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Powder Coating Advice

Bench Racing

by Ryan King

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Media blasting and powder coating go hand-in-hand.

While there are a number of ways to strip and de-rust a part, really, media blasting is the best way to do it for powder coating.

Okay, it's the best way provided there aren't any special issues to deal with, but, I'm talking generalities, here — and this post isn't long enough to get into all the minor details. If you want to have a better understanding of media blasting, check out Media Blasting & Metal Preparation.

The point I'm trying to make here, is, if you're going to get into powder coating, you should probably consider a media blasting outfit, as well. Even a small one like I detailed back at the beginning of September in the Bench Racing post, Media Blasting Advice, will be sufficient for entry level powder coating.

Thankfully, Eastwood has come to the rescue, again, with some enthusiast-oriented powder coating equipment to get you started.

Why Eastwood? Well, they've put together an entire system, for one — their HotCoat system. For another, it's reasonably priced, but, like an entry level media blasting set-up, not cheap — to be completely frank. Of course, as I've found, cheap rarely means good. Hell, it rarely ever means good enough. It mostly just means you get what you pay for — inadequate junk.

Now, for full disclosure, I haven't tested the set-up I'm about to layout for you, but I have researched it and it should be a fairly reasonable place for you to begin your own research from — you know, to make sure you get what you need for your situation. After all, we each have our own special needs. In looking into a powder coating outfit for myself, I've decided to go a route that will allow me to do small parts, but nothing as large as a valve cover — so those valve covers on the El Camino will have to wait. I have my reasons: mostly it's that I don't need more capacity at the moment and I certainly don't have the space for it.

Here's the stuff I'm considering:

Eastwood HotCoat Dual-Voltage Powder Coating Gun Starter Kit
This is an enthusiast-level gun, but capable of shooting both small and large parts — hence the dual voltage. It has two settings, 15kv for small parts and tight areas, and 25kv for large areas like body panels. This is a starter kit, so it includes more than the gun. You also get ½" high-temperature fiberglass masking tape, a 30-piece silicone plug assortment, 1 lb of wire to hang your parts with, 8 oz of High-Gloss Black HotCoat Powder Coating Powder, 3-8 oz plastic bottles with lids to store unused powder, and a disposable inline filter. Not included but recommended is an air pressure regulator for the gun — see Eastwood's Powder Coating Beginner's Guide for more info.
Eastwood Paint and Powder Coating Stand
You can probably get by with some sort of jury-rigged stand (just make sure it doesn't fall over), but, this one has an advantage — not only does it fold up, but it's got a built-in clamp for holding an oven rack so your parts can easily go right into your oven. Actually, I wouldn't try to coat them and then hang or set them on an oven rack because you'll more than likely smudge the powder off, but this stand makes it all the more easy, and it's even got an attachable support arm for hanging individual parts from. I guess that's three advantages, so, double bonus points, there.
Jegs Bench Top Powder Coating Oven
As I mentioned in the review for Eastwood's Powder Coating Beginner's Guide, their bench top powder coating oven is no longer available on their website — no I didn't call to verify its availability or lack there-of for this post, sorry, I just got too busy. I can say that Jegs has what appears to be a very suitable replacement. You can use a standard toaster oven, as well, but, they aren't often as large as this one, and many of them don't get hot enough. If you've got a regular electric oven that won't ever be used for anything else, you can also put that in your garage and have even more interior space to hang or set parts. See Eastwood's Powder Coating Beginner's Guide for more details on baking your parts.
Fortress 2 Gallon 135 PSI Ultra Quiet Hand Carry Jobsite Air Compressor
Here's some brutal honesty for you: I normally wouldn't recommend a tool from Harbor Freight. I've used them and by-in-large, haven't been impressed. However, this air compressor, I've used extensively in a light manufacturing environment, daily, and it's truly impressed me. I haven't pushed it to its limit for duty-time, but when used within its parameters, it goes like a top — at least the one I use. It's also much quieter than a standard compressor — although, I still recommend ear protection if you want to keep your hearing. In case you're wondering, yes, the Dual-Voltage Powder Coating Gun's requirements are well within this compressor's capabilities. As per the gun's instructions, it needs a minimum of .5 CFM at 5-8 PSI, this thing puts out over 2 CFM at 90 PSI (the higher the PSI, the lower the CFM in an air compressor, relatively-speaking, so it well exceeds the need — which is always a good thing) and does so while only drawing around 7 amps as per the specifications. That said, as I've mentioned in the past, the Old Classics and Performance Garage lacks for adequate electrical capacity, so, I'm personally considering a Ryobi 18V One+ 1 Gallon Air Compressor. It's cordless and works with the other Ryobi 18V One+ batteries I've got. Of course, in order to run this thing, I may want to upgrade to several big 9AH Lithium+ HP batteries, which would increase the cost substantially (to the tune of $160 a piece), but the compressor is rated above the gun's needs at .75 CFM at 40 PSI and should do the job given my unique constraints — of course, it's noisier than the Fortress, but, win some, lose some, and all that jazz. So, to answer the question you didn't ask and that I didn't ask rhetorically for you, yes, you do need an air compressor for powder coating.
Eastwood After Blast Metal Prep and/or Eastwood Fast Etch Rust Remover
Okay, these aren't expensive nor are they equipment purchases, but they are helpful. One is a metal prep to stop oxidation from occurring on steel after its been stripped and the other is to remove light rust and then protect from future rust on steel. Both protect from oxidation by providing a gray, zinc phosphate coating — which just so happens to be an excellent adhesion promoter for powder coating. You're welcome.
Eastwood Metal Wash
This one is a prep for paint that also inhibits rust, but, without coating it like After Blast or Fast Etch. I've used this stuff extensively in the past and as long as it isn't placed in a moisture-rich environment, it keeps the rust at bay for quite some time.
Eastwood Pre Painting Prep
Pre is Eastwood's non-rust inhibiting paint prep available in both liquid and aerosol. I recommend using it — and the Metal Wash above — with lint-free paint prep wipes, followed by a dusting with a tack cloth, just like you would with paint. Although powder coating is thicker and more forgiving of small amounts of surface dust, from what I've read, it's still a good idea to do the full prep you'd use with solvent-based paints.
HotCoat Powder Coating Powder
This is really the centerpiece of Eastwood's powder coating system — HotCoat Powders. They come in a dazzling array of colors, textures, and finishes, but, unlike paints, can't be mixed — so, you need the exact color you need. Which is why the dazzling array matters. Best of all, you don't have to buy them in bulk like you would from an industrial supply house, so you can afford to make that one bracket screaming neon pink like you've always wanted. Personally, I can see the value in keeping a selection of gloss, semi-gloss, satin, and flat black on hand at all times due to their ubiquitous use on chassis and engine parts — just sayin'. Plus, you can get them in 8 oz and/or 1 lb bottles, which are all reasonably priced, so keeping them around isn't such a big deal.

Here's the catch about the list I've just given you: as I mentioned last week, I've done quite a bit of research into powder coating, but I've never done it, myself — and as I mentioned above, I've never tested any of the equipment I've listed, here. I'm simply using my academically-educated guesses on what may work. And it's also important to note that I haven't mentioned things like safety equipment, and additional supplies and accessories you'll need to actually do the powder coating — I've merely hit the high-points.

What will these high-points run you? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 plus tax and shipping — much more if you go the Ryobi air compressor route like I'm considering.

Of course, this is a set-up with limited capability and it's going to be a bit messy since it lacks a powder coating booth to contain the powder over-spray that will inevitably occur. The real bottle neck here, though, is the oven. If you were to get a larger, more capable oven, you could do larger parts, because everything else I've outlined is capable of doing more. Given the low cost of the Jegs oven, though (around $110), it won't break the bank and you can always add capability, later. If you've already got a set-up for doing media blasting, though, you probably won't need an air compressor, which will save you at least $160.

The great part about this set-up is the space requirement — it doesn't take up much, either for work or for storage.

I know this post is light on information, but if you want more details about powder coating, pick up a copy of Eastwood's Powder Coating Beginner's Guide. It's short, to the point and well-written, and will get you headed in the right direction.

No, I'm not writing this post to promote Eastwood, I'm just letting you in on some of the research I've been doing for myself so you don't have to start at ground zero.

Happy Hobbying!

Ryan

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