Painting; There’s more to it than watching it dry

The Abridged History of Spray Guns

Special thanks to Doug Edwards for his professional consultant.

Using air pressure to apply paint is a relatively new technique in some ways. Paint was applied, by hand, with a brush until around the late 1800s.

Joseph Binks was the maintenance supervisor for Marshall Fields in 1887. All the sub basements of the Chicago based store were in need of paint. Joseph invented a faster way completing the work in record time. The tool created was something we are familiar with and still use today, a garden sprayer!

In 1893 the new spray system was expanded during the Columbian Expedition held in Chicago. The buildings were still in need of paint and time was running short. The paint applicator came to the rescue and the world’s fair scale show was painted white. Hence the name for the exhibits being “White City”

In 1888 a Doctor, in Toledo OH, was dealing with how to treat a sore throat. Dr Allan DeVillbiss was seeking a way to medicate the inflicted area directly. Swallowing the medicine didn’t allow it to keep contact long enough. The doctor designed a spray device that would be the predecessor of what we know of as a suction spray gun.

What’s interesting to note is Dr DeVillbiss used cocaine in his medicine. I learned in my research this won’t be the only item that questions legality in our modern thinking.

The doctor’s son Thomas expanded on the invention in 1907 creating the first handheld spray gun which features spraying atomized material in a controlled pattern. This tool, seeing improvement through the years, was the standard for some time until it became environmentally illegal.

Siphon style spray gun. This tool was professionally phased out due to the higher air pressure needed during application.

Gravity fed canisters “HVLP” became the norm around 2000. The higher volume low pressure is much more environmentally friendly

Gravity feed style ~ this is the current style used

Assembly lines could manufacture quickly, but the painting was very time consuming. Every thing was painted by brush until 1924. Color changing, for the air tool, didn’t become easier until the 1930s. Its understandable that Henry Ford made every color for his model T available….as long as it was black.

The consumer didn’t have the convenience running to the hardware store for spray paint until the early 50s. Edward Seymour developed the first aerosol paint can, in 1949 at his wife Bonnie’s suggestion. The Sycamore, IL. inventor was awarded the patent in 1951.

Powder coating, a method using electricity, came about in in the 60s. This style, of painting really didn’t catch on until the 80s.

The spray applicator
The tools needed for powder coating. The canister holds the dry plastic coating

During what is deemed hot coat painting. The item is preheated to a temperature of 400°. Heating the painted surface is the only basic difference between “hot” and “cold” coating

The containment booth. The rod is not only a convenient hanging point. It is also grounded

A dry powder pigment is then magnetically applied on the item in a contained booth. The hanging rod in the booth is also grounded helping the paint to cling. Once the paint powder is applied, the item returns to the oven to be “baked” at 500°

The oven is a principle part of powder coating

As my subtitle heading suggests, this is only an abridged history. There is much more technical data that I have quickly glossed over. My next feature on this topic will discuss how paint came about and the history.

The final feature will be a video interview with Doug Edwards. We will discuss his insights on the subject. For those that don’t know, Doug is a professional painter, specializing in antique tractors.

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