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Earlex HV5500 Spray Station - Tool Review

by Jeffrey Fleisher
New Market, VA

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

If you are new to spray finishing or do not have an air compressor, then this HVLP spray system is just the ticket for you. The Earlex HV5500 provides a low cost, entry system, to the world of spray finishing with excellent results.

A high- volume, low-pressure (HVLP) sprayer uses a large volume of air at low pressure to atomize the stream of finish leaving the nozzle into a fine mist. Unlike conventional spray guns using large compressors, you get very little 'over spray' which is much safer for the woodworker and reduces the amount finish used, which is always a good thing for your pocketbook! Using a HVLP system like the Earlex HV5500 will allow you to take advantage of all the benefits of spray finishing... fast drying finishes, ultra-smooth finished surfaces, a much more healthy environment and a wide variety of finishing products.

Earlex, Inc. is part of the UK-based, family-owned Earlex Group, which has sales across more than 20 countries. Earlex's U.S. headquarters is based in Charlotte, NC and offers a complete range of spray station high volume low pressure (HVLP) paint sprayers plus other products such as wallpaper strippers and heat tools for home and professional use.

The HV5500 is a complete spray system as shown in the image below.

The system consists of a 650 watt turbine motor with an air flow of 42 CFM (cubic ft/min) and a pressure rating of 2.0 psi (pounds/square inch). For the user, more CFM means better atomization of the liquid finish at the air nozzle of the gun. Better atomization provides for a smoother, finished surface.

The turbine is built into the base which also contains a 13 ft long 1" diameter hose and a holder for the quart size teflon-lined spray gun. The gun has a 1" diameter port for the hose and is a bleeder-style gun which means there is a continuous flow of air through the gun. Finally, the gun can be fitted with fluid tips of 1.5mm, 2.0mm and 2.5mm to spray thin finishes such as lacquer, new water-based clear finishes and heavier latex paints.

Also packaged with the HV5500 is a viscosity cup to help determine the 'thickness' of your finish. If the viscosity of your finish is too high (thick) then there may not be enough pressure to force the liquid through the tip and atomize the finish. I've found that some of the new water-based finishes and the latex paints may need to be thinned. Unlike lacquers, water-based products can only be thinned about 10 percent without affecting their adhesion qualities.

The HV550 has a viscosity rating of 160 seconds. A nice little diagram from the user manual shows that if you fill the viscosity cup with a finish and it empties in less than 160 seconds, then it does not need to be thinned. If it takes longer, then it will need to be thinned.

Like all spray guns, the HV5500 can spray multiple patterns depending on the position of the air cap. The horizontal and vertical spray patterns are made perpendicular to the position of the air cap. With the air cap positioned at 45 degrees, the HV550 will produce a circular pattern.

An important element to understand when using a HVLP system like the HV5500 is that the turbine provides a fixed amount of air pressure to the gun and the knob on the back of the gun controls the amount of liquid being fed to the nozzle. The more air pressure at the nozzle the more atomization can occur for a higher viscosity finish. For example, Highland Woodworking also carries the Earlex HV6900 which is a 3 stage turbine that provides 71 CFM air pressure, almost twice the CFM as the HV5500.

Is the HV5500 the right HVLP system for you? I have found that this system is a very nice entry level system. It will easily handle small to medium size jobs, especially if you are spraying lacquer or slightly thinned water-based finishes. For larger jobs, especially ones requiring using a higher viscosity liquid you may want to move up to a system with a more powerful turbine like the HV6900.

These systems are very nice because the are very portable and do not require an external air compressor. The different Earlex Spray Stations provide a growth path for you to follow as your needs grow and you become a more experienced spray finisher.

Purchase your own Earlex HV5500 Spray Station today!


Jeffrey Fleisher has been a woodworker for approximately 20 years and a professional woodworker for the past 6 years. He was the past president of his local woodturning club, the Woodturners of the Virginias and past president of the Northern Virginia Carvers. You can see some of the furniture he has made at www.jeffswooddesigns.com . He can be reached by email at furnmkr@gmail.com .



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