Good first impression, good second impression. Happy buyer.

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Review by bbasiaga posted 08-15-2016 02:40 AM 4958 views 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Good first impression, good second impression.  Happy buyer. No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Back in January at the woodworking show in Indianapolis I purchased this Earlex 5500 spray station. LJs very own Eaerlextech was there giving demos, and they had a special package price on the unit, plus a cleaning kit and 1.5mm needle. I’d been thinking about it a long time, so I jumped on it. I also ordered the non-lined spray cup for use with alcohol and oil based finishes.

For my first project, I chose to spray shellac. If you are not an experienced sprayer, shellac is a good place to start – at least in my estimation. I figured if things went wrong, I could easily rub it out with an alcohol soaked pad. Set up of the gun is easy. Fill the cup about half way or a little more, then set the flow adjustment all the way in. Back it out until you get some flow, and adjust it up until you are getting good coverage. \

I found that with the shellac it was easy to over apply. In fact, in the first project (a TV stand which will eventually appear in my projects list), I used about 2x as much shellac as I did water based top coat. I was spraying thicker coats than I needed to of the shellac, but it was hard to tell while it was going on. By the end of the three coats of shellac, I had learned a lot though. And it still came in really good. There were a few runs I had to rub out with the alcohol soaked cloth in the first and second coats, but I learned from it.

After the shellac, I sprayed on GF high performance top coat. I had never worked with this before, and I tried brushing on the underside of one of my pieces to see if I’d like it. It is super clear, didn’t change the color at all. But it wasn’t super easy to brush as it doesn’t seem to flow out super well. When I tried a coat through the sprayer, it went on very even. This is very interesting because the shellac is very thin, and the GF Topcoat is at the very maximum of what Earlex recommends for spraying. It handled both ends of the spectrum very well.

My technique, if you want to call it that, was to hit corners and other small areas lightly with the spot spray pattern. Then I would switch to the vertical fan and cover the surface with overlapping strokes as recommended in the instructional video. After that, I’d go to the horizontal fan and go over it again. That’s one coat. It seemed to come out very even and (once I figured out how much material I should be spraying), without being excessively thick or running.

Clean up of the gun was easy too. I drained out the leftover material in the cup, then there are a couple of pieces to remove from the gun. You unscrew the cap at the front, which gives you access to a spring retainer that comes out. Once that is out, you can use a supplied wrench to take out the seat for the needle. At the back of the handle, the flow adjustment screw gets unscrewed all the way, and with it comes a spring and the needle. These parts (cup, caps, spring retainer, needle, needle seat) are cleaned with the appropriate solvent. I then put it all back together and put about 1/4 of the cup of the solvent in, and sprayed it through the gun. This last part cleans the dip tube and the small angled flow path inside the handle that you can’t get to with brushes.

For these two products – shellac and GF water based – the solvents are denatured alcohol and water. SUPER EASY and cheap clean up. Doesn’t take gallons, or even quarts, of either.

In the end, I’m very happy. It saved time in application, doesn’t take super long to clean up. I’m sure I’ll use this on future projects, and even try some different finishes through it. So after one project, I’m happy and it looks like I’ll get my money’s worth out of it. I give it 4 stars because it is a solid performer, and I only had one minor gripe with it. The hose fits in to the handle and the base by friction only. When you move it around, sometimes the hose pops off. If it pops off the gun end, you get a drip on your workpiece. If you quickly blot it off with a solvent soaked rag, then spray over it things even out and you don’t notice. But it is annoying when it happens. Earlex, if you are listening, design a retainer in to the next version.


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

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3454 days

5 comments so far

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

10050 posts in 3788 days

#1 posted 08-15-2016 03:58 PM

great review.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View CharlesA's profile


3470 posts in 3257 days

#2 posted 08-16-2016 03:20 PM

Thanks for the review. I have two questions: 1) Are deals on Earlex (or other) HVLP systems common at WW shows? I’m going to WWIA for the first time in September, so I may wait to pul the trigger there. 2) Did you look at other systems, Fuji i particular? I’want to be able to do some limited work with latex, so that means at least 3 stages. I am curious about what led you to the Earlex.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3454 days

#3 posted 08-16-2016 11:10 PM


I can’t really answer #1, as that was the first wood show I’ve been to. I would say I saves between 30 and 50$ with the deal they had. Real money, but not like it was half off.

I did look online at some other systems, but the HVLP seemed like the right thing for me. I focused in on the Earlex after reading about it here, and getting some advice at my local woodcraft. Seeing it in person and having it explained to me by the tech made it easy not to second guess. I saw how it worked, got good tips on how to use it, so the learning curve shortened.

I am not sure what latex product you are wanting to spray, but this machine will do latex paint. For the demo he was spraying blue behr paint on to a brown paper roll to demonstrate the spray patterns and how to dial in the flow. The two thing I remember him saying about the system are that it will spray anything within a viscosity range of 0 to 160 seconds (measured by how long it takes to drain a little cup they give you), and that you need to match the needle to the product. So some latex paint needs to be thinned and very well mixed. Also uses a larger needle, like say 2 or 2.5mm. Where thin stuff like poly and shellac can use a 1.5mm.

Hope that helps. The HVLP seems a lot easier than high pressure systems, at least for most woodworking systems. Less variables, in my estimation. But I am not an experienced sprayer.


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

View CharlesA's profile


3470 posts in 3257 days

#4 posted 08-16-2016 11:26 PM

Thanks. I have a cheapy HVLP right now (paid $70), but I’m looking for a better unit.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Earlextech's profile


1164 posts in 4150 days

#5 posted 08-19-2016 03:59 PM

Take some 120 grit and rough up both ends of the hose. It will grip better.
Thanks for the great review.

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

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