Is an Air-Assisted Airless Sprayer Right for a Furniture Shop?

For low-volume, detailed spraying, other choices are probably more practical. November 27, 2007

I'm looking to buy an air assist pump system, and am seduced by the Kremlin Airmix system with the MVXtra. As for pumps, I'm not quite sure between the 10 series or the 20 series, but that is not why I come to you. I'm looking for some recommendation on this brand and others, besides the obvious price and ease of servicing comparison. Iím just not rich enough to waste my money on something that is poor quality or will need servicing too often. I own a nice little shop and specialize in commission and custom residential furniture. I want to upgrade my spray system for many reasons, but not for speed and production - mainly for quality.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
What kind of finishes do you plan on using? Been using Kremlin for about 8 years now with the 10-14 pump. Great choice. I spray conversion varnish and pre-cat lacquer. The quality of finish is very good, especially if you are spraying inside boxes, as amount of overspray is way less. I've heard that the pump is not so good for water-base due to micro-bubbles, but that was only one opinion. Cleanup is simple, and so is maintenance.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. For the record, Iíve been using for quite some time and will continue with water soluble polyurethanes, urethanes, acrylics, conversion vanishes. (Donít you just hate when they say water base? Most are not based on water, but more like complex resins, glycols, methyls, propanols, alcohols, butoxyethanol just to name a few!)

From contributor J:
What kind of furniture are you making? An AAA system is outstanding for some applications, but will waste a lot of material and cause a lot of cleanup in other applications. They really are designed for production and larger surfaces. A top line HVLP gun and a pressure pot or diaphragm might be better for what you are doing.

From contributor R:
Have you seen the new Graco 395 AAA setup? Very slick indeed. You could take it to the job site if you want. It can also be used as a straight airless if you so choose.

From contributor N:
Any AAA that you choose is going to be an improvement over the way you are currently spraying. Reduced overspray, resulting in about 15% material savings over HLVP, reduced air consumption - about 1/5th of what a HVLP pressure pot uses, filters stay cleaner longer, you stay cleaner longer. The reduced overspray means a reduction in sanding time. Cleanup for a 25" hose requires between 10 and 24 ounces of thinner, depending on the pump and the size of the pick-up tube. You can't come anywhere close to that with a pressure pot system.

What's the downside? Well, the initial price is between $2000 and $3000. This investment may seem large until you look at the big picture of savings in material, electricity, and labor. Even people who do only a moderate amount of spraying will pay the investment off in a very reasonable amount of time.

CA Technologies makes a pretty good entry level pump, in the $2000 range. Kremlin, Grayco, and Binks of course make excellent products. Sata, a name you don't often hear about in the world of pumps, makes an excellent product. German engineered, elegant simplicity, beautiful performance, runs forever and as to be expected, at the top end of the price range, but in my opinion truly worth it.

Your best bet is to find a local distributor of any of the brands that you are interested in. Expect them to bring out a demo and have most of the normal wear and rebuild parts in stock. Try several types and choose one that has the performance, price and technical service that suits your particular needs. Once you try one of these babies, you will never go back.

From contributor Y:
All good responses, but if you are a waterman, consider getting the next size up from the Kremlin 10-14, as some water based formulas like to develop micro-bubbles, or so I am told, in the lesser pressure pumps. This was told to me by a Kremlin tech person; I am not qualified to elaborate. Perhaps someone can? I had this problem at first when I wasn't running the fluid pressure high enough on my high viscosity waters. The new Kremlin tips specifically designed for waterbornes have also helped. I've no complaints with my 10-14 now, but it was a learning experience at first with the waterborne.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. Like I said, at this point money is not the important issue and Iím well aware of these prices, I just donít want to buy and then feel sorry that I didn't buy this one or that one... Since I do many types and styles of furniture, I donít want it to get down to the ďwhat is my specific needĒ arguments. As an example, I just completed a complete living room set in Arts and Crafts style (sofa, chairs, table). Next is a Louis XV commode, and after that is an executive office desk and credenza set.

From contributor C:
What part of the country are you in? For me, it is important to be able to get parts next day from my supplier, which I can do. Finding a good source is invaluable. I tried a CA Technologies gun on my Kremlin pump but was not happy with it compared to the MVX gun. There will be a learning curve no matter what.

From the original questioner:
How to get confused? I did what I believe one shouldnít doÖ Call on a sales consultant/rep. Where I called they sell them all - Graco, CAT, Binks, Sata, Walter Pilot, Devilbiss to name a few. I asked what they felt about an AA pump system. He admitted that Graco is very good, and would be pleased to let me try, but his personal recommendation was a CAT system is as good if not better, for a lesser price!?

Then after talking some more and making him understand that Iím not rich enough to buy cheap, he said Iíd be wasting time with a pump system since I do not go through +/- 10g a month, since I would be cleaning a pump system, and therefore would be way off better with a good gravity feed, if quality atomization is really what Iím looking for.

Then, after admitting that my Devilbiss setup with 3M pps is as fine of a setup as I can get, I still should consider a DUX gun or even a Graco compliant! Go figure? DUX prices have come down from when they were introduced. I say still too much bounce back, overspray, turbulence, and not enough fine atomization versus, say, an airmix. He replies, DUX is what I would go with your 3M pps. Just simpler, cheaper, and lots of spay control for my application.

What do you think? Dux, Graco compliant, Airmix, or keep my setup (G-plus Devilbiss with 3M pps). Bear in mind, I do only one piece at a time - high-end custom and commission furniture, translates to barely 5 gallons per month. Iím not looking for a good price, but a better atomization control system. Time may be money, but thatís why I charge by the hour. So if an AA system takes a few more minutes to clean, I want better atomization, less turbulence and bounce back, therefore better quality work than what I feel I have.

From contributor R:
If what you are looking for is a fine finish for low usage like that, I would look at the Asturo ECO SSP pressure feed gun with a 2 quart pressure pot. With the right tip for the job, that rig will lay out the best finish you can get. Every bit as good as my AAA, but for smaller jobs.

On another note, you can get a smaller diameter hose for the AAA, which takes less than half the amount of thinner to clean up. We use a 3/16" ID 25' line with a 1/8" ID x 3' whip at the end. I bought them both from Finish Systems. Kremlin also makes a small quantity hopper that you can add onto your system.

From contributor I:
I think the salesman has some good points. I love my AAA for spraying cabinet boxes and panels, but when it comes to smaller or more detailed work, I switch to a gravity gun or pressure pot. You get a very fine finish with AAA but it also puts out a lot of product and can be overkill when trying to get into small areas or when spraying anything that isn't a flat surface.

From contributor N:
The ďwhat is my specific needĒ argument is what is going to help determine if your best bet is a 10 series or a 20 series; tip sizes, feed tube sizes, and so on. The type of material that you spray and the quantity has more to do with these decisions than the type of product you spray.

If you have no trust or feel that you will not be able to develop a relationship with a particular supplier, then by all means look elsewhere. These are the guys that will be the link between you and the manufacturer when a problem or question arises. Of course, do your homework and get feedback from as many sources as possible, that is only smart, but ultimately it is the company that you purchase the equipment from that should have your best interests at heart. A good supplier partners with their customer because if they help you succeed, then they will succeed.

From contributor P:
Sounds like you have the same setup I have. I don't really love the gun. It's reduced pressure, and I get more overspray than with my HVLP guns. I ordered an Accuspray 12s pressure gun with the 3M PPS H/O pressure cup, but I haven't received it yet, so I have nothing to report. I'm a one man shop (I only finish the things I build) and fail to see the point in buying an AAA setup at my volume. Don't assume that extra cleanup is no big deal.

From the original questioner:
What AAA system you have? Donít you appreciate the benefits of your AAA (less bounce back, turbulence, more product transfer)?

As far as trusting suppliers, canít see the day that will happen.

Now Iím looking at other brandsÖ Kremlin is surely a fine system, but many AAA users in my neck of the woods have told me it's more of a trendy name with a high price. So Iím looking at Graco and CAT. Can anyone give me arguments why I should not buy a CAT AAA system?

From contributor R:
After I have re-read all of these posts carefully, it is my opinion that you should go with a very good quality pressure feed HVLP on a pressure pot. AAA gives a great finish but is for more of a production type of work. It moves material very quickly; more quickly than you could likely handle on furniture. A pressure pot HVLP is perfect for doing furniture because of the level of control. You can choke the fluid way down and use it like an airbrush or open wide and crank up the pressure to lay the finish on heavy for a tabletop. Most of the manufacturers make a good HVLP. As I said above, my favorite is the Asturo. Ask Jeff at Homestead about them. He will give you an unbiased opinion. He is also a furniture finisher and will give you some insight as to what your choices are for your application.

From contributor P:
I have the Devilbiss Gravity Plus gun with DeKups (like the PPS), not a AAA. Is that what you currently have? I don't care about maybe saving 10% in material when I go through 1 and 4 gallons a month. I've never bought a 5 gallon pail (which is largely what you use with most AAA setups, yes?) because I'd rather always have fresh material (a full pail in a particular sheen could last longer than its expiration date). Honestly, it seems like you just really want a Kremlin AAA and no one will convince you otherwise. You can do free trials, yes? That's the only way you'll know what you gotta have.

From contributor E:
Triple A is the worst possible choice for furniture finishing. HVLP is not any better. Stick with air agitated 5 gallon paint pot, and in your case, stainless steel wetted guns. You can buy 3 - 5 gallon paint pots for less than 2000 dollars that will last you a lifetime! All the rest is bull unless you are doing nothing but flat panel work or large surface work.

From contributor B:
I've been following this thread for a few days now, and for the life of me I can't figure out where "I own a nice little shop specialized in commission and custom residential furniture" and AAA meet! Huh?

I can see hand applied, rubbed finishes. I can see a high end gravity gun, also a high end pressure pot rig. But please, AAA? Those two seem to be diametrically opposed. AAA is the staple of high output cabinetry and furniture shops. Not to say that it doesn't have its place, but if you are what you say you are, then there are many options. You state that you only use 5 gallons max a month, so material savings shouldn't be at the top of your list, eh? So bearing that in mind, why don't you look at Iwata or Sata? I don't use either but have seen them in operation and they are great guns, if you're looking to spend a lot of money. For my money it behooves me to learn how to maximize what I use (Accuspray air assisted gravity gun, Binks HVLP pressure pot, Astro, various cheap gravity guns). For custom "in the wood" finishes, my customers are definitely not looking for that plastic look that AAA can so easily supply, though it may a perfect finish. I use 90% water-based finishes.