I've talked (email) to a couple of the guys that have built their own HVLP
turbine from a 3 stage vacuum motor and they both seem quite pleased with
the results. So I was wondering if anyone has taken this to the next level
of 'frugal'. I already have a central vac in the garage where I want to
spray, so I got to thinking that I could run my gun off the central vac.
Yes, I've read about the Harbor Fright ghetto gun. A few problems spring to
mind though, burning out the motor, dust in the spray and possibly low PSI.
I'll stick a pressure meter on the vac's output to test #3 and a cloth over
the output to check for dust and use a bleeder gun to prevent #1. The CV is
fairly powerful though and I've never seen any dust on the car, plus it's
dead quiet compared to my blower or Shop Vac.
I know the purists will hate this idea, but has anyone actually tried it?
Any other problems I've overlooked?
You would have to have a pretty strong CV to power your HVLP. I am
assuming that you are also talking about hooking up to exhaust, not
reversing the motor.
You should be able to find some specs somewhere to get started, but
again, I don't think you will get enough (but I have been wrong about
other things) to get a good gun going. Find the gun you want first,
then find out what the requirements are for the gun. Make sure you
allow for more since all of the manufacturers of HVLP guns lie like
hell about how little airflow their gun requires.
In understanding HVLP, you should be aware that pressure means very
little to the gun. What you are looking for is HV (high volume) LP so
when you spray you have lots of continuous air. You only need about 5
- 10 pounds of pressure to pressurize the gun so again, airflow is the
key. I am not sure that a well used, dust/hair/dirt would be a good
source of clean air to get you the finishes you want. The filters on a
turbine are very dense and the air that comes out of the is really,
really clean. The air that comes out of a vac has been cleaned by a
paper filter of some sort. If you are spraying latex that would
probably be fine, but for lacquers and polys, I wouldn't.
So I think I would look at either buying some inexpensive unit to goof
with, or something expensive that would last.
Of you could build your own turbine.
Some of the systems are cheap enough for three stage you could hardly
build for the cost when you look at a good gun ($300+), the proper
supply line ($50), and a whip ($25). And still you have no turbine.
But if you are so inclined to build, this is the only book I know of
with detailed plans:
Note that the book can be had used for about $5 plus shipping. Whether
you use the plans for an HVLP turbine or not, this book has some good
discussions on spraying in general and also CAS HVLP compared to
turbine HVLP. Good info on general finishing, too.
If you're turned off by the Harbor Freight sprayer then I'd suggest you
pick one up, try it and then return it if you don't like it. I think
everyone is biased against their tools because we know they sell junk.
The HVLP sprayer they offer works really well though. I can tell you
there is no dust in the air that comes out of that sprayer. I'm
spraying gloss finishes and not getting any dust or lint. I had that
issue before I made a spray booth but now the issue is gone. If you're
paranoid about the air quality you can add some more filtration to the
turbine, keeping in mind that too much filtration will kill the motor.
The low PSI is by design and is tuned to the system.
So here are my thoughts on your central vac question. The first is
that the exhaust air from your central vac is likely a lot dirtier than
you think. A single spec of dust will show up in a glossy finish and
will drive you nuts. You would also have to tune the PSI and air
throughput so you don't burn up your central vac. The large diameter
output of the vac, constricted into a smaller hose for the gun would
further increase the pressure and further stress your motor. Too much
pressure at the gun is a bad thing also. The air emitted from a
bleeder gun with actually blow the paint after it hits the surface
you're painting. It creates an orange peel effect. This also causes
the paint to dry sooner, making it harder to get wet droplets onto the
surface and allow them to join together. Think about the process of
how paint gets onto a surface; it has to be atomized, fly through the
bleeded airstream, land on the surface while still wet and then flow
together with the other droplets. Too much PSI in the airstream dries
the droplets mid-air.
My summary is that you'll have all three issues you mentioned if you
try to use your central vac. HVLP turbine systems are tuned for
optimum air flow. You'll eventually have a turbine motor burn out if
you use your sprayer heavily or for long periods of time. That's the
nature of turbines but you have the same problem with an air compressor
wearing out. I don't know which is more durable but my bet would be on
No real aversion to HF, I buy plenty of cheap tools for items I won't use
much. But I must admit the closeup of the sprayer did look a little cheesie.
I also wanted to spray some heavier finishes, so I wasn't sure the HF gun
would do. Perhaps I'm better off getting an airless sprayer + the HF gun.
I was planning on buying a decent bleeder type gun to alleviate the back
pressure. Although the one guy who built his own turbine bought a non
bleeder gun, but used some sort of 'bleeder' control valve to accomplish the
same result. I suspect you're right about the dust, but I plan to check this
before I start. The CV will likely only be a temporary measure, until I can
build a turbine. But who knows, if it may be good enough for my limited use.
Google the HF HVLP _kit_ (w/ turbine, not the compressed air conversion
gun) now sold at Rockler & Woodcraft.
Several of us on this forum have been using it for years. I still use
mine enough that I keep it, even though I also own a Fuji 4-stage.
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