Are Expensive Sprayguns Worth It?

You get what you pay for ... here are some details. March 12, 2015

Iíve been in the woodwork finish business over the years and have used $20 guns and $600 guns and have been able to get awesome finishes with both. I thought it was just some coincidental thing until I checked around at other shops that friends of mine work/own and realized in their arsenal were $20 Harbor Freight guns and $500 Satas. My question is, what are the real life advantages of a luxury expensive spray gun? Is it the longevity of the parts or the quality of the finish?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor D:
Like cabinetry and any other tool, I believe you get what you pay for. I have a 12 year old Walcom gun thatís $300. That's $25.00/year and it still sprays like a champ - do the math. I would spend $300 a year if I had too.

From Contributor M:
If you keep it clean, properly maintain it and don't drop it on the floor all the time, yes they are worth it. I personally enjoy the feel of a top quality gun or any tool for that matter and it inspires me to do even better work. But if you are one of the guys who never cleans the gun and drops it on the floor bending the fluid nozzle then they are not worth it. Stick to the Harbor Freight models.

From contributor C:
I also have seen/heard about shops using cheap guns. A few years ago I got a wood river (Woodcraft brand) spray gun. It was ok and it did a good job but most of those cheap/bargain spray guns use old technology. They also don't offer a whole lots of parts. If you need bigger or smaller tips/aircap you may be out of luck. I never used those very expensive gun such as Sata/Iwata/Optima but I can tell you that my $450 CAT sprays better than my $40 Wood River. It's like a mist that lays very nicely. Also keep in mind that most cheap gun uses cheap seals/springs and that can fail very quick. I would at least spend around $200 $400 for a good gun.

From Contributor S:
I don't know if my answer is what you're asking, but it's a good idea to invest in an air-assisted airless system. A quality soft-spray that has little bounce back is what the AAA offers that conventional air supply (CAS) guns or turbine systems can't match. For spraying dye stains, the better guns and even the dedicated guns make a difference. All that said, operator technique is most of the game.

From contributor X:
I use expensive guns (Kremlins, Devilbis) for things that matter. I find it useful to have some cheap guns for things like spraying on glaze that will be worked by hand anyway. Also itís nice to have a cheap gun for color samples when you don't want to dirty up your good gun for something small. I use Kobalt's from Lowes for that kind of stuff when they start to act up. I pitch them in the trash and don't give it a second thought.

From contributor G:
To contributor M: I saw your Ilva product numbers in your blog. What do you think of their diamante product (vs. acrylic urethane)?

From Contributor M:
I haven't used the Diamante series at all. We use the TS series Acrylic Urethane on everything due to its clarity but I also really like the TO 9 series except for use over dark colors (it is a little milky compared to the TS). However it dries and stacks much faster and seems to achieve final hardness faster as well. We also use the TA44 sealer due to the clarity issues as well.

From contributor G:
Thanks. Ironically, Ilva doesn't recommend the diamante over lighter woods. I've not experienced a problem with it over either color but did just spray a dark top and it came out a little milky (I sprayed it heavier than normal). I've got a sample of TS to spray but am primarily concerned with hardness/scratch resistance as we do a lot of commercial table tops.

From Contributor M:
The TS can have a real issue being soft and marking the next day even. We run it through a drying oven and still have some issues. To correct this we are in the process of switching over to the TS5** Technofinish series which is supposed to dry and cure faster. We are also adding TV17 polyurethane accelerator which will also work with the TS.

From Contributor P:
I've owned cheap guns, mediocre guns, and pro guns. All of them will get product onto the wood up to maybe a 90% quality level, but my current pro gun, a Devilbiss trans tech, makes it much easier to stay in the 90-100% range and it does it faster and with less wasted product.

From the original questioner
To the original questioner: Do you use the trans tech for pigmented CV?

From Contributor P:
I spray exclusively Sherwin Williams Kem Aqua Plus line of lacquers. I use the Transtech for both pigmented and clears. I also spray water/alcohol based dye stains and if I have a large amount to do I will also use the Transtech, but usually I use a smaller gun on the dyes. I can't say enough good things about the gun.

From contributor N:
In my experience the best bang for the buck are the top of line Devilbiss, CAT and Binks guns. Sata's and Iwata's are fantastic guns but generally run a couple of hundred more dollars new then the American made guns, plus parts for the Satas and Iwatas are lots more and often times take time to get. I really like the Devilbiss compact trans-tech with the 510 air-cap it's a great wood finishing gun. Like most Devilbiss guns it's fast (nearly as fast as my 10:1 AAA), has fine atomization, only uses 10cfm (my Sata 1000K uses 14.5cfm) and has stainless steel fluid passage, so it's good to go for acid catalyzed, and WB's.

From Contributor P:
Contributor N - you just described the exact setup that I'm using.

From contributor B:

I really like my Devilbiss gun for dyes. I use an Ingersal-Rand gun for lacquer and sanding sealer.

From contributor A:
Cheap guns are great to have around the shop for things like spraying a wipe-only stain (I only use just enough air pressure to sputter it on), or for spraying a very fine mist of water on maple to get the stain to darken evenly (make the grain raise). For spraying finish predictably, witheasy access to replacement parts, comfort on the hand I'm reaching for the CAT, Binks, or a similar gun.