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Can I spray paint w/ HVLP

gcg's picture

About 4 months ago I purchased that $100.00 HVLP system at Woodcraft. I was taking a chance on a cheapo but it turns out it worked very well. I guess as well as I could expect. It was my first spray finishing (on a bed) and it turned out very well.

The problem is the gun came with two tips, large and small. I can't give the sizes because nowhere in the instructions or anywhere else does it list them (you get what you pay for.) I want to use this to put a paint finish on a built in book shelf assembly that I'm finishing up.

Can I spray paint with the HVLP?

Can I spray latex enamel or what do you recommend for a primer/paint that is sprayable and that is designed for this application?

What ever paint I use needs to also be brushable because it will be the same color that is on the trim in the room.

Kevin's picture

(post #111086, reply #1 of 7)

The two tips are 1 (the larger one) for spraying primer and 1 (the smaller one) for spraying paint. To the manufactorers the distinction between paints and finishes is irrelevant. So yes, you can spray paint with your gun.

You can spray latex enamel. But unlike other latex paints, the "enamel" is known to be exceptionally difficult to get a decent sprayed finish from. Not impossible, but difficult. It just doesn't flow out as well as regular latex paint.

With either type of latex I would suggest adding Floetrol additive and thin with water, using the least amount of water necessary to achieve acceptable results. No latex is going to spray out like automotive paint or like lacquer or varnish. So don't expect more than is realistically possible.

Personally, I have had good luck using regular latex to put down what is essentially a primer coat, let it dry and then sand it with 320 grit sandpaper to level and smooth out the first coat, and then spray latex enamel over that (both paints being the exact same color) so that all I'm trying to get the latex enamel to do is to flow out and that's it.

Your primary alternative to latex is going to be oil enamel which can be both sprayed and brushed. It's going to take a lot longer to dry to the touch (12 or more hours versus 2 - 4 hours with the latex) and is going to smell for a lot longer than latex. On the other hand it's going to produce a tougher film, although latex enamel does produce a surprisingly tough film after it's had 30 days to cure.

gcg's picture

(post #111086, reply #2 of 7)

Thanks to both of you,

The $100 HVLP is the whole shootin match - the gun and the turbine compressor.  What I have sprayed previously was SealCoat Shellac and General Finish's Hight Performance.

I'm spraying because I thought it would be much eaisier and provide a better finish.  I am not going to buy another spray system at this time (although I intend to at some point) so what I have will have to do.

If I do go with latex, how much should I thin it? 

Should I just use the viscosity cup that came with the gun like I would with other finishes? Water only? 

I'm not familiar with Floetrol.  What does it do (I'm assuming it aids the paint flowing) and what ratio of that should I add?

As kevin said, can I use the same paint as a primer? 

The paint I am planning on is Behr's "Snow White" latex enamel.  It is the color that we used on the trim in an adjacent room. It does not have to be enamel if that is problematic but will a non-enamel hold up as well.  Remember it is for a bookshelf. 

BTW - I would have preferred to not use paint but its at the interior designers request/demand - my wife.   


Kevin's picture

(post #111086, reply #3 of 7)

It does not have to be enamel if that is problematic but will a non-enamel hold up as well.  Remember it is for a bookshelf.

No, latex enamel is easily the more durable of the two.

I'm not familiar with Floetrol.  What does it do (I'm assuming it aids the paint flowing) and what ratio of that should I add?

Floetrol is a paint conditioner. The whole purpose of it is to aid in the application of the paint. Not being a chemist I won't venture too many opinions on what exactly it does, but aiding in flow is one of the chief reasons that I like to use it. I've also found that it changes the viscosity of the latex enough that less water is required in order to get a decent spray. As for how much to add... follow the directions on the label.

If I do go with latex, how much should I thin it?

The least amount necessary. Which means that you'll need to find some scrap and do a little trial and error testing. Ambient conditions play a rather large role so I wouldn't want to give a formula per se. Start with 10% and go from there.

gcg's picture

(post #111086, reply #4 of 7)

Thanks again,

I'm going to give it a try, on scrap first of course.  Will follow the directions on the Floetrol and start w/ 5-10% water but again just I go by the viscosity cup to get in the ballpark and then by how it sprays or just soley how it sprays.


Kevin's picture

(post #111086, reply #5 of 7)

Personally I don't bother with viscosity cups. They have their place... in a factory or industrial setting (IMHO). But I don't find them necessary.

A word of caution: You don't want to over-thin the paint. That could and probably would adversely affect it's dry film properties. As I said before, use the least amount that it takes to get an acceptable finish and no more. To make your samples useful they'll need to be mock-ups of the actual piece in that you'll want to have them primed, sanded and whatever other undercoat you intend to use on the final piece. Just testing out thinned paint on bare wood won't tell you anything useful.

Also, I don't know how your bookcase is constructed but if you can do the shelves seperately that would make it much, much easier. And if the back is removable you'll find doing it seperately even easier. The problem with spraying the case with the back installed is that it causes a venturi effect. The air has to go somewhere and it'll swirl around an inside corner which makes it very difficult to lay paint down properly.


Edited 3/26/2007 12:31 pm by Kevin

Dorykigeror's picture

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IdahoDon's picture

latex enamel is rather (post #111086, reply #7 of 7)

latex enamel is rather generic and refers to all sorts of water based paints - all of which are a collection of a number of chemicals, very little of which is latex of any kind with todays formulations.  

For $100 I bet you'll have a hard time spraying most water based paint unless it's very thinned down - use flotrol (it's the consistency of dish soap and lets the paint flow more easily yet moderate amounts won't affect the final finish) and as little water as you can.  You'll have to use more coats than normal and the final finish may be less than spectacular.  If the final finish looks off sheen you can top coat with a clear acrylic to correct the sheen.

I have the same problem with my hvlp conversion cup guns - I wish they sprayed water based finishes better, but they don't :)


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