|Review by Vrtigo1||posted 12-13-2011 04:40 AM||3438 views||0 times favorited||13 comments|
Let me start out by saying that I am a complete newbie when it comes to spraying finishes, and to finishing in general. I have never used any type of spray system before purchasing the Earlex, but after finishing projects by hand for a while I was looking for a faster and easier solution. The Earlex 5500 has met my needs and I’ve been happy with it.
The unit itself seems to be very well constructed, the turbine housing is fairly rugged, enough so that I get the impression that if it fell off a workbench it probably wouldn’t be any worse for wear. The onboard storage for the hose, electric cord and gun is handy, although it does take a bit of coaxing to get all of the hose back in after you take it out. Although I don’t have any basis for comparison, the gun seems to be very high quality. Everything functions well, I haven’t found anything I don’t like about it yet. The cup has a teflon lining which helps when it comes time to clean it out as whatever you’re spraying has less to stick to.
I purchased it when it was on sale at woodcraft for $320, and it included both the 1.5mm and 2.0mm needles. I’ve used both and would say that these are probably the two you will need the most right out of the gate. Changing needles is simple, Earlex includes a wrench to loosen/tighten the spray nozzle. After you’ve done it once or twice, the process of changing needles takes about 60 seconds.
I’ve sprayed poly and latex paint. The two types of poly I’ve sprayed are minwax polyshades (stain + poly in one) and general finishes high performance. These both sprayed fine. I think water based finishes may spray better with the smaller 1.0mm needle which I don’t have as I couldn’t get the mist quite as fine as I would have liked, but this didn’t prevent me from getting the job done.
I recently needed to touch up some small spots on the outside of my house, so I used the 2.0mm needle and gave it a go. When I poured the paint in the bucket, it looked so thick I didn’t think there was any way it was going to work. I added some floetrol, mixed it up and started spraying and was surprised at how well it worked. I only needed to touch up a few small spots and for that it worked very well. I wouldn’t recommend making an hvlp setup your first choice for spraying paint, but it will work if it’s all you have.
Cleanup takes a little time but is straightforward. I clean it in the kitchen sink because that’s what’s easiest for me. I use warm soapy water and rinse everything off until I think all of the finish is gone, then I run a cup or two of warm water through it. Finally, I take the needle out and run water through the whole gun until everything comes out clear. Total cleanup time is probably about 10 minutes.
The unit is fairly loud. I would say it’s about on par with a shop vac, give or take a bit. If I were using it for an extended period of time, I would probably wear hearing protection. The hose is nice and long so you don’t have to worry about dragging the turbine around with you, and it’s also long enough to allow you to work from a ladder with the turbine on the ground. The hose for the most part doesn’t get tangled too much, but that’s not to say that it never does. I didn’t realize this until I actually went to use it, but you can’t just take some of the hose out and leave the rest in. The hose has to come all the way out, and then it has to be connected to the air port on the front of the turbine unit. I thought the hose was always connected, but that’s not the case. When the hose if in the storage position, it is disconnected from the air supply.
The needles are fairly expensive for what they are, and you’ll probably eventually want to get all of the different sizes, so that could add another $100 to the cost.
Overall, I feel it represents a great value that allows someone that has never used hvlp before to try it out. Obviously, if you’re running a production shop then this probably isn’t the right unit for you, but for a weekend warrior this is a great unit.