Small guns for larger jobs
For larger projects, consider a small spray gun with greater finish storage capacity and a larger fan pattern than an airbrush but with lower air requirements and less overspray than an intermediate spray gun.
For greater versatility, look for models that allow you to control the fluid flow in addition to regulating the air flow at the compressor, such as the K-Grip Siphon Gun sprayer. By using canning jars to store finish and as the fluid reservoir -- coupled with a simple siphon action that mixes air and fluid outside the gun -- the K-Grip cleans up quickly.
Small sprayers often call for compressors that generate 3 cubic feet per minute (CFM) or more at 90 psi, although we sprayed small projects with the K-Grip using an air compressor producing just 2.4 CFM. The K-Grip needs as little as 20 psi to spray lacquers and 25 psi for polyurethane.
Just a touch-up larger
Stepping up to a touch-up spray gun gives you more control over the pattern. Unlike airbrushes and some spray guns, touch-up sprayers produce a fan pattern instead of a conical shape. You can dial in a wide fan pattern to spray a cabinet side or tabletop, as shown above, or tighten the pattern to finish narrow table legs. Customizing the pattern conserves finish material by reducing overspray.
Two other features of touch-up spray guns also let you work faster: Their greater fluid capacity means less refilling when spraying larger projects, and by using larger nozzle sizes than a small sprayer, heavier-body finishes, such as varnish and shellac, can be sprayed with little or no thinning. That means you can spray two or three heavy coats instead of four or more thin ones.
Unlike full-size spray guns, a touch-up sprayer's 3.5-CFM requirements could be met by a 2.6-gallon portable compressor. Even when touch-up sprayers specify an air source requirement like 3 CFM at 90 PSI, most finishing jobs require far less pressure. Thinning may help a slightly undersized air compressor atomize a finish while reducing air use. Lower air pressure also reduces ?bounceback? -- droplets of finish that ricochet off the surface you're spraying.
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