by: Darren Baker [ ]
When taking the model hobby more seriously one investment nearly always required is a compressor and airbrush. If you ask anyone for advice they will provide advice from their experience and that is usually tied down to the airbrush and compressor they currently use, which due to how long that person may have been in the hobby could result in a very sizeable outlay of cash if they have gone high end. There are endless questions placed in forums the world over asking ‘which compressor should I buy?’ The answer is not an easy one to give and so requires that you look twice and consider carefully before purchasing a product to suit your needs and price range. Here I am going to look at the Zeta air compressor which is a new product released by Sparmax. This item has been supplied by the Airbrush Company in the UK.
This compressor arrives in a box measuring 300mm x 310mm x 190mm and weighs in excess of 10lbs. The packing of the product has been exceptionally well done and once unpacked I could not get everything back in the box with the packing material supplied. The high density foam packing prevents any movement of the contents and so the compressor and its parts arrive in perfect condition.
In the box you will find a surprising number of parts; the moisture trap is provided attached to the clamp for attaching it to a table or even the body of the compressor. The smart stop switch is also in the top box and this has a bolt that attaches it to the clamp and moisture trap. The last part of this area is the airbrush hanger that stops and starts the compressor; the frame is metal that has been covered with a rubber using a method that I am unfamiliar with. The wire for shutting down the compressor runs from the bottom of the smart stop switch and plugs straight into the compressor without any issues regarding fit. On the top of the moisture trap is a lift and turn knob for adjusting the air pressure to an airbrush can be adjusted as required the gauge attached goes up to 100 PSI but something is very wrong if it gets that high. The moisture container is protected by a screwed on metal cover with vision slots cut into it, a nice inclusion for protecting an area that could be easily broken if someone is careless.
Connecting the compressor to the moisture trap is done using a coiled plastic hose that I am informed will stretch out to 4 metres in length; I am not a huge fan of this material as I have found that it dries out and becomes stiff with time. The other side is a 2 metre braided hose that I am very pleased with having used one on my own set up for some time with continued excellent service. The result of this is that your work station does not have to be near the compressor and so running noise becomes less important. When attaching the hoses to the moisture trap the air in direction is clearly marked on the trap itself.
The compressor itself is a hefty beast weighing in at 10ib before all of the other pieces are attached. The protective metal sleeve is painted in a metallic grey and is visually pleasing. A substantial plastic carrying handle is on the top and this is up to the task for which it is intended. When I switched the compressor on for the first time there was a very distinct metallic rattle that was quite loud, this was resolved with a quick look over the compressor where I found one of the case securing bolts was slightly loose and required a little tightening to resolve.
The motor in this compressor is well constructed from what I can see of it and is finished with a nice chromed end plate on the end that matters. The electric motor drives a single oil less cylinder that can produce up 60PSI if none of the air is being used, in use when providing air to an air brush the maximum achievable pressure is 40PSI, a pressure that is far higher than any modeller should require for use. When switched on with the various hoses done up finger tight only I had no leakage of pressure from the system when rested for 5 minutes, quite good for finger tight only. While no air tank is present the 6metres of hoses do hold a good amount of air and this helps to provide a constant pressure in use. I am informed that the compressor produces 45 decibels of sound when running, but I found that the compressor produced different amounts of noise depending on the surface it sits on, and without a decibel meter I cannot say if 45 decibels is the loudest it is.
When in use it is recommended that the compressor is rested for 10-15 minutes after 40 minutes of continuous use to allow it to cool down. I feel that this is a reasonable period of time and cannot recall having needed to spray for longer than that in a continuous manner. When in use I did note that the air pressure rises by 5PSI when used at the sort of pressure commonly used by modellers, IE 10 to 20PSI, this rise in pressure occurs as stop spraying and so always start spraying before applying paint to your model. This is good practice and helps avoid issues with sprayed paint.
This compressor by Sparmax comes in at £199 if purchased from AirBrushes.com and can also be had for £165.83 from the same location if you do not pay VAT. This price within the UK puts the compressor in amongst a large number of other dedicated compressors. This offering does include some interesting touches with the clamp mount for the airbrush holder, I like this aspect a lot as if mounted on your work bench it gives easy access to adjust pressure if needed and a secure resting place for the airbrush being used. I have found that as I get older my eyes are deteriorating and having parts for adjustment close to hand and eye makes use so much easier.