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At the beginning of this year I finally made the switch to spraying furniture. I have been considering it for a long time and last summer (2014) I purchased an inexpensive HVLP spray gun with hopes that it would motivate me to try spraying furniture and I also needed it to more easily (and professionally) paint a bamboo dresser I had.
In this post I’m sharing all of the tools and products I have tried and letting you know what I have found works best and that I have continued to use. Some of the HVLP guns I mention didn’t work for me, but I want to include them so that it might help you find the best tools to start spraying furniture too! A more complete post detailing the specs on my compressor, what settings I use on my spray gun/compressor and my spray booth set up will be shared at a later time.
Building a Spray Booth – Setup
The ball finally started rolling when I convinced my parents to let me build a PVC pipe and plastic paint sheet spray booth in the garage. That was really the only option because we have a 3 car garage and didn’t want paint getting everywhere. Plus, the Seattle weather is never great for spraying outside (and you are subjecting the piece to getting bugs and debris in the finish). The spray booth is huge. Well it looks huge from the outside, but once you get a dresser in there and all the drawer it’s a lot more cramped than you might imagine. The frame is built out of 1″ pvc pipes and then I used plastic paint sheeting and just taped it on using blue tape and duct tape. This is nothing fancy or professional here, friends 🙂 I may eventually build a more sturdy and secure booth, but I wanted to try out spraying furniture first to see if it was something I would continue with (and it is!). What I do is just leave one end un-taped and open and close the plastic sheeting to get in and out of the booth and there’s excess of the plastic sheeting to the corners overlap a lot. I use sometimes use binder clips to keep it closed when painting. To protect the floor I used large pieces of cardboard. I honestly use cardboard almost anywhere I paint and do projects (in the garage, house, or on the back patio) and we just pick up the cardboard at Costco… because everything at Costco is bigger. After and sometimes during each project I vacuum out the booth to get the overspray dust off of everything.
I chose not to glue the PVC frame together so if I want to take it down when I won’t be doing a project for a while or move it outside during the summer.
Choosing a Spray Gun
I’ve heard a lot of people who start using the Critter Sprayer. You may have heard of that tool as well. It’s inexpensive and you can purchase it off of Amazon for about $40. Some of things that sounded good about it are it doesn’t require a large air compressor (you save on size and on space) and you just use mason jars to attach to the gun to hold the paint or sealer you are spraying.
Well after doing a bit of research I realized that there are numerous options for HVLP spray guns in a similar price range. Some are a higher priced than the Critter (think $60), but in my mind it made more sense to invest in an HVLP gun rather than buying the Critter.* I have since purchased a writer gun to spray oil primer since it’s easy clean-up and save me money by not buying the spray cans.* I was very weary about how I would like spraying and if it would be hard to learn and figure out. So after reading a few posts and seeing a few pins on Pinterest I went to Harbor Freight and purchased an inexpensive ($15 on sale) HVLP gravity fed spray gun. I do want to point out that I would normally never buy tools from Harbor Freight, but I took a chance on this one. It’s not something I would buy again, but worth it since it helped ease me into spraying furniture. Really, prices and cheap and so is the quality (though this gun was pretty well made, it didn’t work super well for me). But for $15 I just wanted to try it and the reviews I had seen were positive. Fast forward to 2015 when I finally decided to start working on the AOM bamboo dresser that had been sitting for close to a year. The people who really gave me more confidence about trying spraying were those people who I followed on Facebook and Instagram. Many of the people I follow all finish pieces with an air compressor and HVLP gun and not only do they get a smoother finish than brushing, it looked like it saved time (I’ll go into the time aspect and pros and cons of spraying later in another post).
The Harbor Freight HVLP gun had a 1.4 tip when I needed a 2.0 or 2.2 tip and needle are needed for thicker paints like acrylic or latex. I did successfully paint this piece with the HF gun. I sprayed on 3 coats of General Finishes ‘Snow White’ and 2 coats of GF’s high performance topcoat. It just took many passes with the gun since barely any paint would come out of the gun. I finally gave up on the gun since it didn’t produce the best finish and would often spatter and not spray enough paint.
Next I moved onto trying 2 Kobalt HVLP guns (one siphon fed, the other gravity fed) which came in a kit I purchased. I could never get the siphon fed gun to even work. I think the 8 gallon compressor I was using was not powerful enough to siphon the paint and spray it out, or it could have been user error. The other gravity fed gun that came in the kit was just too small and also only had a 1.2mm tip and needle. Ultimately, I ended up returning the Kobalt spray gun kit to Lowes since the siphon fed gun would not work and the other one wasn’t suited for working with the acrylic paint I use.
Finally, I made the switch to a Husky HVLP gravity fed spray gun that came with a smaller (1.4mm) and larger (2.2mm) tip and needle. I have not used the 1.4mm tip, only the 2.2mm tip (since I had already tried the 1.4mm tip on the HF and Kobalt guns with little success). It made a huge difference in how the paint sprayed and the volume of paint it sprayed. I still add a small amount of water to thin any paint I run through the gun, but in my experience the Husky gun is far superior when it comes to the sprayed finish. (I did switch to a larger compressor when I switched guns which also helped with the success I’ve had recently with spraying). If you are going to by a gun, get a Husky. I bought the Husky HVLP Composite HVLP spray gun from Home Depot for $70. It’s lightweight and has been working well for me. I just sprayed the most gorgeous high gloss finish on this credenza using it.
This video shows me spraying an end table using the Husky sprayer and General Finishes acrylic milk paint.
Also, be sure to purchase a filter for your gun to stop any water or debris from ruining your gun or getting into your paint finish. I purchased a Tekton oil/water separator off of Amazon and attached it to the end of my gun. It’s definitely worth the $10. You can also find other filters at your local hardware store.
Choosing an Air Compressor
After doing some reading about air compressors and HVLP paint guns I went to Lowes and purchased a Kobalt 8-gallon air compressor which ran me about $160. While I was there I needed to pick up a hose as well and saw a Kobalt spray gun kit with a siphon fed HVLP gun, a smaller gravity fed HVLP gun, hose and a few other little tools for $60. I purchased the kit to try out the 2 guns (I was still convinced the HF gun I bought was going to be crap) and a hose alone was $15-$20 so I wasn’t risking much (these are the same Kobalt guns I mentioned in the section above).
Well, the 8-gallon Kobalt compressor worked (after a few days of troubleshooting some problems). I used it for a while, but it was constantly having to turn on in order to maintain a full tank and the right psi, and it had low cfm’s. *If you want to read more and understand cfm’s check out this link which Sucheta shared with me. It helped me understand more about compressors and cfm’s!* The main thing to take from the article is cfm = power, and psi = storage.
I hadn’t planned on changing compressors, but I saw a 25 gallon Craftsman compressor pop up on my local buy-sell-trade Facebook group for $175 and I had to check it out. After consulting with some fellow furniture-painting friends (Sucheta of The Resplendent Crow was SO helpful, check out her blog for gorgeous gloss pieces!) I learned that a larger compressor and high cfm’s meant more pressure that would help with spraying the paints I use. I got the compressor for $140 after negotiating a better deal (plus the guy gave me a better price when he learned I was a college student running a business to support my education). It even came with a 50ft heavy duty hose and some attachments! So I returned my Kobalt compressor I had to Lowes since it wasn’t proving powerful enough along with the spray gun kit, and now I use my 25 gallon Craftsman Oil-less compressor with my Husky HVLP spray gun. If you are buying a compressor, buy a used one. You will save so much money. A new 25 gallon compressor with similar horsepower and cfm’s would have run me about $500 or more.
Well, that’s how this whole spraying adventure started. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I will have a more complete post on the tools I do use, settings, spray booth set up, etc. You can definitely expect more tips and tutorials as I continually learn more about spraying. You can always email or leave a comment with any questions you have. I will answer the question and/or include them in the future post on spraying furniture with an HVLP spray gun.
Have a great weekend, friends!