Getting Geared Up For Home Powder Coating

[Blondihacks] wanted to do powder coating for a model train without a lot of special equipment. She started with an Eastwood kit that runs about $230. Depending on the options, you can get the gun by itself for between $110 – $170. However, you will need more than just this kit. You can see how [Blondihacks] used the kit in the video below.

The idea behind powder coating is simple: an electrostatic charge attracts a powder — usually some polymer — and makes it stick to an item. Then heat or UV light turns the powder into a hard finish much tougher than paint. Powder coating can be thicker than paint and doesn’t run, either.

The gun requires a small air compressor, and you need an electric oven, which could be a toaster oven. It probably shouldn’t be an oven you plan to use for food. It should also be in a well-ventilated area, plus you’ll want a respirator or dust mask. [Blondhacks] used a portable paint booth so as not to spew powder everywhere, which looked nice, although you could just use a big cardboard box. A custom jig to hang the parts while spraying, and she was ready to go.

If you are on a budget, by the way, you can get a kit from Harbor Freight for a bit less. It probably has fewer accessories, and we don’t know how it compares, but it is an option for much less money. Either way, you need a small air pressure regulator, and you also need a dryer and a filter for the air because you need dry and clean air so as not to contaminate the powder.

The part is grounded, and the gun charges the powder as it sprays. Once coated, you stick the part in the oven for about 20 minutes. The results look good and, compared to a painted part, the coating was super tough. For intricate parts, you can heat the part and then dip it in fluid-like powder. If you prefer to stick to regular powder coating, we have some tips.

17 thoughts on “Getting Geared Up For Home Powder Coating

  1. I have done some home powder coating, until I found a small local powder coating shop who could do it for about the same or less cost than I could. Plus the local ship had the industrial abrasive blasters to corrected prep the part(s) and could paint inside a booth. That said I would suggest that before one buys all the bits needed for powder coating (gun, oven, blasting cabinet) that they check locally for suitable shops, as they could very well find a shop that does this work very reasonably.

    1. Having done powder coating, this is a reasonable treatment. Probably the biggest issue for powder coating is the part size. But for parts that can fit in your oven, it’s a great way to go. Also, you can use a laser to vaporize the powder and create labels or other markings. I made a set of panels for a CNC machine I was building and they came out great. I wrote up my experience here.

      And regarding finding some one that will do it for a reasonable price, it’s good advice but… I went looking for one before diving in and the cheapest that would actually return my calls cost more than the initial set up.

      1. Understood. However, my point was do not always assume that DIY can be done less expensively than other shops. In my City there are the more notable shops and they charge handsomely. In my case I happened to find a small shop and their price was very inexpensive and so I gave them a try and the results were excellent. I used them several more times and again the did excellent work for a very fair price. In one case they actually billed lower than their original quote… but I paid the original quote price. One project (auto restoration) had around 80 pieces ranging in size from small brackets to as large as a drive shaft (well, actually a torque tube) and the total cost averaged $3 per part including sand/glass blasting prep effort. As I said… shop around, as you might be surprised.

        1. Sure shop around. good advise, like I said. But, I did and the results were very disappointing, like I said. Most never returned my calls and the ones that did cost more than the Eastwood power coat kit. I’ve heard people have had good luck with the Harbor Freight one. So, yeah shop around but don’t be surprised if the shops don’t want small jobs.

          1. I have much better luck showing up at a shop with a box of parts, whether its for powdercoating, anodizing, electroplating or whatever. It usually easier for me getting a quote in person, and just leaving them there with instructions to call me when they get to them. This lets them label the material I want coated and set them aside till they get another larger project with the same material. They can usually tell me in advance how long it should be based on their normal scheduling. YMMV

    1. I bought the Harbor Freight powder coating setup nearly 20 years ago, and while I don’t use it super often, it has done me SURPRISINGLY well after a very small learning curve. Biggest item I’ve done to date was a Mazda 1.8L valve cover and that turned out decent. The rest of the smaller parts I’ve made have turned out spectacular for the cost. Most of the “paint” I use is just the HF stock stuff, which is going on 20 years old now.

        1. You can mix powders but it’s not like mixing paint. You can’t get purple by mixing red and blue. You’ll get something unique but you won’t know what it will look like without experimenting.

        2. For sure. The HF kit is pretty solid for the price point, and in my opinion as someone who has only expressly used the HF kit has a leg up on the Eastwood setup by using a foot pedal to energize the electrical charge. For small stuff I never bothered hanging the parts up to spray, just hold in my hand with the ground lead attached to the wire so I can more easily manipulate. It took a little bit of tinkering to get the air and powder flows really dialed to cut down on the overspray and have to constantly remind myself to not get the gun tip too close to the part or you’ll get a spark discharge between them which can impact the powder you’ve already, uhm, attached?

          Never tried to mix colors, but have used powder colors from other sources without issue.

  2. This might sound a bit “hacky” (This is Hackaday, right?), but…
    Several of the guntubers have demonstrated an extremely simple method of using laser print toner and a plastic bucket with airsoft BBs (to give you static charged powder) and then (after solvent cleaning of your prepared surfaces) shaking the parts (in their case in was bullets) with the charged powder (like with deep-fried chicken) to coat them.
    My guess is that whatever fits in the bucket can be coated this way.
    Baking to fuse the powder being the final step.

  3. For once, anyone saying powder coating is simple & cheap is absolutely correct. Don’t overthink it, just go do it.

    Over 10 years I started with the cheapest gun, a cardboard box booth and a toaster oven. Not much has changed since except for getting an old electric oven for bigger parts (including a motorcycle exhaust!).

    Sprayed a random piece of metal, saw it came out perfect and I’ve been a convert ever since.

    You can get a perfect part in under 30 minutes, and 15 of that is curing. Unlike paint there’s no mixing, sanding, multiple coats, cleanup blah blah, it really is easy.

    Like most things cleanliness is key. A sandblaster would be ideal but they’re expensive (needs a big air compressor) but you can go a long way with strippers & solvents.

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