A great spray gun for finishing musical instruments. From Homestead Finishing Products, a company that truly understands the needs of luthiers, and a great company to do business with. This review originally appeared in American Lutherie.
Last updated: September 11, 2018
Homestead Finishing Products
P.O. Box 360275
Copyright © 2002 R.M. Mottola
[Originally published in American Lutherie #72, Winter 2002]
The item reviewed in the following paragraphs was purchased by the author at full price through normal sales channels. A draft of this review was sent to the manufacturer/seller prior to publication so that any factual errors could be corrected.
Like a lot of others, I use a cheap Taiwanese siphon feed detail gun to spray instruments. Mine is from Sears, but you can get the same gun from many different suppliers. This is the gun that instrument spraying guru Fred Campbell talks about in his comprehensive article on lacquer spraying in American Lutherie #44. It works great for laying on nitrocellulose lacquer, but perhaps its greatest feature is its cost -- usually less than 50 bucks. I'm on my second gun. The first one died a horrible death when I tried to shoot waterborne lacquer with it. It has some steel parts in the fluid path and they rusted out. For all practical purposes this gun is not rebuildable, so out it went.
A while back I was looking for a new gun that could be used to shoot waterborne material. The spray gun had to have a completely stainless fluid path. It was highly desirable that it be capable of very fine atomization. I have to admit that wet sanding is not one of the first things that springs to mind when someone asks about my favorite aspects of instrument building. A gun that can atomize really well can lay down a smoother coat which means less wet sanding is needed. I was hoping to get another detail gun as I feel their smaller spray pattern is ideal for spraying instruments. Asking around for suggestions among auto body and cabinet sprayers, it became pretty obvious that you could do no better than a SATA production gun, although a number of the wood finishing folks also had very good things to say about Asturo guns. Guns from both these manufacturers fit my needs, but at over $400 for most models they were a little out of my price range. And then there is the issue of air. My asthmatic little compressor can deliver only about four CFM and so a new gun was also going to mean a new compressor. The new compressor was going to need a new circuit to power it, too, so the price of this new gun was climbing fast and furious.
Detail guns (auto body folks also call these jamb guns, as they use them to spray the door jambs) tend to use less air as they spray a narrower pattern than production guns. SATA makes a very nice gravity feed detail gun, a so-called HVLP conversion gun. HVLP conversion guns use regular compressors, but they tend to need even more air than a similarly sized conventional gun. The SATA gun was not too too expensive, especially compared to their production guns, but it is a real air hog. Walcom makes a line of low priced guns under the Asturomec name, and this line has a detail gun that uses a paltry 2.1 CFM of air -- perfectly suitable for use with my existing compressor. I bought, I sprayed, I reviewed.
More about the Asturomec ES/RV detail gun in a bit, but while it is all still fresh in my mind, let me lay out some of the issues involved in selecting a spray gun. Quality of atomization, air requirements, and price were already mentioned, as was the fact that if you want to spray water based material you'll need a gun with no mild steel parts in the fluid path. If you want to spray really thin or thick materials you'll want a gun that has an assortment of fluid needle sizes available. If you plan on heavy use you'll want the gun to be rebuildable, with repair parts readily available.
A word about turbine compressor HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) guns. In my research I asked about these too, but the auto body folks don't use them and the cabinet shops that did gave them mixed reviews, the major complaint being lack of fine atomization. Could just be operator error or prejudice against newfangled gadgets. Now, I'm no technophobe but I couldn't see risking over $700 to find out. This equipment is said to have better transfer efficiency than conventional spray equipment which can save some money in material costs, but I frankly don't spray enough for this to be much of an issue.
OK, back to the review. I bought the Asturomec ES/RV detail gun from Homestead Finishing. Price was $99.95. The gun is obviously well made, especially compared side by side to my Taiwanese siphon feed gun. It is a gravity feed gun (cup on top) and comes with a nice aluminum 125 cc (approx. 4 oz.) cup. The fluid path is completely stainless. In fact the only steel part I could find on the gun with my trusty refrigerator magnet was the trigger. There is a rear mounted fluid control knob and a side mounted fan adjustment knob. All pretty conventional. My setup includes an optional plastic 250 cc (approx. 8 oz.) cup, a gun mounted regulator, and an inline water filter. I got all of this from Homestead. Prices were $25 for the cup, $29 for the regulator, and $30 for the filter. Depending on the size of the instrument, I find I use less than 4 oz. of material per coat, but it is a real pain to run out in the middle of a coat, so that's why I use the bigger cup. The water filter is simply a necessity for spraying nitrocellulose lacquer or shellac, but you can probably forgo it if you only spray waterborne material. The gun mounted regulator is a luxury, but I've been spoiled by using one in the past so now it seems something I can't do without.
The gun works very well in use, although the cap on the plastic cup is maddeningly difficult to screw on without cross threading it. Although Id like to report that the atomization of this gun is superior to that of my cheap import gun, I really have no objective way to assert that to be the case. I do lay on much smoother coats with this gun, and I did manage for the first time ever to do a very nice sunburst -- something I still can't do with the cheaper gun. So it is very likely that atomization is indeed better with the ES/RV. Comparisons aside, this gun performs more than adequately for any spraying tasks involved in instrument finishing. For me at least, the sunburst is the acid test of a spray gun. If it does that well it can do all other operations well.
My only gripes with the gun have to do with the cup. If the cup lid problem could be addressed it would be even better. And if the gun could be had with the optional 250 cc cup as standard equipment then it would also be quite a bargain.
As usual in product reviews I do like to include a little info on what it was like dealing with the company. Homestead Finishing Products is a mom and pop outfit. Personally, I am willing to overlook certain little things that I would expect of larger outfits, like an 800 number, when dealing with small companies. Usually these are more than made up by superior personal service, and this was certainly the case here. Everything was super smooth in my dealings with Homestead. All items were in stock and were shipped fast. They have a very informative website, and they answered my questions quickly via both email and phone. It should be no surprise that the website and the folks at Homestead were full of good information. The pop of this mom and pop company is Jeff Jewitt, leading wood finishing expert (and, wouldn't you know, former luthier) and author of books, videos, and articles on the subject. Homestead has a line of wood finishing products including stains, waterborne finishing products, and a complete line of dewaxed shellacs. Some of these products look suspiciously like some of the things offered by the lutherie supply outfits, but Homestead's prices are a little better. I hope to be sampling some of these products in the near future. One thing I really appreciate about Homestead is that it is very apparent from their application notes on the website that they actually use the products they sell.
In summary, the Asturomec ES/RV detail gun with the optional 250 cc cup is an excellent spray gun for all musical instrument finishing applications. High quality, decent price, good atomization, low air requirements, rebuildable, all stainless fluid path. And Homestead Finishing Products scores very high as a supplier and source of technical information.
The Asturomec ES/RV detail gun can now be ordered with the 250 cc cup as standard from Homestead Finishing Products.