Paint booth idea

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Sep 23, 2004
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Winter is approaching, and I anticipate having a lot of time to build rockets; which means having to paint them. I'm lucky enough to have a basement with a workshop, and I like the idea of being able to paint there as well.

After making the stupid mistake of trying to do some spray touch up of a rocket on the floor with newspapers laid out, I'm now the proud owner of a red outline on my concrete floor. Good excuse to just paint the whole darn thing now. ;) Anyway, after searching the forums and coming across a pic of Micromeisters large vinyl paintbooth, I had a Eureka moment (for me anyway).

My wife has a relatively unused aluminum framed, vinyl clad wardrobe in our basement that I think would make a potentially great start for a basement paintbooth. The idea is to use it like a portable sandblasting booth, where you stand in front of it and put your hands inside through openings in the front, and look through the window while you work.

The one we have is zippered, totally enclosed top to bottom, has a vinvyl window, and has enough size inside for most anything I would ever build. All's it really needs is a ventilation system (maybe dryer ducting, and a blower motor going though a filter), and a flap cut in the front to put your arms through, and a shelf with rotissiere stand (e.g. lazy Susan on a shelf).

The other thought would be to tape plastic wrap over the inside of the window section before each paint session so you don't permanently cloud the window with paint. What else am I forgetting?

I know no good idea is ever original, so I'll ask now, anyone here ever done this? How has it worked?

Here's a nice sized one at Lowes, very much like ours. For less than $30, how can you go wrong?



Addtional thoughts:

1. Any evacutaion motor on the fan unit would have to be a safe "sealed" motor, so as minimize/eliminate fire hazards from explosive paint fumes being exposed to arcs form the motor brushes Further reading points to using a fan that does not have the motor in the airstream, e.g. squirrel cage blower. This seems the most practical (safest) way to go.

2. Regarding point 1: Make sure you keep a good ABC portable fire extinguisher stored next to the booth, just in case.

3. Rubber gloves (large dishwashing?) would be a welcome addition to protect hands/wrists from paint while inside booth.

4. Lights: Lights inside the booth would probably be a no-no for the same reason as number 1 (unless completely sealed) . I would think an adjustable goosneck lamp clamped onto the frame in aimed through the window might suffice. Another idea might be to cut a hole in the roof, duct tape in a plexiglass sheet and have a round utility light. 12-v Battery powered lamps might help here, as that current would be below the flash point of paint vapors

5 Wear a face mask to reduce exposure to fumes just in case.

Any other ideas welcome.
the idea of a plexi top for the light is probably the best way to do the lighting, you may be able to duct the fumes thru it also ,, good ideas !
From what I've read, venting out of the top (against gravity), is probably not the most optimal way. Rear or bottom venting (with a filtered inlet on top) is probably better way to go.

Although the idea of plonking an old 30" stove hood assembly with a blower and light) on top of it (as long as the motor in the blower could be tested to be 'non-explosive') does have its attraction, seeing as how cheap they can be had on E-bay)

Have to ask the Mrs if she minds if I 'adopt' the closet. :)

Squirrel cage motors can often be had for free or very cheap from HVAC contractors. Basically ask them to salvage one for you next time they replace a furnace. Just an option.
what about a cheap computer psu and some 120mm fans, if you have a computer shop nearby ask them and they probably have some cheap ones that are included in cases that people never use... you could leave the psu outside and have a few intake and outake fans (its not like there gonna move much air, but im guessing you wouldn't like to have it all moved out at once so your house smells like paint)
Not sure, but I do know the safety concern is this, if a fan motor has exposed brushes, it causes a spark with every rotation. If the motor is in the airstream of the fan, there is a danger of igniting the paint vapors (laquers would be more susecptible I believe), causing a possible explosion. Computer fans would have the motor in the airstream, although I'm not sure if they cause enough current to cause a sufficient spark to ignite paint vapors. I want to evacuate the fumes through a filter or outside, so I'm not sure if those fans would suit my purpose.

Best thing to do is test the fan in a controlled environment. Prior to installation, take the unit outside, plug it in through an extension cord, turn it on, and (from a reasonable distance, taking as much precaution as possible), spray a flammable (lacquer thinner, Lysol etc.) at the fan unit to see how the motor reacts to the vapors. "Real" paint booths use 'non-explosive motor's' meaning the motors are brushless, or the armature/brush assembly is sealed. For the same reason, they use flourescent lighting, as it is less susceptible to igniting vapors.

I'm going to try and get my hands on a 30" range hood unit and test it, as I've read one hobbyist who did this testing with positive results with one.

PS I got permission to use our wardrobe closet, so I'll post pictures as I go through the modification process. :)
OK, heres what my 'paint booth' starts life as...

It's half the width of the one at Lowes, the window doesn't come down as far, but I'm tall enough that when I sit on a kitchen stool, I can see in just fine.
Here is the board I cut out of scrap to go between the cross bar supports to give me a platform that spans the width and depth of the closet about halfway up. From their I built a small simple freestanding table with 15" legs, also from scrap wood lying around. If I am painting a taller model, I can always remove the table for better clearance as well.

A 12" rocket on a stand confirmed that when zippered up, I have a good view of the model through the window while sitting on a stool. Just what I wanted. I also cut a 20" wide by 6" deep flap in the front with an Xacto knife and a metal ruler, just under the window for hand access. Duct tape trimming will firm up all the edges of the flap and surrounding cut outs to make sure the vinyl won't tear further at the corners while using it.

So, the basic booth is there. Price so far, $0.00 Next up, start scrounging for a suitable ventilation and lighting system.
Top lighting is best, as well as above front. venting is best at or as close to the lever you'll be spraying with a squirel cage type blower. 4" metal foil covered dryer duct works wonderfully for exhausting fumes and overspray to the outside. Heres a few looks at my 3' x 3' x 7' booth i've been using in my basement for over 25years. I've only had to change the Heavy Weight visqueen plastic cover once in all that time.
Incidentally, the blower I use is a standard heavy duty type blower where the motor is housed outside the squurel cage makes for a nice safe exhaust "fan"
Heres a look at the duting and a gate I use with my smaller booth as well, either or both booths can be in use at the same time without blowback or blow through on either station.

Edit!!! sorry wrong pic... however in this pic you may be able to see one of the blowers I mentioned about mid frame on the left:)
Thanks for posting those MM. I had seen the Visqueen one in a prior thread in my search. Thats the one that was the genesis for the idea of using the wardrobe closet.

Can't wait to try this thing :)
Just a thought, not sure of practicality:
What if the fan were set up to push air into the cabinet through a dust filter? It could be ducted out at the bottom. No worries about sparks.
It would have to be a totally sealed unit (which it isn't), othewise your pushing fumes into the room. Not a bad thought though, it does minimize the fire hazard.
Back in the 70's stone ages, I did just about what you are discribing I places my 18" x 18" x 48" foamcore "booth" with 2 300watt bulbs heating the booth through the plywood top, jambed in the sliding glass door frame of my apartment, placed Plastic sheeting on the floor out the door and above to close the opening. Behind me I set a 30" box fan, the air flow blowing between my legs under the kitchen type chair I was sitting on.

I actually tried this outside with the fan in an enclosed "tent" filled with spray can paint vapors to Try to get them to ignite.. I could Not! Lugnut your concern is WAY overblown. I've tried everything you can imagine to get aerosol can spary paint to ignite, It is very very difficult! Resonable care is all that is needed to prevent a flash fire.
I've sprayed Cold Paint on a Hot 300 watt blub in a full can concentration of Paint fumes in a 12" x 12" x 36" enclosed platic tent, bursting the bulb. 6 bulbs...6 attempts...0 flashes. It really takes an OPEN FLAME to get the reaction started or a much hight concentration than can be achived with a can of paint. I DO recommend a squirel Cage blower just to be extra safe... but the larger the booth the less likely you'll be to have any kind of problem at all. You'll be OK short term with a fan blowing behind you blowin into the wardrobe.
P.S. Great idea the temporary wardrobe...I had no idea they existed:D
Thanks for the heads up on your testing. Having not done the testing yet myself, and having no idea just how volatile lacquer aerosol vapors really are, I was just erring on the side of caution and parroting what I had read on the Net. Would hate to have someone read this try it w/o testing and start a fire.

I might try the cheap Ebay oven range route first (if I can pick one up for under $10) just so I can test the blower motor. Low dollar projects rule.

Last night I banged together a battery powered rotissiere stand out of an ancient R/C servo, a gutted old R/C fuel pump (for its reversing power switch and to hold a C cell), and a small metal box that used to house an attic thermostat switch. Cut out a square of thin plywood to attach to the top, hold it all together with rubber bands and I have a working 60 rpm paint platform. Ugly as hell, but it works :)

Cost so far, still $0.00
What Lacquers are you using? With the exception of clear coats most all the spray can paints you'll be using are enamels, or possibly polyurethans. Emanels contain very different thinners, vehicles and pigments than lacquers. Seriouly; you don't want to be spraying lacquers without proper breathing protection, I mean a filtered mask, not a particle mask, supplied air would be better but that's a whole other system. Lacqures and lacquer thinners will tear up your lungs..Use extra Care with all Lacquer based materials and Polyurethans;)

Ah Ha Lugnut: LOL that is turely funny!
I use about 4 different types of turntables. this one i Like the best is a 10" microwave spring action table, Rated for 10lbs it will turn any model I'll ever be painting gives a good solid bae footprint and revolves at just a little under 3 revs/minute.
hope this helps.
Just using lacquers as a worse case example of what I *might* conceivably use in this thing. 99% of the time, it'll just be Krylon sprays.

I have to post a picture of that "model rotissiere", (cough), you guys will laugh. Its ghetto as all he11. =)
LOL! Oh Lugnut you were right. Ah HA.. Sometimes necessity is just a Mother:D:D
As long as it works who cares what it looks like? After a couple or three uses it'll all be the same funky grey yuck color anyway :)

Great use of what's on hand! good job!
Originally posted by Micromeister
LOL! Oh Lugnut you were right. Ah HA.. Sometimes necessity is just a Mother:D:D
As long as it works who cares what it looks like? After a couple or three uses it'll all be the same funky grey yuck color anyway :)

Nah, I cut up a ziplock bag to wrap around it before using it. I want to keep paint out of the gear mechanism.
Minor Update:

Bought an old 36" hood stove off Ebay with a built in light and two speed squirrel cage blower and filter ($30 including freight). Cut a square in the top for the light and filter. Whole thing fits on top like it was made to order. In stock form it exits out the front (less than optimal), but it does have the cut provisions for top and rear exhuast. Just need to make a trip to Home Repo to buy the appropriate ducting bracket, hose, and a flourescent light assembly for the light socket.

Pics to follow.
Went to Home Depot and got the duct work to finish it. I bought a 10"x3.5"x6" duct convertor, a 6" to 4" reducer, and some flex 4" dryer ducting (plus a 4" hose clamp). That came to around maybe $20. I also bought a flourescent light (65 watt equvilent) to replace the incandesent bulb, to help reduce fire hazards.

I also am keeping a Kidde fire extinguisher nearby just in case my open armature blower motor doesn't play well with Krylon. Tests I have read from someone else who used a similar setup lead me to believe I nothing to worry about, but I would rather be safe than homeless.

So my estimate is that if you wanted to duplicate this project, your looking at around $75-$80 all told (presuming you can score a hood on Ebay for around $30 including freight, which isn't too hard if your patient).

The blower is a two speed unit, and initial testing seems to indicate that even the low speed is suffient to create enough air draw for my purposes. Since my booth is near a window, I will just open the window and put the exhaust hose outside while its in operation, negating the need for making a replacement plexi window with a vent cutout like you would for a dryer.

I'm real happy how this turned out. Its compact, effective, realtively cheap, keeps the vapors to a minimum, and not too ghastly looking. Mission accomplished.
Here is finished product with the light on. Its fairly bright inside. I'm toying with the idea of replacing the plastic sheeting with plexi glass, so the view is a little clearer. We'll see...
Here is a side view showing the duct work attachment and reducer attached to the rear of the hood. It just took a little bending of the attached flanges for the exhaust duct, drilling a few wholes through that and the hood, and a few sheet metal screws. Duct tape the reducer to the exhaust duct, slide the dryer flex tube on, and its done.