Manuals, Setup, and Cleanup

Manuals. Thorough, detailed, and well-written instructions?especially with regard to paint thinning?are crucial for maximizing the performance of a HVLP sprayer. Since everything that goes through a HVLP sprayer must be thinned properly, precise information is vital, especially if you have more than one user. Without it, there's too much left to chance; improperly thinned paint can waste time because it doesn't spray properly, gums up the tool, and creates a sub-par finish.

By far, SprayTech has the best, most informative manual. In fact, it has two: one for gun operation and one for the turbine. It has all the viscosity information you'll need for thinning most finishes, is well laid out, and has a quick-reference sticker right on the turbine, which serves as a good reminder on site. Next, Lemmer's manual is user friendly with lots of informative diagrams. The Fuji and Turbinaire manuals are both informative, too, and give you enough information to get going.

The Apollo, Campbell Hausfeld, and Graco manuals could use some work. Each manual assumes you already have enough knowledge on how to thin and handle products than you might necessarily have. In fact, the Graco manual has no viscosity information at all.

Setup. The first step before starting a paint job is matching the needle and nozzle (together called the fluid set) with the type of product you're spraying. Like everybody else in the world, I want to be working as quickly as possible, and the unit that is the easiest to get going is the Campbell Hausfeld. Its simple design allows for easy needle and nozzle exchanges and gets me working quickly. The Turbinaire design is similar to the Campbell Hausfeld, though screwing on the fluid control knob on the back of the gun is difficult. The Apollo, Graco, Fuji, and SprayTech units all have easy fluid-set exchanges and work fine. Lemmer's system, on the other hand, has too many parts and is not as easy to assemble as the others.

Another setup issue is the cap springs and plates at the nozzle, which are used for adjusting your pattern between round fan, horizontal fan, and vertical fan. The Turbinaire, Apollo, Campbell Hausfeld, and Lemmer caps are harder to assemble than the SprayTech and Fuji caps, which assemble nicely. Graco has an excellent design that eliminates the spring and spring plate altogether: You adjust the fan from the rear of the gun with a single adjustment that works perfectly and requires no cleaning.

Easy-to-read fluid-set markings also aid with setup, so you can quickly match the needle and nozzle you need to the material you're spraying. Only the Campbell Hausfeld and the Fuji need better markings (or I need glasses); the rest are clear and easy to read.

Cleanup. Cleanup is the same deal as setup: I want it to be as painless as possible. Easily accessible parts with smooth interior surfaces that shed paint make cleanup better and help the gun parts last longer. The Fuji, Turbinaire, Campbell Hausfeld, and Graco guns are the easiest to get?and keep?clean. Their interior parts are smooth and accessible using tube brushes, toothbrushes, and cotton swabs where necessary. The Lemmer cleans up easily, too, but the plastic cup-cover seal sticks to the top of the cup when you remove the cover, so every time you take it apart for cleaning you have to peel the cup cover off the cup rim. It also sticks when refilling the cup with paint, which is messy.

The aluminum tube inside the Apollo cover requires more work to keep clean because it catches too much paint between the top of the tube and the inside of the cup cover. This means that you have to take the tube completely off each time you clean the tool; if you don't, the tube can catch paint, which will eventually flake into the cup and spoil the finish. The SprayTech gun's parts have more surface area and contours than any of the guns in the test. The ribbed air cap and the cup cover were the most difficult in the group to clean.