Spray-Gun Choices

Another long discussion on the pros and cons of various spray-gun options. November 11, 2006

I am a one man woodshop and I build cabinetry and furniture, which I currently spray with a 10 year old Turbinaire HVLP setup. I am looking to upgrade from this gun, and I would like to switch away from a turbine driven gun. The gun sprays well, but the pattern is somewhat narrow when spraying large panels, and the hose and turbine are frustrating to deal with at times.

I spray shellac, oil and acrylic varnishes and paints, and once in awhile oil based polyurethane. Because I am a small shop, I typically am only spraying once or twice a month, but sometimes it is a full kitchen, other times a dining table.

I was considering the Accuspray conversion HVLP gun, with a pot rather than the attached quart can. I would like to get away from the quart can if it's not too much hassle dealing with pressure pots, but I have no experience with the pots, so I am looking for advice on this. I have to upgrade my compressor also, so I plan on at least a 5hp twin cylinder Quincy with a 60 or 80 gal tank. There are a lot of write-ups here about the air assisted airless guns, which I know nothing about, and they seem to be more suited for everyday high volume use. Is this true? They're much pricier than the HVLPs that I am looking at.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor D:
The AirMix is the stone cold nuts, as we fans of poker are prone to saying.

From contributor P:
If you are going to go for an HVLP pressure pot setup, the compressor you have will be plenty. A 2/12 gl setup with the gun goes for about 800 - 1500. Make sure the entire setup is HVLP with plenty of line. Consider extra hoses, tips, and cleaning kits. You should always keep another gun with a pressure gauge so you can work it from the compressor. Remember, you always want double the pressure coming from the compressor than the pressure you need at the gun. Same with the pressure pot.

From contributor Z:

If you don't want to spend the money on an air-assisted setup, for about $800.00 you can get a small airless pump and gun with a fine finish tip. It would spray all that stuff great. They are easy to clean, too. They create a lot more overspray than an HVLP and are electric, so you need to keep it out of spray area.

From contributor J:
So contributor D, disregarding volume of production and speed of application, what would be the difference in quality of finish between a top quality gravity feed, say Sata, and the popular Airmix? Thanks to your previous posts, you have helped greatly in developing my gravity feed results! Also your dye stain methods! Thanks!

From contributor Y:
The Airmix will blow away a gravity gun in terms of speed, but you also need a certain volume of work to justify it. If you are only spraying once a month and are spraying several different types of products, go to Grizzly tools and buy a 12 pack of their $20 gravity guns, some extra cups and a pack of 20 filters. You can have a different gun for every finish and they are almost cheap enough to be disposable. Then if you want to shoot a lot of finish on panels and doors with a clear coat, go buy an inexpensive airless. You can have all of this for under 500 dollars.

From contributor D:
The AirMix is somewhat expensive and other methods will work well, as I've often mentioned, but for spraying inside of a box without suffocating yourself, the AirMix is untouchable. Remember, he said that he sprayed twice a month. He also said he sprayed an entire kitchen twice a month. The unlimited supply of an AirMix (not having to keep refilling a cup) and the quality it produces over a long spraying session, regardless of the length of the particular spraying session, to me makes the AirMix a value.

From contributor R:
Spray the inside of a cabinet one time with a gravity cup and you'll love something with a hose.

From contributor Y:
That is certainly true to an extent, but I also find that while it is nice to have the AAA for spraying things like the inside of a big entertainment center, if you are spraying the inside of a smaller cabinet (something like a 14 inch or smaller opening) and you leave the back off, you can get in there easier with a cup gun and because you are not putting out so much fluid, you end up without the runs you can get with the volume of the AAA. Obviously, there is the option of pre-finishing some cabinets before assembly, also. You can minimize the fog of spraying by using your spray booth and positioning the cabinet to pull the fog out away from you, etc.

Leaving the backs off of cabinets until the finishing is done helps a lot, too. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat, no matter what equipment you are using. If the AAA is in your budget, go for it, but if you are switching from oil to varnish to shellac to paint with the same pump, gun and hoses, you better have a top notch schedule for cleaning between finishes, also.

From contributor O:
I don't know anything about the airless or air-assisted systems, but I was in the same position 6 months ago. I was using an Apollo turbine system and wanted more versatility for my finishes. I checked around and decided on a SATA LM2000 RP gun (gravity feed). The only down side is spraying the insides of cabinets, but I got used to it quickly. I only spray large jobs every couple of months, but I am always doing samples and color matches for customers. This is super easy with this gun, because changing fluids is very quick. Also, you can spray every ounce of fluid from the cup, which is great for the stuff that you can't pour back into the can. Someone mentioned having to refill the cup so often, but if you are used to it already, it's no big deal. I've sprayed dyes, stains, glaze, lacquer and CV with no problems and at the price (under 250.00), I could have bought 3 of them for the price of the Apollo 8 years ago. I've never used a remote pot for finishing, but have sprayed contact adhesive with them and it seems like the extra hose would be a drawback.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the replies, contributor O especially, as this was what I was looking for. I just don't know if I want to go gravity or pressure pot... I guess I will have to decide. I suppose the gravity feed is low enough cost to maybe try and still get another gun with pressure pot.

From contributor P:
I too am a one man shop. I have three suction, one of which is an Accuspray conversion HVLP gun (my least favorite), two Devilbis and 1 gravity Devilbis. They all work okay. But after I purchased the Airmix setup, my finishes were second to none. Sure, it cost a few grand, but I have made so much money from that gun I'm thinking of another setup. A few small local shops have been sending me their finishing work. It's quick with high profits.

From contributor N:
What about the Cougar AAA by CA Technologies made in the USA? A great air assist airless for about $600.00-$700.00 less than Airmix. Just as good, in my opinion. Check it out.

From contributor H:
For what it is worth, there must be a reason it is 600-700 less. Be careful.

From contributor I:

I also used to use a turbine. Considering the size of your projects (tables to kitchens), I would recommend a 2qt or 1gal pressure pot setup. I have (2) 2qt remote pots as well as a gravity feed and touchup gravity feed gun. All are Sata: K3, SataJet-2000, and Sata mini SR.

With the various finishes you use, you'll need to be careful about cleaning the hoses on a pressure pot. A gravity gun is lots easier to clean. I only use WBs, so I don't have the problem.

Before buying a compressor, decide on the gun. My Satas require a lot of cfm and I had to upgrade to a 7-1/2hp 80gal Curtis from a 5hp 60gal Grainger. You'll also want oil and water separators and a desiccant dryer sized to the cfm you need. There's a lot involved in switching from turbine to conversion, but I was glad I did. I think you will be too.

From contributor J:
To the original questioner: Is that compressor a two stage or single stage?

From the original questioner:
It is a single stage. I was thinking single stage was big enough. Is it not? Contributor R, are the Sata guns HVLP conversion guns? It sounds like a lot of air is needed for these guns at 7 1/2 hp. I was looking at an Accuspray from Jeff Jewitt's company and he said the 5hp compressor was fine for that gun.

Bob Niemeyer, forum technical advisor:
Here's what I would do. Call the Kremlin folks, call CATechnologies and any others for demos to be left at your shop for testing and trials. Let the best tool for you win. Also, who is your local source for parts and service when needed? Don't shop price. Just because something costs less does not mean you have to "look out". Remember, you're the buyer here. Make the gun salesman earn his money.

From contributor I:
All my guns are HVLP conversion guns. The Sata K3 with pressure pot requires about 17cfm @ 35psi. The others are 13cfm at 29psi. Satas are really high on the air consumption scale. Other brands may need a lot less. I would trust Jeff if he says the gun will work. He also carries an Asturo that only requires about 7cfm. 5hp 60gal single stage compressors are rated somewhere around 11cfm at 40psi; 9cfm at 90psi.

From the original questioner:
I guess those Sata guns do use more air than the Asturos and the Accusprays, based on what you provided. I have heard good things about those guns, however, so I will consider them.

Jeff has been very helpful for me with finishes, and seems to know his guns very well. I will probably buy from him as soon as I am ready, as I really like doing business with him. Thanks again for taking the time to help out!

From contributor K:
We use an Asturo Eco setup on a 2qt pot that works great for shooting conversion varnish or lacquer without thinning. Problem is the rig was $600. As a backup we bought the HVLP 2qt pot and gun setup from Harbor Freight. The pattern is almost as good as the Asturo and it is not a huge air hog. The model is 93305.6vga and is on sale right now for 40 bucks. Well worth it, even if you only use it occasionally. By the way, we use both of these guns on a 5 hp, 60 gal, single stage compressor with no problems.

You need to try conversion varnish if you have only been using the other stuff. It is so much more durable than what you are using, it will blow your mind. Not really any harder to use. Add 1oz catalyst per qt, shake and shoot. Clean up with xylene.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for your reply. The Fuhr finish I primarily use is very durable, and easy to spray, and quick drying, as well as h20 based. The conversion varnish would require a conventional spray booth, for the toxic fumes, wouldn't it? I don't have a conventional booth, so I try to stick with the lower flammable finishes. I bet that CV is nice to work with, though. Maybe someday if I can put in a real booth I could try using CV. I will check out the Harbor Freight gun you mention for a backup, and look at the Asturo and the Accuspray in comparison.

From contributor A:
Gravity cup HVLP conversion guns are by far the easiest setup to clean and maintain. They're great for stains and toners. Their compromises are the (relatively) small amount of finish you can spray before refilling the cup; you can't spray with the gun tip pointing directly up; the attached cup makes it difficult to maneuver in close quarters. A pressure feed gun with a remote pot overcomes these disadvantages, and with a disposable pot liner, is not difficult to clean. Adjusting the pot pressure gives you one more variable to control. From what you've written, I think a pressure feed gun and a one gallon remote pot (you can place a quart can of finish directly in the pot) might be your best compromise. There are a number of pressure feed conversion guns that use around 10-12 cfm at 40 psi, so you don't need a huge compressor. (However, you might want to get one large enough to run a R/O air sander - they're wonderful.)

I don't understand the folks who advocate cheap guns; these guns usually don't have a good selection of needles, nozzles, and air caps; and if you need help or service after the sale, it's often hard to come by. You get what you pay for - I don't know of anyone who advocates cheap saws, etc. I've used Homestead Finishing in the past as a system supplier, and feel I've gotten good advice on selecting equipment, and good service after the sale.

From contributor Y:
You have a point and I had always bought high dollar equipment feeling I would get the best performance. But then I cracked the cup on my 400 dollar Asturo Legend gun and when the cost of the cup was priced out at 35 dollars plus S&H, I decided to order one of the Grizzly guns (Model H3257) for 20 dollars and just take the cup off and put it on the Asturo and save the 15 bucks. But I decided to try it first, and it sprayed very good. So good that it made sense to order 6 of them and have one for every color I needed to spray. Granted, it won't lay down material like my AAA, but they are great for spraying tinted finishes and for the times I spray WB.

I called Grizzly yesterday to order a bunch of replacement cups for these guns because they also fit my Asturos and the other gravity guns I have and I figured they would be inexpensive. I found out that Grizzly gives you a 1 year free replacement warranty including free return shipping on those guns. I agree that some things you buy at a lower price will give you less performance, but that is not always the case. I don't think you will get a 1 year free replacement warranty from Asturo, Graco, Kremlin or any of the top priced guns. I doubt even the 1200 dollar Dux gun has a 1 year free replacement.

Plus, when you look at 400x6 for the Asturos coming to 2400 dollars and 20x6 for the Grizzlys coming in at 120 dollars, for similar performance, it is hard to justify.