Exterior-grade electrical box as project enclosure

The quest for a project box is always a balance between cost, complexity, and style. We think [Pcmofo] really finds the mark with his exterior electrical box enclosures. He took the time to document his fabrication process for those that want to replicate his look.

These grey plastic boxes are meant to keep the elements away from home and commercial electrical systems. They’re easy to find and come in many different sizes (this one is 8″ square and 4″ deep). The plastic is very rigid, but still easy enough to work with simple tools.

[Pcmofo] starts by eyeballing the placement of his components. Once he has a good idea of where each should be located he grabs a caliper and uses Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape to design a template. This is attached with painter’s tape, and rough openings are made using a drill press. The holes are brought to the final size by hand using files for a nice finished edge. When it comes time to mount hardware, the plastic is strong enough to hold threads if you are careful when using the tap to cut them.

The example enclosure houses a temperature controller for fermenting beer. You can see some video of the enclosure embedded after the break.


  1. If you do this a lot or want to make it easy, get yourself a round hole knockout punch from McMaster-Carr or a similar place. You drill a small pilot hole and then use the knockout to punch out a nice, clean hole. It’s definitely worth the $40-$80 (depending on size). I used to make a lot of small control boxes for chemical metering pumps, and that tool saved me countless hours.

  2. matt says:

    Slow day? Is cutting holes in a plastic box really a hack? It seems kind of pointless to use a IP rated box, if your noting using IP rated sockets.

  3. kuhltwo says:

    I use them also. Not only different sizes and shapes, but you can glue to them as well. I am using an “elbow” box for a relay box that will go on the top of a radio tower.

  4. aztraph says:

    i would like to see it in action, I repair home appliances for a living and there’s a lot of functionality lost by removing the fan. good control hack tho, but he should have left the fan in place and just tapped off of the line in to it. the fan doesn’t draw a lot of current so there’s not much chance to overload the circuit, but his holding tank may not fit with the back panel on, I WANT TO SEE MORE!

  5. JCO says:

    Looks nice!

    Home Depot sells one made of metal 10″ x 10″ x 4″ if you need a little more space.

    I used mine to mount the electronics for my CNC router: http://www.jcopro.net/2011/08/21/how-to-set-up-your-cnc-router-part-2-wiring-and-electronics/

  6. N0LKK says:

    Not all visitors to Hackaday are old hands who already know it all, and positive there’s nothing new they could learn ;) I have no problem with posts as this.

    The Greenlee punches are nice, but something I never felt need to be investing in over the years.

  7. RyanF says:

    Nice work. These plastic boxes are great for projects and I usually keep a few on hand “just in case”. I’ve found the knockout punches dont cut the plastic nicely, and you don’t always get a round hole. Worse yet, if the plastic is cold, it tends to break the enclosure. Best bet is a set of electricians hole saws. Less money than the knockouts and more versatile.

  8. rick says:

    lol i used one of these boxes for my portable solar camping box early this year. they work great, and i used a dremel to cut the holes i needed. idk about the type of plastic the boxes are made of but when you cut into it with a dremel, it all turns into electrostatically charged snow and sticks to everything.

  9. Hackerspacer says:

    Step bits also work nicely for cutting holes like these.

  10. Matt K says:

    I like these boxes a lot. Here’s one housing my smoker controller.

  11. David W says:

    I’ve considered using this type of box for several projects, but the cheapskate in me always refuses. Is there a cheaper source than the ordinary mega home center?

  12. j s says:

    Allied Electronics makes a whole variety of industrial enclosures which don’t cost a whole lot of money.

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