How to Identify Vintage Air Compressors

By Mary Cole

The first air compressor dates back to the 17th century.
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Air compressors provide power to other components, typically through a single motor on the compressor that converts electric energy into kinetic energy. Compressors are found in many locations, including gas stations, manufacturing plants and even in basement workshops to power staplers, sanders, drills, nail guns and more. The largest advantage to using air compressors is that tools can plug into compressors for power rather than rely on its own motor, which increases wear and tear over the life of that tool. There also are air compressor users who appreciate not just the workmanship in vintage air compressors but the fact that many of them still work. Luckily, identifying vintage air compressors is possible.

Check for a patent number on the side of your air compressor. Many old air compressors not only include the manufacturer name, but also include patent numbers.

Plug the patent number into Google Patents. The results typically will include an early drawing of your air compressor, a patent filing date and a patent issue date along with the manufacturer name.

Find a reputable tool forum and post pictures of your air compressor. Many antique tool collectors and experienced mechanics are able to identify vintage tools, including air compressors. Post pictures taken from various angles, including front, back and side, if possible.

Look directly on the back of the air compressor tank. You may find a tank stamp with a manufacturing date for your air compressor. Typically you also will find the manufacturer name either on the front or back of the compressor tank. Use a search engine to perform a search on the manufacturer to gain clues as to when that company started to make air compressors and when it went out of business or was sold.