HVLP Sprayers for Wood Stain Sprays
Selecting and applying the right wood stain to your masterpiece is one of the most difficult (and necessary) steps of a project. There are two major questions you need to think through as your project nears completion:
- What stain should be used? Should I use true oil like tung oil or boiled linseed? What about an oil-based or water-based stain?
- How should wood stain be applied? Do I wipe it on? Brush it? Or get real brave and try to spray it with an HVLP sprayer?
Instead of trying to answer all these questions in one pass, let’s will focus on how to apply wood stain spray using a HVLP (high volume, low pressure) sprayer.
Many woodworkers stay away from using a HVLP sprayer to stain wood because it seems too difficult to get a good finish. Like everything else in woodworking, spraying finishes just takes a little practice. The first thing to remember with spraying wood stains is to wear a respirator, regardless of whether you’re using oil or water-based stains. The second thing to remember is preparation – proper planning will help eliminate missteps in the finishing process. By following a few basic preparatory steps, you can take the hassle out of staining wood with a HVLP sprayer.
HVLP Wood Stain Spray Preparation
HVLP Sprayer Safety and Wood Staining Ventilation
The first thing to do is to check your equipment. Make sure your gun is working properly – run some water through the gun to check the function. If the gun needs to be cleaned, clean it and then check it again by running some water through it. This will also helps you get reacquainted with how the HVLP sprayer operates.
Next, clean and set up the area where you will be spraying. Unless you have a dedicated spray booth you’ll need to set up an area to work in. Use canvas drop clothes set on both the floor and as a backdrop to help stop overspray from getting where you don’t want it.
Make sure your spray area is well ventilated. Whether you’re using oil-based or water-based stains, good ventilation is important for your safety and to provide a good finish. Inadequate ventilation could result in your work space getting engulfed in a cloud of stain, thus hurting your ability to properly see and stain your wood. Open a door or window and set up fans to pull excess spray out of your work area and through the door or window. It’s also important to wear a respirator; all stains contain solvents that can be harmful, and yes, even water-based finishes. Don’t bother with paper masks – use a quality respirator with organic vapor cartridges to ensure your safety.
Prepare to Spray Your Wood Stain
Now you need to figure out how you will spray your piece. Below are some important questions to consider. Planning now will help eliminate any future mistakes.
- Will the project sit on the floor on cleats? On sawhorses?
- Do you need access to all four sides?
- Will you need a step ladder to spray the top?
- What order will you need to spray in?
Once you planned your spray, it’s important that you practice before you do the real deal. You most likely have some scrap wood laying around – use it to practice and to get your HVLP gun spraying how you want it to and ensure you’re getting a smooth, consistent finish that you’re satisfied with.
Remember that a consistent finish relies on consistent application; keep the gun a constant distance from your work piece and keep it moving at a steady speed. Changes in speed and the angle and distance of the gun to the work piece will change how the stain hits the wood – thereby changing how the stain looks.
Start spraying before the gun is in front of the wood and don’t stop spraying until it’s past the work piece. This will eliminate heavy spots at the start of the spray path and light spots at the end. By starting and stopping the spray when it is not in contact with the work piece, we ensure that the gun is spraying at a consistent volume when it’s in contact with the work piece. Several light coats result in a better finish than a few heavy coats. Applying heavy coats will result in runs and orange peeling, and follow-up sanding to correct the problem. Just like any other application technique, the first coat of finish from your HVLP will raise the grain of the wood and require sanding (with a light grit like 320) before any additional coats are applied.
Spraying Multiple Coats and Sanding Your Stain
Be patient. Let the first coat completely dry before you sand or apply a second coat. Many wood stain sprays will say on the container how long the recommended drying time is for different application techniques. If not, check to see if the wood stain is tacky to the touch or try sanding in an inconspicuous spot. If the sand paper starts to clog up with uncured finish give it some more time.
Once you start sanding, sand lightly in between coats. Between each wood stain spray, sand lightly with progressively finer grit sand paper; start with 320, then use progressively finer grit with each sanding. If you have any trapped dirt or rough spots after the final coat lightly buff it out with a 2000 grit sanding or buffing pad.
Give yourself time to get comfortable using a HVLP sprayer to apply stain to the wood. Don’t jump in and spray the buffet you made your spouse as a present for your first spray project; practice on scraps or make some new jigs for the shop and spray hose. With a little practice and some preparation you may find that applying a showroom-quality wood finish with a HVLP sprayer is far less hassle than you thought it would be.