Sunday 23 January 2022

Mini Air Compressor (Portable)


For regular readers of my website you will know that I own a "standard" size air compressor for airbrush use that has x2 30 Litre tanks attached. This is something that I use for almost every model that I make and I don't know what I would do without it now. I do however have a small problem; when I go away every year on our UK caravan holiday (my wife and I love holidays in Cornwall & Dorset) I take an "away case" of at least one model for the quite evenings in. Taking a compressor with me is not really an option! Normally I will take a sculpt with me or a 120 mm figure that I can hand paint. Now I do appreciate that my complaining over the fact that my air compressor is too large to take on holidays with me is somewhat of a spoilt complaint to have when many can't afford one let alone two different types of compressor or even have the privilege of taking holidays. This review is not intended to offend or "brag". I am fully aware of how lucky I am to have these kind of freedoms and I appreciate that I am in a position to be able to solve "problems" like this when others have more serious issue to contend with. I'm writing this review to give a more affordable option for someone to consider if they are thinking of starting to use an airbrush as part of their model making.  Over the last 18 months or so I have seen quite a lot of adverts for hand held mini compressors and while the reviews have been less than favourable; the second generation of these compressors have been received in a much better light. Fast forward to Christmas 2021 and my daughter asked me what I would like for a present. I decided that maybe it would be nice to have one of these an an option for holidays and also for just making quick touch ups at my normal model desk rather than running and priming my large compressor. 

The compressor

The compressor that I have opted for is not a "branded" item and as best as I can tell, the first generation compressors (which are still on sale) are circular or oval in shape while the second generation are more cube like in appearance. Mine was purchased from Ali-Express for a little over £40 delivered. The compressor was supplied with an impressive list of accessories for the price:

  • The compressor
  • An airline
  • Airbrush
  • Cleaning Kit
  • Charging cable (USB)

I'll start straight away by saying that the airbrush was not exactly a high quality item and in reality I dismantled it immediately and stripped it for spare parts for my better quality "Chinese copy" airbrush. For more on airbrushes please click this link where I discuss the differences in quality on the litany of Chinese manufactured airbrushes on the market today. The remaining accessories however are really good quality and they will be used as part of my model making tool stash. Now onto the compressor: 


The compressor is supplied with a 1/8 fitting for the 1/8 airline that's supplied with it and of course this fits almost every airbrush used in model making today (if yours is a different fitting then there's some inexpensive adaptors out there for sale). I happened to have some quick connect fittings spare so these were added and can be seen in the photos above. The compressor is designed to be used as a wireless item that can be re-charged via the USB cable supplied. What I am really impressed with is that if the battery runs down it can also be run with mains power attached so you don't need to wait around if the charge has run down or if your using the compressor for an extended period of time. The second impressive feature on this is once the airbrush is connected, the compressor works "on-demand" so when your not actually spraying it shuts down and conserves battery. The construction is also really impressive for the price. The main body is metal (at a guess I would say aluminium that's either powder coated or anodised) and the plastic components are of good quality also.  If I am being really picky I would say that the only let down is the on/off switch which would feel so much better if it wasn't so "cheap" feeling/looking when compared to the rest of the unit. This is minor however its just a great little unit. The pressure it puts out is advertised as you'd expect as being much higher than it actually produces. I've seen different adverts claim anything from 25 PSI up to 32 PSI. This is a little ambitious and according to the two different pressure gauges I've hooked up it; it produces a very respectable 19 to 21 PSI. While I have only tested this using Vallejo model air, it has done the job easily well and gives a consistent spray pattern. The only issues that I can see this compressor having is when the battery runs low it could produce less PSI and cause spitting (reduce the chances of this plugging into mains when using for extended period of time) and if using a side mounted or bottle fed type airbrush I think this unit would struggle with them as they normally require a higher PSI to operate efficiently. I almost exclusively use the "top cup" style of airbrush and it has no issues whatsoever. The one major "con" that this little compressor unit has is that it doesn't have a recharge light; in other words there's no indication that the unit is charging or when it is fully charged. The other issue is that the instructions (I use this term loosely as there's no real information supplied) do not say how long the unit should be charged for to give it a full battery charge. At the moment I am assuming that the battery used is an 18650 cell which is the same as my vape. This normally takes around 3 - 4 hours to fully charge so that's what I normally give the unit. This is purely a guess though and hopefully a generation 3 of this compressor will resolve this issue. 

Final Thoughts

As a budget compressor I cannot say enough about this little bit of kit. The quality is amazing for the price and the accessories that it comes with are simply a huge bonus. For what I intend on using this for I am sure that it will become an invaluable little of kit for me. Now one big question mark that I can't answer at the moment is longevity. If we are being realistic about this; the price point that these sell for will reduce the quality of the battery and probably the internals of the compressor so a long lasting, robust compressor may not be on the cards for this. I may of course be wrong and when one considers that volume of production can significantly reduce price without compromising on quality this may turn out to be a long lasting compressor as well. If I was tight on cash or wasn't sure whether an airbrush was right for me as a model maker I would definitely recommend this as an ideal starting point. What I can say with certainty is that I will update this page if I do experience any problems.

Until next time.........

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