One of my favorite tools in my toolbox is my paint sprayer. Now, we all love tools that break things apart and put them back together. And it’s in our DNA that guys like to cut things. But what I really like is to take something I have worked on and make it look pretty. Maybe it’s the chick in me but I like to put that finishing touch on a project and make it look nice.
The way I accomplish that is by using a self-contained HVLP spray system. Mine is made by Fuji Spray and it’s called a Mini-Mite 4. I’ve been around spray painting all my life. Everything from a crackle can to my earliest memories of helping Pop shoot candy apple red laquer on an old Camaro with a home made air compressor. What I can tell you is the technology in spray painting has come a long way in the decades since then.
The Mini-Mite 4 is a four stage turbine. It’s essentially a beefy vacuum cleaner in reverse. Instead of sucking air it blows air. HVLP stands for “high volume, low pressure”. The turbine only generates about 8.5 PSI but with the engineering in the spray gun, it allows you to throw out a lot of paint very accurately and consistently. It atomizes the paint very efficiently and minimizes overspray.
The beauty in the spray gun is it’s simplicity. There’s really only two adjustments that you have to make. On the back of the gun is a flow adjustment that regulates the amount of material coming out of the gun. On the front is a fan adjustment which lets you fine tune the width of the spray pattern. You can also adjust the orientation of the fan by adjusting to needle cap on the front of the gun. Taking the sprayer apart is also very easy and straight forward. I have a two part video review you can watch below or visit my YouTube channel to watch it there. Cleanup is simple too. If you know you will be using the sprayer tomorrow then simply rinse the cup out a few times and run clean water through the gun for a couple of minutes. I prefer to completely break down my gun and clean it thoroughly after every use. It’s not hard to do and it doesn’t take much time to have the peace of mind knowing the spray gun is completely cleaned.
I have two spray guns. One is a gravity fed gun that I only use for poly and stains. The other is a larger sprayer that I use for paints only. The question everyone always asks is, “Can I shoot latex in this sprayer?”. The answer is yes if you properly thin the paint and if you use the correct needle in the sprayer. I have a video tutorial on thinning paint on my YouTube channel that will get you started with that. I have three of the most common sized needles for my sprayers. Fuji color codes them. The blue needle is 1.0 mm and I use it for stains. The yellow needle is 1.5 mm and it works great with the General Finishes water based polyacrylic I use. Finally, the green tip is 1.8 mm and it does a fine job with thinned furniture grade and latex paints.
The only other accessory I have for the system is a six foot flexible whip hose. This hose serves two purposes. First, it takes some of the weight off of the heavy rubber hose that comes with the system. Without it you will fatigue from the weight of the standard hose and your performance will be affected. Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that it gives you six more feet to allow the air to cool before it hits your spray gun. HVLP machines deliver hot air and this heated air blowing across your paint will accelerate drying. This is not really a good thing. That’s a big reason to you a products like Floetrol and General Finishes Enduro Extender to slow the dry time. It allows your paint to settle down and stabilize before it dries. If you get a run or a puddle it allows the paint to “lay back down” before it dries.
It’s good to have a few spare parts on hand. They don’t wear out often but when they do you are dead in the water. There are rubber gaskets that seal the gravity cup, a pressure tube and plastic check valve that charge the cup and protect against back flow into the spray gun, and a filter for the down tube that are all good to have in your supply bin.
I have gotten great results from this system since day one. Painting is all about technique and practice. Distance, speed, flow, and fan are all variables that you have to control to get good results. The best way to get good at it is to just shoot paint and practice. You will know if you’re not doing something right. But don’t be intimidated. I believe that most ordinary folks can get great results with a machine like the Fuji Mini-Mite from minute one.
I’m not going to lie, this system is a big investment. They are not cheap but I have not regretted buying it for a minute. There are other more expensive systems out there and there are some that are a lot cheaper. Please don’t buy a $100 Harbor Freight HVLP machine and expect factory results. You won’t get it and you will be terribly disappointed. Invest in a three or four stage machine like the Mini-Mite and be happy every time you turn it on. I promise that you will look forward to doing projects with it.
Scroll down and you will find some links to the exact tools and accessories I use. That will get you started in your research and journey into finding the right system for your needs. Also, take a look at my product review video below and get some hands on with the tool. Finally, watch about any of videos on my YouTube channel and you will see this exact machine in action giving great results every time.