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Basic HVLP Spray Techniques

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Basic HVLP Spray Techniques

How to succeed at spraying a waterborne finish

Purchase the complete version of this woodworking technique story from AWBookstore.com.

When it comes to finishing, we’re all looking for easy answers that give professional results. Shooting waterborne finishes with a high volume, low pressure (HVLP) turbine sprayer is quick and safe and the results look like a thousand bucks.

Spraying is a whole craft in itself. This step-by-step guide will help you avoid the most common pitfalls.


Strain the finish

When you pour finish into the sprayer’s cup, strain it through a small nylon sock, cheesecloth or paper funnels with mesh bottoms. The nylon sock can be rinsed with water and used over and over.

Click any image to view a larger version.


Select the fan pattern

All air caps can be set to three different fan patterns: vertical, horizontal and round. A vertical fan is good for tops; a horizontal fan is good for sides; a round fan is used to concentrate the finish in a small area. You can switch between vertical and horizontal settings without changing the air and fluid volume settings. Switching to a round fan requires readjusting these settings.


Adjust the air

Adjust the air volume: Regulate the air flow from the turbine with the air volume control knob. Increasing the air flow creates more atomization. Thick finishes need more air to atomize properly than thin finishes.


Adjust the fluid

Adjust the fluid volume: Regulate the fluid volume with the knurled knob at the back of the gun. This knob controls how far you can pull the trigger. As you pull the trigger, the volume of finish increases and so does the size of the fan pattern. Your goal is to set the trigger so it automatically stops at a 6-in. wide fan.


Spraying face frames and small surfaces

Switch the air cap to a horizontal fan pattern. Reduce the size of the fan pattern to about 3-in. across. You can reduce the fan by reducing the air and fluid settings, or by holding the gun slightly closer to the surface and moving faster. Always test on paper before spraying your cabinet.

For any exterior surface, start the spray before it contacts the piece and release the trigger when you’re past the bottom. Do this in one fluid movement, always holding the gun perpendicular to the surface you are spraying.


Spraying tops

1. Spray all four edges, all the way around the top. Hold the gun at 90 degrees.


Spraying raised-panel doors

1. Spray all four edges with the gun held about 6 in. away.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker July 2003, issue #101.

July 2003, issue #101

Purchase this back issue.

Purchase the complete version of this woodworking technique story from AWBookstore.com.