Upgrading HVLP: Earlex or Fuji? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 06-11-2020, 10:26 AM Thread Starter
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Upgrading HVLP: Earlex or Fuji?

Many years ago I asked about bulk finishing and got some good answers. What I ended up doing: Lay 6" wide BORG Tongue and Groove out on saw horses. 10 per horse pair, three sets of horse pairs, all I could fit in my garage. Did this early in the morning. Brushed on a very thick and sloppy first coat of Minwax water-based poly, satin, without a care for brush marks or application. That poly is good stuff, and levels perfectly. Usually dried in 6 hours. Hit it with a half-sheet sander and 220 grit, I could sand all 30 boards in 10 minutes. Used a BORG HVLP sprayer with 1.5 mm tip hooked up to a 5 GAL compressor that clearly was underpowered for the task. Had to put two shop fans on the compressor to keep it from melting. Again, without a care for technique, top-sprayed all 30 boards while cringing at the compressor running non-stop for the 20 minutes it took. Contrary to instructions and common sense, set the PSI at 65. At this point you're reading this and thinking "Bet that guy had nothing but fish scale, orange peel, and runs". The great thing about wood werkin as a hobby, is, the beauty of figuring out something on your own that actually works! Let me tell you, this tongue and groove looks like french polished furniture in a gallery. I can't tell you how well this technique worked. When ever I come home, I walk through all the rooms running my hands over the walls and ceilings. It's better than drugs. Perfectly smooth. No dust nibs. No runs. Beautiful grain depth. So here's the problem. Remember "walls and ceilings"? Yes, I T&G'ed everything but the floors. Acres of wood. BORG has a policy now when they see my truck pull in, two guys are assigned to help me get the good pieces out of the T&G stack, because at 8$ a board, I'm only taking the good ones. I'm supposed to call now before I show up. What's the problem then? So I'm about to do the upstairs. I have to pull an electrical permit because code says if you renovate down to studs, you have to have an inspection, and the electrical has to be current (which I'm happy to do, don't like fire). A permit is only good for a year, then I have to pull a new one, based on what ever version of electric code is in effect. When I pulled the permit for the downstairs, it was 2012 code, which only required arc-faults in bedrooms and smokes, which was easy to do. Well the issue was, my permit expired on Nov 6, 2019, and on Oct 15, 2019, I was only halfway done with all the spraying and installing, as I could only finish 30 boards per day due to space constraints. If my permit expired, I'd have to pull a new one, under 2017 code this time, which requires Arc Fault on everything, which would require a significant rewire an impossibility for me. A combination of vacation and skipping sleep and I passed inspection. And the downstairs looks great. Since my last post there, I've switched from the GF I was using, because, at 80$ a gallon, I couldn't afford it. The whole downstairs took 12 gallons of the Minwax satin.

Ok fast forward to the upstairs. Twice as much surface area as down. There's no way I'm going to be able to use my underpowered compressor and BORG gun to finish that much wood between the day I pull my permit and when it expires. Not in a year, as I do other things on weekends too! I need to upgrade how I'm finishing. I also realize that a more professional gun will actually save me time, time is money, so I view this as an investment. Thing is, I'm a minimalist, I always prefer the minimal tool based on my abilities and requirements to get the job done. Yeah, I could have gotten a 3500$ Saw Stop, but all I needed was the 600$ Delta based on how much wood I rip (not a lot, and I'm very happy with the Delta). So lurking in the Forums, seems like Earlex and Fuji are the go to guns for most of you. While the Fuji seems to be more reliable and precise, it looks like the Earlex, with some intermittent and random faults and QA issues, "Get's the Job Done". I view this as a "buy the tool, use it, then sell it on Craigslist" tool, like a floor nailer. I'm never going to be spraying furniture, as I don't make furniture, and the other DIY projects I get into involve oil/wax finishes. In the other forum someone suggest a pressure pot gun, finish types that frankly are out of my budget, or hiring people, also out of the budget. Another consideration for me is post-carpal tunnel surgery, I lost a lot of hand strength and wrist fatigue comes quickly, but I least I can do my job (computer all day).

Sorry for the long rant, but will I be happy with the cheaper Earlex 5550 (300$ on AMZ) to spray acres of Tongue and Groove with water-based poly, or will I regret not getting the pricier Fuji (430$)? Time is money.....

Last edited by tpcolson; 06-11-2020 at 10:30 AM.
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post #2 of 3 Old 06-11-2020, 03:26 PM
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I can't make a comparison because I only used the Earlex and I only used it for dye stains and lacquer. What I can say is that I was very satisfied with the product. It was my first experience with HVLP and learned to love it.

I purchased mine around 9 years ago and shortly afterwards they upgraded the motor which I would guess was a great improvement.
Their customer service was excellent. The cup was Teflon lined and apparently it did not like lacquer thinner. They sent me an unlined cup free of charge.

I hope you get some more replies because I too will be looking for another HVLP sprayer in the next few months. Right now, I am strongly leaning towards another Earlex.

Tony B Retired woodworker, among other things.

"Strive for excellence and settle for completion" Tony B
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post #3 of 3 Old 06-11-2020, 05:40 PM
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Just my two cents;

two stage turbines are pretty much a one trick pony, don't spray paint well, they aren't much better than those Wagner electric airless spray guns, they put out less material than the HVLP air guns. I have a two stage Campbell Hausfeld (58cfm) that sits in the corner of the shop that only gets used when I need to spray shellac. (how close are you to Virginia?) That being said; I tried a 5 stage Fuji for a few minutes that was a dream but I think they cost a couple grand with the good gun.

For what you're looking to do, You may want to look at an airless such as a Graco Magnum. They cost around $250.00 and spray just about any material.

Some Sherwin Willams stores rent spray equipment so you may want to try before you buy.

The minwax water based poly isn't really designed to spray not to mention really expensive. Sherwin Williams makes a water borne lacquer called Kem-Aqua. Unlike poly that builds on layers, the lacquer coats "melt" together to create one thick coat. Target Coatings, only sold online has similar products.
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earlex, fuji, spray gun

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