furniture files/ painting resources, products, & equipment

Tips for spraying with a Turbine system, and a dresser for the “Queen”

It’s fitting, I think, that the piece that you’ll see later in this post uses the same color and same paint (ha!) as my first spray project.  You can read my overly long-winded discussion about my first time spraying with a turbine system, here.  But don’t feel obligated. 😉

For today, a turbine system update.  I’ve sprayed several pieces now with the Fuji Mini Mite 5 and the “Dreamette” Kent Coffey dresser below reflects my latest effort. It also represents the first spray piece for the Queen (me!) and currently enjoys residence in our bedroom.  It fits ALL the clothes–Farm Boy’s and mine–and also happens to looks amazing in situ.

As you might recall, my first spray efforts included shaky hands, an unfounded fear that I was going to break somethingand meticulous attention to the text Spraying Furniture Made Simple, by Jeff Jewitt. In my first effort I was petrified to play with the controls during the spray application, or to mess with the “recipe” of paint, H20, and Floetrol. Several pieces in, I’m feeling more confident–which of course makes sense–but I also want to pass along the things I’ve picked up along the way, other than my developing confidence.


Some Tips for Spraying with a HVLP Turbine System…

Don’t be afraid to thin the paint.

When I started my first spray project, I had zero knowledge.  No real sense about how thin the paint needed to be and no baseline to compare it to.  Today, several projects in–though I’m in NO way an expert–I realize that I need to thin the paint (in this case Benjamin Moore Advance in semi-gloss) at least 10%-15% for the needle I’m using in my spray gun.  So rather than over- relying on the “recipe” provided by Jewitt (though it’s a great starting point!) I’ve learned to trust my instincts and pay attention to what’s happening in front of me.  This means, at least in using this particular paint, with that particular needle, I need to thin the paint at least 10%, though probably a touch more.


Don’t be afraid to adjust the spray controls as you’re spraying.

In my first project, I wasn’t comfortable with the spray gun nor did I fully understand the adjustment knobs. As a result, the finish was gritty because I didn’t allow enough paint to hit the surface–I was afraid of runs! The truth is, spraying paint or any other finish is all about finding the optimum adjustments to get the best finish. You need to spray enough paint so that it can level itself out, but not so much that it runs and drips.

I’ve found it helpful to think about the spray gun adjustments as similar to the exposure triangle in photography. If you’re not familiar with Manual mode on your camera, provided you have a Manual mode on your camera, this analogy likely won’t help (sorry!), but if you do, it may prove helpful. In photography, when shooting in Manual mode you need to balance ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed to capture a shot that’s properly exposed.  That is to say, a photo that’s not too dark or bright.  Properly atomized paint (the equivalent of a proper exposure) is achieved by balancing air flow, material flow (how much paint comes through the gun), and fan size. But I ain’t gonna lie: it’s a trick to get it there and once there, to maintain it!


Use fan patterns to your advantage.

A wide fan pattern (a wide oval pattern) requires more material through the gun  // Use a wide fan pattern on tops and sides of a dresser when spraying.

A small fan pattern (a small circular pattern) require less material through the gun // Use a small fan pattern when spraying the fronts of a dresser carcass.  Using a small pattern allows you to eliminate most over-spray as well as minimize runs on the carcass fronts.

Be sure to adjust your gun based on what you’re spraying.  For instance, when I spray the tops and sides of a piece, I adjust the gun settings so as to make a wide pattern (a long, wide oval) and make sure enough paint comes through the gun. When I spray the carcass fronts I make the fan pattern pattern quite small and adjust the amount of paint coming through.  If I don’t?  Drips down the fronts that must be sanded out.  Yep, I’ve done that.


Don’t be afraid to lay down paint.

Initially, I used to think that I could achieve proper atomization and a good finish if I allowed very little paint to leave the gun. I was incorrect.  In order for a finish to look the way it should, the paint needs to flow out–and it can only do that if you lay down enough paint.  Otherwise, you’ll get noticeable “banding” marks.  This was my first spray application– there were clear banding marks on the dresser top–essentially lines that mark out each pass.  Remember, a good finish is solid throughout, with no banding.


Don’t pass judgment on the finish too quickly.

My first coat, using this paint, ALWAYS looks likes it’s going to be crap.  Orange-peely and just yuck. However, without exception this paint has leveled/flowed out incredibly well, with very little orange peel, or bumpiness in the final finish.  SO: Be patient and use a retarder (a product that slows the paint’s dry time) to improve flow-out: Floetrol for water-based products; Penetrol for oil-based products.


Don’t be too hard on yourself.

This might seem like a silly “tip,” but honestly, I don’t think so.  Chances are really good that your learning curve (like mine) will be pretty steep. And though I’m passing along these tips, I still have so much to learn. And I often think that I’d love to have someone just teach me, in hands-on setting, and I can eliminate this troubleshooting nonsense.  But, as yet I’ve found no one to take me on as an apprentice…

I’m improving, yes? And, oh, to have a place for all the clothes!


Thanks for reading!


Queen P


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