Spraying Glazes: The Equipment
I started ceramics at a community center where you just dipped your pieces and done. When I started to work in my own garage, with my own kiln, I had to change from cone 10 to cone 6. I didn't know what glazes I'd like or how they would react. Not to mention, there are so many colors to choose from! I love color and I wanted to try them all! Buying enough glaze to dip wasn't an option. That's just too darn expensive. What if I didn't like the glaze? I'd still have a ton of glaze to deal with. Well, if I only buy glazes in pint size, I could brush all my glazes. I did that for awhile, but if you are making a fair amount of stuff, brushing gets old fast.
Spraying seemed like a reasonable option. I didn't know much about it. I gotta tell you, it is pretty awesome. I love what I can do and the looks I can get. Hopefully, if you are thinking of trying it, this will help you on your way. First, let's talk about getting equipment.
How do we get the glaze onto the piece? Airbrush? Way too small. Paint gun? Now we're talking. The original purpose of a HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) gun is not to spray glaze. They were designed for painting cars, but they happen to work great for spraying glazes. I was told that the gravity fed guns are the way to go, so that's where I started. The cheapest way to go is Harbor Freight Tools.
I used mine for a couple of years before I decided to upgrade. Unfortunately, the needle started to rust rather early on. You can use 400 grit sandpaper and lightly sand it to remove the rust, but it's kind of a pain to have to do that after every time you spray. I guess if I was more careful about drying it off after I washed it down, it might have helped. I'm pretty lazy, so that means I was sanding a fair amount. I upgraded to a Husky HVLP spray gun from Home Depot. Stainless steel needle. No sanding. Comes with 2 size nozzles, Big and Bigger. lol. 1.4mm and 1.7mm which both spray a lot of glaze quickly. After using the Harbor Freight el cheapo, the Husky was like driving a Porsche. Smooth, nice and lovely. I also got a smaller gun for adding details (it has a 0.7mm). I got it from Harbor Freight Tools as well.
The next major purchase is a compressor. Yes, you can use any shop compressor, but I got to tell you, they are crazy loud. I started spraying outside the garage, with a shop compressor in the garage and heavy duty noise headphones. It was still crazy loud. It was so uncomfortable spraying. With a little research, I found this awesome little compressor. It's almost as loud as a vacuum cleaner. That is way more tolerable. If you're interested, I found a couple of videos of compressors on Youtube so you can hear the difference. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45mfO6FX6hw). This compressor was a total game changer. I can actually listen to music while I'm spraying with my ear buds. It's a bit more expensive than the others, but let me tell you, if you plan on spraying, this is the one. There is a one gallon version, but I got the 4.7 gallon, because occasionally I need to use a nail gun and this one can do it all.
A couple more things you need to get. A hose to connect the compressor to the spray gun. I use a ⅜" one, because it was a hand me down. Finally, you need an adapter for the spray gun. This is a quick release 1/4" NPT Female Plug. They are only a few dollars, so I bought a different one for each gun. I also got one for the end that connects to the compressor.
Finally, a respirator. It's important to protect those pink lungs you have. If you don't have a respirator, a dust mask will work, but I find I can spray a lot more with my respirator on.
Well, that sums up all the equipment I use for spraying. Hope this helps you start spraying!
Left: ¼" NPT Female Plug Right: 3M 2097 Half Mask 6000 Series