I'm not sure if I was just hungry when deciding what tool I wanted to write about for this week's Toolbox Tuesday post, or if I was actually thinking of one of my most useful tools. Either way, I was inspired to dedicate today's post to my Porter Cable "Pancake" Air Compressor.

Whe I first began making my significant tool purchases, I lived by one rule. I used every major project as an excuse to budget the money for one heavier-in-price tool purchase. The stipulation being that I had to have a legitimate need for the tool during the project I was tackling. 

When we set out to update our living room, which included the addition of crown molding, I knew exactly what I had to purchase. I definitely needed an air compressor to use with a pneumatic finish nailer. The last thing I wanted to do while installing our crown molding was to be drilling pilot holes and hammering nails. I knew how difficult of an undertaking that would be, and though we were renovating a house built in 1885, there was no need to use tools as if we were also living in 1885.

My research for a good quality air compressor immediately turned me towards two brands, Porter Cable and Bostitch. There are many other air compressor manufacturers out there, but for the price and general consensus on quality, you really won't go wrong with either of these.

I based my final decision on a couple of assumptions. I felt I wouldn't be doing any significant work that would require a large air tank or high powered motor. The majority of my work with the compressor would not typically exceed the periodic finish nailing of molding throughout the house. Beyond window and door casings, baseboard, shoe molding, crown molding, or pinning during furniture construction, I couldn't think of anything serious I would need it for. However, in the end, that that wasn't quite the way the cookie crumbled. (Hmm, maybe I am hungry?)

Using my assumptions, I decided on a 6 gallon, 135 PSI, 2hp Porter Cable Pancake compressor. It's size and weight are small enough that it can easily be stored away when not in use, yet lugged up without significant effort when duty calls.

I opted for the Porter Cable over the Bostitch simply on price. The Porter Cable compressor was marginally less expensive, and the reviews seemed roughly the same between the two. Had I been getting a slightly larger compressor, I may have gone with the Bostitch. But, as I mentioned, for my needs I just didn't feel like the larger tank or motor was necessary for my day-to-day use. 

I've been using this compressor consistently for the last eight years and have had no issues with its operation whatsoever. With regular operation, and remembering to drain the tank of any built up condensation after use, this compressor should be good for many years of trouble free operation.

Now, you may be wondering, "besides nailing molding with a pneumatic nailed, why would I possibly need an air compressor? Why not just get an electric finish nailer?" To me, it just didn't make financial sense. I mentioned that I really only intended to use this compressor as a finish nailer, but as with many tools, once I had the compressor I started to figure out other uses for it.

Shortly after I used the finish nailer to install the crown molding, I realized that I'd probably benefit from a smaller gage brad nailer for shoe molding install. Rather than needing to invest a significant amount of money in purchasing another electric nailer, I was able to get another pneumatic nailer for brad nailing. This was far less expensive than a new cordless nailer would have been.  

Since those early days of using my compressor, I've found use after use for the little pancake that could. I've used it to install various moldings throughout the house, repair and relay hardwood flooring in multiple rooms, blow out our garden watering system, fill our car's tires, and even used it on our siding project several years ago. As you can see from the photos, it is the man behind the curtain whenever I have a nailer in my hand and safety glasses on my face.

As I mentioned, I based my purchase on my assumptions of use, but my assumptions weren't quite right. I've ended up using this compressor for heavier duty and longer use tasks that I expected. Had I purchased one of the smaller "trim" size compressors, I don't think it would have been able to keep up with what I've thrown at it. The siding project in the photo above was probably the most strenuous work on the compressor. Luckily for me, the compressor rose to the occasion and performed well. It probably switched on to refill the tanks more often than it prefers to, but the job was done, and done well.

All in all, I couldn't be more satisfied with this compressor. I can easily recommend it to anyone looking for a good but portable tank. The model that is available now has a fancier carry handle and more aesthetic gages, but it is essentially the same model that I bought several years ago. I guess you don't mess with success. 

And if you still want just one more reason you need an air compressor...there's always pneumatic tool fun! Just don't try this at home kids.

Do you have an air compressor model that you really like? Should I consider a different one for my next purchase? Any die hard Bostitch or other brand people out there? Let me know.

Comments 6


rob r.
12/10/2011 at 6:36 AM
I thinking of buying my future brother in law a new compressor. My bostitch is quite a few years older now and the carrying handle on the top finally came loose. I'm gonna see what P/C is made of and based upon your review I'm hopin it's a sturdy tool. He's pretty fussy about his tools workin properly right out of the box. Both have been around a long time. I'm gonna go with the P/C just to satisfy my own curiosity. The 8Yrs you mentioned above gives me hope of a decent lifespan for these short-lived budget eating household necessities. (YES, I said it...they're about as necessary as a good working vacum cleaner). Every home should have one...it just makes life easier.
I know Bostitch makes a good compressor, and from my experience, Porter Cable has a similar reputation. I would say our eight year experience with our compressor is with light to moderate use. We probably use it one to four times per month, depending on our projects. My primary use is for finish nailing, so there aren't a ton of on/off cycles, but it still did well when we did need the constant filling.

You are definitely right about it being as useful as a good shop vac, you just need to know how and when to use it. Good luck on your purchase, and if you do go PC, I hope you are satisfied and you feel our review was accurate.
2/4/2013 at 11:31 PM
I was tempted to pull the trigger on this compressor but the reviews make it seem crazy loud. Like hide it in the other room and get extra hosing loud. Have you had problems with the noise level?
Hi Charlotte. If you're looking for a quiet compressor, this one (or really any compressor I've used), isn't the one for you. I've not had any real problems with noise, but it's not quiet, that's for sure. I've used it outside as well as inside in the same room. I can stand the noise, but I'm not having conversations while using it. Hope this helps.
9/9/2014 at 2:33 PM

Hey Pal,

I have been using California Cat and Porter cable CMB 15 from last couple of years around. California compressor is made for small types application and while Porter cable CMB is best oil less air compressor.

I would both recommend this company air compressor - Till to this date, never suffer any such major problems.


6/25/2015 at 5:53 AM


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