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Fantastic starter HVLP set, but choose your finish wisely

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Review by paxorion posted 04-12-2015 07:18 PM 9749 views 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Fantastic starter HVLP set, but choose your finish wisely Fantastic starter HVLP set, but choose your finish wisely No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

When my wife asked me to upcycle a dresser for our daughter, I told her that I needed a new tool to get it done. After doing my research and agonizing if I wanted to get the Earlex Spray Station 5500 as my first HVLP or go for the HF/Rockler HVLP. I eventually settled on this one, figuring I can learn from the experience and go for a 3 or 4 stage after I finally wear it out.

I’ve had and used the unit for almost a year now. The HVLP comes with 3 tips, that at best I can figure is 1mm, 1.5mm, and 1.8mm. I find that the 1.5mm (shellac) and 1.8mm (waterborne poly and paint) are my my used tips. It does earn a reputation as a HF gem, and does the job I need it to do. At $90+tax ($120 – HF 25% off), it was by far the lowest price I could find, shy of a large compressor and HVLP conversion. With this HVLP, I can get a nice flat finish in 10 minutes on projects that could easily top 2+ hours if done by hand, timed by my experience putting on each layer of polyurethane making storage crates.

So with everything going for it, I couldn’t bring myself to give it a 5 star rating, despite the low price point. Some things are forgive-able for the price point, like the almost all plastic construction. Here are a list of my dislikes:
  1. The HF and Rockler manuals independently are incomplete. If you get this HVLP, make sure you have both manuals for reference as they seem to each have some of the information you need. Notably missing from the HF manual is instructions on how to measure viscosity for your finishes.
  2. Multiple cups are needed to efficiently. I bought 2 more from Rockler and have devoted two of them for storing solvent for cleaning.
  3. The unit isn’t too strong, and you need to make sure your finish is a fairly low viscosity.
  4. There is a considerable amount of over spray. The second picture is the lovely outcome of the dresser project, where a nice sheen of pink (coral) over sprayed over my turbine.
  5. Overspray = waste of finish. I find that I use more finish to cover the same surface area with this HVLP.
A few experiences using this HVLP:
  • With latex paint from the big box store, a lot of Floetrol and water was needed. I suspect I over-thinned the paint, but the outcome was good and the paint hasn’t chipped.
  • All of the General Finishes “milk” paint sprays with little to no thinning required.
  • General Finishes High Performance sprayed with no problems straight from the can.
  • Rustoleum Ultimate Polyurethane sprayed with no problems straight from the can.

Combine the overspray and the need for low viscosity finish means your finishing cost will be higher. I’ve ruled out spraying GF High Performance given that it is a very costly proposition with this HVLP. I’m loving the results with the Rustoleum Ultimate Polyurethane and will happily spray with this stuff. You will have to decide if the time savings is worth the finish cost. For me, the 8x time saves is generally worth it.

-- paxorion




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paxorion

1107 posts in 2044 days



7 comments so far

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philba

96 posts in 1371 days


#1 posted 04-12-2015 11:46 PM

Thanks for this review. I’d looked at the HF unit but didn’t realize rockler was selling the identical one. Thanks for that. The HF literature says “reduces overspray”, lol. Does HF sell additional cups? I couldn’t find them on their site but that’s pretty common for them.

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paxorion

1107 posts in 2044 days


#2 posted 04-13-2015 12:36 AM


Thanks for this review. I d looked at the HF unit but didn t realize rockler was selling the identical one. Thanks for that. The HF literature says “reduces overspray”, lol. Does HF sell additional cups? I couldn t find them on their site but that s pretty common for them.

- philba

Replacement parts (cups) are special order over the phone as spare parts. Do yourself a favor and just get the Rockler cups. They are clear (making it easier to see how much finish is in the cup) and come with a cap.

-- paxorion

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Mainiac Matt

8046 posts in 2327 days


#3 posted 04-13-2015 02:50 PM

Nice write up…. I’ve been interested in learning more about this sprayer and appreciate you getting into the details.

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View kocgolf's profile

kocgolf

310 posts in 2177 days


#4 posted 04-13-2015 05:12 PM

I was just thinking of pitching a HVLP purchase to my wife and was also thinking of Earlex. Nice to hear there may be cheaper starter options. Honestly, I would use it mostly with paint finishes as I prefer wipe on finishes for most wood projects. I have a couple of upcycle vanity project to do and a book case as well. Do you think as a paint only sprayer this would be a wise investment? Does it give you a finish that is nice and smooth? I’ve been struggling with the time and effort it takes to brush paint (with minimal brush strokes) some cabinets.

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paxorion

1107 posts in 2044 days


#5 posted 04-13-2015 05:47 PM


Do you think as a paint only sprayer this would be a wise investment? Does it give you a finish that is nice and smooth? I ve been struggling with the time and effort it takes to brush paint (with minimal brush strokes) some cabinets.

- kocgolf

Short answer: It depends on your paint.
Long answer: It depends on your paint because of the formulation. Standard latex paint and primer you would get is generally higher in viscosity making it more workable with a brush, but bad with a spray gun. I had to thin Zinsser 123 and Valspar premium a lot (I suspect too much) before it would spray. Lower viscosity paints like the General Finishes milk paints worked great with a spray gun (including this one). Brushing that paint on the other hand was a pretty miserable experience due to runs.

There is a learning curve with thinning and spraying any finish. The inherit weaknesses of this HVLP being lower powered and with considerable over spray makes me think that you’ll have a lot more finagling to do.

Would I buy it for paint only? No. I got it for both top coats and paint. Knowing what I know now, I would shy away from latex paints, or accept the risk of over thinning and spray on more coats, followed by top coating with a water-based polyurethane.

-- paxorion

View Grumpymike's profile

Grumpymike

2238 posts in 2314 days


#6 posted 04-13-2015 11:27 PM

paxorion Man you just took the wind out of my sails … I was just preparing to review the Rockler HVLP sprayer.

kocgolf brought up some meaty questions, and your answers were good … I would like to ‘add to’ if I may.

Latex paint; never use the HVLP for latex … use an airless sprayer like Wagner makes.

HVLP is designed for stains and finishes. With that being said I have used it for other things with varied results.

Viscosity: mine came with a viscosity meter … it’s a flat plastic stick with a ‘V’ cut into one end. You dip it into the finish and time it runoff till it reaches a mark … They are replaceable.

Instruction manuals: A waste of the paper they are printed on. They don’t mention which nozzle is for what … just try one and see if it works OK. ... I got my information on line at You Tube.

Overspray: Quit spraying at the end of the piece. you are not supposed to spray anything into the air, only on the work piece. That is an old air spray gun technic. holding the trigger and waving the gun back and forth wastes material. you should use less material spraying than with a brush or roller.

I bought the Rockler machine a few years ago (when they were $99) (and included an extra cup). I have used this cheapo HVLP sprayer with great results and a few failures. I found that you can adjust for too much material as well as not enough … It’s a learned touch.

Would I buy another one? nope, I will upgrade to the Earlex … would I recommend this machine to a friend? You betcha, it’s a great entry level machine.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View jtm's profile

jtm

230 posts in 1635 days


#7 posted 04-14-2015 03:20 AM

I have this exact sprayer as well.

I’ve sprayed General Finishes dyes and High Performance Poly, and Minwax Polycrylic.

All of these straight out of the can (after passing through a sieve).

The finish comes out perfect.

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