Fuji Mini-Mite 3 HVLP System
Not putting the finish where you don't want it
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 2-15-2009
The idea of spraying finishes onto woodworking projects has always been attractive but normal spray equipment also tended to paint everything in the not so immediate vicinity. Common sprayers also require huge compressors to match their equally huge air demands. Then, along came HVLP (high volume low pressure) spray systems and woodworkers rejoiced. The Fuji Mini-Mite 3 brings high-end quality at a surprisingly tame price. Even more astounding is that despite a decidedly reasonable price the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 actually works very well with all of the alcohol/oil/solvent and water based finishes we use in woodworking!
Supplying the necessary volume of air at the relatively low pressures a HVLP system uses and doing that consistently isn't as easy as it might sound. The good news is that the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 uses the high-end, high-powered 3-Stage Ametek-Lamb Electric Turbine Motor that produces the most power in its class. This turbine compressor supplies clean air in the correct volume and pressure (approximately 6-PSI) so spraying is controllable and predictable. The motor also has a modular power cord and a push button external circuit breaker.
That motor/compressor is housed within a heavy-duty powder coated 11"-long by 8-1/2"-deep steel case. Besides being right for the job, this unit eliminates having to buy a pricey compressor, making the cost of the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 surprisingly reasonable.
The Fuji Mini-Mite 3 comes with a 25ft hose equipped with heavy-duty fittings, including an air valve with a quick connect coupler for the spray gun. This long, flexible hose provides plenty of freedom for working around projects large and small.
Fuji also offers a 6ft whip Hose (used in this review) as an accessory. This hose obviously gives a bit more reach but also cools the compressed air before it reaches the gun by another 15 degrees F. This additional cooling can be especially useful with fast drying lacquers and latex paints. The reduced temperature helps keep these finish types from drying too quickly
The Fuji Mini-Mite 3 comes with a high-quality spray gun that features a forged, CNC (computer numerically controlled) machined body. The gun even has an insulated, ergonomically-designed handle that is comfortable to the hand and resists the heat buildup experienced with metal handles.
All of the fluid parts are made from 100% stainless steel or aluminum so the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 can be used with water-based materials. The Fuji Mini-Mite 3 will spray virtually any finish material that is thinned properly. Fuji also added a non-bleed trigger valve that stops airflow entirely when the trigger is released. This prevents blowing dust and debris around the shop and no doubt into the fresh paint or finish...
The Fuji Mini-Mite 3 uses a finely machined air cap that makes this gun extremely versatile. The air cap rests on a spring-loaded indexing ring that lets the operator chose fan spray patterns on either horizontal or vertical planes. Index the air cap at 45-degrees and it produces a circular fan pattern.
The Fuji Mini-Mite 3 comes with a #4 medium output (1.4mm, 0.055") air cap set that is compatible with a wide range of materials including automotive enamels, nitrocellulose lacquer and latex paints as well as most stains and clear coat materials. Fuji also offers #3 (1mm, 0.039"), #5 (1.8mm, 0.070") and #6 (2.2mm, 0.086") air cap sets as accessories for more specialized jobs.
Included in the kit is an air control valve that lets you fine tune the air delivered to the gun. This additional valve gives you lots of control over the amount of material as well as the size of the droplets being sprayed. This valve also allows you to keep bounceback and overspray to the absolute minimum for the material being sprayed.
The Fuji Mini-Mite 3 uses an all aluminum paint cup that attaches to the gun with a lever-operated lock that insures an airtight seal at the gasket. The cup is fed a metered amount of pressure to insure even material delivery to the spray nozzle. A small clear plastic tube fitted with a one way check valve supplies the pressurized air and prevents the finish material from backing up into the air hose.
A shield on the fluid tube within the material cup helps keep the air passages free from finish material if the gun is tipped well beyond horizontal. At the end of the feed tube is a fine mesh strainer that prevents particles from entering the gun and clogging the nozzle.
In the Shop
Assembling the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 is as simple as it gets. Install the hose, air valve, plug the cord in and you are ready to start mixing paint. I had the extra "chore" of adding the 6-ft whip hose, which extended the setup process by about a minute, including a short break.
The first thing I did was try spraying oil/solvent-based finishes and as you might expect, that is a no-brainer with the Fuji Mini-Mite 3. I decided that the bulk of my testing would be with water-based materials that gave me fits with sprayers in the past. I soon discovered that the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 is just as happy with these often-touchy finish materials. I was rapidly beginning to look like some kind of pro finisher type person.
I used the 4H air cap that comes with the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 for all of our testing. Fuji has a full range of air caps for various materials and jobs but the standard 4H seems to work well for everything I would use in my home shop. Thin the material being used according to the guidelines in the manual, using the included viscosity cup and everything goes well. You will have to fine tune the thinning for your favorite materials but the guidelines will get you very close.
The air cap and its indexed positions make applying finishes into corners easy. Turn the air cap to the 45-degree detent and it shoots a controlled circular pattern. After coating out the corners, turn the air cap horizontal and it shoots a vertical fan pattern that covers large areas quickly but with lots of control. Between the air cap, the variable trigger and the air valve, you more or less have to try to make runs. It can be done but it's all your fault.
The HVLP part is remarkable as well. I did take the time to cover all of my machines in the two car garage shop before testing the Fuji Mini-Mite 3. I still think that is a smart practice but after doing all of the spraying for the testing and video, there was virtually no overspray or paint dust to be found around the shop. Keep in mind that the overspray that is visible in the video (white primer no less) is ultra highlighted by our studio lights and the intentionally dark backdrop. Look closely and you can see that the overspray simply drops out of the air rather than floating around the shop.
The Fuji Mini-Mite 3 makes applying virtually all common finish materials used in woodworking simple. It is fast, easy and achieving a pro-looking finish much easier than you might expect. It also takes nearly all of the hassle out of applying stains or topcoats to profiled surfaces like moldings and raised panels.
The high-end materials and workmanship used throughout the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 make the street price of $479.00 (3-3-2009) much easier to take. Keep in mind that the price includes the built-in turbine compressor so you are lacking only the finish material to get started.
Fuji also offers 2 'quiet' models: the Q3 PRO and Q4 PRO. These are also turbines but produce less than 1/2 the noise of the Mini-Mite Series. If noise in the workplace is an issue, these machines could offer an effective solution.
If you have been considering a HVLP spray outfit or have been throwing brushes and rollers around, check out the Fuji Mini-Mite 3 today! Life in your finishing room/area could be way more fun (and effective) because of it.
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