Grex Air Compressor

MODEL#: AC1810-A
PRICE: $239.00 SRP 
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken

For most modelers who stick with the hobby for any period of time, there comes a time when they start looking for an air brush. I should state now that an air brush is not a necessity as I know quite a few modelers who brush paint and are quite happy with the results they get with this method. However, if one does start looking for an air brush, then they will need a way to supply propellant. For some, the best thing is to get a large tank of nitrogen plus the appropriate gauges. This will provide a silent supply of propellant and is by its very design, quiet so you won't disturb neighbors or family when painting.

The other method is an air compressor. There are a wide variety of these items around and you can get a very usable compressor for a small amount of money from discount hardware stores. These are usually diaphragm compressors and have a downside in that they are fairly loud. I have had a Badger 180 which I bought in 1981. It is loud and tends to 'dance' when placed on a hard surface. It still works perfectly, but I thought that after 36 years of use, perhaps I should get something more modern.

A place where I have kits on consignment (and is now an e-bay store) CRM Hobbies, has been carrying Grex for a while. The company has a good reputation so I decided to get their compressor (they also make excellent air brushes).

This compressor is a piston type. My very first compressor from back in the 1960s when I was using a Binks Wren to paint slot car bodies, was a piston type. It was noisy and got rather hot, something that a diaphragm compressor usually will not. However, technology moves on and after seeing this one in action at a show, it was on my list of future buys.

There were a few things I noticed about this when taking it out of the box. First, it has a power switch, something my Badger does not have. Secondly, I had to buy a separate pressure gauge for my Badger. This one has it and a moisture trap built in. I've not needed a moisture trap even though I paint in my basement as I have a de-humidifier that keeps the air down there dry, but it is nice to have one. The compressor has an airbrush holder built into the casing, which you can see at the rear of the photo. It also came with a coiled hose and has a carrying handle.

So, first thing I did was to unwrap the power cord and plug it into the utility outlet on the side of my paint booth. Then I attached the hose. On the other side, I unscrewed the attachment I had on my Badger hose and screwed one of my Iwatas to the hose. The Badger hose has an attachment area about half the size of the Grex so requires an adapter when using non-Badger air brushes. I then turned it on and was quite surprised at how quiet this one is compared to my Badger.  I then tried to reduce the air flow. One has to pull up on the adjustment knob to do this and then you are supposed to push it down to lock it in place. I paint at rather low pressure and found that this one doesn't like going any lower than about 7 psi on the gauge. I have yet to try the upper end as I don't use high pressure, but the instructions state it will go to 60 psi. The compressor also cycles on and off, sometimes quite frequently, unlike the old compressor which ran all the time. I suppose this is to keep it from overheating, but that is just a guess.

So I've been using this now for a few days. I'm getting more and more used to the 'on and off' operation. I'm not totally sold on the coiled air hose, though as it seems as if I'm constantly having to fight its tendency to pull on the air brush. This is the biggest change from before and perhaps I'll get used to it or the hose will loosen up with time or I'll go get a straight hose. Anyway, I'm pleased with my purchase (and most folks who spend what is a considerable amount on something will say that anyway unless it is a real dog), and can recommend one of these if you have the need and the means.

April 2017

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