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Thread: Working-Man's Paint Sprayer

  1. #1

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    Working-Man's Paint Sprayer

    I'm thinking of getting a paint sprayer rather than have the original color mixed and canned in rattle cans. The idea for getting a sprayer stems from multiple vehicles that could benefit from it.

    So I ask experienced members: what sprayer do you recommend for the average do-it-yourself-er who isn't going to use the sprayer all the time, and certainly not for a living?

  2. #2

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    Let me start by saying, I have not sprayed a drop of paint yet, but I have been doing a lot of research and gradually buying gear. Most of my research has been on the interwebz, checking out paint and autobody forums. I have learned that spraying your own paint is a fairly significant investment in equipment beyond the gun if you want it to be decent. Here is the short list of the big stuff that it seems many auto sprayers say you'll need to lay down a decent coat:

    Compressor 60 Gal minimum. SCFM really depends on the gun you buy and if you plan to use it for anything else.
    Filter/Separator/Drier system. This takes the oil, water and particles out of your air so you don't get fisheyes, bubbles, etc in your paint
    Condenser. This cools down the air before it gets to your filter/sep/drier so they can do their job better. I'm a hobby guy and mine is just a 25 foot length of copper tubing in a wooden frame with fittings on the ends. I use it all the time so I get dry air in my tools and plasma cutter.
    Regulator. This is the main one that goes after the filter/sep/drier
    Mini regulator. Goes on the inlet of the gun to fine tune the air going through the gun.
    Many of the posts also recommended another inline desiccant prior to the gun to get the air as dry as possible.

    Can you spray without all this stuff? I think you can, but the better the air, the better the spray. You can fix the air before it comes out of the gun or try and fix the paint later. You can probably get away with a good filter, mini regulator, inline desiccant (the long tube type one) and a decent compressor. You can just hook the gun up to the hose, but you probably won't be happy with the result.

    You can find most of the equipment online. I like Eastwood for a lot of paint and body stuff. You might be able to find similar stuff cheaper, but Eastwood is easy and most of their stuff is decently priced. They have paint guns for several budgets. You can also check Northern Industrial for some of it. From what I've read, if you just want one gun, get it with both 1.4 mm and 1.2 mm nozzles. It seems 1.4 is a popular choice for the primers and 1.2 for the finish coats.

    That's just my 2 cents trying to pass on the stuff that opened my eyes as a hopeful hobby car painter in the future. I now yield the floor to any real painters that want to chime in.

  3. #3

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    First up - I am not a pro. I have painted a couple of cars in enamel and acrylic using only the cheapest gun you could imagine, a small shop compressor and a small water/oil trap and a pressure regulator. The gun is nasty. After taking it apart and thoroughly cleaning and inspecting it I discovered the quality of the machining in the gun body was lousy but I still got a reasonable finish for a guy who had only been trained in industrial painting. Get a decent entry level gun as it will offer a more controlled spray pattern - nothing wrong with buying a used gun and cleaning it up if you only intend to paint something like a whole car once every few years (if you are going to use trick metallics you will need the appropriate gravity feed gun). My smallish shop compressor was adequate for spraying a car but you have to be patient with it - the compressor will kick on more often during painting as the pressure drops so it is a slower process, but then again this isn't a race. It's good enough for spray painting and for hooking up a blow gun or tyre inflator but forget trying to hook up an air power tool to it. The pressure reg and water trap is an absolute must have or any oil or water that makes it into your air line will mess up your work. It will come down to preparation, and technique in both setting the gun and mixing the paint. And making sure everything is clean before starting and during the process (keeping the pot and gun clean will reduce problems with spray control).

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    Absolutely wonderful information, guys, and I sure appreciate it. Making good choices in life depends on good information, and you've offered lots of it. Many thanks.
    The greatest gift you have to give to the world is that of your own self~transformation.

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    Thoroughly prep the truck and rattle can primer it . Give it a final sanding and drive it down to some Maaco paint place and have them shoot it. Some of them painters are pretty darn good and you don't have to hassle with spending the same amount in paint supplies for a one time use. They have specials and I am sure will drop price for just a pull in paint booth and shoot.

  6. #6

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    That's a great suggestion, Brad, and one worth researching: there are a couple small independant shops in nearby Front Royal who would probably appreciate the business.
    The greatest gift you have to give to the world is that of your own self~transformation.

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    Roy I dont know what all equipment you already have. The largest purchase is ofcourse the air compessor, but that can be used way more then just painting so doesnt really come into play as a compressor is just plain handy to have. Ive been around Sharp and binks guns mostly sharp being the better of the 2. One of my autobody friends bought one of those cheap nesco (I believe thats what it was and how its spelled) to spray liquid mask (you have to have a large tip to spray that stuff) and he liked it well enough he threw out his worn out Binks and used it for primer. Alot of it is making sure you have no leaks and always set the gun settings on a scrap panel to make sure you have a good pattern... As far as water traps and regulators sure its ideal to buy quality but no more then you will be using it a inline water trap and regulator will suffice, just be sure to drain the compressor tank and lines as best you can before you paint even primer. Primer down is very important.. Also your prepping. just make sure wash, let dry then wipe down with acetone and then tack the surfaces before painting. not doing this could leave oil from you or elsewere on the surfice which will give you fisheyes.. I was taught to paint in real light coats, wait till its tacky then spay in different direction each coat so you wont get tiger stipes.. Also the location you spray will have alot to do with your finished job.. We painted cars in a raggedy old dirt floor garage and had very nice finished job. We used a yard sprayer to wet down the dirt, built a booth using plastic and wiped it all down.. One guy spraying while the other held the hose and made sure it stayed off the ground inside the plastic. It can be done.

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    This is what I plan to buy to paint my truck. I dont have a d/a sander anymore and will need it so fills 2 needs. Boss's shop has a big compressor but no water traps. I will drain the tank and lines and use a inline water trap (unless I can get him to buy one as it helps save other air tools).

    http://www.eastwood.com/evolution-sa...paint-kit.html

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    Be warned about using air powered orbital sanders on auto work - they will cut spirals into everything the second the paper either frays or clogs up, and as they require oil in them they will throw it all over the place when they get the first chance to (both of these events during prep will make you rage quit). Plus it is really easy to get carried away and go through more paint than you intend to while sanding. Hand sanding is torturous but this is the part that makes or breaks the end finish. If your prep is top notch you've won half the battle. Buckets of water and wet and dry paper, a couple of friends and the promise of chucking a BBQ and a few drinks afterwards - and the body will be rubbed back in no time.

  10. #10

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    Great advice, guys, and it's helping others who are following the thread...and will follow the thread in the future.

    As I am a carpenter, an air compressor is not a bad investment to consider. And kswildcat, I sure appreciate your detail in explaining things. Geezer is a wealth of good, working-man's information, too. Though many on this forum work high-end automotive stuff, the majority here are working people who have dirty ol' garages (if they're lucky) and beer-budgets to work with. I know they all thank you, too.
    The greatest gift you have to give to the world is that of your own self~transformation.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by BradMph View Post
    Thoroughly prep the truck and rattle can primer it . Give it a final sanding and drive it down to some Maaco paint place and have them shoot it. Some of them painters are pretty darn good and you don't have to hassle with spending the same amount in paint supplies for a one time use. They have specials and I am sure will drop price for just a pull in paint booth and shoot.
    I'm going to go this route when I eventually re-spray my Mighty Max because I want the truck to look perfect. Get super anal on the DIY prep work and then drive it over to a local professional paint guy and have him do it. If it costs a couple grand and it takes a week or two, that's fine.

    I'm in the middle of repainting my BMW because I wanted to experiment and try it myself. I'm putting on the final coat tomorrow.

    Um...never again.

    Painting is a messy, smelly, expensive job if you're doing it for the first time. I got a very high quality Awest Iwata gravity feed gun on loan from a buddy and am spraying the car after hours in my shop. I'm using a 5 HP 20 gallon Devilbiss compressor which seems adequate. It's around 9-10 CFM. I pulled all of the panels off: fenders, doors, bumpers, sunroof, trunk, hood, everything. Then I stripped off all of the glass, weatherstripping, fasteners, trim, etc. so it's down to pretty much bare sheetmetal. Makes prep and masking and preventing overspray a lot easier.

    The worst thing about a DIY spray job is setting the gun up. It takes time and uses lots of expensive paint. You have to get the pattern, flow rate, and pressure regulator, paint viscosity JUST RIGHT while taking into consideration humidity and temperature. Actually laying a coat of paint down takes all of 60 minutes. It's almost silly how quick the actual painting takes compared to the prep work. And then a goddamn insect you somehow didn't see sneak into the shop decides to land right in the middle of the wet paint on the hood. Then, once you do a coat, you have to COMPLETELY disassemble the gun to clean it or else it gets clogged. The re-assemble it the next day and recalibrate it from scratch. Then sand every square inch and prep it again. It's tedious and time consuming work. And since I've never done this before, I don't have professional lighting (can't overstate how important good lighting is to a good paint job) or a real, clean, dust-filtered, negative pressure paint booth, I get orange peel and dust nibs.

    If you're going to do it yourself, I'd recommend getting that Harbor Freight heated ultrasonic cleaner to speed up the process of cleaning the paint gun. And get as many shop lights as you can afford. And don't cheap out on a pressure regulator, stay far, far away from that Home Depot Chinese junk.

    I can clean up the orange peel with wet sanding and buffing but it's pretty discouraging to put in so many hours of work and following all of the instructions to a T and not have the coat look like glass. That said, I'm pretty obsessive and perfectionistic. I'm sure it looks fine to 90% of the people who see it (I've had clueless customers see the car curing in the shop and ask me if I'd paint their car), but any car enthusiast can see it's an amateur job. I've made about 15 million trips to OSH for sandpaper and supplies. I don't want to add up the receipts. I'm never, ever painting a vehicle again. It's art as much as science and you can only get good at this with lots and lots of experience.

    Prep really is 99.9% of the work.

  12. #12

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    Yep, most DIY car paint jobs are a freaking nightmare to engage in. But I think prep is more like 50% and setting the gun and paint mix correctly is the other 50%. I have found following manufacturers' instructions for mixing paint to be really misleading at times. I was taught the old school way and usually didn't have problems with how the paint flowed.

  13. #13

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    For a cheap gun, the $15 purple Harbor Freight one is supposed to be pretty decent IF you field strip it, deburr the fittings and threads, reseal it with teflon tape instead of the Harbor Freight goop and add 2 o-rings to the cup so it doesn't leak. There are dozens of YouTube videos on how to mod this gun. I was going to use it until my buddy loaned me his Iwata.

    Until I undertook my own paint job I thought auto body and paint was the biggest rip off ever. Which is why I DIY'ed it. Now I understand why you have to cough up at least $4000 for a decent paint job that will last. It's so labor intensive and it's such a acquired skill. I have a whole new level of respect for the craftsmen who do it for a living.

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    The cheap gun I use is not nice compared to the Iwatas I've used during industrial spray painting. The gallery for the fan pattern adjuster is machined off centre and it causes the air to favour one side of the fans' spray pattern (kind of annoying but you can live with it) A decent paint job is labour intensive and requires a well controlled environment to prevent it from getting contaminated. In my book $4k is cheap for a full paint job and repairs to a couple of body defects.

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    Just put down the last coat of paint. It was definitely the smoothest of them all. We'll see how it flows out tomorrow. I even have a few ounces of paint left over for touch ups.

    A few more recommendations: Get 3M Blue Painters Tape with Edge Lock. This stuff is fantastic. It's way more expensive than regular blue painters tape but it's so easy to work with. I don't know what kind of pixie dust they put in the adhesive but it's amazing. It's like butter. Makes work so much easier. 3M products are great.

    Don't use newspaper to mask, use brown painters masking paper. Paint will bleed through newspaper.

    Wear lint free clothing like those Tyvek suits if you can.

    Dust, dirty equipment and dim or dark lighting are the enemy when painting.

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    All solid tips noah. Another thing - under no circumstances use plastic film for masking up. It generates a static charge that will attract all forms of airborne contaminants and if it is disturbed during the painting process, the paint will lift off from the plastic. The end result is rage quit and a ruined paint job.

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    I've had good luck with Mirka (Finnish made) sandpaper and sanding discs. They last a long time without clogging.

    If you're shooting at night, I'd get a bug lamp and stick it away from the workspace so the little bastards have something to keep them occupied before they're murdered by electricity. Nothing more frustrating than laying down a nice coat only to have a moth land on the surface so you have to re-sand and re-shoot the next day.

    If you see a blemish like dust or a bug while shooting, resist the urge to fix it or touch it while shooting. Ignore it and come back later to rub it out. You'll only make it worse by trying to fix it on the spot.

    With tack rags, let the feather weight of the fabric do the work to grab all of the nibs. If you put too heavy of a touch on it, the wax will transfer to the surface and give you fish eyes. You cab rub out any wax streak with acetone.

    Don't use red shop rags or terry cloth, those are covered in oil and grit the human eye can't see. Use microfiber if you cab afford it or clean white t-shirt rags they sell by the roll in the paint department then clean the lint with tack rags.

  18. #18

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    You are very correct on being careful with da sanders Geezer.. There are times and places to use them and take a lil time to get a good feel to how to use them. I like using them to strip to bare metal, very handy in removing the huge hood bird on a 2nd gen transam.

    Painting is an art. I am not a painter. I can get a car prepped for paint but my ace in the hole is I have 3 friends that have prob. 80yrs or more experience between them that will shoot the paint (thats if I am shooting for a show car finish). My limits of painting have been etchlock, primer. and I did spray automotive clear (with mica) on carousel horses that were painted with water base paint. That took some doing as everybody knows (except my boss odviously) that automotive clear plays hell on waterbase paint. I learned how to make them look great out the door but not sure how time effected them.. Yall might have seen some of my handy work from like 18yrs ago as the carousel horses I was painting are living in Applebees bar and grill

  19. #19

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    I will add having willing bodies can be helpfull. But it can also be VERY harmful as well... One place I would suggest NOT allowing help is wet sanding the car on the last coat of primer to get ready for paint. Even with guide coat it doesnt take long for someone that doesnt know what they are doing to screw it up were you have to re-shoot another coat of primer. Its best to keep novices away from lines and edges unless your right there to help them regardless if its the first or last coat of primer. Its always good to have a door or a hood laying around that you can teach your friends (or yourself). One important thing in sanding is exactly what Geezer said about dual ordital sanders. Keeping sandpaper clean is VERY important. Even with hand sanding if your paper gets clogged it will gouge into the body filler, primer or paint. ALWAYS have air to clean your paper and do it frequently..

  20. #20

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    Great thread with excellent points.

    Ive painted a few cars n trucks with a cheap harbor freight gun. Worked for me. Definitely not show quality stuff but IM not lookin to have to worry about chips/scratches/parking lot dents. Id rather paint it myself. That way if it doesn't turn out the way I like theres nobody to blame but ME. Ive seen what people pay good money for and not always impressed.

  21. #21

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    This winter I am going to shoot my entire truck with a very rugged chassis paint. The plan of attack is for me and a friend to turn loose 2 da sanders (doesnt matter if we hit bare metal with this paint.. its actually formulated for bare metal) and give the chassis paint a good surface to bit to. I havent decided if I will shoot it with the gloss or the matte finish as both will fade and turn dull (the actual look I want). Truck will be my daily driver to work and also my hunting wagon. I was going to bedline it but this chassis paint will not only give a smooth finish but also appears tougher then any bedliner Ive been around

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    I browsed some of the points made here and although I'm sure this is irrelevant for this project (as its been 3 months since anyone has posted), I have a couple of things to weigh in on. I support Brad in his suggestion that you really pay attention to the prep work and DIY methods. I've seen the best sprayer in the world lay horrible looking paint jobs due to lack of prep. Also, there's another post in this thread talking about the $15 harbor freight guns. I personally modded one about 2 years ago, have used it for dozens of projects and can honestly say that the result of my jobs is strictly based on the paint I use and the prep work I perform, not the gun itself (this was proven when I loaned out a higher end gun from a college).
    My god father has been doing body work his entire life and has done show quality jobs with a $15 gun... Get consistent dry air, buy a decent paint, and really focus on your prep and finish work and you'll have a great looking coat. Don't waste a paycheck on a $300 spray gun, especially for a one time or hobbyist use.

  23. #23


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    I used a $69. tool peddler gravity HVLP spray gun. The spray pattern isn't the best
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    I use my 12' x 14' x 5ft. wall tent frame
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    I use PPG (Ditzler) Acrylic enamel (one step), three coats and I take my time and then I wet color sand.
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    The original owner, Lee bought the truck brand new.
    But if you want any color to scream it's color, you gotta wet sand and do it carefully.
    The sanders are called DA's....Dual action sander.
    Get some real wax and dirt solvent from the paint supplier and wipe the rig down two or three times then start sanding.
    Worry about swirls and not how much a sanding pad for the DA cost.
    I try to never sand down to bare metal breaking the factory sealant. Dings and dents we have no choice.

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