Portable Air-Assisted Airless Setup

Advice on an AAA compressor and gun kit that you can conveniently cart from shop to shop. November 25, 2008

I am considering doing finishing as a side job to supplement what I do at the carpentry shop where I work my normal hours. Right now my finishing skills are not being used much, but the pay is fine and only one mile from home. I am fully trained in CV, 2K poly, glazing, dye toning - the usual furniture grade finishes.

I am considering buying my own portable system to do spraying work for other cabinetmakers. I have seen how some cabinet shops take horrid care of their stuff and would prefer to have the reliability of using my own pro stuff, so long as they can provide a compressor.

I greatly prefer the incredible finish that good AAA systems like the Kremlin or CAT produce. I have a good HVLP gun already but it's not sufficient for spraying a whole kitchen. Can anyone recommend a good portable AAA? I know that most of them come with wall-mount or a roll-around model, but I've only used the wall-mounts - are the roll-around models light enough for one person to reasonably toss in a pickup or van, then later remove for lock-up?

Lastly, I have never used a turbine HVLP, but I have seen them in use. Do the better ones produce the silky smooth finish that the AAA produces? Are there any major downsides to the turbines?

By the way, this will not be on-site spraying - I will only spray in a shop. I don't want to blow someone's million dollar house a mile high and kill everyone in the process. Any advice is appreciated!

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
The Spraytech Aircoat sounds like exactly what you are looking for. I've never used a Kremlin or seen a finish done with one, but can't see how it could look much better than the finish I was able to get with the Aircoat.

From contributor P:
CAT's cart-mounted package uses the exact same gun and the pump as their wall mounted unit. I bought mine on a cart and later mounted it on the wall. It's portable enough to throw in a van or truck for sure. CAT also makes a self-contained portable unit with their pump and a small compressor mounted on a cart.

From contributor G:
In our shop we have basically all the systems you're discussing. The primary workhorse is a Graco AAA with a Kremlin gun. The pump is currently being rebuilt and they loaned me a portable Binks Titan AAA 15:1. It is so light you can pick it up with one hand and put in your van or truck. We have Apollo turbines from the old days and never use them. Spend the money and get an AAA with a good gun. Look into the new Graco Merkur pump - it produces less "wink" than other AAA pumps (like the Kremlin series pumps).

From contributor D:
Comparing AAA to a turbine is comparing a Mercedes Benz to a Hugo. Take a look at the Spraytech mentioned previously - it's small and portable.

From the original questioner:
Contributor G, I haven't heard the term "wink" before regarding AAA's - what is that referring to? All the help is much appreciated! I will be pricing the Spraytech and the CAT models.

From contributor G:
Hopefully you won't know about "winks" for quite awhile after you get an AAA. It refers to a pulsation hiccup in the constant pressure of the spray. It occurs usually in the middle of a pass and leaves a spot with no finish. Pretty frustrating. One trick to slow down this problem is to turn the outboard filter so that it is in the up position. This allows the air in the system to be at the top with fluid below during this problem. It is caused by the wearing out of the piston and loss of constant pressure. If you look at the pamphlet on the new Graco Merkur, they show comparisons of spray pressure.

From the original questioner:
Ah, I have encountered the wink! One shop I used to work for had a 5 year old Kremlin that required the pressure to be turned up a little higher than I prefer or else it would misfire - sounds kind of like what you are talking about.

From contributor F:
I recently bought the AAA Aircoat, but instead of the gun the system comes with, I matched it with the Kremlin Airmix gun with adjustable aircap and 09-114 tip. I am a pro painter. I do lots of spraying of doors and all kinds of trim and shelving, mantles, etc. Previously I've used an airless and double orifice fine finish tips. I wanted more of a fine finish but without going to using lacquers with universal pigments. I wanted the solids. My Titan rep says I can spray without cutting my oil paint or waterbornes. I think my Kremlin on this unit will only permit me to shoot low solid clears or tinted lacquers. Is he full of crap?

From contributor D:
No, he is not. I've used the Airmix and I've never had to reduce the paint, whatever it is, through it. That's the beauty of the pump. Now you might need an assortment of tips depending on the viscosity of the material being sprayed, but I've never had to reduce.

From contributor F:
Thanks for the response. I have the Airmix gun only. The pump recommended was the AAA Aircoat. I don't have the Airmix pump. This was to be the ideal portable system where I could have both production and fine finishing with minimal overspray. A HVLP is impossibly slow and totally impractical when spraying 30 doors in an afternoon, and an airless means too much taping/poly protection from overspray.

Moving on - can you spray Benjamin Moore's satin Impervo oil top coats or any heavy waterborne satin Impervo topcoat without thinning and without blockages or without having to stop to unplug/clean tips? If so, can I expect good atomization and laying down a nice finish?

From contributor S:
For portability, Asturo's new pressure feed mini gun is great! It can be run on a small portable compressor 3CFM. The gun features a generous fan for a smaller gun and a superior finish to a turbine unit. And you don't have to invest all that money in a turbine unit at all. If turbine, make sure to get a 4-5 stage. The CAT and Kremlin are the best AAA. Graco is third.