Since I’ve been documenting everything about my experience with the Fuji Mini-Mite 4 I decided to collect all the info in a blog series.
So here we go!
Backstory (skip past this if you just want to read my impressions of the fuji):
For about a year I used a Qualspray QS-125WB from homestead finishing with my makita twin stack compressor. I also opted for the bigger 20 oz cup since it was to be my main spray setup. In that year I used the gun a lot, and it worked great, but the compressor would run a bit much for my preference on some jobs. Also, no matter the cup size, it’s still a small detail gun and I wanted something full size so I could grow with it as my projects and skill set increase in scale. I could have gotten a bigger compressor and the full size QS-600WB gun. In fact, that was my plan for a while. But I started looking into turbines after comparing the cost of a new compressor plus the new gun. On top of that, I’m limited to 110 in the garage so the biggest compressor I could realistically manage is a 20 gallon 2HP. It probably would have worked fine, but space is an issue in my one car garage shop that I share with my pop (he uses about 1/4). A turbine takes up a lot less space than a new compressor. Being able to carry it to a jobsite if necessary is another plus.
So while researching turbines, I had all but settled on the earlex 5500 but didn’t like the fact that it’s a bleeder gun, only 2 stages and it’s more of a lower mid level system. I subscribe to the “buy once, cry once” club so I went searching for a better system that was made to last. It was in the wood whisperer's review of the earlex 6900 where I first heard of the fuji systems so I researched those, along with apollo turbines (which ended up being out of my budget) and came to the conclusion that a fuji system was for me. It fit my budget, reviews were positive all around, and it’s not made in an asian country (though some of the accessories are).
Once I was set on a fuji turbine, I then researched the different models, needle sets, accessories, etc. I originally wanted the gravity gun setup as it was what I was used to spraying with, but since my primary clear coat (crystalac super premium) is not recommended for use with aluminum cups unless they’re coated, I went for the siphon cup. The siphon cup is also aluminum, but there’s two accessories I added to take care of that issue. The first is the same cup but with a teflon coating. It wasn’t too much for the stand alone cup (~$25), so I added one to my order. The other thing I also grabbed was the 3 mini cup set. It includes 3 250ml plastic cups and lids, and a lid that stays connected to the gun. It reminds me of the mason jar system the critter spray gun (the gun I learned to spray with) uses. Since 90% or more of my spraying is small projects this is the setup I’ll be using the most.
So with the cup situation out of the way I looked into the three different models; mini-mite, super and Q series. They all feature the same turbines in 3 or 4 stage, but the super and Q series add noise reduction. After watching a noise comparison video, I decided on the mini-mite since it’s about as loud as a shop vac which doesn’t bother me at all.
When choosing between the 3 or 4 stage turbines I went for the 4 stage. It’s better to have and not need than to need and not have. It was $134 more for the 4 stage, but I feel I got what I paid for. With a 4 stage I can spray a wider variety of finishes and the turbine won;t have to work as hard for my typical finishes, so hopefully that translates into a longer lasting system.
Rounding out my order, I added a few accessories. I got the cup parts kit, lids for the big cup, the whip hose and extra filters. I also got the #3 needle set. The #4 needle comes with the system, and according to the fuji manual, the #3 (1.0mm) and #4 (1.4mm) sets will handle most, if not all, finishing tasks. I might get the #2 (0.7mm) set for dyes depending on how the #3 handles them. I ordered from fuji direct as they ship from buffalo, so I’d have my goodies in 1 day. Everything came to just under $900. A new compressor would have been $500-$600, and the gun kit and extra needle from homestead would have been a bit over $300 with shipping, so I’m in the same ballpark either way. For my situation, I think I made the right choice opting for a turbine over a compressor system.
Sorry for the long intro; I’m excited and have 3/4 of a 2 liter of diet dew in my system.
I placed my order on the afternoon of the 12th, it shipped on the 13th, and was in my hands on the 14th. Everything arrived in two well packed boxes.
Fit and Finish:
The turbine unit is very well built and hefty for its size. It’s made of a pretty heavy gauge steel, powder coated in the world’s most amazing color, blue. The handle is plastic, but certainly no lightweight. The filters are easy to replace when necessary, the switch is easily accessible and the unit uses a universal 3 prong power cable like those used on PC’s. That’s a plus in case the oem cord ever becomes damaged. The air hose fitting on the front doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy either. This thing was built to last.
Not mentioned in the product description but included, was a bracket that screws onto the turbine body that holds the gun. It’s pretty stout, so I doubt it will be breaking off any time soon. It holds the gun solidly and far enough from the handle that the turbine and gun can be carried together easily. The inclusion of the gun holder is a big plus for me.
The gun itself is also a quality piece of hardware. It’s bigger than the QS-125WB, so handling it will take some getting used to. The grip feels great. It’s covered in plastic insulate it from the heat the turbine generates. All the removable parts on the gun are finely finished and fit precisely where they’re supposed to go. The standard quart cup is simple and sturdy, as is the lid locking mechanism. The teflon coated cup is identical aside from the teflon coating. I’ll use this for larger jobs. Changing from the standard quart cup to the mini cup was easy except for the pressure tube. To change cup setups, I had to remove the tube from the gun, and that was the hard part. I was pulling pretty hard and it wouldn’t come off the fitting on the gun. What worked was running the fitting under hot water for a couple of minutes and it softened the hose enough to where I could pull it off. Putting the tube from the mini cup lid was easy. I’ll just have to remember the hot water trick for whenever I change back to the quart cup. I had to loosen the needle packing a bit as it was a bit tight feeling when squeezing the trigger.
The 25’ air hose is big and heavy. I’m glad I bought the whip hose; I almost didn’t after reading a few negative reviews on amazon saying it’s flimsy. It certainly isn’t. It’s as well made as the rest of the components and in all honesty a necessity. I could not imagine spraying with just the regular hose.
The mini cup set is expensive (~$44) but pretty impressive in build quality. I was thinking the cups and lids would be flimsy plastic, but they’re actually pretty heavy duty and made of thick hdpe. The lids have gaskets built in and have a nice grip so tightening them is very easy. Being that they’re made of a heavy plastic, the cups won’t bend or dent easily. I’m quite impressed by the build quality. When I first saw the lids I thought they looked quite close to the size of the hdpe jars I get from usplastic to store my finishes in. Sure enough, I tried the fuji lids on the usplastic jars and they fit like a charm. So if the need ever arises, I can use the 8oz usplastic jars in place of the fuji jars. Also, since the pickup tube is a standard nylon tube, I can get some tubing to cut and fit to the lid on the gun to accommodate bigger jar sizes, like 16 and 32 oz. I’ll be sure to post more details on this mod when I do it.
So I’m pretty impressed with the fit and finish of this system. So far I think it was money well spent, but I’ll be putting it through the spray test in a few days and will update then. I plan on mastering (or at least attempting to) this system pretty quickly as I have a backlog of projects I need to get through. I’ll post some pics tomorrow.
Follow-Up #1: 3/16/13
I played with the system in the kitchen a bit today spraying water so here’s what I found:
With the something as thin as water the spray pattern was pretty wide. Very nice! With the fan and fluid wide open this thing can empty an 8 oz cup in seconds. I’ll mess with the pattern and air settings until I find the sweet spot.
The noise level was right on par with a shop vac. Not good if you’re right on top of the unit, but spraying ~10’ away it didn’t bother me at all. Compressor and shop vac/turbine noises are different, and even though my compressor is quieter, I prefer to deal with the sound of the turbine. In the shop it will be closer to 15-16’ away so the noise will be even more tolerable.
Yep, the whip hose is a must. The big hose did become a bit more flexible with use, but it is still pretty heavy. Also, I see no issues with the durability of the whip hose unless it’s stepped on or is bent sharply. I’m not going to baby it, but I’m not going to abuse it either, so we’ll see how it does during normal use. As of now I have no worries. All the hose fittings went together perfectly with no air leaks from what I could tell.
I did run into an issue; The gun came with the #4 needle set. It was set at the factory and worked fine. I also ordered the #3 needle set, and this is where the problem lies. I went to change needle sets and the #3 seems larger in diameter than the #4. It is an extremely tight fit in the needle packing. The manual says that the packing may need to be adjusted slightly, but I had to loosen the nut about a full turn to make the needle fit as it’s supposed to, gliding smoothly but allowing no leaks. So I changed back to the #4 set after that and as expected, it leaked like crazy because I had to loosen the packing so much. I did not have to do this with my qualspray gun, so I think the #3 needle is defective. I have a replacement on the way. I measured both needles at the last inch or so (where it enters the packing) with my digital calipers and confirmed that the #3 needle is larger by a bit. The #3 measured .126-.127, the #4 measured .1235-.1245. I’m not happy about it, but we’ll see how the replacement goes.
For the plastic cup mod, I ordered two types of nylon tubing from mcmaster of the right diameter and will see which matches the rigidness of the the tube on the cup. I have 16 and 32 oz hdpe jars on the way too. I see myself using the 16oz the most, so that’s the one I’ll start with. If it works well, I’ll likely leave that as my main setup. I’ll have part numbers and links once I confirm it works.
Unrelated, but the apollo 7500 is a really sexy spray gun…
Follow-Up #2: 3/17/13
I played with the gun some more today.
The gun continues to spray beautifully. Adjustments are very precise; a tiny turn of the fluid delivery knob, air pressure lever (on the hose) and pattern control knob all result in pretty big changes. Pretty soon I’ll put some actual finish through it on some scraps and see how it goes.
The #3 needle problem persists. No amount of adjustment of the needle packing results in a “sweet spot” that works with both the #3 and #4 needles. Just right on the #3 is too loose on the #4, and just right on the #4 is way too tight on the #3. I’m anxious for the replacement to get here on tuesday. Instead of going through hvlp.net, where I made my original purchase, I bought the #3 replacement from amazon so I could avoid getting another needle from the same batch that may be defective. If the #3 from amazon works as it should, the defective #3 will be going back to hvlp.net for a refund.
One other thing I noticed about the gun under close inspection; there’s a few areas where the casting is pretty rough; on the hook on the top of the gun, on the front above the air cap nut and there’s an actual ding on the air cap threads. It doesn’t hinder operation of the gun at all, but for a gun with a street price of $309 it’s a bit rough around the edges. It sprays beautifully though, so there’s absolutely no complaints there. The Apollo 7500QT looks very enticing right now at a street price of $317… Depending on how the #3 replacement goes I might swap out the whole gun. I’ll post pics later and ask around if the way my gun is a bit rough is normal.
The turbine, hose, whip hose and mini cup set are great though. No complaints there. The power cord for the turbine is pretty stiff though. I might look for a more flexible replacement.
I’ll definitely be posting pics later today in the next blog post.
-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.