User friendly, entry level spray system

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Review by Vrtigo1 posted 12-13-2011 04:40 AM 5001 views 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
User friendly, entry level spray system No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Let me start out by saying that I am a complete newbie when it comes to spraying finishes, and to finishing in general. I have never used any type of spray system before purchasing the Earlex, but after finishing projects by hand for a while I was looking for a faster and easier solution. The Earlex 5500 has met my needs and I’ve been happy with it.

The unit itself seems to be very well constructed, the turbine housing is fairly rugged, enough so that I get the impression that if it fell off a workbench it probably wouldn’t be any worse for wear. The onboard storage for the hose, electric cord and gun is handy, although it does take a bit of coaxing to get all of the hose back in after you take it out. Although I don’t have any basis for comparison, the gun seems to be very high quality. Everything functions well, I haven’t found anything I don’t like about it yet. The cup has a teflon lining which helps when it comes time to clean it out as whatever you’re spraying has less to stick to.

I purchased it when it was on sale at woodcraft for $320, and it included both the 1.5mm and 2.0mm needles. I’ve used both and would say that these are probably the two you will need the most right out of the gate. Changing needles is simple, Earlex includes a wrench to loosen/tighten the spray nozzle. After you’ve done it once or twice, the process of changing needles takes about 60 seconds.

I’ve sprayed poly and latex paint. The two types of poly I’ve sprayed are minwax polyshades (stain + poly in one) and general finishes high performance. These both sprayed fine. I think water based finishes may spray better with the smaller 1.0mm needle which I don’t have as I couldn’t get the mist quite as fine as I would have liked, but this didn’t prevent me from getting the job done.

I recently needed to touch up some small spots on the outside of my house, so I used the 2.0mm needle and gave it a go. When I poured the paint in the bucket, it looked so thick I didn’t think there was any way it was going to work. I added some floetrol, mixed it up and started spraying and was surprised at how well it worked. I only needed to touch up a few small spots and for that it worked very well. I wouldn’t recommend making an hvlp setup your first choice for spraying paint, but it will work if it’s all you have.

Cleanup takes a little time but is straightforward. I clean it in the kitchen sink because that’s what’s easiest for me. I use warm soapy water and rinse everything off until I think all of the finish is gone, then I run a cup or two of warm water through it. Finally, I take the needle out and run water through the whole gun until everything comes out clear. Total cleanup time is probably about 10 minutes.

The unit is fairly loud. I would say it’s about on par with a shop vac, give or take a bit. If I were using it for an extended period of time, I would probably wear hearing protection. The hose is nice and long so you don’t have to worry about dragging the turbine around with you, and it’s also long enough to allow you to work from a ladder with the turbine on the ground. The hose for the most part doesn’t get tangled too much, but that’s not to say that it never does. I didn’t realize this until I actually went to use it, but you can’t just take some of the hose out and leave the rest in. The hose has to come all the way out, and then it has to be connected to the air port on the front of the turbine unit. I thought the hose was always connected, but that’s not the case. When the hose if in the storage position, it is disconnected from the air supply.

The needles are fairly expensive for what they are, and you’ll probably eventually want to get all of the different sizes, so that could add another $100 to the cost.

Overall, I feel it represents a great value that allows someone that has never used hvlp before to try it out. Obviously, if you’re running a production shop then this probably isn’t the right unit for you, but for a weekend warrior this is a great unit.

View Vrtigo1's profile


434 posts in 3837 days

13 comments so far

View Ken Fitzpatrick's profile

Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4869 days

#1 posted 12-13-2011 05:50 AM

Thanks, I was looking at this one at Woodcraft to buy. Answered most all of my questions.

-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

View Tomj's profile


204 posts in 3227 days

#2 posted 12-13-2011 07:07 AM

Thanks, I have been looking into this also. Good to know it performs well.

View Chipy's profile


374 posts in 3439 days

#3 posted 12-13-2011 03:42 PM

Good review and Timely for me, I think its going to my Christmas gift? The Wood whisperer has a good video on this same Earlax model.

View Vrtigo1's profile


434 posts in 3837 days

#4 posted 12-13-2011 04:11 PM

Chipy, I believe Marc’s video is actually the previous model but most of the features are still the same. Watching his video is one of the factors that led me to purchase it. It’s what I told my wife I wanted for Christmas, then a month or two ago woodcraft put it on sale so I bought it for myself and told my wife her shopping for me was done, lol.

View Chipy's profile


374 posts in 3439 days

#5 posted 12-14-2011 09:42 PM

Vrtigo1 do you know what the improvements are?

View Luke's profile


290 posts in 3533 days

#6 posted 12-15-2011 01:05 AM

I too have the 5500, and used it to spray stain, toner and finish on a built in entertainment center. I believe the improvements from the 5000 to the 5500 is a stronger motor that gives you the ability to actually spray paint.

I can attest to its ruggedness, as when we built my neighbors entertainment center I let him help me spray and on more than one occasion, he dropped the gun on the cement. Yes its aluminum so there are some dents, but thats all that came from it, purely cosmetic, and a bit of hurt pride for the shellacing he got for it.

I can say it took some tweaking to get things right, and we never went completely away from the air compressor and for the matter of connivence it is sometimes easier to use the gravity fed gun from an air compressor than the siphon fed Earlex, but I do love My Earlex!

View hianupam's profile


20 posts in 3529 days

#7 posted 12-17-2011 04:34 AM

very nice review. I got one and am very pleased with the result so far. The only thing I found useless was the handle. You can’t really lift the unit by the handle. What do you use it for?

-- Measure Twice, Cut Once

View Ken90712's profile


17902 posts in 4035 days

#8 posted 12-20-2011 01:10 PM

5500 I have this one and Love it. As mentioned the motor did get stronger. Enjoy.

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

View Severiano's profile


88 posts in 3887 days

#9 posted 01-15-2012 06:14 AM

One good adjective for this spray system would be AWESOME!.

-- I don’t believe in God, I believe in woodworking...take my wife, my truck or money, but I dear you to take my woodworking tools!!!

View a1Jim's profile


118134 posts in 4423 days

#10 posted 01-15-2012 06:27 AM

thanks for the review , I have the cheapest earlex they make and to my surprise it worked great too.


View metprof's profile


1 post in 3196 days

#11 posted 03-05-2012 07:44 PM

Just used this for the first time on a bed just built. Was tickled with the results. Started with a little too much volume but was easily turned down. Love the air gap “click” adjustment between horiz/vert/spot patterns. No drips, no spots, no errors!

Happy furniture maker here.

Thanks Earlex.

View AlBTha's profile


22 posts in 3131 days

#12 posted 12-15-2013 03:26 PM

I know this is an old thread. But I’m looking for advice on shooting lacquer with the 5500. My spray pattern seems to be heavy on the outside edges. Is dialing down the amount of liquid the only way to even out the spray?

I’m using a 1.5 tip spraying pre cat lacquer.


-- I can fix anything. Just ask my grandkids.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 3321 days

#13 posted 12-15-2013 09:44 PM

I use a 2.0 tip and dilute the lacquer 3 parts of thinner to 1 part of lacquer. It works fine for me but it needs a couple of coats. As opposed to you I used to get less lacquer on the edges leaving a spray pattern. I think you have to play with the dilution until you get what works.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

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