Now that we've been at this whole DIY renovation game for quite some time, there tends to be less and less that intimidates us. Early on I remember the fear I felt when turning a circuit breaker back on after simply swapping a single duplex outlet. Today I feel like I can pretty much do that in my sleep, no concern that our entire house will burst into a ball of flames from some errantly placed wires.

Experience, and as I said last week, perspective, have helped to build a solid foundation that typically results in far less concern for failure, and far more attention to doing the job well. However, at certain times in a project when tackling something truly new, that creeping feeling of self-doubt brought by the Doubt Gnome inevitably shows his ugly face and tries to undercut our overall progress with words of de-motivational catastrophe.

The Doubt Gnome spends the majority of his time on the toilet.

Our vanity work has been progressing nicely, and though the work I've been doing to sure up the piece's stability was "new" work, it was still a collection of woodworking techniques with which I was comfortable. But as I completed this work, the little Doubt Gnome began to creep into the picture, dropping nuggets like, "You know, if you're painting this piece and it turns out streaky, all of your effort will be for naught and it will ruin the whole thing. The last person I know who failed at this task is now living in that piece of streakily painted furniture somewhere under a bridge, too embarrassed to even show their face. Have a nice day!" 

The Doubt Gnome is actually a real jerk and provides untrue anecdotes to support his fear mongering, then tends to end his depressing words with an upbeat closing. I really hate that guy.

The Gnome was preying on my inexperience when it comes to paint sprayers. He knew that I had never used one, that I barely had a clue how they worked, and that I've had a High Velocity/Low Pressure (HVLP) sprayer sitting in our basement for over a year, received as a Christmas gift for this very task, a bit significantly prematurely. He also knew I was as intimidated as I could be and I didn't want to ruin the vanity we'd worked so hard on. At the same time, I didn't want to somehow screw up and ruin the paint gun. I didn't want to waste the paint and primer that has gotten exponentially expensive over the years. And I had an overwhelming fear that the spray gun was going to somehow end up like a giant out of control snake, wildly whipping around the room, knocking me unconscious, proceeding to cover the entire bathroom with streaks of paint while I lay motionless on the floor. Hey, it could happen, right?

"Right!" said the Doubt Gnome. 

Undeterred by the jerk Gnome's taunting and tales of failure, I pressed on and hoped to prove his words invalid, as all gnome's words often are. (Fact: Most gnomes tell lies.)

I broke the HVLP sprayer out of its box, attached my inline filter and pressure regulator, grabbed my compressor, and all of the various supplies I'd need for the project. Then I set up everything I planned on painting in front of a large sheet of plastic to prevent overspray from affecting the surrounding area. The Doubt Gnome didn't say a thing about overspray, in hopes that I wouldn't know about it and ruin other things.

My first step was to thin the primer a bit. Since we are using latex primer and paint, we can use water or a latex thinning product to thin the paint. I'll likely use the product for the top-coats of paint, but the primer isn't quite a bothersome, so I opted to simply use water. I mixed in a little water with the remaining primer I had in the can and stirred until the consistency was substantially looser. 

The idea behind thinning the paint is simple. The HVLP sprayers need to be able to take the paint from the cup and break it into tiny droplets that then spray onto the item you're painting. Millions of little droplets then combine on the surface to form your paint color. When the paint is too thick the sprayer can't effectively break the paint up, so you end up with either no paint being sprayer, or worse, large drops being flung onto the surface of your beautifully prepared work. This makes you sad, but it makes the Doubt Gnome happy...and smug.

As I said, my liquid addition on the primer was very inexact, but I should have been using a viscosity cup to measure the viscosity of the paint with added thinner. I'll definitely do that on the top coat.

Once mixed up, I shoved the Doubt Gnome from my psyche and began straining the paint into the gun's cup.

The other caveat with this project is that my small pancake compressor is drastically undersized for painting. The little six gallon tank can't hold nearly the air necessary to effectively paint with an HVLP sprayer. I didn't realize this immediately, but that Damn Gnome knew, and I suspect he didn't tell me as he wanted me to fail.

Before I started painting, I made a quick trip to YouTube. I did a search for HVLP painting basics, and a few related items, and I quickly found a treasure trove of instructional videos that showed how to properly prepare the gun for use. I adjusted all of the knobs, got myself into a ready position, put on my mask and glasses to protect against that whole being knocked unconscious fear...

...And I started painting!  

There it was, it was going! The paint was coming out of the gun and onto the vanity, and it was not immediately turning into a wretched disaster! Suck it, you damn Doubt Gnome!

The key to my painting success had a lot to do with the videos I watched. One, in particular, told me to adjust the flow control knob until the paint being sprayed was more of a "bullseye" than something oval. This made a tremendous difference in getting full a complete coverage.

Since my compressor is undersized, the motor to refill the tank ended up running often and loud. I also had to periodically pause while painting to allow enough pressure to build up in the tank to sustain a good flow of paint. If the pressure gets too low, the paint stops atomizing and just starts spitting in drops. This is what the Gnome hoped for, as it would ultimately ruin the finish. Our hope was to achieve a perfectly smooth coat of paint, not one with sprayed drops all over the place.

I continued painting the vanity in a methodical manner, trying to achieve thin and even coats. Each coat took about an hour of spraying to get good coverage, and about an hour of dry time before I could begin the next coat. 

In total, I ended up doing about three coats of the primer before I had the look I wanted, the smoothness I was trying to achieve, the experience in my back pocket to feel more confident going forward, and the ammunition necessary to tell the Doubt Gnome to shove it and find someone else to bother. 

With a tip of his pointy cap, the Doubt Gnome said "Good day, fine sir, I bid you adieu. But you can bet your ass I'll be back here when it comes time to install the marble top. You may have succeeded in this round, but I'm rather sure you'll be a blubbering mess when it comes time to perform that task, and I want a front row seat."

Now that our primer is applied to the carcass, I'm excited to apply the top coat. I'll also need to prime and paint the drawers and doors, but that will be after I make the necessary modifications. Until then, I can check another skill off of the list of "things I need more confidence in doing," and focus on the more important stuff, like convincing Wendy that we need a new 20+ gallon compressor so I can paint all of the things!

Have you had any recent visits form the Doubt Gnome? Have any tips on how to give him a good swift kick to the curb? Sometimes he likes to poke his head in at the most inopportune times and we all need a good idea or two to keep him away.

By the way, I have to share a look at Wendy's face while she was reading and editing the post this morning. In her words, "It's official. You're eff-ing nuts." Happy Birthday, Sweetie. I'm glad I can provide comic relief and an outlet for you to use your most favorite adjective on a regular basis.

Comments 5


5/3/2014 at 6:59 AM

LOL - I love how you both describe your relationship in these posts. Great fun post, but I'm team Wendy when it comes to a good adjective! Cheers

5/3/2014 at 7:46 AM

The vanity is going to look amazing! So glad you were able to overcome the Doubt GnomeAlt smile

Happy birthday to Wendy!

5/4/2014 at 5:56 PM

Y'alll are effing hystericalAlt smile

5/6/2014 at 10:02 AM

Looking great!!!

5/7/2014 at 2:57 PM

Hey Alex, just a few quick comments.

The paint or lacquer you're spraying often needs to be quite thin and liquidy to get good atomization without speckles. Generally it should be about as thin as 10% cream, maybe just a touch thicker.

The other comment I wanted to make was that I didn't know you were planning to spray this piece. You had said you were painting it white, and I had just assumed you were going to do it with hand-brushed oil paint. If I had known this sooner, I would have STRONGLY suggested that you use opaque white lacquer on it. It's basically just a nice lacquer with tons of white pigment in it, and once it dries (1 sealer and 2 topcoats) it's like a nice smooth melamine-type feel. We used this all the time on our custom kitchens over MDF (doors, mouldings, etc) and paint-grade poplar.

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