Easy beginner spray gun, but holy ear protection batman.......

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Review by Mike_D_S posted 01-16-2018 04:41 AM 3709 views 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Easy beginner spray gun, but holy ear protection batman....... No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

So, my partner and I have a big cabinet job which has quite a bit of priming and painting to do. In order for us to both be able to work, I picked up the Earlex spray station HV5500 last week from Rockler on sale ($299 with the extra 1.5mm tip and a $50 gift card).

I finally broke it out today and put 4-5 hours of fairly continuous work in spraying Zinsser BIN primer. I’m no expert, but I’ve been spraying lacquer, poly, etc top coats from a HF gun for a couple of years with pretty good results (imho). So I at least have some experience to compare to.

First off, the good:
1. The gun couldn’t be simpler to use. There’s only one adjustment for fluid volume since it’s fixed air flow and it took me about 30 seconds to dial in a good spray using a piece of cardboard to test against. The Zinsser BIN primer was a good starter material with a cup vis of about 35 seconds, so pretty thin to start. I used the 2mm needle, but will probably switch to the 1.5mm needle for the next session to see if I can cut back a bit on the heavy laydown in the tighter interior corners.
2. The quart cup holds plenty of material and you get quite a bit of use without having to worry about running empty.
3. Up, down, left, right – it didn’t seem to matter much which way I held it, I still got good feed unless the cup was getting pretty low and I was trying to do a weird angle.
4. No air adjustment means setup is much simpler and no need to worry about feed pressure, regulators or moisture traps, etc like my other setup.
5. Cleaning is pretty easy, I had it all cleaned up and put away in 20 minutes.

Now, the not so good:
1. There is always air coming out of the gun when the machine is running. You have to be a little careful to not induce ripples into the finish in tighter corners. For areas where I could maintain a reasonable distance with more normal gun positions, this really wasn’t an issue.
2. Following on #1, the air coming out of the gun makes some noise all the time. But that noise is nothing next to the blower in the base unit. This thing is surprisingly loud, between the howl of the base unit compressor and the air coming out of the gun, after about 15 minutes of using the unit, I had to go get my ear protectors too keep going. It’s a lot of CFM from a small unit, so while I get there is a direct connection here between portability and noise, buyers should be aware of the noise. In my opinion (and I haven’t done any testing or measurements) this thing is too loud to use in an enclosed space without some type of noise mitigation.
3. It’s a pet peeve, but wrapping the hose for storage has two annoying things. First off, the blue plastic top that retains the hose is just a bit too small of a diameter to easily push the hose between the blue part and the center piece. So you have to work it a bit to get it down in there. The second thing is the last 1 1/2 wraps don’t fit down inside the storage area and sort of lay on top. There’s a clip to hold the hose end, but the storage area should just be big enough the hold the whole hose.

The neither bad nor good, but things that might be of interest
1. The gun itself is pretty light, but the steel quart can has some weight. Add a quart of paint and 2 or 3 hours of holding the gun at various distances from your body at various angles and it starts to feel heavy. I used it pretty much straight for almost 5 hours and while it wasn’t a work out, I did notice the weight towards the end.
2. The gun and cup is pretty big, add in the hose coming straight out of the back and it’s a tight fit in smaller spaces.

All in all, I give it four stars as it seems to deliver exactly what it promises, an easy, quality spray experience at a reasonable price. The noise is still a down side for me and if it hadn’t been so easy to use right out of the box I would have gone 3 stars for the noise.

At the end of the day, for $250 (remembering the Rockler $50 gift card sale) I would buy it again even knowing what I know. While it just happened that I did nearly all the spraying today, my partner used it for 10 minutes with good results and he has essentially zero experience spraying.

How this helps someone looking at this unit.

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View Mike_D_S's profile


605 posts in 2982 days

9 comments so far

View Dustin's profile


707 posts in 1508 days

#1 posted 01-16-2018 12:44 PM


Thanks for the thorough review here. I’ve been eyeballing this system for a while, as I’m hoping to reface my kitchen cabinets sometime this year, and figured spraying would be the way to go. It’s a small kitchen (10 doors, half a dozen drawers): do you think this would work well for my intended purposes? I’m wanting to use it for this project, but then pick up spraying shellac and top coats on my shop projects afterward.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View Mike_D_S's profile


605 posts in 2982 days

#2 posted 01-16-2018 01:24 PM


I think this would work, especially if you’re objective is to spray mostly tin to med-thin finishes. With the limited adjustments, you would jet need a little practice if you’ve never sprayed before.

I’d recommend building a sample face frame and maybe get a piece of 1/4 ply for a side panel and finish those to get the hang of it before committing to the full piece.


-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View DChap's profile


2 posts in 1102 days

#3 posted 01-18-2018 12:17 PM

This is a spot-on review of the Earlex 5500. For the money, I do not think there is anything better. It is easy to use and easy to clean. Pictured is a hutch I recently built for my daughter. She wanted it painted white. I sprayed latex paint and it was my very first time using this sprayer (or any sprayer). The finish turned out smooth and even. I am very pleased with the unit. I do agree with all the downsides listed in the review. I wear hearing protection while I paint and the constant air flow (even when you are not spraying paint) requires care not to cause ripples, or blow dust or debris on your wet finish. It is manageable and I am still very happy with the purchase.

View mdhills's profile


31 posts in 3400 days

#4 posted 01-18-2018 03:32 PM

I have this Earlex and have used it to spray General Finishes High Performance water-based topcoat and General Finished Milk Paint, both with good results. I was especially pleased with the milk paint result.

DChap, what did you use to spray latex? (I had the impression that HVLP systems were often a bit challenged by the viscosity of latex)—nozzle? brand of paint? any additives?


View DChap's profile


2 posts in 1102 days

#5 posted 01-18-2018 04:09 PM

Matt, I sprayed Sherwin Williams HGTV latex paint (from Lowes). I used the 1.5 tip in the sprayer and thinned it down enough to comply with the viscosity requirements of the sprayer and it worked really well. No additives, just water.


View splintergroup's profile


3773 posts in 1990 days

#6 posted 01-18-2018 05:23 PM

I’m not familiar with the 5500, but I have the 6900. The gun end of the hose has a valve, much like a dust collector sliding gate cutoff, not readily apparent with a quick glance.

Anyhoo, this allows you to control airflow.

I agree with the noise comments!

View oldbob13's profile


17 posts in 3638 days

#7 posted 01-23-2018 11:14 AM

I have had this unit for 4 years. Love it.
We spray Lacquer (pre cat) and its the easiest thing I have used.
We do not clean it or empty the pot. Just pick it up, turn it on and go.
I have a 1 mm needle.
I think that you may have stretched the hose as ours fits fine.


View Mike_D_S's profile


605 posts in 2982 days

#8 posted 01-23-2018 01:36 PM

So here’s the first project we used this on where we sprayed the Zinsser BIN primer (easy) and then 2 coats SW ProClassic WB Alkyd-Acrylic (thinning with distilled water 10% took the cup vis from 200+ down to about 60). It turned out pretty good overall even with my first run at using the HV5500. I found it to be a bit touchy on getting the adjustment just right for the paint. Down a little and I didn’t like the spray coverage and up a bit too much and it was spitting a bit.

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2763 days

#9 posted 01-26-2018 07:10 PM

Mine does not seem to be that loud. Quieter than a vacuum cleaner for sure.

I do have the hose problem. It would be nice if that last wrap fit in there. Overall I love it though. I posted a review here as well.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

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