Harbor Freight HVLP - first impressions

I picked up a Harbor Freight HVLP the other day. On sale for $69.99 plus I had a 15% off coupon, bottom line was about $60. Instructions are useless, but the identical unit from Rockler ($120) has downloadable instructions that are slightly more helpful. HF unit comes with a viscosity cup and three needle sizes, and since I was going to spray a water-based paint, I was glad to see that they supply a fairly large needle.
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?ItemnumberD677
My project was to paint two wicker sofas with an acrylic indoor/ outdoor paint. I used Benjamin Moore and when I opened the can, it was about as thick as pudding. I thinned the hell out of it, until the viscosity cup emptied in about 20 seconds. I have read that you should not thin more than 10-20% so I'm not sure how much water I added, but I suspect it was more than 20%. After all, how much you thin depends on the original viscosity and my paint was like jello. I added a dash of Floetrol (maybe three or four ounces) to the quart of paint, filled the cup, screwed it onto the sprayer, fired it up, and went to work. I adjusted nothing, flow control on the sprayer was set at about 50%. It worked GREAT. Cleanup was a breeze. Flawless job, painted both sofas in about 5 minutes. For the price, it certainly seems to be a great little sprayer. So, to anyone who wants to know if it can spray water-based paint, I had absolutely no problem doing it on this particular project.
Kevin
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Kevin wrote:

Thanks, but it sure was hard finding this post through all the SPAM! DAMN!
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SNIP
. I adjusted nothing, flow control on the sprayer was set

Great post, Kevin. Those little sprayers are a pretty good bargain, and bang for the buck at $60.... I don't know how you could do better.
Remember that the viscosity cups (more accurately, the "Ford" cups) are designed as guidelines for the materials. Pretty good ones, but guidelines nonetheless. You did the correct thing by getting it to the viscosity that gave the right finish for that sprayer.
Some of those near-gel paints give almost any sprayer fits, and even through my airless I thin a touch. I remember when one of the paint manufacturers actually had an ad that showed the paint so thick that the pitchman in the ad was able to life out the paint with the stirrer. It was like a soft Jello. WTF?
Talk about flow problems. Talk about spreading problems with common equipment.
Just as a thought, I don't use Floetrol unless it is cold. It seems to help then, but not needed for moderate weather. BM makes a fine product, and thinning should be all you need as almost all finishes these days are made to spray as well as roll or brush. Just thin until you start having feed problems, then go back to the last satisfactory spray test.
When you thin, make sure you write down how much material you put in the paint. With the heavily colored acrylics, you will not match them unless you thin the same exact amount when you touch up or repair. You will think the the original and the touch up paints were two different colors. Plus, it will save you time later if you really get going with the HVLP and you decide to keep on spraying. All you need to do to get the perfect viscosity is to buy the same paint line (watch the actual base) from your supplier and you will be set no matter what color you get.
Robert
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wrote:

I see your snip. and raise you a snip..:-)
Would you say that this little device would be ideal to blow stain on a rack of kitchen cabinet doors?
r
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I'll bet it would work great. I have corresponded with guys off and on over the last 2-3 years since those systems were available at HF, and they have gleefully used them for everything.
If you are talking about an oil based stain, I think it would probably work just fine due to the high viscosity and low amount of solids. Depending on the brand, you may not need to thin. I would shoot some on a sample first, but there are finishers that shoot dye or oil wood and don't want to touch it (like me). Next step - finish coat. That's why I like dyes; I mix them, spray them, and the finish coat can be going in within the hour.
However, as a delivery system, there are many more finishers in the other camp that will use a cheaper HVLP system to apply the stain to the material, then quickly rub it around with a rag to even it out. You can cut your staining time down to less than half and the mess factor by the same amount using this to apply the material. Since you can see exactly how much is coming out of the gun, you can tailor the amount going on the work very easily.
I wouldn't hesitate giving it a whirl.
Robert
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Robert do you have a model number for the HVLP at Harbor Freight? I think I will make a purchase.
Thanks for any help. Virgle
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Virgle, here is the link to the sprayer I bought:
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=44677
Model number is 44677.
Kevin
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Kevin wrote:

I've had the same unit for quite a while and also had similar good results.
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As you see, others covered that base.
I think the things I like most about this unit is that it is compact, with just one turbine it isn't too noisy, and you can spray build finishes all day long with it and get great results since the aircap is so small.
But the top thing is probably the fact they give you a usable sized line to the gun. There are some out there that have a six foot line on them, and you literally carry the unit in one hand and spray with the other on a project of any size.
Can't go wrong for that price.
Robert
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wrote:

Ayup. With a 'to-be-wiped' stain, spraying is nice. I was looking for a minimal, yet adequate, set-up without breaking the bank. I have used conversion HVLP guns for a long time, none work well at low-output levels. The turbines I have played with at woodworking shows, can almost get down to air-brush levels, but they are too rich for my blood.

Thanks for your input.

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wrote:

Robert and others, thanks for the additional tips! Following your suggestion to keep good records Robert, I am now going to keep a logbook next to my sprayer.
Thanks again,
Kevin
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Good for you, Kevin! You will never, ever, regret doing that.
However, if don't and find yourself saying " I don't understand.... I did this exactly the way I did before.... I think... crap...." you won't be a happy guy.
Post away with any questions on low pressure spraying. Many here are doing it, and have been for a while. Lots of good info in the archives, too.
Robert
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I've had great luck with mine over the past couple of years. For some paints, I use about 30% thinner. Just enough to get the viscosity I want. If you use it enough you won't have to use the ford cup anymore. I can tell viscosity by stirring and watching how fast the paint runs off a stir stick.
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Good write up Kevin. Harbor Freight sells some pretty good guns, both HVLP and conventional. They do sell some junk as well, but if you know what you're looking at, there can be some legitimate good bargains to be found there. It is always helpful when someone dares to go out on a limb and buy one without the benefit of prior input, and then posts an informative post like this.
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