264 – Choosing the Right Turbine HVLP System

Video - August 1, 2016

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Choosing the right turbine HVLP system can be difficult. If you’re looking to get into HVLP spray finishing, the two common routes you can take are either a compressor-driven conversion gun or an all-in-one turbine solution. The fact that turbines are complete systems and tend to be very small and portable makes them a great choice for both the home shop woodworker and the professional road warrior. But with so many brands and so many models within each brand, how do you know which one is right for you?

First you need to familiarize yourself with the lingo.


  • HVLP – High Volume Low Pressure. This refers to the fact that the gun pushes out a lot of finish without a lot of extra air. This cuts down on overspray and waste.
  • Turbine – That’s the box that blows the air. It contains a fan or series of fans that drives air through a hose and into the HVLP gun.
  • Stages – The number of fans inside the turbine. This is how Turbines are generally classified.
  • Viscosity – Refers to how thick the material is and is measured with a viscosity cup.


What do you plan to spray?

  • Clear stains and finishes: 1-3 stage.
  • Thick-bodied finishes like latex paint: 3-stage minimum

So if a 3-stage can handle the thicker stuff, why would anyone ever get 4 or 5-stage? Because more power means less dilution and overall better quality spray. It also makes the unit much more forgiving of imperfect settings and dilutions.

How often will you spray?

This is really a question of quality. If you spray a lot or if you spray under rigorous conditions, you’ll want a high quality turbine that can stand up to the use and abuse. If you only spray a few times a year, a budget-friendly entry-level unit just might do the trick. To understand what makes one model more durable than another, we have to take a close look at the equipment.

Equipment Quality

Turbines – The turbine itself comes in a portable case. That case could be made from metal or plastic with the metal obviously being more durable. A few things to consider: changeable/washable filters, size of turbine case, and noise levels.

Hoses – All turbines come with an air hose and they aren’t created equal. Entry-level hoses are usually more rigid with less sturdy connections. High quality turbines come with thick rubber hoses with metal connections, reinforced supports, and in-line air regulators. Some companies, like Fuji, sell add-ons like whip-hoses and heat-resistant hoses.

HVLP Guns – The entry-level guns typically feature plastic guns, plastic screw-in cups, limited adjustment options and limited needle and cap sets. Higher-quality guns are mostly metal, have lots of spray configuration controls, fit comfortably in your hand, have metal cups, and feature numerous needle and cap set sizes.


If you want all your bases covered and you only spray latex occasionally, go 3-stage. If you’re on a tight budget, only spray occasionally, and you focus on clear stains and finishes, go 2-stage or 1-stage.

If you’re doing this on a more professional level or if you know you’ll be spraying a variety latex paint, jump to the 4 or 5-stage units.


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