Spray Equipment Basics

Finishers discuss basic choices for a spray setup. October 18, 2005

When I started my shop a year ago I purchased a small Husky air compressor and cheap gun to spray Varathane waterbased polyurethane finish, the diamond hard stuff from Home Depot. My finishes have always turned out decently although I am an amateur finisher. My air compressor died, and I want to continue to spray the same finish. I am wondering what system is recommended - a compressor with a cup gun (HVLP with 2 quart cup with hoses) or an airless spray system specifically used for finishes. What brand of Air compressor is preferred? I want to stay with waterbased only.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
I would recommend losing the compressor, at least for finishing purposes. I use an HVLP turbine which works great with waterbased lacquer, so the Varathane should do well too. As for brands, I can only tell you that we use the Apollo 1000 and it's a real workhorse. I don't have much experience with airless, but I'd say you'd be better off not using a compressor to spray with, especially a small one.

From contributor B:
The brand of compressor is not as important as the cfm. You can get a 60 gallon upright at the big box stores for less than $500. We use several setups including gravity HVLP, pressure pot HVLP (2 qt and 2-1/2 gal) and air assisted airless. The right fit depends on the job you are doing. If you are spraying furniture, use the 2 qt cup setup. You can use it to spray any which way, even upside down. With the 2 qt pot you could coat even a large table top without refilling. We use the Asturo ECO, and Sharpe HVLP and they have both been good for us. There are many brands to choose from. Try to get one that has a little air regulator valve built into the base of the gun like the Asturo. It is easier to use. Also check out the air consumption rate. The Asturo is low, as is the Binks Mach 1, and Kremlin HVLP.

From contributor C:
Contributor B is right. Choose the right equipment for the right job. If you do a lot of on site jobs, then the turbine might be for you as it's easily transported. If you do mostly shop work in volume, you need a nice size compressor with decent cfm capability. Regarding the gun cfm's, if your spray gun uses 15 cfm to produce an atomizing spray and your compressor only produces 9-10 cfms, then it's going to run all the time just to keep up with the gun. At times it won't keep up, and your layout will suffer. Kremlin AAAs (1014) doesn't require many cfm's to operate correctly.

From contributor D:
Depending on where you will be spraying, your needs will change. An airless will work in both places, on site and at the shop. But if you do most of your work in the shop, you should consider a compressor and a HVLP conversion gun, maybe even a pressure pot. As your shop grows you will add more air tools. What kind of budget do you have? This would be the first place to start. WP makes some good suggestions. I agree with db, to a point. A turbine system will benefit waterbased products by heating the air, thus assisting drying times. However, may of them require thinning to shoot well. Otherwise you do not get good atomization with thicker products - thinner coats, more coats, more time. My turbine has its place in my shop, but not as my primary system.

Another suggestion would be to take a look at some of the materials sold to professionals. The finishes sold at big box stores are designed to give consumers an easy product to use. With contractor grade finishes, you have much better tech support and the ability to mix it to suit your needs. It is more adjustable, so to speak. If you are having problems, like drying too fast or orange peel, the pro grade suppliers will tell you what to add to better suit your needs. And they generally have these products readily available. I started out years ago using consumer grade products, but did not get outstanding finishes until I learned the pro grade stuff.