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Understood, and thanks for clarifying "Technogod." I assumed high end turbine but wasn't sure. We'll keep trying.

And in the interest of reciprocity, one of your threads mentioned wanting a CNC router. I don't know your experience with them, but if I can be of any help to you, let me know. I see you're on the other side of the country but I can share information on brands and types of machines and drives, CAD and Cam software, tooling options and strategies, chip loads, material hold down, etc. You make beautiful stuff! You might consider a CNC dowel machine and case clamp. They don't take up much room, are simple to operate, can streamline your process and could possibly save a lot of time with Bondo.

Kindest Regards!
Turbines are higher transfer efficiency than their compressor driven cousins (80%+). Some guns are designed to run off both compressor or turbine, like apollo 7700. Quite simply a 5 stage turbine can output 130CFM at 10PSI, a difficult task for most compressors
 

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At least TRY the airless you already have. The cost is only a new tip. Use a fine finish tip size 308 to start. The smaller tip will help control the amount of paint transferred to the surface. Don’t let the paint reps talk you out of at least trying it and don’t follow the published tip size recommendations. Use a 308 or even a 208. Don’t worry about transfer rates and efficiency when starting. I’ve heard arguments before about airless being harder to control and never understood them. I always started rookies with airless because, in my experience, it was the easiest and fastest to get proficient. Micro bubbles are from air and HVLP systems and AAA add air. AAA has two moving parts to try and adjust. HVLP takes skill and practice. Keep it simple. You already own an airless. Airless can give flawless finishes. Big shops use more efficient systems because when your buying hundreds of gallons of finish, increases of 20% in your transfer efficiency add up to thousands of $$ in paint savings.
Also, my two cents, water borne is the future. If you’re going to pay the price of entry into finishing your own work, why pay it twice?
My brother is a small shop cabinet maker (approximately 200,00 300,000 annual sales) and he wanted to start painting his own stuff for the same reasons OP listed. (Not because he wanted to be a painter) Of course he wanted to do the same thing as OP and use his compressors and hoses and buy an HVLP gun. But that is not nearly as strait forward as it sounds. He then talked to his SW rep who talked him into a 5 stage turbine so he could spray Emerald. When that didn’t work, they tried Kem Aqua. When that didn’t work they went to a pressure pot. Still struggled.
THEN he called his little brother. 🙄. I sent him a graco gx19 fine finish and the name of his local Ilva rep. He has never looked back and is able to put out professional results. I think you could pick up a slightly used turbine unit from him real cheap.
 

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Thanks for the responses so far. Sometimes you wonder if things just aren't meant to be! We're very good at being precision "wood machinists" but this paint thing, not so much.

It was a Kremlin used for the demo. It sprayed great, very little overspray by comparison. But the paint didn't layout as well as expected. He said maybe our prime wasn't heavy enough and the MDF was telegraphing through. If the AAA is the answer (particularly to allow us to stay with water), We'd buy it immediately! We do need speed to meet the price targets of our wholesale customers. We are not selling direct to consumers and really don't plan to do "on -site" painting.

The three HVLP guns have been gravity fed and we have a 2 gal. pot in the bull pen if any of them worked well enough. We've tried tips at 1.4, 1.6, and 1.8 for the 3M gun, and 1.4 on the Binks and cheapo HVLP. Pressures were tried at 16psi on up to 32. We added a water separator/filter at the booth too.

The cheap siphon gun has a 1.8 and we ran it between 50 and 60 psi. It gave pretty decent results (overspray aside). Our SW rep is suggesting we look at an LVMP gun next. Maybe I should bring in my old airless and give it a try! We just really need that smooth "hand" for the clients to be happy.

Just saw a recent response about specifics. I mentioned the brands in the first post. For precat, we're trying Gemini and SW Sherwood. Our compressor is an 80 gallon (if I recall correctly) and we don't have a refrigerated dryer, just filters/water separators at the compressor and each machine. We also have a larger (120 gallon??? or more) that needs a new mag switch I could use.
Sherwood. Ah, consider enamel holdout when using primers imho.
 

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At least TRY the airless you already have. The cost is only a new tip. Use a fine finish tip size 308 to start. The smaller tip will help control the amount of paint transferred to the surface. Don’t let the paint reps talk you out of at least trying it and don’t follow the published tip size recommendations. Use a 308 or even a 208. Don’t worry about transfer rates and efficiency when starting. I’ve heard arguments before about airless being harder to control and never understood them. I always started rookies with airless because, in my experience, it was the easiest and fastest to get proficient. Micro bubbles are from air and HVLP systems and AAA add air. AAA has two moving parts to try and adjust. HVLP takes skill and practice. Keep it simple. You already own an airless. Airless can give flawless finishes. Big shops use more efficient systems because when your buying hundreds of gallons of finish, increases of 20% in your transfer efficiency add up to thousands of $$ in paint savings.
Also, my two cents, water borne is the future. If you’re going to pay the price of entry into finishing your own work, why pay it twice?
My brother is a small shop cabinet maker (approximately 200,00 300,000 annual sales) and he wanted to start painting his own stuff for the same reasons OP listed. (Not because he wanted to be a painter) Of course he wanted to do the same thing as OP and use his compressors and hoses and buy an HVLP gun. But that is not nearly as strait forward as it sounds. He then talked to his SW rep who talked him into a 5 stage turbine so he could spray Emerald. When that didn’t work, they tried Kem Aqua. When that didn’t work they went to a pressure pot. Still struggled.
THEN he called his little brother. 🙄. I sent him a graco gx19 fine finish and the name of his local Ilva rep. He has never looked back and is able to put out professional results. I think you could pick up a slightly used turbine unit from him real cheap.
Micro bubbles can be caused by many things but air from an HVLP I've never seen it. A 5 stage turbine can spray emerald, kem aqua, Renner, latex I've sprayed it all. We use both airless and HVLP just for different tasks. For what we use HVLP for the material savings are close to half coming from inefficiencies by running an airless setup. Ie spraying a 1/2" spindle with a 208 still gives a 4" fan

My experience with bigger shops is they stop caring about efficiency all together. I know one door manufacturer that runs through drums of lacquer and their air pumps aren't even using AAA guns, they give their guys silver plus guns because the lacquer heads will break those 700 guns too easy. Drums of lacquer for pennies on the dollar. You can smell Gibson guitar in the morning a mile away ;)
 

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I am a semi-retired (or mostly retired) cabinet maker. A few years back I started spraying. I started with PPG's Breakthrough!, but the local PPG dealer went out of business. I switched to Benjamin Moore's Advance.

I have two sprayers. A Graco X7 (airless) and a Sprayfine 4-stage HVLP sprayer. I find it much easier to control the HVLP sprayer. The airless feels like a runaway freight train.

Once I had the right dilution for the paint, both the Advance and Breakthrough! sprayed nicely. The Breakthrough seemed to dry so fast that it would not really level. The Advance sprays nicer, but takes longer to cure.

I find that the HVLP sprayer + Advance give very saleable results. I would note that the darker colors seem to take longer to harden.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Thank you again for all the input. We've had some improved results with an HVLP gun (compressor powered) on the precat. We had to sand through a couple extra grits (again, MDF pieces) and lay down an extra primer coat. Then topcoat reduced 20% and retarded 5%.

And I think I will try my airless (with WB) after we get through the rush jobs we have.
 

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I think one overlooked factor in this entire discussion is the lack of finishing experience you said your painter has. The problems you've listed could very well be applicator error. With orange peel and micro bubbles being your main issues, I'd first look to the finisher and examine their technique while spraying as well as how heavy of a coat they're applying. Both problems could be easily explained if someone were applying the product to heavy and/or in too rapid of succession.

You've been very thorough about giving us a list of all the products you've tried, the issues you've faced, and the changes you've attempted to make to solve those issues, but it's going to be hard to for you to get specific advice without you providing a very detailed and specific incident. If you could,

-take a video of the painter applying the finish, (just a quick 10 second clip, or however long it takes to finish 1 piece)
-give background as to the product/s being applied, and even more importantly, the wet film thickness of each coat
-specify the viscosity of those products via Ford or Zahn cups
-include the type and amount of thinners, reducers, and or retarders used
-list the equipment being used
-state the RH and temp
-include the temp of the product being applied, (cold products could also be the culprit)
-specify the amount of air movement circulating through the booth during application
-a quick close-up video of a dried piece with sufficient reflective light

Take a video of each coat of finish and be sure to focus on when the micro bubbles are appearing. Just a quick 5-10 second video will show clearly what 10,000 words could never show.

In the meantime, try having your finisher do a quick spit-coat on a sample piece, allowing that to flash off for minute, then applying their full coat. This alone could make the difference. Even if it doesn't, I'm sure someone here would be able to help you solve your problems if you're able to provide the info listed above. Good luck, and keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Hello Troy,

Thank you for your comprehensive list of details to investigate. We've been able to present an acceptable product to our client using the precat lacquer so we plan to get through their first order using that. When time allows, we plan to revisit the water borne, which is where most of the problems occurred. We have tried many of the suggestions you referred to and have tried to keep a detailed log what what helped and what did not make a difference. Just about the only thing I haven't done is video the process. We might try that on the next set of trials.
 
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