For a couple of years now, y’all have heard me sing the praises of my Critter Siphon Gun paint sprayer (which you can find on Amazon by clicking right here) for projects like painting furniture and kitchen cabinets, right? Well, today I have visual aids to show you just how good this little siphon gun is.
This little paint sprayer doesn’t look like much, but I absolutely love it.
It isn’t meant for painting walls, the exterior of your home, or any other large, flat surfaces. But for smaller projects like furniture and cabinets, I personally think it’s unbeatable. You have to have an air compressor to use it, so if you have one, you’re in business.
A couple of weeks ago when I started painting my kitchen cabinets, I couldn’t find my Critter sprayer. Ever since I cleared out all of the rooms in order to refinish my hardwood floors, things have been a bit lost and jumbled.
“No problem,” I thought to myself. “I have another sprayer I can use!”
Remember last year when I painted my living room and entryway with all of that trim on the walls? Painting all of that with a brush was going to take forever, so I went out and purchased the Wagner Flexio 590 to make quick work of painting those walls and all of that trim. Well, that paint sprayer comes with a detail finish nozzle that is described as “ideal for small projects and fine finishing.”
So I got it out, put the detail finish nozzle on it, filled up the cup with paint, and got busy on my cabinets doors.
Well, thank goodness I was painting the backs of the doors that day, because the finish was not good. Not good at all. That so-called detail finish nozzle that’s ideal for fine finishing left a rough, bumpy mess on the backs of my cabinet doors.
There was no way I could use that on the front of my cabinet doors, but I couldn’t find my Critter anywhere. So I ordered another one. And it was totally worth the extra money and the added wait time. The difference between the two finishes is remarkable.
I’ve been recommending the Critter Siphon Gun for a while now, and I’ve had many people tell me over the last couple of years that they’ve purchased this sprayer based on my recommendation. Most people love it, but I’ve had about five people tell me that they just couldn’t get it to work right.
So if you’re one of those people, or if you’re wanting to purchase a sprayer, here are my recommendations for getting a beautiful finish with this Critter.
Do all of your prep work first.
In other words, do all of your sanding, priming, caulking, etc., on all of the doors and have them paint-ready BEFORE you even get the Critter out of the box. Don’t fill up the jar with paint until you’re actually ready to spray. Don’t work on one door at a time, where you pick up one door, spend 5-7 minutes sanding, another minute brushing off all of the dust, and then paint. Grab another door, spend another 5-7 minutes sanding, another minute brushing off the dust, and then paint.
Nope. You want all of your doors (or project pieces) paint-ready when you fill up that jar with paint so that there will be no stopping between doors. The longer you have to stop and wait between doors, the more likely it is that paint will start drying in the nozzle, the straw, or even in the jar, and that can clog the sprayer.
Strain the paint as you pour it into the jar.
I really cannot stress this enough. Strain anything and everything as you pour it into the jar. It doesn’t matter if it’s latex paint, oil-based paint, primer, oil-based polyurethane, water-based polyurethane or anything else. Don’t put anything into that jar that hasn’t gone through a strainer first. Let me say it again…
Don’t put anything into that jar that hasn’t gone through a strainer first.
DO NOT put anything into that jar that hasn’t gone through a strainer first!!
Just keep in mind that the sprayer is made to spray a very fine mist, which means that all of the parts are small — the straw is very small diameter, the nozzle is tiny, etc. Any little clump will stop up the nozzle. But if you strain everything as you pour it into the cup, it will work beautifully. I purchase paper cone strainers in packages of four at Home Depot in the paint sprayer section.
Put a pin in it.
Don’t leave the sprayer full of paint just sitting around for more than a few minutes. If you need to take a phone call, take a Facebook break, or stop for a quick lunch, stick a straight pin (the kind with the little yellow ball on the end) into the top of the nozzle to keep air air out and keep the paint from drying in there. If you don’t have a straight pin, wrap a small piece of plastic wrap around the nozzle.
But don’t do the straight pin/plastic wrap thing if you’re through painting for the day and plan to come back to it the next day. If that’s the case, the absolute best thing to do is to empty and clean the sprayer completely. Pour any leftover paint back into your paint can, and restrain the paint the next day. The next best thing to do is to put a lid on the mason jar (yes, this sprayer uses pint-size mason jars) and wash the nozzle really well. This second option isn’t always guaranteed to work, especially if the paint isn’t completely filling the jar. If there’s any air in the jar while it’s stored, there’s always a chance that you’ll come back to a clump or two. And it only takes a tiny little clump to clog that little straw or the tiny nozzle.
Set your air compressor and sprayer correctly.
I know. That seems obvious. But I think one of the biggest frustrations with this siphon gun is that you have to kind of test out different settings not only on your air compressor, but also on the nozzle of the spray gun itself, to find that “sweet spot” where everything works beautifully together. That testing and trial and error the very first time I used my gun made me think the thing was broken. Or just a cheap piece of junk. But once I found that “sweet spot” on the compressor setting and the nozzle setting, it worked amazingly well.
I can’t guarantee that your settings will need to be exactly like mine, but on my Porter Cable 6-gallon pancake compressor, I keep the tank pressure at about 120-140, and the regulator pressure (i.e., the pressure in the air hose going to the tool) at 90.
At that air pressure, the “sweet spot” on the spray nozzle looks like this…
The vertical nozzle is where the paint sprays out, and the horizontal nozzle is where the air comes out. You can see that the paint nozzle is very close to the top of the hole on the air nozzle. Yours might need a slightly different setting, but this is a good place to start.
You can also get a scrap piece of cardboard or wood, and pull the trigger to spray the paint as you use your other hand to adjust the paint nozzle up and down. Adjusting the nozzle while spraying is the best way to find that perfect setting, but just don’t spray your doors (or other project) while adjusting the nozzle.
Empty your air compressor completely after each use.
Air compressors shouldn’t be stored with air in them. Doing so can cause condensation to build up in the compressor, and can actually cause rust to form inside. After each use, empty the air, and then loosen the nozzle on the bottom that allows every little bit of air (as well as any built-up condensation) to escape. Store the compressor with that nozzle open between uses.
If condensation builds up in your compressor, that moisture can spray out through the air hose, mix with the paint and cause big droplets of watered down paint to land on your doors. If you take care of your compressor (i.e., empty it after every use), that shouldn’t happen. If it does happen, you just need to stop painting and take a few minutes to empty the compressor completely. Open the nozzle on bottom of the air compressor tank to be sure there’s no condensation left in the compressor. Then refill the compressor and start painting again. Spray the paint onto a scrap for about a full minute to be sure all of the condensation is out of the air hose before you resume painting your cabinet doors.
Spray close to your doors.
The Critter sprays a very fine mist of paint, so the further you make those tiny specks of paint travel through the air before hitting your doors, the more likely it is that they’ll start drying mid-air, hit your project partially dry, and leave a bumpy, rough finish.
Don’t make the paint work so hard! Spray close to the doors so that the paint actually arrives at its destination in its liquid state and can do all of its drying after it hits the doors. But if you hold it too close, and you’ll get puddles and runs. 😀 I know, it can be confusing. It just takes a bit of practice. When spraying paints, I hold the nozzle about 5-7 inches from the cabinet doors as I spray them (about 10 inches for polyurethanes since they’re thinner and can puddle/run easier), and I always spray the doors while they’re lying horizontally.
You also want to avoid spraying on windy days for the same reason — you’ll lose half of your paint to the wind, and you risk the other half partially drying mid-air before hitting your cabinet doors.
So those are my tips for getting the best out of this little paint sprayer that packs a big punch. The Critter Siphon Gun is definitely my favorite paint sprayer for cabinets, furniture, and other small projects, and if you take the time to find those perfect settings and implement the tips I’ve learned over the last couple of years and shared here, I think you’ll love it, too! You can click rigth here to find it right here on Amazon.
I’ve used it to spray latex paint, oil-based paint, oil-based primer, oil-based polyurethane, and water-based polyurethane. It works wonderfully with all of those. Of those products, the only one I had to thin down was the oil-based primer. With everything else, I pour it straight from the can, through the paint strainer, into the jar, and I’m ready to go! But it’s also perfectly fine to add a little Floetrol (for latex paint) or Penetrol (for oil-based paint) if you want to. Just keep in mind that you might not need much at all, and the addition of those might require changes in your compressor and/or nozzle settings.
If you’re not quite ready for a sprayer, and just want to stick with painting with a brush, be sure to check out my tips for getting a near-perfect finish with a paint brush…