Every Painter needs a good “Rock Rig”
While high volume pumps are still all the rage in airless spraying, the middle weight .5 gpm class of skid style pumps will always have a place in the painter arsenal. In fact, .5-ers, whether blue or red in color, may well be the most commonly hauled out by paint contractors on drywall spray day. And word has it, they are pretty popular in running around exterior spray applications as well. In airless spraying, while size is for the most part a matter of preference, most professional painters will agree that in production applications where new drywall is to be finished, dry rolling (with no sprayer at all) just doesn’t compare.
The .5 gpm class is popular because it is simple but beefy technology. Simple in the sense that its just a little piston pump mounted on a skid frame, but beefy because it will just sit there and pump all day long. Graco, in fact, claims that the 395 Ultra is their most popular small electric pump.
How the 395 Ultra Compares
The .5 gpm pumps are well suited to production style spraying of raw drywall in new construction and remodeling settings. The flow rate is a good match for the pace at which a sprayer operator wants to run, hour after hour, keeping in mind that another painter should be following with an 18″ roller, backrolling everything that is sprayed, for ideal results. Larger pumps are great for coatings of more viscosity than drywall primer, but when you jump out of the .5 gpm class, prices escalate rather quickly. By escalate, we mean: “double and sometimes triple”in order to get up to a .80 or .95 class pump. It’s overkill for most typical airless spraying tasks.
That said, we won’t focus on the virtue of size, but rather, how the 395 Ultra ranks “in class”. The only real comparison in the .5 gpm class is the legendary Titan 440. Our company has run Titan 440’s for many years. We have several of them, and they have always been a good baseline when thinking of airless spraying on drywall. That’s the cool thing about the .5 gpm class…very low maintenance and all about production. The 395 and the 440 are both 3300 psi max pumps. So, using the 440 as the obvious frame of comparison, here’s how the Ultra 395 weighs in, in this class.
Weight – The first thing we noticed was that for such a small pump, the 395 Ultra feels heavy. The tale of the scale puts the 395 Ultra at 42 pounds, which is a few pounds heavier than it’s Titan counterpart. This bears no real impact on performance, other than it’s just a little heavier than you might be used to when lugging it up stairs. That said, the 395 Ultra is not on a traditional skid style frame. It has 4 actual feet that plant it pretty well where ever you place it. For better or worse, it does not slide around. There is no amount of vibration that is going to move it out of position, and there is absolutely no slide or tip over hazard.
Sensory Experience – In the .5 gpm class, the sound factor weighs heavily. Because this size of pump works pretty hard, the piston inside cycles more frequently than on larger pumps, which is the bulk of the noise you hear coming from the pump. One complaint we have always had about the 440 pumps is that they are screamers. The 395, while in the same power class, is significantly quieter by comparison. Not that it doesn’t work just as hard, or cycle as frequently, it is more the “tone” of the noise that is less obnxious, hour after hour.
Hose Tension – When airless spraying on any type of scale, the technician begins to feel like much of his or her day is spent wrestling with a pressurized hose. Hose tension, the “feel” of the hose, is a consideration. Pressurized hoses are inherently hard to manage, but it seems that Graco has hit on something with 1/4″x50′ Bluemax II hose. Very manageable when “under the gun”, which translates to less user fatigue from having to control a pulsing hose.
The Gun – The 395 Ultra comes with the classic Graco Contractor gun. For those of you who, like us, grew up on the old Titan LX-80’s, the Graco Contractor gun is very similar in practice. If you come from a more sophisticated gun background, such as the G40 or G15 style of guns, the Contractor series will seem bulky, heavy, almost barbaric. These are great qualities in what is, to many, a drywall shooter. This gun will not very often be fired up in the spray shop for cabinet grade work, but it can be dropped off ladders and staging on the jobsite all day long and stay true. Equipped with the RAC X switch tip and guard combo, the pump produces a smooth, even fan with no spits, clogs or issues. The two finger trigger has nice action. Again, simple, low maintenance.
The Price Factor – A quick Amazon check reveals that the Ultra 395 can be had for about a grand. This put it literally within dollars of the Titan 440 Impact, its most notable counterpart. So, in class, it is priced well. By comparison with other classes, we have seen larger airless pumps, outside of the .5 gpm class, that can quickly escalate to the $2-3k price range. They are amazing pumps, but for those who are looking more middleweight class, entry level ease of use, but uncompromising production, the .5-ers are still tough to beat on a dollar for dollar basis.
And the Graco 395 Ultra is a fine example of what that class has to offer: simple plug and play, and spray all day. Every day.