Canadian Woodworking


A super convenient air compressor, with ample air capacity, a fast recovery time, low noise level, light weight, and compact size.


A super convenient air compressor, with ample air capacity, a fast recovery time, low noise level, light weight, and compact size.

Author: Carl Duguay

If you’re looking for a truly portable air compressor for light to medium duty intermittent work, then you’ll want to take a hard look at the Rolair AIRSTAK. It’s housed in a Systainer (about 12″ x 12″ x 15″) so it can be stacked with other Systainers, should you own any, and at just under 30 pounds it’s light enough to tote to-and-from, and around, the work site or workshop. If you work in a small shop and only use a compressor occasionally, then it barely takes up any storage space. And at 70 decibels it isn’t sound deafening.

COMPANY: Rolair Systems
PRICE: $649.97
SOURCEFind a dealer



Motor: 1 HP, 8 amp, 2,300 RPM
Tank size: 1.6 gallon
Delivered CFM: 2.0 @90 PSI; 2.8 @40 PSI
Pup-up time: 30 seconds
Recovery time: 9 seconds
Duty cycle: 60%
Noise level: 70 dB
Warranty: 1 year

You can use air tools with the AIRSTAK that require a maximum of 2 CFM at 90 PSI – fortunately this covers most pinnners and brad nailers, plus staplers, small air ratchets and impact wrenches, and blow guns. Pump-up time (the time it takes to fill the tank with compressed air) is a very impressive 30 seconds, and recovery time (the time it takes to replenish the tank) at an average 9 seconds is stellar.

The AIRSTAK has a 60% duty cycle – the actual pump run-time per hour compared to the off-time per hour expressed as a percentage. This means that you can run the compressor for about 9 minutes out of every 15 minutes without the risk of overheating the motor. Which means this compressor is best suited for intermittent work, making it a good choice for furniture and cabinet makers, trim installers, hobbyist woodworkers and avid DIYers. It wouldn’t be my choice for flooring installers, roofers, carpenters and the like. Which doesn’t mean you couldn’t occasionally shoot larger gauge nails with your finishing or framing nailer. You just wouldn’t want to be shooting 15 and 16 gauge nails all day with the AIRSTAK.

The control panel is straight forward. Gauges are a tad small (1-1/2″ diameter) for my liking. However, I rarely look at the gauges as I always run my compressor at the same 90 PSI. There is only one quick connect coupler, which makes sense, as you won’t have two guns running simultaneously on this compressor. The regulator turns smoothly and doesn’t often need adjustment. The drain valve is a pain – it’s really much too small to comfortably rotate. I’ll be replacing it with a wing nut that has 1/4″ NPT threads and some Teflon tape (in place of the wing nut you could also use a ball valve).

At first glance the 5-foot power cord might seem too short. But, to avoid the possibility of overheating the motor, it’s better to run a longer air hose than use an extension cord. When moving the AIRSTAK to and from a jobsite you can store the power cord inside the Systainer, though there isn’t enough space to store the air hose in there as well.

Cleaning the air intake filter regularly is fairly important as it keeps dust from entering the compressor pump. As well, a clogged air filter makes the motor work harder and can cause it to heat up more quickly. If you do a lot of sanding in your shop you’ll want to check the filter more frequently. It only takes a couple of minutes to remove and clean the filter, so I try to do it every couple of weeks. Unfortunately, to access the air filter on the AIRSTAK you need to remove four screws that secure the cover to the metal box inside the Systainer. It’s time consuming and inconvenient, and I’ve a mind not to reinstall the screws when I next check the air filter.

I used the AIRSTAK with an 18 gauge nailer driving 2″ fasteners when installing 400 odd feet of baseboards in a new condo recently, and everything went as smooth as butter. It’s now on a kitchen reno job where we’ll use it when installing all the new trimwork.

Rolair has long had a reputation for building high quality, durable compressors, and the AIRSTAK is no exception. Apart from the overly small drain valve and the difficulty accessing the air filter, there’s a lot to really like about this compressor. It has sufficient air capacity for the air tools I typically use (pinner and brad nailer), it has one of the fastest recovery times you’ll find in a compact portable compressor, and it isn’t overly loud. Time will tell how it holds up on the jobsite, but we have high expectations for this mini marvel.

rolair airstak
The motor and pump assembly are enclosed in a metal box within the Systainer.
rolair airstak
The motor reset switch is easily accessible.
rolair airstak
The AIRSTAK comes with a short 5′ power cord.
rolair airstak
(A) On/off switch, (B) Regulator, (C) Drain Valve, (D) Quick Connect Coupler, (E) Outlet Pressure Gauge, (F) Tank Pressure Gauge.
rolair airstak
Ready to install some baseboard.



Last modified: September 29, 2023

Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

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