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Newsletter #168


I can’t believe it. Apollo Sprayers is Celebrating 50 years.

 And I’ve been here for 33 of  those years!!!

       Greetings from Bill Boxer, Senior VP Apollo Sprayers

We have come a long way in 50 years.

 At Apollo we have seen changes in the  world as  well as changes in spray  finishing  technology. This advertisement is a  perfect example of  the changes in  both. Not only can  you spray a fine coat, but  the finisher can wear a fine  fur. Our lovely finisher reminds me  of a Bond Girl.


My first sprayer was a model 500, a single stage, with a big  clunky ASG 100 gun. I sprayed  thinned down nitrocellulose lacquer and my finishes were terrific. HVLP opened new  opportunities for me in my piano restoration business.

Now I use a Precision 5 and I have access to almost any product and my finishes are still  terrific.

50 years ago I didn’t have a computer, GPS, cell phone, cable TV, digital camera or organic food. I also didn’t have waterborne coatings, new coatings being formulated every day, restrictions on VOCs, the ability of every finisher to produce a perfect finish.


In recognition of our 50th Birthday we have declared
2016 Our Year of Monthly Celebration Specials.
Here’s our January Special.

Buy an ECO-3 or ECO-5 System. We include a Blow-Off Tool & a #2 Zahn Viscosity Cup, a $58.90 value.    

So stay tuned for more innovations in the world and in our world of finishing.

Finishing Feature Article by Scott Burt   

Finding Your Spray Comfort Zone

It’s human nature, we all do it. We have a project going – whether it’s a piece we are building or a piece we are refinishing – and there is a whole bunch of time and energy in the rough stages of the project. We keep carving on it until it takes the form we had in mind. Most of the enthusiasm and excitement is used up at the front end of the project. We do wood projects because we enjoy it. Whether it is our hobby or our job, our passion for it can be a two edged sword.

By the time we get to the end of the build or restore phase, we then realize that it is time to finish. In my shop, nothing is ever really “done”. There is always more that I feel I could do with any project, but there comes a point where it needs to be done. We always have to draw the line. There is more joy in the creation process than in the finished product presentation stage. The project is always intended for someone, for some purpose. There is insecurity and sadness about letting it go. And there is always that one last hurdle we have to clear.

Finish Time

There are two simple components here: product and process. Product itself can be a boondoggle. For me, on wood projects, it is usually clear finish. I keep 2-3 clear finishes in my shop inventory, and I get to know them well. And process, or delivery method, is most often going to be spraying. When projects are small, it is always HVLP.

Even though I am a frequent flyer in the spray zone, there is always a stress about it because finishing is a commitment…there is an implied finality about it. When finished, I am basically saying: “this is what I produced”. And I always know it could be better, which is what keeps me coming back. I rarely hit my own standard perfectly.

So, how do we build confidence in that final stressful phase of projects? I learned early on in my woodworking adventures that when I am in “process” phase, there is not much pressure. Anything can be changed or fixed during creation. That is comfortable. Finish stage is different because that is where we “lock in” the creation. In my head, I am always nervous that I could ruin it all in minutes during finish. That is uncomfortable.

Tricking Ourselves into Success Emotional detachment is not easy when you are passionate about your craft. I’ve had to make finishing more clinical by spreading out the experience of product and process. In other words, to make it more a part of my life than just what happens at the end of a project on spray day. I now look at spraying as just another activity that I do. Like snowshoeing or bike riding. Every activity comes with its specific gear. All gear has an intended use. If I only wear my hiking boots on the days that I hike, I will get blisters.

In HVLP spraying, the gear is a gun, a cup or pot with product inside and air behind it all to make it go. Coming from a larger scale airless spraying background, HVLP guns at first freaked me out – a series of aircraft quality precision parts and pieces that looked too tweaky and fine for me. As my 9 year old son would say, it didn’t appear to fit my personality. The set up and breakdown alone intimidated me. Until I did it a hundred times. And not on a hundred projects. I learned to play with the gear, rather than work. I’d go out to the shop on a Saturday morning and run water through it to get my hands and head into the system.

Water is similar viscosity to a lot of the fine finishing products I use. After spraying a cup on cardboard, I’d break it all down and do a mock clean up – until I could do it in 5 minutes without thinking about it – visualizing a low impact walk always with an imaginary wet project on the bench. It became just another set of habits that go into an activity, and the experience can only be enjoyable for me when I like the results.

My advice to all who seek a more fun comfort zone for spraying is to do it more, and not on projects. Activities require practice to build experience, and spraying is no exception. Spray a bunch of things that don’t matter before you spray one thing that does. We learn when we play in spray. Find yourself some time to play in 2016

Apollo and the Beginning of HVLP,

or How a Small Company in California Changed Finishing, by Bill Boxer

We are proud to say that Apollo Sprayers is really responsible for bringing HVLP technology to finishers.

Before we came along spray finishing was done using high pressure air produced by an air compressor. The compressed air went through the gun, picked up the liquid, broke it down in particles that exited the gun as a fine spray. The problem was the bounce back, which wastes much of the material as well as escaping into the air. Solvents were now causing air pollution and high pressure spray guns were making it worse.

The Los Angeles area has always been the leader in solving the causes of air pollution.  South Coast Air Quality Management District or SCAQMD was formed to try and find solutions.

In 1966 Apollo Sprayers was founded in England. In 1982 John B. Darroch opened an office in Costa Mesa, CA.




  John and Apollo700s, named for the Space Capsule

In 1984 John brilliantly submitted independent laboratory tests to SCAQMD demonstrating that Apollo’s turbine system could produce over 80 percent transfer efficiency, which meant that 80% of the coating stayed on the work surface. Far less solvent blew out into the atmosphere. SCAQMD called it High Volume Low Pressure or HVLP.

Soon California required transfer efficiency to be 65% or more. Other towns and cities followed suit.

Over the years coatings became more viscous and Apollo Sprayers anticipated the changes. Turbines became more powerful. Guns became lighter and used stainless steel. More and more industries awakened to HVLP. And the competition entered the field.

Competition worked well for us. Each of our innovations was quickly copied. We took that as a form of praise, worked harder, and we are proud of our high quality machines, built in the USA and sold all over the world We export to companies in China, Egypt, India, Columbia, Russia, Israel, the Netherlands, Egypt and more.

It’s been a great time for us. So Happy 50th to us and wishing everyone Happy New Year.

Our January Special includes a #2 Zahn Viscosity Cup.

Here’s a reminder of its usefulness and how easy it is to use it.

Using a Viscosity Cup 

Finishes vary in viscosity (thickness in liquid form) depending on their type and formulation, and especially in temperature differences. The viscosity is thicker when the finish is cold and thinner when the finish is warm.

To measure viscosity dip a viscosity cup into a finish so the cup is full. Then lift the cup out of the finish and begin timing the drainage with a stopwatch. When the stream breaks, indicating that the cup is empty, stop the timer. The number of seconds is the measure of the viscosity.

There are many types of viscosity cups. Some are quite expensive. The most common cups used in finishing are the Ford #4 and the Zahn #2. You can go online and find conversion tables.

Finish manufacturers sometimes tell you the viscosity at which their finish should be sprayed for best results. But these numbers to be more than just general guidelines because the type of gun, air pressure and whether you’re using an air compressor or turbine, all make a difference.

Viscosity cups are more helpful for dealing with temperature differences. If you determine that you get good results (usually meaning minimal orange peel) at a certain temperature and number of seconds drainage through a viscosity cup, it’s easy to check against this when the temperature is different. You’ll know if you need to add thinner or increase or decrease air pressure.

Take a Break and Have Some Fun!

See how many words you can find. Look for words horizontally and vertically. You can print this page, including the puzzle, work offline and then highlight words as you find them.



 20 of 20 words hidden in the puzzle