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Spray for Less
New turbine HVLP spray systems
are powerful, compact, and affordable
T E R I
M A S A S C H I
f you’ve considered setting up a spray system
for your shop, turbine-powered HVLP systems
are the way to go. They take up almost no floor
space when you’re not using them, and they virtually eliminate setup compared with compressordriven systems, providing great results right out of
With a low threshold to getting started, you’ll get
great professional results in a lot less time, letting
you breeze through finishing and move on to the
next woodworking project quickly. And if you’ve always shied away from spray systems because of the
high prices, there are some new, affordable systems
that will make you reconsider.
In this tool test, we looked at 14 different HVLP
spray systems available in the United States, with
6/30/14 5:13 PM
If you’re looking to
create professionalquality finishes quickly,
these four sprayers
won’t let you down.
They all excelled in
finish quality and
comfort, and were the
most intuitive to adjust.
FU J I S P RAY MI N I - MI T E 3
The Fuji had a wider spray
pattern than the others, and the
pattern maintained a consistent
shape, which was impressive.
The non-bleeder-style gun
has a very comfortable grip
and features an easy-to-reach
fan-width adjustment knob on
the side. As the lowest-priced
option of the three Best Overall
winners, this system also gets
a Best Value award.
APOLLO 8 3 5 TU RBOS P RAY
A P O L L O EC O - 3 / E7 0 0 0 G U N
This system boasts plenty of power with highquality components that did not disappoint.
The grip on the non-bleeder-style gun is very
comfortable, producing a soft, fine spray with
an even pattern that was easy to adjust using
a dedicated ring near the air cap on the front.
The cup has a protective coating inside to
prevent corrosion, a nice feature.
This system is a great performer, producing
a fine mist with a nicely shaped spray
pattern that’s convenient to adjust using a
knob on the back of the non-bleeder-style
gun. The cone-shaped interior design of the
cup is a unique feature that keeps the gun
from spitting air when it gets low on material,
stationary turbines that connect to the spray gun
with a hose. We required that the sprayers be
compatible with both water- and solvent-based
lacquer, and we tested them using both. Most important, we wanted to see if these spray systems
deliver a professional-quality finish.
The guns divide into two different styles. Those
that continue to spray air when the trigger is
released are called “bleeders,” while guns that
stop spraying air when you release the trigger
are called “non-bleeders.” Non-bleeders are nicer
to use, because you don’t have to worry about
where the gun is pointed when you’re not spraying, and you avoid the risk of blowing dust into
S PRAYSTATI ON
a freshly sprayed finish. As I used the sprayers,
I also evaluated them on the adjustability of the
gun controls, ease of loading and cleaning, and
how comfortable each gun handle was to hold
The proof is in the pattern
The first thing that really separated the guns
from one another was the spray test. To achieve
a smooth, even finish, a spray gun must produce
a fine mist with a symmetrical or slightly tapered
fan-shaped pattern in a nice straight line. To test
each sprayer’s ability to break finish into a really fine mist, I sprayed black-tinted water-based
Despite its low price, this
gun does not compromise
on comfort or spray quality.
The cup has a protective
coating inside to prevent
corrosion, and the air cap
adjusts with nice action.
The air hose connects to
the top of the bleederstyle gun, which cramps
finger space for the fluid
knob below, but the solid
performance makes the gun
an amazing value.
6/30/14 5:14 PM
Features that really matter
Conventional controls. Many guns have
separate knobs that adjust the fluid volume
and the air volume, which in turn control the
width of the spray pattern. This traditional
system, as seen on the Earlex SprayPort, is
CAMPBELL HAUSFELD HV2002
Innovative and easy. The gun from the Apollo
835 Turbospray has a dedicated ring near the
front that makes it easy to adjust the width of
the spray pattern.
Difficult. The spray pattern on the Campbell
Hausfeld guns is adjusted by changing the fluid
and airflow knobs in tandem with the air cap.
The system made it tough to get a nice pattern.
lacquer and black solvent-based lacquer
onto white cardboard. The dark finish allowed me to clearly see the shape of each
gun’s spray pattern, as well as how fine a
mist each gun was able to create. Waterbased lacquer is much safer and more
widely used these days, but it’s more difficult to split up into a very fine mist, so it
was a challenging test for the sprayers.
The Fuji Spray Mini-Mite 3, Apollo ECO-3,
3M, Lex-Aire, Earlex SprayStation HV 5500,
Earlex SprayPort HV 6003, and Apollo 835
systems all did well in this round of tests.
be a very big deal. There are many good
designs among the sprayers tested, so you
won’t have to compromise on this feature.
We tested the gun handles for both small
and large hands, and then averaged the
scores, but the scores were pretty consistent between the two. The top scorers on
comfort were the two Apollo guns, the Fuji
Spray Mini-Mite 3, and the 3M.
Comfort is critical
When you’re holding onto something for
an hour or more at a time, comfort can
CAMPBELL HAUSFELD HV2500
Spray adjustments should be simple
To test the adjustability of each sprayer, I
focused on ease of adjustment, intuitive
design that doesn’t leave you guessing at
which knob to turn, smooth action, and
convenient placement of the knobs that
doesn’t interfere with other gun features.
CAMPBELL HAUSFELD HV3000
Photos: Ben Blackmar
7/7/14 11:31 AM
Coating protects. The Earlex SprayStation and
the Apollo 835 Turbospray both have cups with
a protective coating inside that guards against
Spit proof. The cup from the Apollo ECO-3/
E7000 system has a cone-shaped bottom,
which helps keep the gun from picking up air
when the fluid gets low—a helpful feature.
Watch out for threaded cups. The threads,
shown here on the Wagner Flexio 890, are
difficult to clean, and once they form a buildup
of old finish, they become hard to use.
The SprayPort, the ECO-3 with the E7000
gun, the Fuji, and the Apollo 835 all were
simple to adjust, fast and intuitive to figure
out, and had overall nice fit and finish, allowing you to turn the knobs with a light
twist of the fingers. The controls on these
systems also adjusted the spray width from
an even, wide pattern down to a small
circular one almost effortlessly.
Four sprayers rise to the top
In the end, three systems emerged as Best
Overall: the Apollo 835, the Apollo ECO3 with the E7000 non-bleeder-style gun,
and the Fuji Spray Mini-Mite 3. All three
had superior quality spray, very comfortable handles, and easy-to-use, ergonomic
EARLEX SPRAYPORT HV 6003
In the way. The hose on the Earlex SprayStation is close to the fluid-adjustment knob
underneath, making it harder to turn the knob,
and also to spray in tight spaces.
GRACO FINISHPRO 7.0
Out of the way. The hose on the Fuji Spray
Mini-Mite 3 attaches out of the way at the end
of the handle, and has an easy-to-grip coupling
that makes it a snap to attach.
7/7/14 11:31 AM
The bottom line: How well do they spray?
Good pattern. You want a tapered,
symmetrical spray pattern that makes it easy
to lay down an even coat of finish and overlap
strokes without leaving lines behind.
Best test. Masaschi tested each system by spraying dark-colored solvent-based and water-based
lacquer onto white cardboard, making it easy to see the size of the spray droplets and the shape of
the spray pattern.
adjustment knobs that adjust the spray
For the Best Value award, the Fuji Spray
Mini Mite 3 and the Earlex SprayStation
HV 5500 both win. At $590, Fuji rings in
at about half the price of the Apollo 835
without compromising on features. If you
want to start spraying but the Fuji is still a
little out of reach, the Earlex SprayStation
is even more affordable at $300, and has
a great spray quality, if you don’t mind
compromising on a few adjustability
Teri Masaschi has been a finishing pro for 45
years and teaches regularly across the country.
Poor pattern. A sloppy or pear-shaped spray
pattern makes it almost impossible to blend
overlapping strokes together.
ROCKLER HVLP SPRAY SYSTEM
TITAN CAPSPRAY 75
WAGNER FLEXIO 890
7/7/14 11:32 AM
Tested with the A7500 QT non-bleeder-style gun that’s comfortable to hold,
and easy to use and adjust.
Non-bleeder-style gun is comfortable to use and simple to adjust.
System produces a nice spray pattern.
Gun has an uncomfortable handle, and the top-mount hose interfered with
spray adjustments. This bleeder-style gun requires the user to adjust three
controls to change the spray pattern.
Gun has the same setup as the HV2002. Produced an asymmetrical spray
pattern, and could not produce a fine spray.
Same gun setup as other Campbell Hausfeld systems.
Did not produce a symmetrical spray pattern.
Air and fluid knobs located on the back of a non-bleeder-style gun, making it
easy to dial in a nice spray pattern. The system had plenty of power, but the
gun was not as comfortable as several others.
Great performance with a comfortable bleeder-style gun and simple controls.
Gun has a comfortable handle and a dedicated spray-width adjustment knob.
The spray pattern was consistent and impressive.
This gun worked well, but sprays fast and heavy, making it better
suited to professionals covering large areas. The non-bleeder-style gun
has a comfortable handle and the system packs nicely into the
Air volume and spray pattern on this bleeder-style gun are both controlled by
adjusting the air cap, which was stiff and difficult to turn.
Cup mounts to gun with threads, making it difficult to clean. The gun handle is
uncomfortable, and the bleeder-style gun could not be adjusted to spray a fine
mist. Hose attaches to top of the gun, and often got in the way.
This non-bleeder-style gun worked well and was comfortable to hold.
But it uses a cup system with disposable liners that added inconvenient
steps to the process.
This non-bleeder-style gun produced a nice spray pattern but sprays fast and
heavy, making it better suited to professionals covering large areas. Gun was
not very comfortable, with overly complicated adjustments.
Convenient on/off switch on the body. Produced a nice spray pattern, but not
a very fine spray. There is no hook to hang the spray gun from, and the hose
is permanently connected to the gun, so it tips over easily.
6/30/14 5:16 PM