Great Starting Sprayer

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Review by shopmania posted 08-11-2010 02:35 AM 14334 views 4 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Great Starting Sprayer No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I had been looking for a sprayer for my latest project, a blanket chest made with quarter saw white oak. I really wanted the finish to look good. I read a lot of good/great reviews on the Rockler sprayer. Then I found one at the new Harbor Freight in my town for about $50 less. I did a lot of research on the net, and found a review on another site that said the Rockler and Harbor Freight were the same machine. In looking at the pictures, they certainly look identical. I’ve heard/read that the Rockler version has a great instruction manual. The one from HF does NOT, which is my only real complaint. I found several Youtube videos on using HVLP guns that were generic but very helpful. It’s not rocket science, and everything is pretty straight forward. The only useful thing in the HF manual was that turning the knob clockwise lets less material out of the nozzle, and counter clockwise lets out more.

There are three spray patterns controlled by twisting the nozzle. A vertical fan and horizontal fan are pretty obvious based on the nozzle shape, and work well. After using it a while, I discovered that by turning the notches on the nozzle to a 45 degree angle instead of vertical or horizontal, you could get a more focused round pattern. The material cup holds about a quart, which is plenty to hold enough finish to put a nice coat on a reasonable sized project (like my blanket chest). The gun/nozzle assembly comes apart easily for cleaning, with only one small wrench (included) needed. I was very pleased with the small amount if overspray it made. The hose is about 15 ft. long, so you can walk the whole way around your project without difficulty. I also used it to spray 2 sets of bookshelves I made, and was very pleased with the results, a nice smooth finish with no brush marks or sags/runs.

Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase. For about $75 instead of about $125 from Rockler, I’d say I made a good deal! Until I’m ready to upgrade to an Earlex or other better brand, this one will serve its purposed.

-- Tim, Myrtle Beach, [email protected] Just one more tool, that's all I need! :)

View shopmania's profile


701 posts in 4031 days

24 comments so far

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 4783 days

#1 posted 08-11-2010 03:12 AM

Nice review, Tim. That’s exactly the kind of sprayer I’ll probably end up buying eventually. The nicer ones are just a bit too spendy for how much I’ll use them.

-- Robb

View Max's profile


55999 posts in 5122 days

#2 posted 08-11-2010 03:16 AM

Good review. What were you spaying for a finish? Did you have to thin it?

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View Wolffarmer's profile


407 posts in 4087 days

#3 posted 08-11-2010 06:04 AM

Tim, Thanks for the review. Not sure if I am ready for a sprayer but I will give this one a look when I feel like taking to air.


-- That was not wormy wood when I started working on it.

View jake's profile


39 posts in 4552 days

#4 posted 08-11-2010 11:42 AM

I bought one too but have not had the time to test it out, so you review was helpful. As the other person asked, what did you use and did you have to thin it? Those seem to be really important issues for the smaller sprayers and since you liked the outcome of yours it would help if you could post that too. I too have been adding tools to my shop and can’t afford high end tools all of the time so this blog has helped me avoid less desireable tools and get decent ones for a good price. Thanks for taking the time to post yours.

View shopmania's profile


701 posts in 4031 days

#5 posted 08-11-2010 02:52 PM

I used some stain, I think it was Minwax, and Zeissner’s Polyurathane for the topcoats. The sprayer comes with a small viscosity cup, but no good directions for using it. A video I found somewhere said that the stick you use to stir it should stop having the finish stream off of it in about 4 seconds. I probably filled the cup about 1/2 full, and then maybe added 1 – 2 tablespoons of low odor mineral spirits to it, which thinned it noticeably but not tremendously. It seemed to spray just fine. I put probably 8 coats on the lid, really just eyeballing it, and it sprayed fine each time. I would say that there is a fair amount of wiggle room with the viscosity. Because the sprayer uses such a high volume of air, maybe that helps it push out whatever you’ve got in the cup. I used mine to spray some plywood book shelves that I was less concerned about first, so I wouldn’t screw up my really good project, and everything went really well from the first time. I would suggest just putting poly on a piece of scrap to get a feel for it, or even a piece of cardboard you’ve got laying around. Once you do it one time, your confidence will rise quickly. I ws having all the same worries and concerns, but they were quickly put to rest. It was as easy as I hoped it would be! Good Luck!


-- Tim, Myrtle Beach, [email protected] Just one more tool, that's all I need! :)

View Ken90712's profile


17902 posts in 4037 days

#6 posted 08-12-2010 06:49 PM

I have the one from rockler and have used it about 6 or 7 times with good results. Other than operator error in putting to much on causing runs at times it works well.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4081 days

#7 posted 10-12-2010 07:26 PM

I have some remodeling projects where an HVLP will come in super handy as far as keeping me from going absolutely nuts with a roller… I have been honestly considering one of these as a labor saver. However spraying finishes has some quality benefits to boot…

I am very glad to come across this review as well as others. The high end Earlex is just too expensive, this seems to be just the ticket for me. I just need to wait for it to hit a sale, then throw the 20% off coupon at it and grab one.

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 3642 days

#8 posted 04-20-2011 03:19 AM

I bought one today. After inserting the hose in the main unit and turning it on I noticed air blowing out around the coupling. Is this normal? In looking at the coupling I think it is but want to make sure. The coupling half that is in the main unit or turbine has ridges in it that I assume would let a certain amount of air leak out.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View shopmania's profile


701 posts in 4031 days

#9 posted 04-20-2011 05:02 PM

Where the hose connects to the base unit, you push it in and twist it a quarter turn, there is definitely a little air that comes out. As the name implies, there is a High Volume of air moving. Where it plugs into the gun it is just a friction fit, and fits tight enough that there is no air escaping. There is no problem with the air leaking out near the unit, mine does the same and it doesn’t cause any issues. :)

-- Tim, Myrtle Beach, [email protected] Just one more tool, that's all I need! :)

View Rev_John's profile


94 posts in 4737 days

#10 posted 04-20-2011 05:10 PM

The question is: Would you buy it again? Given all the same circumstances.

-- John from Jackson, Michigan

View shopmania's profile


701 posts in 4031 days

#11 posted 04-20-2011 05:53 PM

After using the unit for about 8 months on multiple projects, I have noticed that I’m having some problems with it. Number one, the cup that holds the finish doesn’t come completely clean after use. I put solvent in the cup and spray it out after every use. I also then take all the guts out of the spray gun and store them in a glass jar with solvent (mineral spirits). The threads on the cup and spray gun also get residue on them and it can make it difficult to gt the cup off the gun after storing for a while. It’s a good idea not to screw it together the whole way tight when putting it away to store. I have also had problems with the needle sticking and not releasing to plug the hole and turn the spray off when i release the trigger, so once you start spraying the only way to turn the spray off is to tun off the machine or turn the adjusting screw the whole way in.

So, BOTTOM LINE, this is not the sprayer that’s gonna keep you working for years into the future. I’m to the point where it costs me less than $10 per project sprayed. It taught me how to spray, and convinced me that I want to keep spraying, so I didn’t spend hundreds on a tool I used once and then sat on the shelf. I saw Scott Phillips from American Workshop TV show at Mann Tools in Columbia, and he used an Earlex there during his Demo. The cup is teflon coated, so it really comes clean, with no cross contamination between different finished. The threads on the spray cup are metal, so they’ll clean up nice, and all the guts are metal and come apart for better cleaning. He really likes it, as does the WoodWhisperer. I definitely see one of these in my future. Earlex has come out with their new 5500 model, so I’m hoping that soon the 5000’s will go on sale. The 5500 is about the same price, 339.00, so I figure the 5000 has got to get cheaper soon right? Or maybe they’ll discontinue it.

Anyway, I’m glad I bought the sprayer, it is just time to move on. If you know you want a sprayer and you want it to last, skip step one and go right to an Earlex or better unit, and save the 79.00. Hope this helps, for what it’s worth.

-- Tim, Myrtle Beach, [email protected] Just one more tool, that's all I need! :)

View Richard's profile


1940 posts in 3539 days

#12 posted 04-20-2011 06:29 PM

You can get the Rockler Manual at this link.
It should work for the HF unit as well and does have better information .

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 3642 days

#13 posted 04-20-2011 07:05 PM

Thanks to all for the help. Great website. Took it back and looked at 2 more with the same results so we decided it was supposed to be that way. Wish I would have read my emails first. It would have saved me a trip. Seems to spray well and I would buy it again for sure. I very quickly mixed some latex with water by eyeball and got a nice pattern. I have used the siphon guns with compressed air a lot but wanted to check out the new method. Almost no overspray. Rockler sells replacement containers so based on comments I will buy 2 or 3. Thanks again for the great information. I’ll look at the Earlex in a few years (5) when I have more time to spend on my hobby.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View shopmania's profile


701 posts in 4031 days

#14 posted 04-20-2011 09:54 PM

BTW, I downloaded the manual from Rockler (Thanks Richard) and learned one or 2 more things I can take off the gun assembly when cleaning, so that may help. They also suggest putting solvent in the cup and “shaking vigorously” before spraying the solvent, which I have not been doing. With this unit it is VERY IMPORTANT to keep it clean, so I would do everything possible to clean it. I will be adding to my procedure now. Here is the link for Rockler’s Manual, 8 pages and helpful, with exploded parts diagrams, etc. Best of Luck gentleman (and Ladies)!

-- Tim, Myrtle Beach, [email protected] Just one more tool, that's all I need! :)

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 3539 days

#15 posted 04-20-2011 11:05 PM

The 5000 should be on sale now because it will be discontinued. The 5500 is already on shelves. I’m glad to see a new convert to spraying. For me it’s the only way to finish. I highly reccommend spraying everything from stain to sealer to topcoat for a much more consistant finish every time!

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

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