Specs and Tester's Tester Comments

Photos by David Sharpe

High-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) paint sprayers are light, mobile, and provide a finish far superior to even your nicest paintbrush. They also make the job go faster and are less tiring than painting by hand. As a cabinetmaker and on-site finisher, I've used HVLP sprayers for more than 15 years, applying every finish you can think of from watery lacquers to goopy latex paints. While I frequently use HVLP sprayers in my shop finishing the kitchens, home offices, and built-ins we make, the emphasis for this test was on-site finishing where these tools can really earn their keep laying down smooth finishes on complex casing profiles, built-up crowns, and raised-panel doors. They also make quick work of dentil moldings, all without a mountain of overspray and wasted paint.

Test Criteria

I tested seven units: the Apollo 800, Campbell Hausfeld HV3500, Fuji Q3, Graco 233422, Lemmer T-75, SprayTech 0277030, and the Turbinaire 1235. I used each one to apply finishes to board-and-bead material, moldings, medium density fiberboard (MDF), raised-panel wood doors, and raised-panel hardboard doors. Finish quality was the most important criterion. After that I looked at the clarity of the owner's manuals, ease of setup and cleanup, hose flexibility, air/fluid adjustments, gun design and feel, and turbine design.

Finish Quality

To determine the finish quality of each unit, I sprayed with the heaviest (and most often used) materials I apply on site: oil-based primer and oil-based and latex paints. I sprayed these materials onto different surfaces and textures to check how the paint leveled and got into contours. On super-slick MDF (a popular material for built-ins,) each tool laid down a nice coat that leveled well. The tools also performed well on material with tight, complicated profiles, like board-and-bead paneling, moldings, and raised-panel doors, where I checked to be sure paint was evenly dispersed into the shadow lines and corners.

I sprayed some work horizontally (on sawhorses) and some vertically to determine if the volume of paint applied had any bearing on finish quality. When you spray horizontally, you can apply a little more paint at once and get better leveling. I found that all the units are more than up to the tasks, leaving a professional-grade finish on all the orientations I threw at them and with all the materials I sprayed. What separated the tools from each other were setup, cleanup, and ergonomic features.