Some useful facts to remember when looking to invest in some pneumatic tools

A smaller air tool doesn’t mean it uses less air.

Just because it fits in the palm of your hand does not mean it uses less air. Any spinning air tool uses plenty of air flow to drive the moving parts inside. It is true that a smaller wrench will have lower air flow than a larger heavier counterpart but it still uses enough air to deplete a direct drive compressor very quickly. To make things easy just look up the tools specifications in the user manual. MAC-AFRIC™ products will always give you the CFM or l/min number and match that to a relevant compressor size.

You need a 20 % larger compressor than you think you do


Shopping on a budget makes choosing a compressor very difficult. To make things even harder is you have to take into account into how much work you plan on doing and how long that will take in intervals. Most DIY and semi-industrial compressors have a 60 to 80 % duty cycle. This means out of every 10 minutes of running time your compressor needs 4 minutes to cool down. This changes based on room temperature and humidity. Rule of thumb is to look at the air tool you require take that air tools CFM air usage and add 20 percent on top of that. This means your compressor actually makes more air that you use by 20 percent, it will have enough time to cool down in between workloads and heavy usage.

DIY compressors are not workshop machines.

Picking up the cheapest compressor you can get your hands on will always cost you more money in the long run. Smaller machines such as this have lower duty cycles and will not last long enough in a workshop environment. It’s always advised to get at least a belt driven machine as a bare minimum. Also take your CFM usage into account and work out how large of a machine you need. Adendorff stock machines of all sizes from direct drive up to the larger 380V semi-industrial compressors.


4. Air Pressure is important

Almost any compressor with a tank will supply you with 8 bar of air pressure (8 bar = 8 times the atmospherically air pressure of earth at sea level). However most air tools do not require anywhere near that amount of pressure. Most air tools will always have a mark on them near the input of the air pressure required, overdo this pressure too much and your pneumatic tool’s lifetime will be affected. Stick to the recommended air pressure and the tool will actually perform better than at a higher pressure and last longer. This is especially true with Spray Guns, the wrong air pressure means your spray jobs might turn out badly.

Using moving air tools without an filter is looking for trouble

Airline filters AKA Water traps are vital to the care of any pneumatic tool. It removes most of the humidity (moisture) from the air in the line. This results in less moisture build up inside the air tool and reduces rust build up. Not using equipment like this is ill advised and could result in a void warranty. So always use one even if it’s a small direct water filter. All air tools with moving parts require consistent lubrication just like a car engine. Problem is they do not have storage for the oil so it needs to be fed into the tool directly with the air that powers the tool. A lot of technicians would lubricate the tool by simply dripping oil into the air inlet, problem with this is you have no record or control on how frequently you have to do this. The moment you forget or someone goes on break the record is lost and this result in an air tool running without proper lubrication. Auto oilers such as the one picture above will constantly and evenly oil the tool, this also uses less oil than adding by hand.

 Air leakage is costing you money (TOO MUCH OF IT)

One every single air outlet or inlet you will see a coupler similar to the pictured above. However you would notice in many workshops they are not fitted with thread tape. Applying thread tape to your air connectors are vital to prevent air leaks. Air leaks are a problem, they affect the resulting pressure of your outlets but most importantly leaks cost power and affect compressor lifetime. When a line is leaking (only 1 leak will do) this will continually empty the receiver of the compressor, once around 6 bar is reached the compressor will auto switch on to get back to 8 bar. The compressor has run now completely unnecessarily while no-one is using your compressor. Now add this up to once or twice a day for a year and you can imagine the energy wasted.

HVLP spray guns saves you money keeps you healthy

HVLP (high volume low pressure) spray guns like the one pictured above spray a much thicker higher volume of paint at a much lower pressure. This result in larger material (paint) droplets being thrown onto the surface. This means less of the material is lost into the atmosphere. It is known that conventional high pressure guns result in up to 80 percent material loss to atmosphere. HVLP guns are nearly 70 percent more affective in material transfer than older high pressure guns. Because there is so much less material drifting around in the air around the work area, less of it is exposed to the user or anyone nearby. This means that in many industries where health & safety is a factor HVLP or LVLP guns are a preferred and in some cases a mandatory choice.

8. Make your air hose longer not your compressor wire

Air compressors are energy hungry machines and require quite a bit of power to get going so its advised to keep your power cord to a minimum length (10 – 15 meters at the most @ 2.5 mm thick). You hose however does not fall under this restriction so you can easily get a longer hose to distribute air flow access throughout you workshop. If you have one stationary larger compressor install it in a well ventilated area to the middle of your workshop and distribute the air connections from there. You can also use copper tubing instead of the less heavy duty rubber hosing for a more permanent fixture.

The benefits of pneumatic tools vs Power tools

  • Lightweight
  • Safer (no electrical supply to short circuit you)
  • Higher power to weight ratio. Requires smaller lightweight tool to complete the same task.
  • A DIY grade pneumatic tool will last longer than a DIY grade power tool. The same applies to higher industrial grade ones.
  • Pneumatic tools have always been ubiquitous to the industrial trade but is now becoming more frequently DIY used tool.

They are not expensive (at least on the DIY level)

DIY grade pneumatic tools are only slightly more expensive than DIY grade power tools but they will always outlast and outperform them. It’s a common misconception that pneumatic tools come with higher costs. At Adendorff Machinery we keep a wide range of pneumatic tool ranging from DIY to semi-industrial grade.

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67 thoughts on “10 Tips You Should Know About Air Tools

  1. Kylie Dotts says:

    I like how you said that you could get an air hose that is really long if you want. Getting a long heavy duty air tool hose would probably be the safest because then a nail could hit it and not get punctured. That way you keep the pressure high when using your tools.

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      Thats correct. We have gotten many people extending the extension cord to the air compressor causing many problems, and its not safe if you go longer than 10 meters. Compressors take allot of power to start up under pressure and it trips the power. Longer air hose is safer & more convenient.

  2. Isaac says:

    I’m a welder and buy most of my machinery at your store, I have a small work shop and do paint my products when their done. I want to buy 50L belt drive air compressor because I do other job at customer’s place. I can’t manage to travel with large air compressor. My question is that the 50L will it last if I use it for paint spaying.

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      Hi Issac. Short Answer is no, however that compressor does have the pressure to do proper spraying but it does not have the air flow or duty cycle. You will have to do spray jobs that are smaller in scope small areas at a time. That size compressor is considered a DIY type machine and will run for short periods of time. But it will work if you are planning on doing smaller jobs and are patient with the machine.

  3. Neil says:

    Hi i have a 200lt tank and its not running air tools properly. Like sander impact driver and other tools.its filling the tank but just seems as if theres not enough air coming out .can you help on this please

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      We do know 200 liter should be fine for most air tools. Perhaps there is a pressure issue? Take a look at your regulator and make sure the pressure is setup correctly. Around 6 bar and up is what most air tools need.

    • Dennis says:

      Hi i have a 24hp direct drive air compressor . Can i use a air wrensh on it to loosen nuts that have been torqued to 180 NM ?

      • Francois Landsberg says:

        Hi, this will not work no. Although the wrench will turn the airflow and volume of air available will not be adequate.

  4. Jacob says:

    Just wanted to find out if a compressor of the following specs support any air tools apart from spray gun and tyre inflator : 50L, 8bar and 2 hp.

  5. Fanus Swanepoel says:

    Hi There, I have a 50L 2 HP compressor, the Air flow in the manual states 160 l/m but does not give the Bar rating it was measured at. I find it quite weak for a jitterbug sander and a air wrench, what would you recommend? for sanders and air wrenches

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      Hi its a hard question to answer but generally the pump supplies the l/min specified at around 2 bar. Not enough to power tools straight from the pump. You have to wait for pressure buildup first. For those air tools a belt is driven 2.2kw machine would have enough air to keep up at around 60% duty cycle. You will need as much as 12 CFM supply to keep them running for a long period without stopping.

  6. Ray says:

    We use high flow rate fittings and hoses for large tools. Can I put a high flow fitting on my smaller tool as long as I don’t exceed the pressure rating? Or could I damage the tool with high CFM?

  7. Gary says:

    There is an age old saying that what you save buying the cheaper tool, you will be spending in the long run. This is very true when it comes to buying air tools as opposed to power tools. Air is the most expensive form of energy and while the tools are relatively cheap, air is expensive to produce resulting in much higher costs to use the tool. Apart from this, it is a very well written article.

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      Thank you for the input, can’t say we fully agree but we see the logic. We think if you set up the tool with the water trap properly installed and the tool lubricated using it for the intended application they exceed power tools in many ways. But there are downsides when looking at the cost of the air (powerful compressor) and limited work area. You always need to provide air so remote work can be a challenge.

      In certain industries, air tools will always be the most cost-effective choice. For example tire dealerships. Unless technology catches up and all of them find a better electrical alternative with the same torque.

      Power tools, especially cordless ones, have improved incredibly in the last few years, so this could happen very soon.

  8. Renier Botha says:

    I am using the 90liter sandblasting pot with the 200liter 3hp compressor…..this is obviously not very efficient. Can I connect a second compressor to increase CFM? If so, how do I do it?

      • Renier Botha says:

        Thank you Francois. I have purchased one recently and I will rent another for a weekend to see how it goes. I was thinking to connect the two tanks on the pump side so as not to go through the regulator. This should eliminate the need for check valves. It is the exact same unit so the cut in pressure should be fairly close. Then I can use the normal output and regulator from one of the compressors. Two pumps, two motors, 400 litres, more or less 16-18 CFM powered through two seperate circuit breakers. Does this make sense?

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      We frequently have product showcase workshops when we are present at Hobby Shows or Automotive Expos. We are planning on creating more content or media related to demonstrating the features of our products in more detail. We will publish these on our website or social media in the future.

  9. Joshua says:

    Good day, The Adendorff 200L air compressor tanks (the air receivers), what threads do they use on inlet and inspection ports? BSP or NPT? Many thanks

  10. Dylan says:

    I am curious to know why a belt-driven is better than a direct drive?
    Surely a direct drive is more efficient as there is no losses on the belt? Its way more compact and smaller? Or am I missing something about the belt driven?

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      Direct drive machine runs a higher RPM (more heat), generate more noise, and have a less expected lifetime. They also have only 1 cylinder (for most smaller models) so the heat and energy expenditure is much higher compared to belt drive. Also, belt drives are safer since the belt will run off or snap if a massive failure or seize occurs, where a direct drive is connected directly.

    • Sewes le Roux says:

      Hi Shannon. You would not be able to use an impact wrench on the 50l compressor as you will not get enough pressure. A 200l belt-driven compressor would be perfect for you to use an impact wrench, as you need constant pressure of about 6Bar to function.

  11. Egon says:

    Hi guys

    Reading through the article and comments, it is clear that Adendorff favours and recommends using (1) Belt driven compressors, (2) larger than 100lt for most jobs.

    Going through the specifications of all the air tools on your website I saw that there are a vast amount of tools that have a rated air consumption of 3 CFM or less, including a butterfly impact wrench, air ratchet, palm sander and even some spray guns. All of these fall under the category of air tools that are recommended for use with a large, belt-driven compressor. However, a 24lt or 50lt direct drive compressor, with 3.8 and 4.2 CFM ratings respectively, seems to provide enough air flow for these tools and costs a fraction of a larger belt-driven compressor.

    My questions are:
    1. Why would you not recommend using the above mentioned tools with the cheaper compressors, even though on paper they seem compatible?
    2. What are smaller direct-drive compressors like the 24 and 50lt variants actually good for?

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      the reason is. These smaller 4CFM machines supply enough airflow but not at the pressure needed. The machine must 1st fill up the tank. If you use the tool the pressure will fall and the motor is not fast enough to keep the right pressure while the tool is running. Idea is to go about 15% over the needed CFM so the machine can keep up with the air tool at the needed pressure. The smaller 50lt machines are ideal for airbrushing, nail guns, staple guns, and low-pressure low volume paint spray job. Ofcourse you run any tool on them in short bursts.

      • Egon says:

        Thank you for the clarifying reply. After posting my question, I found that nearly all of the pneumatic tools that I referenced on your website as having low-CFM requirements show much higher CFM ratings in your catalog. I’m guessing that your catalog shows the correct ratings, in which case the 4CFM compressors are indeed too small for most jobs.
        Thanks again.

    • Norbert says:

      Hi, how do I know that my 200L ingersol rand compressor has been well looked at by my workers (what to look at) and what service and service intervals do you suggest?

      • Sewes le Roux says:

        Hi Norbert, I would suggest if the compressor is being used a lot, once every three months would be perfect so that you can be assured that there is nothing wrong with it. We can also do that for you at our Headquarter branch in Rosettenville, Johannesburg.

  12. Hamza says:

    Hi, thanks for the useful article. From your experience, what would you say the budget 50L 2HP compressors are adequate for? Running a nail gun? Small-scale spray projects?

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      Ideal for a nail gun or staple gun. Will spray just fine in short bursts. You will need to take frequent brakes to wait for machine to build up pressure.

  13. Gary Walker says:

    Maybe you guys can help. I recently bought a 100L 1.8KW direct drive compressor from another shop. The problem was that at home on 220V the compressor would fail to start up and only make a humming sound. After going back and forth to the retailer a couple of times, and finding that at the store it runs perfectly but at my house it won’t we came to the conclusion that the machine does not seem happy with the 220V power supply at home.When I connect to my generator running at 230V it works perfect again. I am currently running a 50L 1.5Kw unit and this seems to be fine.

    I would really like to run a 100L unit as I want to use this with a small Impact wrench and also looking at a small Plasma cutter. It is all for small DIY jobs at home.

    Have you guys had any issues with running the bigger machines on 220V residential power?

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      Yes, its the circuit breaker or wiring on the wall that does not supply enough current. Any electrician can put in a better plug and thicker wiring to allow the startup. Also if the tank is under pressure it will take more power to get going. Belt Drive machines take less to start and are more efficient than direct drive.

  14. ACS says:

    I have a HobbyCraft compressor , bought decades ago but never used. I now want to inflate my car tyre using this direct drive 50l machine. My problem is finding the correct hose coupler. It seems that there are many standards/sizes on the market. Which of your items will fit?

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      You can use it sure, but your compressor will fall behind if you are cutting longer cuts. You will have to have some breaks in between to allow the compressor to build up pressure.

  15. George says:

    Why do i need a belt driven compressor for yout 140 inveter plasama cutter. I have a 100 liter ditect drive compressor that puts out 8 bar

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      The pressure is not the issue but the airflow. Belt driven machines provide a higher CFM and better duty cycle as compared to direct drive machines.

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      Sure we just have no info on the pump, so are not certain it will have the right RPM to match. We sell these motors in order to easily replace aging motors on MAC AFRIC machines.

  16. Gregory says:

    Its a belt driven,compressor curruntley,running on a 1.½ hp motor which i believe to be faulty would pulley on it seem to be same size of those on your motors thanx.

    • Francois Landsberg says:

      We can not recommend this solution as our motors are specced to MAC AFRIC machines. You are welcome to purchase one, in the event it does not solve your problem you can return it for a refund.

  17. Christel says:

    Where can I find a replacement Air Delivery Pipe ( Pipe that goes from the motor to the tank) Its an aluminium pipe with nuts on either end, have found a leak where the nuts screw on. Couldnt find it on your website, any recommendation in Cape Town?

    • Sewes le Roux says:

      Hi Christel,

      You can get in contact with our spares department regarding the air delivery pipe.
      They will definitely be able to assist you.

      You can give them a call on 011 434 7117.


  18. Jaco says:

    Hi I have a Mat Air 3050 100L compressor that has a CFM of 13.5, 3 hp and duty cycle of 60% will I be able to run air tools such as grinders and Sanders effectively

    • Sewes le Roux says:

      Hi Jaco,

      It all depends on the CFM that the grinders and sanders use. If it is a low CFM rating, I can suggest that you will be able to run one air tool on the 60% duty cycle.


  19. Marissa says:

    Hi, I am doubting between buying a ryobi oil less compressor, 6l or a ryobi oil compressor 50l. What would you recommend for DIY uses? Are they adequate for spray gun, nail gin, staple gun etc?

  20. Leon says:

    Could you explain the difference between a single head and a V-head compressor. I can imagine that the V can supply a bigger airflow but are there other factors to consider. I would like to buy a 100 liter, 250 liter/min unit. It is available in either a single head or a V-head. What would influence my decision?

  21. matt says:

    Hi – i am wanting a spray kit, for weekend DIY projects. Max scope size = spraying 1sqm / car bumper, to spraying small details size of a coke can. and Additonally pumping car tyres here and there. What set up or product do you recommend?

  22. prenell777 says:

    Hi Francois, what size air compressor must I use with your coolant vacuum refill kit. Will your vertical 100Lt compressor be sufficient? I have a 50lt compressor. Seems to be underpowered.

  23. Spencer says:

    Hi there,

    I am at starting a mobile car wash and detailing side hustle. I am looking at buying MAC AFRIC 70l Pneumatic Foam Cleaning Sprayer HFOAMS-070. Could you please recommend a portable or less bulky compressor I can use.


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