Paasche VL Review

Here is another classic airbrush that I have been wanting to look at.  Coast Airbrush sells the brush alone for $46.50, but the set with three sizes of needles and tips and other goodies is just $8.50 more.  So, that's what I decided to get.  Dave Monnig, the owner of Coast, gave me a break on the price, and I really appreciate it.  Dave is a great guy, and his knowledge and enthusiasm for airbrushes is obvious when you talk to him.  Be sure to check out his free videos on the Coast web site. They are well worth watching.

Here is what I got.

Under the hose, are the #1 and #5 tips and heads.

First impressions

I hate to say this, but they were not good.  The finish is nice enough, but when I tried to pull back on the trigger, it was stuck.  So, I removed the handle and loosened the needle chuck.  Now, the trigger moved freely, but the needle was still stuck.  So, I figured I would pull the head off.  But, it was impossible to do with the little wrench provided.  It was frozen.

I propped the brush upside down, put a little lacquer thinner in the paint input port and let it sit for about 15 minutes.  When I came back, I was able to break the needle free with my hand and pull it out the rear.  The head was still stuck.  To get it loose, I clamped the body in my woodworking vice and used a 6 inch Crescent wrench, hoping the nothing would break.  It felt rough coming off, like there was something in the threads.  After some cleaning and lube with Chapstick, it now turns pretty well with some minor rough spots.  There were grooves in the tip from being pressed too hard against the body, as you can see on the right.

I put it back together and found that the needle didn't want to seat all the way forward in the tip.  It went through the needle seal OK, but jammed just before being fully seated.  I have never seen this before.  What I found was that the needle was so off center that it was rubbing on the inside of the tip.  To show what I mean, I inked the front of the body and tip of the needle and pressed them against a piece of paper.  You can see the results on the right.  The needle comes out about two thirds down from the top of the opening.  Now, it is not unusual for a needle to be a little off center.  It doesn't seem to affect the spray pattern much, and it is a difficult tolerance to hold.  But, I have never seen one this far off before.

The three openings at the top are air passages.  Three seem a bit of an overkill to me.  But, what do I know?

I tried the #5 needle, tip and head and got the same results.  So, the problem must be in the body.

So, what to do?  I could probably return it to Coast.  But, instead, I will try contacting Paasche.

I e-mailed Paasche and got a response the next day from Chuck saying to send the brush in and they would replace it.  So, that's what I did.

Exactly 14 days later a package arrived from Paasche.  I thought, great now I can try it out.  When I opened the box and examined the brush I found IT WAS THE EXACT SAME AIRBRUSH.  I recognized it from the mark I made on  the air valve body when I tried to remove it.  And, it had the exact same problems.  They didn't even replace the scarred tip.  Do you think I was unhappy?  I fired off an e-mail to Chuck explaining my displeasure.  The next day I got a response from Chuck.  He said he didn't know how that happened, but he would send me a new airbrush free.  I wrote back and thanked him.  I guess screw-ups can happen anywhere.  True to his word, a new airbrush arrived a few days later, and it looks good.  So, although it cost me a few dollars to ship the bad airbrush, I ended up with a good one and a bunch of spare parts.  By the way, I never told Chuck that I was doing a review.

Here it is

The VL looks very similar to the Badger 175 Crescendo.  Here they are next to one another.

Both have fat bodies, with diameters within a few thousandths of each other.  The needle protecting cap on the VL can be removed, exposing the needle for close work.  The pop-off handle of the 175 might make cleaning of it a tiny bit quicker.  The Paasche cup looks much like a Badger straight cup, and cups and bottles are interchangeable.  The VL is lighter at 88g vs. 96g for the 175.

Parts Breakdown

Here it is disassembled.  The air valve casing is on tight, so I didn't remove it.   It probably never needs to be removed anyway.  The internal parts of the air valve are easy to remove with a small screwdriver, and you can adjust tension by a small amount. 
The needle seal is Teflon, and like others I've seen of this type very sensitive to adjust.  The handle has finer threads than the Badger 175, and takes a few more turns to remove.  The tips measure about 0.5mm, 0.76mm, and 1.0mm, just like the 175.  The head is similar to the 175, with no gaskets.  But, it does require a wrench to tighten.  The trigger assembly is like the Thayer & Chandlers, with the rocker permanently attached to the needle tube.

The needle limiter is clever.  As you can see on the left, there is a little thumb wheel that moves a lever that holds the trigger back.  It seems to be a pretty fine adjustment, and could be useful.  On the right, you can see it disassembled.  These are tiny parts that would be easy to lose and tricky to put back together  You really should never have to take it apart.

The needles aren't like anything I've seen before either.  The main shaft diameter of all three is a large 0.080 inches.  But, the medium and large needles step down to 0.050 inches near the tip.  For some reason, the fine needle doesn't have a step.  Here they are with fine #1 at the top, then medium  #3 in the middle, and heavy #5 at the bottom.  The needles and heads have grooves to identify them.  The tips are unmarked, but you can tell which is which by looking at them.

The medium VL needle has a dual slope taper very much like the Badger 175 needle.  The main taper of the 175 is slightly more acute.  On the right, the VL needle is the top one and below it is the 175 medium.

Because of the slightly different taper, the 175 medium needle extends further past the end of the tip.  On the right, the top needle and tip is the VL, and the lower one the 175 medium.  This results in very different trigger characteristics.  In the VL, the gradual slope lasts for about one quarter of the trigger stroke.  In the 175 this is just reversed, and the gradual slope lasts for about three quarters of the stroke.  The result of this is that the 175 has better trigger control for fine lines.

Notice, the VL tip is already developing a mark where it meets the body.  And, I have not over tightened it.  This might be due to the difference between using a wrench and hand tightening.   Or, it might be that the VL has a sharper edge on the body.

The taper of the VL's #1 needle comes to a sharp point, while the 175 fine needle has a tiny secondary taper on the tip.  They both extend about the same distance.  There is very little difference in trigger sensitivity, although I would give the 175 a slight edge.  On the right, you can see the VL #1 at the top and below, the 175 fine.

Unlike other airbrushes I've seen, the front and back surfaces of the VL trigger are different.  The front is rounded and the back side that rubs on the rocker is flat.  Usually, they are both rounded.  Earlier VL's had a two part trigger, like the Master G-22 and some Iwatas.  This has been changed to the simpler one piece design with an indent on the bottom, similar to the Badgers.  To convert an old brush, you need to change both the trigger and the air valve piston.

Another change to the trigger is that now the top is concave whereas the older version was domed shape with ridges.

One more change from older versions is the head cap.  The head used to be universal for all tip sizes, and the head cap was actually a spray regulator.  As you can see on the right, the head is now marked with 3 stripes and acts as a spray regulator, and the head cap is merely a protective sleeve.  This means that you can spray without it and have full needle exposure.  One complaint I have seen of the older version is that this is not possible.  I suspect this is an upgrade that could be done to older brushes.  You can see pictures of the old parts at

The hose has rubber O-rings at both ends which should result in a good seal.  It also smelled like the inside of a tire store, so it must be rubber.  The Badger braided hose has no smell, and I expect it is some sort of plastic.  The threads at the airbrush end are unique to Paasche.  So, an adapter is needed if you want to use a different hose, or if you want to use the Paasche hose with a different airbrush.

Trying it out

I tried spraying water with the #3 set-up and was having some trouble.  The spray would stop and start as I pulled back on the trigger, and stop completely with the trigger all the way back.  I tried tightening the needle seal a bit, but it didn't help.  I have a piece of bees wax shaped something like a large olive pit, and I twisted it lightly in the body opening where the tip sits.  That fixed it.  There must have been a tiny leak here.  Then, as I do on all my airbrushes, I cut a couple loops off the air valve and trigger springs to lighten the action.

The doodle on the right was done with food coloring on a paper towel.  I used the thumb wheel trigger limiter.  It works really well.  Without it, my lines would not have been as fine or consistent.   I left the head cap off for all 3 doodles so I could get closer. 

The VL #3 uses a bit more air than the 175 medium.  The opening around the tip is larger.

Here are doodles done with the #1 and #5 components.

The #5 is the first 1.0mm tip I have ever used.  It is very sensitive.  When you pull back a little, it will spray a LOT.

I sprayed ModelMaster enamel on some plastic with the  #3 medium needle, and it went on nice and smooth with good control.  The spray pattern was narrow enough that I think you would seldom need to switch to the #1 needle.  And yet, it would cover a pretty large area too.  It was very much like the 175.  The thumb wheel limiter is a nice feature.  Clean up was quick and easy.


Paasche is a fine old company with many fans, and it doesn't feel good to point out defects.  If it had just been a stuck needle, I wouldn't have mentioned it.  And, if the head was tight with no damage to the tip, I probably would have just said the head was tight and needed a wrench, and let it go.   But, the brush was un-useable, and it would have been dishonest of me to ignore it.  The box was factory sealed from a reputable dealer.  I saw Dave take it from a stack of about 10 other boxes.  It may have been the only bad one in the stack.  Indeed, it may be the only bad one Paasche ever shipped for all I know.  But, that's what I got.  Sure, there was a mix-up on the return, but Paasche's response was excellent.

The VL is a good airbrush.  It is comparable to the 175 which is also a good airbrush.  The 175 medium configuration has better fine line control, but the thumb wheel somewhat compensates for this.  I'm not a big fan of fat bodied airbrushes. But, if you prefer a larger airbrush, the VL can certainly do a nice job.

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