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Please tell me what sprayer to buy for general-purpose (non-paint) finishing!

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Forum topic by ADHDan posted 03-18-2015 05:24 PM 2425 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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ADHDan

800 posts in 1576 days


03-18-2015 05:24 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question sprayer finishing hvlp airless paint varnish urethane

I really want to get a nice, compact handheld sprayer to use for finishing projects of varying sizes, short of what I’d use my Harbor Freight airless sprayer on (the Graco X-5 knockoff) – things like jewelry boxes, end tables, benches, desks, etc. Sometimes I paint my projects, but I finish the majority with lacquer, shellac, varnishes, etc. (Arm-R-Seal urethane, Minwax polyurethane and polycrilic, spar urethane, etc.), sometimes over a dye or stain.

I know what I want to use the sprayer for, and (I think) I know what I want the sprayer to be able to do, but I have no idea what sprayer or category of sprayers I should be looking at – I’m overwhelmed by volume of brands and products, so I’m hoping the collective genius of LJ can help me find the right product. Here’s what I’d like in my sprayer, roughly in order of importance.

—Self-contained/powered; I don’t have (and don’t plan on getting) a compressor bigger than my P-C pancake.
—Capable of spraying just about everything – oil/water based paint, oil/water based urethanes, lacquer, shellac, stain, sealer, etc.
—Price tag between $100-$200, ideally around or under $150
—Easy to set up, use, and clean up

Literally, my only experience is using that airless sprayer to paint my family room walls and cabinets post-renovation. I don’t know the first thing about sprayers – what I need for oil vs. water based finishes, what I need for paint/urethane/lacquer/anything else, whether I should be looking at conventional air, HVLP, airless, etc.

So, can you tell me what to throw my money at?

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.


24 replies so far

View pjones46's profile

pjones46

986 posts in 2111 days


#1 posted 03-18-2015 11:39 PM

Assume you are talking about a total HVLP sprayer system. Good Luck.
If you are talking about just a HVLP gun for use with your pancake, good luck, not enough CFM.

You get what you pay for…..

-- Respectfully, Paul

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile

FirehouseWoodworking

689 posts in 2741 days


#2 posted 03-19-2015 12:51 AM

Dan,

My spraying experience is limited to spraying lacquer, so take my comments with a grain of salt. When it comes to waterborne finishes, I use a brush.

For lacquer finishing – and I have sprayed A LOT, from furniture to cabinets to all the trim in a couple houses – I’ve had very good experience with my old Campbell-Housefeld HVLP spray gun outfit. Though I bought mine probably close to 20 years ago, I recently purchased one as a gift for under $200 as I recall.

Pretty simple system. Rather robust. And I get damned good results – again, just spraying lacquer. I like using Sherwin-Williams lacquer sealer and lacquer, usually two coats of each with a light 220-grit sanding in between coats.

While I read great things on here about Erlax and other such high end systems, I can’t see myself paying those kinds of prices when I am very happy with what I have. And when my current CH gives up the ghost, I’ll just pull my next one – that I bought at a garage sale! – off the shelf and continue spraying.

Hope this helps. Good luck with your decision and purchase.

Cheers!

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

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AandCstyle

2575 posts in 1725 days


#3 posted 03-19-2015 01:04 AM

Dan, I have no experience with this system, but take a look. Since you don’t have a bigger compressor, you definitely need to use a turbine and this is all I could find in your price range. HTH

-- Art

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firefighterontheside

13529 posts in 1324 days


#4 posted 03-19-2015 01:12 AM

I love my Earlex 5500, but it’s way over your price range. Check out this one. Earlex has had great customer assistance, not that I needed much.

http://www.amazon.com/Earlex-0HV2901PUS-Spray-Station-Precision/dp/B00K26SJ5U/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1426727381&sr=8-3&keywords=Earlex

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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firefighterontheside

13529 posts in 1324 days


#5 posted 03-19-2015 01:14 AM

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runswithscissors

2192 posts in 1493 days


#6 posted 03-19-2015 01:22 AM

I have used the HF version, and it’s really quite competent for the kind of work you describe. When it gave up the ghost (bad switch, not replaceable), I got a cheap Wagner model. Turns out I like the Wagner turbine better (2 speeds, and I’ve only needed the slower speed), but prefer the HF gun (metal orifice, rather than plastic). I do prefer the separate blower plus hose as opposed to the built in blower some units have. Less weight, easier to handle.

I use water based urethane (Deft semi gloss), and though rather thick, the sprayer handles it with no problem whatsoever.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View ADHDan's profile

ADHDan

800 posts in 1576 days


#7 posted 03-19-2015 02:22 PM

Lots of night owls on this site! I thought this thread was going to just die out – thanks for chiming in!

I looked at the Campbell Hausfeld HVLP systems; they might be just out of my price range, but are worth keeping on the short list.


I have used the HF version, and it s really quite competent for the kind of work you describe. When it gave up the ghost (bad switch, not replaceable), I got a cheap Wagner model. Turns out I like the Wagner turbine better (2 speeds, and I ve only needed the slower speed), but prefer the HF gun (metal orifice, rather than plastic). I do prefer the separate blower plus hose as opposed to the built in blower some units have. Less weight, easier to handle.

I use water based urethane (Deft semi gloss), and though rather thick, the sprayer handles it with no problem whatsoever.

- runswithscissors


Dan, I have no experience with this system, but take a look. Since you don t have a bigger compressor, you definitely need to use a turbine and this is all I could find in your price range. HTH

- AandCstyle

That HF system has surprisingly good reviews with at least one reviewer noting that he used it for polyurethane. Considering it’s less than $100 with a 20% off coupon, that might well be a top contender. Thanks!


I love my Earlex 5500, but it s way over your price range. Check out this one. Earlex has had great customer assistance, not that I needed much.

http://www.amazon.com/Earlex-0HV2901PUS-Spray-Station-Precision/dp/B00K26SJ5U/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1426727381&sr=8-3&keywords=Earlex

- firefighterontheside

Is this a conventional or an HVLP sprayer? If it’s a conventional (while the HF is an HVLP), what would the performance differences be?

Other than academically, I don’t really know what the practical differences are between conventional vs. HVLP.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View bbasiaga's profile

bbasiaga

759 posts in 1463 days


#8 posted 03-19-2015 02:47 PM

High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) systems more easliy provide a finer atomization, and therefore you get more control over the finish as you apply it. I’ve been looking in to these recently too. I dismissed the HF one…may have to look closer.

HF also has a well reviewed HVLP gun for about $20, but you’d need a compressor with at least a 25gal tank to avoid it having to run all the time. Lots of people like them for small to medium sized jobs.

-Brian

-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

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bbasiaga

759 posts in 1463 days


#9 posted 03-19-2015 02:48 PM

Earlex is also an HVLP, BTW.

-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

1063 posts in 1457 days


#10 posted 03-19-2015 02:58 PM

This can be a difficult subject because people have different expectations. I have several of the cheaper HVLP spray guns (<$100) that many say gives them great performance. They were completely inadequate for my expectations. They did ok with solvent lacquer, poly, & shellac (finishes that can be thinned as much as desired), but could not adequately atomize WB finishes without very high pressures which wasted a lot of finish and created a lot of overspray, or thinning so much it affected the finish. I was able to solve all the issues, but not with something in your price range. A good HVLP gun with a well designed spray cap and 3-4 tip & rod combinations will set you back ~$400+ for the gun alone. Again, it’s all about expectations – lower expectations can be met for less $.

Other than academically, I don t really know what the practical differences are between conventional vs. HVLP.
- ADHDan

Conventional has the cup under the gun, requiring suction created by moving air to pull the finish into the airstream – similar to a carburetor if you remember what that is. Requires higher aircap pressure and more air flow vs HVLP

HVLP gravity feeds and uses the suction of air flowing past to pull finish into the airstream. Requires less air flow and less aircap pressure vs conventional for equal finish atomization. As such the design uses less air, lower pressure, resulting in less overspray, more finish on the surface instead of in overspray (hence high efficiency you hear about), all around a more effective system. Can be the all-in-one like Earlex, or connected to a typical air compressor (these guns are sometimes referred to as “conversion” guns). The “conversion” guns are not interchangeable with the all-in-one system guns. While “conversion” guns can operate from any air supply of sufficient capacity/pressure, I don’t think there is much if any interchangeability of the all-in-one system guns.

View Julian's profile

Julian

1040 posts in 2158 days


#11 posted 03-19-2015 03:07 PM

If you choose a HVLP sprayer, I recommend get a good gun and canister made from stainless steel not plastic. It will last for years and much easier to clean up.

-- Julian

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ADHDan

800 posts in 1576 days


#12 posted 03-19-2015 03:18 PM

Hmmm… I can live without spraying water-based finishes. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ll be spraying lacquer or shellac 60% of the time, Arm-R-Seal/Minwax oil base varnish 30% of the time, and water-based 10% of the time (if I even can). With that in mind, the Harbor Freight sprayer is looking like a really good option – it can handle 90% of my finishes, it has a metal orifice, and with the current sale plus 20% coupon I can get it for under $100.

Does that sound like the right sprayer for me?

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View firefighterontheside's profile

firefighterontheside

13529 posts in 1324 days


#13 posted 03-19-2015 03:49 PM

All of the Earlex HVLP systems have the cup under the gun. I have sprayed paint with my 5500, but I’m not sure the lesser earlex ones can do that. I can spray all waterborne poly without thinning. I would think you can do that with most systems. My sprayer is an aluminum gun and aluminum cup with all parts that contact the finish being stainless. I think the lesser guns are plastic, but still with stainless steel for the important parts.
It will probably do fine for your intended use with occasional use. It may wear out quickly if you intend to use it daily.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View ADHDan's profile

ADHDan

800 posts in 1576 days


#14 posted 03-19-2015 04:10 PM

I will be using it at most once a month (at least until my kids are older and I have more free time to play in the shop), so it should last for a while. Thanks!

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View moke's profile

moke

862 posts in 2244 days


#15 posted 03-19-2015 05:29 PM

Quite a few years ago, I thought I might try the lesser powered Earlex. I think it was a 3000 or 3500, I’m not sure of the model number, and they now have a differnent model. It was not a great experience, AT ALL. I then began toying with just using my compressor and a HVLP gun, but never followed through. A friend, here on this site told me that he had bought the 5500 and it was working great. I broke down about a year or two ago or so and bought the 5500. It is like night and day. Not knowing the spec on the systems, and really not caring, I just know that the 5500 works well and has more “power” than the lessor one. I did learn later that the lessor one works great for Thompson Water Seal type products…..as you well know, they are very thin and the little guy does a great job propelling them, and they don’t stain up my good 5500 unit, so all is well.

The 5500 I have only shot waterbourne poly and it is just awesome. In the winter even though my garage is heatred, I submerge the cup with the poly in 85 degree water until I am ready to shoot and I get an awesome finish that is ready to recoat or sand in 15 to 20 minutes.

So the moral of the story in my mind is, don’t waste your money on a cheapie, cause that is what you get.
Just my .02
Mike

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