Finding the Best Sprayer, Part II

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In the first part of the article, I talked about the available options for spray systems and guns. Here are my final thoughts and recommendations.

Using a conventional air compressor with a HVLP conversion system was introduced several years ago with good success. For a hobbyist with a small shop, this is usually a good fit. I tried a pre-owned, single-stage turbine HVLP system and was not impressed with the performance. I feel that a multi-stage system has a lot of advantages and I am planning on trying one out. Also, this setup has traditionally come with a cup under gun setup which I find more difficult because it requires frequent refilling and must stay vertical during operation. I do a lot of cabinets and this gun is hard to get into tight corners and keep vertical. However, recently there have been several turbine systems released with other gun arrangements, making this system more attractive.


Earlex and Apollo turbine spray systems

One advantage of the gun on a pressure pot system is its smaller size which makes it easier to maneuver. The pot also holds a larger amount of material which reduces the need to stop and refill. However, clean up is more difficult, and depending on the size of the hose, there can be a significant amount of material wasted.

For higher viscosity (thicker) material such as latex paint I prefer an airless system because I do not need to thin the material. For cabinets and other projects where a smoother result is needed I choose my air assisted airless which atomizes into a finer mist. For spraying lower viscosity (thinner) material like clear topcoats and shellac, I prefer an HVLP gun with a conventional air compressor because I can get a great result with minimal cleanup.


WoodRiver HVLP cup over gun sprayer

The gravity feed HVLP is the lowest cost option, can do most all materials with the correct nozzle size, is easier to clean, but some thicker latex paint will need to be thinned and may not work. The air assisted airless systems are typically the most expensive, however, they provide the best results across all of the spray material options. Turbines and pressure pot systems will come in somewhere in the middle. Cost will also go up in each category with a corresponding increase in quality. I would not choose the cheapest gun you can find. Shop around for a gun that may be a bit more expensive, but is of higher quality. It will provide better results and will not be as frustrating.

Safety is a top priority. Breathing masks and good ventilation are an absolute requirement and neither should be forgotten or misused.

I converted to spraying many years ago and have not looked back. There are some materials such as gel stains that I apply with a brush, but spraying is definitely my first choice when applying a finish. I can get great results with a minimum of effort, especially after understanding the differences and limitations of each system.


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