I’m unashamedly a fan of anything that substitutes electrical horsepower for that of my own muscles, and owning a compressor opens the door to using a huge array of labor-saving tools.
This unit is a “pancake” style compressor. This means that, instead of a cylindrical pressure tank lying on its side, the tank is a flattened egg shape with feet at the bottom and the working parts on top. The name of the game here is portability: instead of dragging a cylinder-type compressor along on its two wheels – which quickly becomes awkward through mud, or up a staircase – a pancake compressor can be carried in one hand to wherever it’s needed, while still offering decent horsepower and tank volume.
Bostitch, as a brand known for quality tools of all kinds, also offers a range of compatible air-powered tools, including any nailer or staple driver you’re likely to need. In my view, any pneumatic tool should work perfectly well with any compressor, as long as the minimum pressure and tank refill rate are sufficient. However, little hiccups sometimes turn up, and it’s good to know that one manufacturer can’t blame the other’s product when they are the same manufacturer!
The first thing that strikes you as you turn it on is how quiet it is. It purrs rather than growls, which can be a decided advantage in a discreet residential setting. Given that it is still a compressor, we won’t expect complete silence, but I would say it’s no louder than moderate traffic noise.
The couplings and regulator seem very well-made; since these are the parts that will typically see the most handling, quality here is a major plus. Strangely, there is no hose included! I suppose there could be a variety of reasons for this (the high cost of hoses?), but this will come as a disappointment if you were planning to use it straight out of the box. But, since you will have to buy one anyway, let’s quickly examine how this choice will affect your tools’ performance.
A 25 ft, 1/4” hose has an internal volume of 15 cubic inches, while a 3/8” hose of the same length has nearly double that. This volume works like a second pressure chamber, except that instead of several gallons reserve it contains only a few cubic inches. If the work you are doing involves a lot of stop/start action (like driving nails or staples), you’re diminishing the air pressure within this small volume every time you pull the trigger. Air has to be passed from the tank through the regulator to replenish that which was taken from the hose; the time this takes is not long but can be noticeable especially with longer hoses. Especially when doing a finishing job, this variation can make the work end up looking less than uniform.
This is one reason why a compressor’s couplings and regulator have to be able to handle high flow, as those on this model are. If you use a thicker hose, this momentary pressure drop is reduced, so consider opting for 3/8” size – especially if running more than one tool from the same source. Note that you’ll still need to fit a 1/4” connector to mate with this particular compressor.
Whether we like to admit it or not, all of us treat our tools a bit roughly at times. For this reason, any equipment (and especially high-ticket items) needs to look and feel solid enough to withstand the occasional fall or bump. The Bostitch passes this test with flying colors. It’s quite stable when standing, and a few shakes will definitely not detach the compressor itself from the tank.
The whole point in buying a pancake compressor is portability, and once again the Bostitch doesn’t disappoint. It weighs about 30 pounds, and I don’t see how they can be made much lighter than that. It doesn’t bump into your legs when you carry it, and it won’t overbalance you as you’re climbing up to do some roofing work. The tank holds pressure well, so if electricity availability is an issue, you can simply charge up the tank and haul the compressor to where it’s needed. The carry handle offers a good grip, even for dirty or wet hands.
Unlike most products, the motor and air pump are self-lubricating and require no oil changes, ever. It has two outlets instead of one, saving you the hassle of connecting through a T-piece. The regulator, sadly, seemed to be a bit temperamental. Especially at pressures below half of its maximum 150 PSI rating, the output pressure seemed to creep upwards or suddenly fall unexpectedly.
Some people would like it if this unit could fill its tank a little faster, but hey: is waiting one or two minutes extra, once a day, that big of a deal? It delivers 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI according to its specifications, but I’m not sure how much air it can push out at lower pressures, e.g. for spray painting. However, my observations would make me guess “not much”. If you are looking for a compressor that will allow you to paint large areas smoothly, a different model would be a better choice. Six gallons just isn’t enough of a reserve.
Stuff that bugged me:
-No hose included. Why is there no hose included?
-It’s really all a weekend hobbyist can ask for, but for contractors whose time is money, it’s underpowered. You’ll have to slow down in your nailing to allow the pump to catch up, -I doubt if an air chisel would work well with it, and any painting job of more than a few square feet will drain the tank.
-I found that the regulator won’t maintain its set pressure accurately below about 70 PSI.