Air pump recommendations appreciated?

Ok guys, I know this question has probably been asked, but I’m asking again.

I’m asking here because you guys haven’t failed me yet! LOL

I want to get a new air pump for my 50W bumblebee.

I want something affordable, quiet, reliable and ample air flow

Recommendations please

Reminds me a bit of this…

Not trying to be snarky - just honest. A cheap option would be to get a large aquarium pump - most commercial laser cutters will come with something similar and it’s “good enough” but it is definitely not quiet or high flow.

@LightBurn has been doing a ton of testing the last few days with a proper compressor and the results have been stunning. 1/8" ply at ~70mm/s with a 60W tube. When I just got my Thunder Nova 35 I got lazy because with their nozzle setup, the pump worked well enough but after seeing what he’s been doing I’m going back to my shop compressor ASAP.

Both of us have a California Air Tools compressor and I cannot recommend them enough - They are extremely quiet, are rated for near continuous compression, and have great air flow. But, I admit - not cheap. I think mine was close to $300 new.

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Agree one billion percent. I have the 10gal 2hp and the same one as Oz. Both are great. Super quiet.


I like that GIF! I remember that. I also remember a lot of people talking about the California air compressors.

I will look into those, I think Home Depot sells them and I have a card!

Thank you

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I’ll toss in my hearty recommendation for a “real air compressor” over the aquarium pump like comes with many machines.

When I ditched the crappy low pressure aquarium pump and plumbed in to my shop compressor it made a world of difference in cutting 6mm plywood and other “thick & smokey” materials.

Lots of air pressure to keep the kerf smoke & trash free is a very good thing.


I have to concur that the aquarium style air pumps are pretty useless. I have three RedSail lasers, 2 - X700’s and 1 - M900. I have them all hooked up to California Air Compressors, which are fairly expensive, but very quiet. One alternative might be the Harbor Freight FORTRESS 2 Gallon 135 PSI Ultra Quiet compressor rated at 60 db, which is really quiet. It uses a compressor motor and pump that is very similar to California air tools, if not the very same one. It appears that most of the California Air Tools parts are manufactured in China, with some final assembly work being done in San Diego. The Harbor Freight 2 gal Fortress compressor is completely made in China. I need to say that I have not tried the Fortress Compressor, but when one of my Cal Air compressors die, I have going to give it a shot. When I do, I’ll let folks know what my experience with it is.

Noise, most of the noise I have had in my shop is related to the big green exhaust blowers that originally came with my engravers. I replaced those with inline vent exhaust blowers made here in the USA, which run very quietly. They are about $60-70 bucks.

Let us know what you do.


I saw one of the new Harbor Freight “quiet” compressors on display in one of their stores. I was impressed. Harbor Freight has been upping their game over the last couple of years. The 2 gal version lists on their website for $169 but I think the 1 gal would do just fine at $129. The 2 gal California consumer grade version is listed on WalMart’s site for $169 but I would buy the Harbor Freight one simply because I can return it to the store if it breaks and be back up and running the same day. In fact, I think I would opt for the 1 gal version - I think it would work just fine for this application.


Thoughts on this?

I bought the 5 gal (5510A) and, even having been told countless times how much of a difference it makes, I was honestly unprepared.

I bought the compressor before my Thunder Laser even showed up, but hadn’t connected it until very recently. I was trying to cut through 1/2" (12mm) plywood and no matter how slow or how many passes I took it just ended up charring the hell out of it by the time it got all the way through - it looked like I was using a acetylene torch, not a laser.

I had conceded defeat and was putting my jacket on to go to the hardware store to buy some 1/4" instead when I saw the real compressor and thought, “meh - I’ll just give it a go. Couldn’t hurt.” 7mm/sec, single pass, clean cuts all the way through, no smoke residue on either side. It’s a completely different machine and I’m kicking myself for not having done this sooner.


Which Thunderlaser and what power tube did you get? Also do you have any idea what pressure and flow rate you are delivering to your laser with the California compressor?

I have a Nova 24 with the standard aquarium-type air pump and use a California compressor with my Tormach CNC mill. The compressor is pretty quiet at < 60 psig or so but gets a lot noisier at higher pressures, enough so that I can hear it running several rooms away. Mine has failed twice, once at the pressure switch and the other at a reed valve in the compressor itself. The company told me that their compressors are not intended for the sort of use that a CNC mill can demand, which I assume to mean semi-continuous operation. I’ve been thinking of trying an Iwata air brush compressor as a short term replacement for the aquarium pump and have installed a small rotameter in the air assist line as a means of measuring flow rate so as to get some meaningful comparison data.

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It was a 60w Thunder Nova 24, and I was running about 40 PSI. Not sure of the flow rate, but the compressor was keeping up with no trouble (turned off for a minute or so at a time).

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I use a Gast 71R twin piston compressor. It is the type that is commonly used in gas station quarter-fed air pumps.

No storage tank, it is powerful, fairly quiet and never needs oil - also no worry about water in the lines.

Not cheap, they are five or six hundred new, I bought mine off eBay (for $300 I think) exactly eight years ago today.

Gast 71R


I just hooked up this CAT small compressor today on my Thunder Laser Nova 24, works great so far. Only a 1 gallon tank so does kick on and off but very quiet and only $112 on Amazon.

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You will not go wrong with a Cal Air Tools Compressor, it is quiet when new. Over time, with the kind of continuous duty we tend to do in our line of work, the reed valves and piston/cylinder assemblies wear and they can make as much noise as a cheap compressor. Cal Air compressors can be expensive to repair, not to mention the downtime. If you buy the Harbor Freight warranty to go with the compressor, if it goes bad, you just take it in and they give you a new one. Tough to beat that. All that being said, I cannot express what a difference a good airflow coming out of the laser head nozzle makes, when it comes to cutting and engraving. The Cal Air Tools will always be a good choice. All compressors are quieter when new. You pay your money and you take your chances. A second thing to remember, if you are doing cutting, it helps to keep a cutting focal tube with a cutting lens handy.

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Perhaps it would be better to say that cheap air compressors are quieter when new. My Gast is as quiet now as the first time I turned it on eight years ago. Another compressor I have is also as quiet now as when I first got it about 18 years ago. You can comfortably talk across it using a normal voice while it is running, but it was already 58 years old when I got it, it is possible that it was even quieter when new, but I doubt it.


I agree completely. I am envious of you for having a Gast compressor!

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Hey guys

What about the “fish tank” Hailea Air Compressor ACO-300A? It’s Output is 240l/min.

I once bought an Air compressor that was a 24 Liter Direct Drive Compressor - 1.5HP and it could not keep up with the air pressure? It was on all the time and the pressure dropped quite quickly. Fortunately I could take it back.

My current Air compressor is a “fish rank” ACD-005 which outputs only 70l/min and leave terrible residue/smoke marks behind. It I switch the Air off, it has no residue/smoke marks. I just don’t like the huge flame without the compressor on :slight_smile:

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Thanks, I ended up getting this one…

Now I wait for delivery!

Thanks - I’ll document what I get with my setup here eventually. I have an inexpensive rotameter installed that will give me approximate flow rates.

I am using the 1 gallon Harbor Freight Fortress compressor. It is super quiet, maybe less noise than my Cal Air 2 gallon unit. went with harbor freight so I could be back up in an hour or so if it where to fail. I put the 2 yr warranty on it and just before the end of the warranty period take it back broke or not and they will give you the latest updated unit, or pay the diffrence and upgrade to the 2 galloon model. it has been working perfect on my JTech 7 watt+ Laser and makes a world of difference when cutting 3mm, 6mm ply and acrylics.