I run a small wood shop, and I use a wide variety of power tools to get the job done right. One of the most important tools I use is an air compressor.
Whether I use it to clean off a freshly carved piece or power a nail gun, an air compressor is vital to my needs. I used to use a small Makita unit, but after several years, it broke and would cost more to fix than just buying a new one.
That’s when I found the Rolair JC10 Oil-Less Compressor. Since I don’t use that much power, I needed something compact, yet strong enough to do everything I needed it to do. In that regard, the JC10 has been a valuable addition to my tool set.
Today I’ll be showing you the benefits of this wonderful and versatile machine, as well as show you what to look for in an air compressor so you can find the right model for your needs.
Things To Consider
When it comes to air compression, no two units are made alike. There are multiple ways to compress the air and deliver it, and each method has its own benefits and downsides.
When looking for the right compressor for your needs, take these factors into consideration before making your purchase.
There are three primary methods of air compression, as listed below.
By far the most common compression type is piston-driven, and it operates the same way your car’s engine does.
Metal pistons push air into the tank at a high rpm to generate more pressure. This method works just fine, but it does require oil for lubrication;
Otherwise, the pistons will wear down and break. Since piston-driven compressors are more common, they are usually the cheapest option.
If you want to upgrade from a piston compressor, or you need cleaner air, then a rotary screw compressor is the best way to go.
The way this system works is that two screws rotate in tandem with each other to drive air into the tank and increase the pressure.
Since the screws never touch each other and don’t have to recycle, this system can compress air much faster and doesn’t require oil lubrication.
Large-scale projects typically require a lot of air pressure, and that’s where a centrifugal system comes into play.
This system works by using impellers to drive air into the tank. By design, the air will be cleaner and compressed much faster,
So centrifugal compressors are usually used in industrial applications that need clean air, like medical devices or food preparation.
Depending on the type of work you’ll be doing, you want a motor that can provide enough power. Typically, a compressor’s motor is measured in horsepower.
The more horsepower it generates, the faster you can increase the pressure and the more efficient your system.
However, higher horsepower means more energy, so keep in mind your electrical limitations when choosing the right motor.
Large-scale compressors usually run on a gas-powered motor, though, which are ideal for remote locations or bigger jobs.
When measuring the performance of an air compressor, you need to know how much pressure and air it will generate.
There are two number that you need to look at to determine if your compressor is powerful enough.
The first is the amount of air produced, which is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Smaller models will have a CFM output of 2-3 whereas large compressors can generate 5-6 CFM.
Make sure that you have enough to power any machinery that requires compressed air.
The second thing to look for is the amount of air pressure, which is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). Usually, the higher the CFM rating, the more pressure is generated.
For example, the Rolair JC10 has a CFM output of 2.35 and operates at a max PSI of 90.
As I mentioned, there are a ton of different compressor models you can choose. Here are the most common.
Inflator: if you just need to inflate beach balls or air mattresses, you don’t need anything too powerful. Inflators are designed just to pump air through a hose to inflate whatever you need. As a result, these models don’t come with an air tank
Pancake: a step up from inflators is a pancake type air compressor. If you need to have more air pressure or output, but don’t need anything too powerful, A pancake compressor is a great, low-cost option. The name refers to the shape of the tank, which is flat and circular
Hot Dog: by far one of the most common model designs is the hot dog style compressor. Using a single, cylindrical tank, hot dog models can be small or big, and are used for a wide variety of applications
Twin Stack: for double the pressure and output, choose a twin stack model. This style of compressor looks similar to a hot dog version, but it has two tanks instead of one
Pontoon: this model is very similar to a twin stack, but the tanks are usually on either side of the motor, and typically are much larger than most twin stack compressors. The name comes from the fact that this style represents a pontoon boat
Wheelbarrow: for larger jobs that require much more pressure and air output, a wheelbarrow compressor is an ideal choice.
While you can choose to have a standing or mounted compressor, a wheelbarrow model is much more maneuverable since it has a wheel and handles for better control.
Truck-Mounted: if you need the most power possible while still maintaining the ability to move the compressor to where you want it, then a truck-mounted model is the way to go. These compressors are typically huge and can power large machinery.
Tips and Tricks
To get the most out of your compressor, follow this advice.
- Turn off the unit when not in use
- Clean your tank regularly to remove water and debris
- Change the oil regularly and clean the drain valve
- Check all fittings and attachments regularly and tighten as needed
- Adjust the pressure to fit the job; don’t overdo it
- If possible, cool your air first to extend the life of your machine
- Check and replace air filters regularly (ideally every six months or so)
- Clean the heat exchanger regularly to ensure proper performance
- If you use your compressor sporadically, check for leaks and cracks between uses
- Use as little hose as possible for maximum efficiency
- If your compressor comes with factory servicing, take advantage of it
- Although it may seem unnecessary, read through your compressor’s manual thoroughly so you can spot any potential issues before they become a problem
- Durable construction
- Relatively lightweight
- High output
- Powerful motor
- Large tank capacity
- Ideal for small and medium jobs
- Provides cleaner air than other models
- Quiet operation
- Size can be cumbersome, especially since it doesn’t have wheels
- Hose and accessories not included
- Not powerful enough for big jobs
- In rare cases, unit may arrive damaged
- On rare occasions, the unit may leak from the drain valve
- Cast Iron construction is built to last
- Unit only weighs 42 pounds and comes with a carrying handle for portability
- One-horsepower motor
- Generates up to 2.35 CFM
- Max PSI of 90
- Motor runs at 1725 rpm for better performance
- Oil-less means less maintenance and cleaner air
- Comes with 2.5-gallon tank
- Rubber feet keep it in place
- Quiet operation
Q: How many amps does this compressor use?
A: This unit only uses eight amps, meaning you can plug it in almost anywhere (even a generator) and it’ll work fine.
Q: Does this model have a quick connect option for attaching or swapping out hoses?
A: Yes, this compressor has a very quick two-step connection process so you can swap hoses very easily.
Q: How much noise does this unit generate?
A: It’s very quiet, so I would guess around 60-65 decibels. For reference, human speech is typically around 70 decibels.
Q: Will this compressor work with a framing nailer?
A: Yes, it’s powerful enough for small tools like a nailer or trims gun.
Q: How big is this compressor?
A: According to the manufacturer, it’s 17” x 16” x 15”, so it’s really compact.
Ever since I got the Rolair JC20 Air Compressor, I’ve loved working with it. What I like most about it is the quiet operation, since I work with a couple of other guys and I have a small showroom for clients and customers.
I try to keep a relatively calm workspace, so I don’t want a compressor that is too noisy.I also like the fact that this unit is small and compact.
While I would prefer that it has wheels for easy moving, I can still pick it up and place it wherever I need it without straining my back.
I also like the rubber feet, so I don’t have to worry about the compressor slipping or sliding on the table or the ground.
Overall, I’m very satisfied with the Rolair JC10 Air Compressor, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who needs something small, yet powerful.
I’m John Maloney. Husband and father of one little angel. I’m also Tools enthusiast and working in this zone last 10 years.