @ 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM @ 40 PSI. We found that the higher CFM was better for sandblasting glass, especially for etching. It’s suggested that if you’re etching for a while, you’ll want to give the compressor a break after 20-minutes or so to ensure the compressor doesn’t overheat.
Air Compressor, 26 Gallon, Vertical, Portable (Campbell Hausfeld DC260000),Blue
1 used from $547.46
In addition to its overall stellar performance for sandblasting glass, we want to mention that its vertical design makes it a great space-saver. There’s a steel handle and large wheels for easy portability. Our only issues with the unit were that the regulator valve was leaky, but that could have been a defect from shipping, and it took longer to fill than expected.
3. DeWALT 80-Gallon Air Compressor- Best Electric Compressor for Sandblasting
DeWALT compressors have always been good to us. They’re durable, affordable, and heavy-duty. This 80-gallon compressor is one of our favorites for sandblasting small and large projects alike. It provided us with industrial output while running several tools at one time.
We were impressed by how quickly it filled to its maximum PSI of 175. From 0-175 PSI, it took just 3 minutes. Since the pressure doesn’t go below 135 PSI, you’ll never really have to wait for the tank to fill once it reaches that threshold. Fortunately, the thermal overload protection system protects the motor from voltage fluctuations as well.
The compressor puts out a whopping 17 CFM @ 175 PSI and 17.9 CFM @ 100 PSI. If you know anything about sandblasting, then you know that this is more than enough air supply for a ⅛” nozzle for various-sized jobs. The 5 HP motor keeps the compressor operating sufficiently when properly maintained since it’s oil-lubricated.
Not only does it have a lot of horsepower, but it runs at a lower RMP than most compressors. This helps protect the compressor from voltage fluctuations and you won’t need to use a magnetic starter.
It’s unfortunate that the compressor isn’t portable. It has to be stationary since it doesn’t have wheels. Additionally, it consumes a lot of energy to operate and it’s loud. It measures around 80 decibels.
4. Mi-T-M Two Stage Diesel Stationary Air Compressor – Best Diesel Compressor for Sandblasting
If you’re looking for the big Kahuna of air compressors, this is it. The Mi-T-M is a beast of a machine that runs off of diesel. It has a glow plug-equipped 9.1 HP Kohler OHV engine that allows it to start easily in cold weather, much like a diesel truck.
We found the compressor to be easy to start with the electric starter. It has a 30-gallon receiver tank that holds a maximum of 175 PSI and two gauges that represent tank and outlet pressure. To get up to this maximum pressure, it took just 3 minutes. At half capacity, it took about a minute.
This compressor is definitely more suited for industrial uses. It has a CFM rating of 29 @ 175 PSI and 30.5 @ 150 PSI. We had absolutely no issue running our 3/16” sandblasting nozzle on it. It maintained its pressure very well and wasn’t overly loud when in use.
As far as construction is concerned, we thought the compressor was very well built. It has a powder-coated ASME tank and a 3/16 base plate to help reduce vibration. Unfortunately, this unit weighs a whopping 483 lbs and is stationary. There’s no way you’re moving this bad boy once you put it down.
5. Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP – Smallest Compressor for Sandblasting
The Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP air compressor is one of the smallest for overall sandblasting in terms of size. Its twin tank design makes it smaller than other designs and easier to carry around if you’re sandblasting in different places.
We found the Makita Big Bore to be both powerful and durable. The pump runs at a lower RPM of 1,730 with a noise output of 79 decibels. Upon the first start, it filled the tank to 135 PSI in about 2 minutes and from 60 PSI to 135 PSI in about 30 seconds.
When hooked up to our sandblasting tool, it maintained optimal PSI for adequate performance. Generally, larger air compressors are better for sandblasting, but you can get away with smaller ones if you have the right attachments.
This compact compressor offers 4.2 CFM @ 90 PSI and 4.8 CFM @ 40 PSI. We were using a 1/16” nozzle and we didn’t notice any lack of power or performance. It was like we obtained industrial performance at a homeowner’s cost. All of this is possible thanks to the 2.5 HP 4-pole motor.
To ensure longevity, the compressor is oil-lubricated. There’s a handy oil drain and oil sight glass that allows you to view the oil. There’s also a conveniently located drain valve for easier maintenance. If we had to nitpick about one thing, it would be the noise. It’s noisier than many smaller air compressors on the market.
6. Central Pneumatic 30 Gallon 420cc Truck Bed Air Compressor – Best Mid-Size Model
If you’re in the market for an air compressor that balances size, work capacity, and budget, then this model from Central Pneumatic is perfect.
I like this option because it hits the sweet spot in terms of CFM for an air compressor suitable for sandblasting (10-20 CFM). It also boasts a maximum PSI of 180, so there’s plenty of power to go around.
Because this compressor is gas-powered, you can set it up in your truck bed and haul it around to any worksite. The tank features a heavy-duty cast iron head and cylinder, which means long-lasting durability. Everything about this compressor is not only built to last, but it’s built to handle tough jobs.
If you’re someone who forgets to check the oil, this compressor has a built-in low oil engine shutdown and an oil viewing window, so it’s easy to see when you need more. The air pressure builds up quickly and this compressor works well with a range of tools.
I love that this air compressor is budget-friendly, yet comparable in power and performance to many of the higher-priced options. The volume can be a bit loud, similar to running a lawnmower, but reasonable given its size.
This air compressor can last you for a long time and will need some maintenance, but it’s easy to order new parts and complete any repairs.
Where to buy it: 30 gallon 420cc Truck Bed Air Compressor EPA (harborfreight.com)
CFM CONSUMPTION AT SPECIFIC PRESSURES
|Nozzle||20 PSI||30 PSI||40 PSI||50 PSI||60 PSI||70 PSI||80 PSI||90 PSI||100 PSI|
What Size Tank Do You Need for A Sandblaster?
As long as your tank can put out a minimum of 100 PSI, you can have any tank size, but we suggest 20 gallons or more for larger jobs. 100 PSI is going to be the minimum, though.
This is for optimum efficiency for any abrasive sandblasting project. The lower the PSI, the more time you’re going to add to your project.
Even by reducing your pressure by half, it’s going to take four times longer to complete your project. If you’re looking for more speed, you’ll want a larger compressor with higher PSI.
What Is The Minimum CFM for Sandblasting?
The minimum CFM needed for sandblasting is 10 CFM. However, if you’re working with a lower PSI, you can get away with 2.0 CFM at 20 PSI and a 1/16” nozzle. A higher PSI correlates to a higher CFM.
IF you’re using a ⅛” nozzle at 100 PSI, you’ll need 28 CFM. You absolutely can use a smaller air compressor with less of a CFM rating if that’s all you have, but your project may take longer and you may not get as good of a performance as the larger compressors would give you.
What PSI Do I Need For Sandblasting?
100 PSI is what you’ll need for sandblasting if you want superior performance. If you have a smaller compressor, you can use a lower PSI with a smaller nozzle and get decent performance out of it. It’s not the optimal solution, but it works in a pinch and will take much longer to complete.
Other Sandblasting Equipment
Obviously, the main piece of equipment you’re going to need is an air compressor. This should be based on what type of project you’re doing and what PSI and CFM you’ll require. You’re going to need a blast pot or pressure blast tank.
This is a coded pressure vessel that sends the abrasives into the stream of air. The abrasives needed will be selected by type, size, shape, and hardness based on the application. These will come out of the required nozzle with the appropriate angle needed.
Additionally, you’re going to need a moisture trap and separator. This removes water from the compressed air before it goes through the pressure blast tank. You’ll also want hoses that allow the proper passage and control over air and abrasives that are going through the system. Lastly, blasting respirators are for providing you with a shield for your protection.
You should also note that an OSHA-approved clean air source that doesn’t contain abrasives, dust, or contaminants is required. You could also opt for deadman switches to give your blaster more control. It will allow you to stop the airflow and abrasives if anything fails.
Other Blasting Applications
Of course, sandblasting is just one use for air compressors.
Soda blasting is a type of abrasive blasting that utilizes sodium bicarbonate (or baking soda) instead of sand. Most air compressors that work for sandblasting are also sufficient for soda blasting.
The Quincy QT-54 is an excellent choice, as is the Ingersoll Rand Electric Stationary Air Compressor. With 5 HP and a CFM of 18 at 90 PSI, this 60-gallon model is perfect for your soda blasting needs.
Vapor blasting uses a mixture of compressed air, water, and gentle detergents to help remove corrosion and oxidized metal. You typically need a compressor with a bit less power, since this process is gentler.
Look for a model with around 15 CFM and 40-60 PSI. The Central Pneumatic 30 Gallon 420cc Truck Bed Air Compressor works, as does the Campbell Hausfeld 5-HP 80-Gallon Two-Stage Air Compressor. It offers 12 CFM at 90 PSI, reduced noise, and a pump life of up to 5,000 hours.
Types of Sandblasters
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:
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.
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.
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.
Remember, you don’t need a huge compressor to complete a sandblasting job at home. You can certainly look for a 2-6 CFM compressor with 6-10 gallon tanks and still do a great job. Consider what you’re going to be sandblasting and what size nozzle you’re going to use. The larger the nozzle, the more PSI and CFM you’re going to need.