Brian - here's my .02.
I paint a few houses a year, and I use a small Graco dx model. After a
recent price drop, they are now only $300 plus change. This will spray
the thickest latex you can imagine (the highest end stuff is almost
glop), and I spray about 200 gallons a year out of it. I never thin
any of the paint, and I never have had a spot of trouble with it in the
last 4 years. With the setup that comes with it, you can spray
directly from a gallon can, or a five gallon can. Different tips are
available to spray oil based paint, varnish, and other more viscuous
finishes. It is probably the smallest turbine powered airless you can
get, but worth every penny.
That will take care of your latex, oil, and maybe some other finishes.
Tip spray other finishes are about $18, and there are a lot of them.
One thing though... you will only get good mileage out of this machine
if you clean it well every time you use it, and if it goes into storage
use the recommended pump storage fluid.
Now for oil based only. This will make some of the pros cringe...
Check this out: http://tinyurl.com/97mtk
I have one of these guns and I use them to paint metal doors after I
install them, as well as metal garage doors, burglar bars, and any
other surface requiring oil based material. The gun is small, easy to
handle, and does a helluva job. It only handles about 7 oz of paint
though, so if you were going to paint your car you would have no end of
problems with this as the capacity is so small. The best part is you
can run it off a small compressor (which I take to the site anyway) as
the air requirements are so small. Since I run the gun at about 45 -
50 psi, I always have constant pressure as the compressor kicks on at
about 80 pounds so I never notice a drop.
Here's a good tip on something I found by accident. I mix my paint in
a sports bottle (Goodwill, .35 ea.) that has gradients on the side.
That way I can mix how much I need accurately, and then have a
resealable bottle for the balance of he paint or when I need a refill.
The thinned paint stays in perfect condition for several days in the
current lot of bottles I am buying, and for convenience sake I can mix
bigger batches of paint.
One of my amigos showed me the above referenced gun and he told me he
uses it for furniture finishing and refinishing. He bought it on a
lark because of price, and now he keeps two or three around that are
dedicated to certain finishes. He shoots lacquer and poly out of it
with no problems. He has even painted a fender or two, but no complete
cars. It has a good volume control and pattern control (round to fan
only) and seems pretty well made. I can't tell you how surprised I was
when I started using this gun. I couldn't recommend it enough as a
great gun to experiment with to learn how to spray different oil or
solvent based finishes. Likewise how to cut, retard, and accelerate
the finishes you are interested in using.. Sometimes in my mind I
think everything in HF is crap...
But remember, when you make air, you make water. You MUST have a drier
on your machine before it gets to the gun, and you MUST have a good
gauge and regulator to make sure you have quality air. However, this
will be the case on >any< gun you run from a compressor. And your
compressor question will be answered by the gun you choose. Some are
real air hogs, and some are just piglets. Find out which gun you want
first and use that as your jumping off point on compressors. Any
compressor you buy to run a spray gun will almost definitely run a
large variety of air powered sanders, nailers, etc.
I haven't seen a setup that does both latex and oil finishes really
well. I am sure that there are those here that know of such an animal,
but they all seem to have their drawbacks, even if it just the amount
of pain you go through to clean the machine/guns.