Last month's edition of "Fine Woodworking" magazine had an article about HVLP
sprayers, although the topic is not new and has been written about
extensively. They used to be quite expensive but have considerably come down
in price in the last 5 years.From everything I've read, a decent HVLP system
can be had for about $200. Inexpensive units, like the HF one you indicated,
may be more frustrating then they're worth. Especially if you intend to spray
waterborne finishes. Units like this one tend to have an underpowered turbine
and low quality spray gun... usually with a tip that's not suitable for
I'm usually a big fan of inexpensive tools that can be made more useful by
"tweaking" them past their short comings. But I've had a fair bit of
experience with sprayers (good and bad) and they're not the type of tool that
can usually be improved upon. There's many ways to build a project "on the
cheap" (hand saw instead of a power saw... chisels and hand planes instead of
a router) and a finish can be applied by hand or brush that, with a bit more
time and elbow grease, will be satisfactory. Spraying offers many advantages,
including speed, but cheap spray equipment can be disappointing... and time
In my humble opinion, you're better off to save up a few more shekels and
invest in a unit that will perform better "right out of the box".
Message posted via CraftKB.com
Why yes... I can comment.
First, a quick background. I own that exact unit and an $800 Fuji 4
stage setup and have used both extensively. The HVLP in your link is
one of the few items from HF I've been happy buying, ever!
Pros on the HF unit:
- Very easy to use (non-adjustable)
- Easy to clean
- Good to spectacular results are possible
- Viscosity cup included
- HVLP systems have zero problems due to water and oil in the air line
- No large and expensive compressor needed
- Very portable and easy to store
- Plastic gun is durable and impervious to finishes
- Short, non-extendable hose
- few adjustments (see "easy to use!")
- Loud, especially as the turbine is close by with the short hose
- Hose sometimes pops off, as it's a friction fit
- I haven't seen a source for spare parts
- Only one tip setup available (see "easy to use")
- Many gun parts not replaceable (see "easy to use" <G>)
- No filter on pickup tube, so filtering the finish before pouring it
into the cub is extra important.
The HF unit actually works great for anything where the user can
control the viscosity of the finish. The user MUST get the finish
into a narrow range, as the gun isn't really adjustable, and no other
tip/needle setups are available. This ranges from really easy to do
with nitrocellulose lacquer and dye stain, to virtually impossible
with many waterborne products and latex paints. Most phenolic and
polyurethane varnishes, as well as shellac, will fall somewhere in
between on the "thinability" scale.
For the user who prefers easily thinned products, and is willing to
experiment a bit with the included viscosity cup, scrap stock, and a
notebook, this is not a problem. Due to the warm air in an HVLP
system, different thinners may be required than would be used
brushing, to retard drying times.
The extra money spent on the high-end unit allows one to spray all
kinds of finishes (with extra $75 gun setups), add different feeds
(high-capacity pressure pots, gravity, mini-cups), get replacement
parts, greatly extend the hose, etc...
I still use my HF unit for spraying lighter weight materials like
dyes, stains, Olympic Maximum oil, and deck stains.
The bottom line:
_Once the product is in the proper viscosity range_, I can lay down
just as good a finish with the $69 unit, as I can with the expensive
system. Both have valuable places in my shop.
If you never go outside the capabilities of the HF kit, it may be the
only HVLP unit you will ever need. If your favorite finish can't
thinned to the proper range, it will be useless.
Noting that an extra needle/tip setup for the "pro" unit costs more
than the entire HF kit, I'll probably buy another one if this one
bites it. <G>
Users who think they can dump some finish into a gun and their
finishing problems are over will be disappointed with any spray rig,
at any price.
** http://www.bburke.com/woodworking.html **
Great post, Barry. We agree on point, but I have a couple of comments 'cuz my
conclusion from your post is that you'd recommend the HF sprayer to this
With your knowledge and skill level, you could probably lay down a
professional finish with a curly stray taped to a turkey baster!
Right on again. That's one reason why I suggested against the HF turbine
system mentioned by the OP and recommended a decent unit at about $200.00.
Without extensive experience and knowledge (especially tweaking viscosity and
additives to enhance flowability) there's no way a newbie will create an
acceptable finish with this cheapo. And as you confirmed, waterborne finishes
won't work. Frustration high... satisfaction low! The thing will sit in the
corner. Money wasted.
I'm all for economy but the more important aspect is value and this unit
doesn't have it.
Although I regularly use a $4,000.00 arc welder... I can still lay down a
good, solid weld with jumper cables and a battery. But I wouldn't recommend
that to a beginner.
Just one man's opinion, though.
I enjoyed you comments.
On Sun, 13 Jan 2008 02:58:47 GMT, "toolman946 via CraftKB.com"
The HF HVLP was my first spray rig, except for a Badger airbrush that
ran on canned air.
All of the knowledge I posted to properly use the cheap HVLP came from
the instruction manual included in the box, rec.woodworking, and Jeff
As a beginner, I felt that the lack of adjustments and needle choices
made it easier to learn. Woodcraft and Rockler actually sell the
identical tool for $100.
If you'd said that the instructions alone had taught you the alchemy skills
necessary to create a decent finish with a low quality unit, such as this one
being discussed, then I'd recommend it too. But that's not the case. I doubt
that you studied the chemistry (and physics) of applying finishes before
choosing to buy a cheap gun and trying to make it work with your accumulated
knowledge. All the information and advice out there, and in Jeweitt's books,
recommend buying decent equipment.
And if the cheap gun is easily made effective by tweaking the mix, why'd you
spend all that cash on the expensive one? Why not buy another... or a couple
of the cheapos? You know why. "Cuz better equipment gives better results (and
that includes a measure of forgiveness until one's skills develop).
It's one thing to be highly skilled and bend an inferior tool to the master's
will. It's quite another to recommend an inferior tool just because you can
make it work, in spite of having a pro unit, too.
That's my last word on this.
Barry, I think he's got a point. From
what I've read of your experience,
you're right up there.
I don't have HVLP, and I will be in the
market for one in the future. I've
bought cheap products before and paid
twice for them. In this argument, I'd
lean towards a more forgiving piece of
machinery that will give me a decent
finish without having to do endless tweaks.
I totally agree, but when I bought that unit I wasn't. That sucker
GOT me to where I am. <G>
I _still_ use it!
So would I.
The HF unit sprays NC lacquer, shellac, and your typical oil based
polyurethane GREAT after taking 10 minutes to understand the viscosity
cup in the box ! I thought I mentioned that if you use these
products, this tool will work. If not, it won't.
What I mentioned aren't "tweaks", I was simply forced to thin the
finish properly and occasionally use a different thinner. Spray
finishing 101! The wrong viscosity and drying time will also cause
issues with my Fuji rig, or my Critter, or my Badger airbrush.. .
There were NO magic additives. There are NO other "tweaks"! The
unit has adjustments for spray pattern and fluid feed. That's it!
All of this stuff is mentioned in "Troubleshooting" in Jewitt's and
Flexner's books, as well as most every magazine article about spray
I'm going to try full strength Ultrastar this week, as I've never
tried it in the HF gun. I'll post my results.
Nothwithstanding pure junk, you are setting yourself up for disappointment
if you believe you can count on the equipment to deliver a decent finish.
Granted, experienced painters can turn out good work with lesser equipment,
but the inverse is not true. Buying great equipment is not going to make
you a good sprayer. Go back and re-read Barry's comments. What he has
posted in this thread is dead on. If you don't take the time to learn about
viscosity and some of the other basics - and invest in some trial and error,
the best equipment in the world is not going to make you a good painter.
Those basics apply to the good gear as much as they do to the lesser gear.
I'm not setting myself up for anything
of the kind. You can't see anywhere in
my post where I said that "you can count
on the equipment to deliver a decent
What I said was, I was tired of buying
equipment by price alone. With some
exceptions, you get what you pay for.
And what I implied, and I feel that was
pretty clear, was that I was willing to
pay more to get higher quality stuff.
I've never bought anything in my life
without taking it home and experimenting
with it. But thanks for the advice.
Perhaps I read it wrong, but it was the following comment that inspired my
"In this argument, I'd lean towards a more forgiving piece of machinery that
will give me a decent finish without having to do endless tweaks."
It was indeed clear to me that you're willing to pay for quality. The part
of the above statement that caught my eye was that it appeared to imply that
the quality equipment will give dramatically better results with less
effort. That wouldn't be inherently true.
Agreed. I t would be. I know where my
skill level lies, and I attempt to
improve that with a variety of means.
Reading, practicing in the shop,
gobbling up gems in here, and ensuring
that the equipment isn't ambushing me
are some of the techniques I use.
My post concentrated on equipment and
its quality because that was the topic
at the time.
If only it were true. If premium tools
alone could turn us all into Frids. Naw,
that wouldn't be any fun either.
Wow, what a back and forth.
From this I got that the HFT Unit is well worth the $69.00 if one
regularly uses the three or four products/finishes delineated and
follows the directions in the supplied manual with the exception of
possibly switching to longer setup thinning agents to compensate for
the hotter air produced by the device.
After that first credible and responsive post, it seemed we went off
on the old "buy the best o not regret" arguments from folks who
appeared (for the most part) not to have any personal hands-on
experience with the HFT Unit.
I am reminded of the old adage suggesting one remain silent and be
thought a tool than to speak and remove all doubt. (;
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