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Our compressor test has finally come to a close, and here are the results. We looked at all manner of compressor tools and tests and found what we consider to be some truths and untruths about what’s handy and what is scrap. To be honest, we didn’t find any flaming bags of poo in our test, just some compressors built for different kinds of jobs and a few we didn’t really get along with for one reason or another.

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Performance

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As you might expect, performance testing was largely a matter of looking at the numbers. The more CFM the tool required, the more challenging it was to keep up using low CFM compressors. So an 18-gauge brad nailer might go 50 brads before it needs to cut in on a 4.2 CFM compressor, where something like the CH got somewhere around 12 brads. Did both do the job? In a word, yes.

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However, there was a large difference in how fast the tank refilled and how quiet it was while doing so. Compressors like the Bosch and Makita would only kick in for a few seconds — the DeWalt and Hitachi for around 20 seconds and something like the CH would go chugging on for a full minute or so.

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There was also the matter of what you were going to be doing with the compressor. For instance, intermittent or continuous tools will make a large difference in what compressor you use and how well it works. Intermittent tools like 18 gauge nailers running at 90 psi (or even framing guns) might be fine for lower CFM rigs or compressors that have a cut out of 130 or 165. This is because you aren’t using it all at once and the motor can catch up to your use by replacing pressure when you’re lining up the next shots.

But when we hooked up an air-powered drill (continuous) with a CFM rating of around 6.5, the results were, well, not good. A few seconds of pulling the trigger and every one of the tested machines was pedaling at top speed to keep up. Eventually they all spun down into gasping out whatever the pump would push. The lesson: Don’t use continuous tools higher than the CFM rating of the compressor, or they won’t perform like they should.

So to better understand where machines that seem similar on the outside really start to differ, we put up a few baseline numbers.

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Shop air compressors are very much like the heater in your home: If it’s working, you really don’t pay it much attention. Only recently when we had a hiccup with our five-gallon Ridgid twin-stack did the thought even come up that this was a 5-year old unit that had put in hundreds of hours of tireless service. We decided to see how our favorite old compressor does against a field of modern competitors.

We shopped around until we found a good representative product from several manufacturers. The rules were pretty simple: Each unit had to be available at a home center or gear equivalent, needed to be in the 2-to-5 gallon range, and finally had to be able to power the shop tools we put into circulation on a regular basis such as trim guns, air blowers, and so forth. Four challengers to the Ridgid arrived in the shop for test. They are, in manufacturer’s alphabetical order: Bosch CET4-20, Campbell Hausfeld FP2602, Hitachi EC 89, and Makita MAC2400.

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The easy play that comes naturally to most folks when they look at a set of tools that’s not the utmost in professional quality is to declare it junk, cite a scenario where the tool in question won’t work, and move to the trumpeting of the favored brand or product. Campbell Hausfeld’s FP260097 combo kit sports a large “kick-me” sign. We liken it to the rep the “smart” kids suffered from in high school — it’s largely undeserved.

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Back in September I wrote about the Campbell Hausfeld FP260097 kit which included an instructional DVD that boasted to help you on your way. Upon opening the kit, we found the disc and popped it in the computer to see what nuggets of wisdom could be found there. It was both better and worse than we expected.

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For every Arthur there is an Excalibur — together they create the seamless integration of human and machine that heralds the fulcrum of change. It could be anything, really; for Wyatt Earp it was the Buntline Special, Indiana Jones never left home without his whip, and for Eddie Rickenbacker it was the SPAD S.XIII. Everyone’s got one, even if they don’t know what it is exactly. After careful thought, mine is the 18ga. pneumatic brad nailer. It’s the weapon of choice in my shop, so it seemed only natural that I host a small test of nailers and see how they stack up to each other.

To that end, for the last few months we’ve been testing five models of 18ga nailers in the shop against the rigors normally associated with shop use. Then, for a little extra kick, each was loaned out to a rougher environment like a trim carpenter crew, cabinet shop or furniture repair retailer for a few weeks. Once each came back from the field, we compiled and compared the data.

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We have long said that someone needs to start throwing kits together for the DIYer/Homeonwer crowd that arms them with the tools they need to get things done around the house. Not drills and saws (others have that covered), but the more obscure home maintenance chores. We knew someone would come up with it eventually, but we didn’t expect it to come from Campbell Hausfeld. Yet the FP260097 Home Improvement Kit and its three like-minded sibling packages are exactly what we were talking about.

It’s not rocket science; tell someone what they need to do then give them a package with all those tools in it for an entry-level price. Apparently someone at CH has their head on straight because that’s what they did. They also threw in an instructional DVD that tells you how to start getting done the projects you bought the kit for.

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And, just in time for Christmas, Campbell Hausfeld announces their new line of truck storage solutions. The TruckWrks, available exclusively at Home Depot, comprises a variety of storage options, shown above, aimed at the professional contractor with a full-sized pickup. I’m not a professional contractor, and my pickup is not full-sized, so I’m not likely to buy any TruckWrks soon. Besides, they seem a tad pricey. For example, the Hitch Caddy, intended for compressors or generators up to 300 pounds, is $499, and the Bed Box for long-bed, covered pickups is $2,649. In spite of all that, I’m still a little tempted, just so the next time I go out to help someone with a project, I can easily take most of my s#!$ with me.

To all you Toolmongers out there who do this stuff professionally, how does Truckwrks compare to alternatives?

TruckWrks [Manufacturer's Site]
TruckWrks [The Home Depot]

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For all the sub-rock dwellers clinging to the dark and safe ways of yore, this is an air compressor. It is your friend. Embrace it, love it and bask in its many conveniences. The new 26-gallon Campbell Hausfeld compressor is specifically aimed at the challenges and objections homeowners have to an air-powered rig.

To get the party started, just kick the big red power button at the bottom rear and the hose fills to 115psi; then the tank fills in preparation for continued operation. That’s right — the hose fills first. It might sound a little weird but it’s sort of a slick idea.

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Following the recent trend of top-of-the-line pneumatic gun rollouts, Campbell Hausfeld just released three new units bearing the CH blue:  from biggest to smallest, the CHN70899 3-1/2” framing nailer, the CHN70699 15-gauge nailer, and the CHN70299 18-gauge brad nailer.  Can you guess the first highlighted feature of the new guns?  If you said “targeting laser,” you nailed it.

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Getting the correct pressure in your tires normally takes a few rounds of swapping between chuck, pressure gauge, and sometimes the pin on the back of the gauge to let out air because you added too much.  With an all-in-one inflator like this tool from Campbell Hausfeld, just clip the chuck on the stem and read the tire pressure — then squeeze the trigger to start adding air, or release some pressure with the relief valve.

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