Why you should NOT paint your guitar pedal enclosures yourself

I know this is a bit against the concept of DIY, but the more I am painting enclosures, the more I notice that the results are not as great as a commercialy available prepainted enclosure. First, sanding the enclosure is a long and painful task and is mandatory if you want a clean surface to paint on. Avoid the long long hours spent carefully polishing your enclosure !

Second, a lot of thin layers are required if you want a proper painting, and most of the time, the painting will still be fragile and sensitives to shocks. I got craks or scratches on the paint really quickly... Nice if you want a beaten-up, vintage, relic look, but not if you want something really clean and durable. You will end up having something similar to the first tall font russian big muff that had paint quality issue:
Big muff tall font low quality paint

(ok it looks cool like this I know... But imagine this on your new beautiful pedal that you spent hours to make!)

Layers can be inequals, and if you spray too much paint, you will have an horrible painting with traces like these :
painting enclosures damages 
Whereas commercialy available prepainted enclosure will always look nice. Moreover, buying spray paint is also expensive. 12 euros for one can, which can certainly paint a lot of pedals, but in one color only. Finally, it is needed to say that spray painting is extremely unhealthy: if you do it, do it outside, with a mask to prevent inhalation of particles. With a prepainted enclosure: no risks.

The price is usually 3 to 4 euros more, which is quite expensive, but for all the advantages listed above, it really worth it to me. Especially if you are going to make a few pedals, and not like a hundred !

Remember that professional pedal enclosures are not spray painted. Most of the time, they are powder coated, which is a different technique that is not really accessible to common mortals like us. (like silkscreening). Powder coating involves a kind of spray gun that will project a powder on the object that is negatively charged (only works on metallic items). Then the object is "baked" in a very high temperature oven (very expensive too), and you get a proper, shiny, beautiful paint. It is the same kind of process that is used with cars for instance.
powder coating
Pedal part plus is based in the US and offers some super cool powder coating colors. In Europe, Banzai Music, and also musikding.de have powder coated enclosures at reasonnable prices and cool colors! Finally, if you want to go cheap, Tayda now makes super cheap black and white powder coated enclosures. However, they usually have some flow so maybe not perfect for a commercial pedal, but largely good enough for a prototype or a DIY pedal!

Of course, this is just my advice for now, maybe I will change my mind later !


You disagree? Post a comment!
If you like this post, thank me by liking Coda Effects Facebook page!
Previous
Next Post »
13 Comment
avatar

Powder coating is not hard. You can get a cheap powder gun here in the States at Harbour Freight and just use a regular old toaster oven to bake (do not use it to cook food afterwards though). Extremely easy and a lot quicker than using spray paain't. Oh, you will need an air compressor too (which can also be found at Harbour Freight pretty cheap

Answer
avatar

Hello! I am really interested in this, I did not know a standard oven could be enough... Do you have any links to share? Thank you

Answer
avatar

Any of your standard toaster ovens should work. Now, you can only do one or two pedal enclosures at a time, because the oven is pretty small. https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_s_ss_i_1_4?k=toaster+oven&sprefix=toas

This is the powder gun I use. http://m.harborfreight.com/10-30-psi-powder-coating-system-94244.html

Answer
avatar

I cast my own bullets, and powder coat them all the time! (It acts like a jacket around the lead, the stuff is so tough!)

As the other gent suggested, there is the Harbor Freight powder coating gun that requires a compressor. However a more compact, affordable option for you might be the WAI Powder coating gun, which does not require a compressor. It used to be sold under the Craftsman brand. now they are available on Ebay, and once in a while on amazon.

Do a search for "Craftsman Powder coat gun" or "WAI Powder coat gun" on Ebay and you will find them for $50 or $60 USD.

Ebay also has some great sources for powder coat. A little goes a LONG way, so don't be very discouraged by prices like $10 or $20 USD per pound for your favorite colors. For a pedal builder a pound of a given color will probably be more than a lifetime supply unless you're building a ton of pedals. If you can get an assortment of colors in 1/4 lb bags that will give you some variety.

A standard toaster oven works great for baking the coat on. Get a "convection" toaster oven if possible, it will have a more stable temperature throughout without the hot spots that some old school toaster ovens can have.

You will want to de-grease your enclosure before powder coating. Acetone works fine for that purpose. Brake cleaner probably would too. Good hot soapy water might even be plenty, I just haven't tried it myself.

Here are some 357 hollow points I powder coated purple, and they turned out gorgeous and shiny. http://i1272.photobucket.com/albums/y382/cowpuncher72/Mobile%20Uploads/20150712_183332_zpszlwrfy68.jpg

Answer
avatar

Wow! Great comment! Thank you!
I'll give a try as soon as possible, seems like very reasonnable pricing.
However, it might be quite hard to powder coat in my small parisian flat for now haha.

Answer
avatar

I powder coat my bullets at a little workbench in my wood shed. :) Seriously, it's NOT that tough. You're going to do it... and facepalm yourself... and think "This was sooo much easier than I suspected!"

For pedal sized projects, especially with the Craftsman/WAI style gun that requires no compressor, a decent sized cardboard box would make a good enough spray booth for you. I actually do my bullets with a different method called "tumble coating" that uses the natural static electric charge built up when you swirl the bullets and powder coat together in a plastic container - rather like the static charge you build up when you rub a balloon on someone's hair. But having worked with the stuff a lot... I'm sure a decent sized box will make a great disposable spray booth for you.

The cleanup on the stuff isn't as bad as you think either. If you drop some, it IS a fine powder and gets all over, but you can't think of it like paint. It's just fine little spheres of colored plastic, you just sweep and vacuum it right up.

Totally dead nuts easy to do. I'll look around your site and try to find your contact me email on your page somewhere, and send you my email address in case you have any questions I can help you with when you're ready to do it.

I would recommend you do it with some ventilation, but that doesn't have to be extreme. When you bake the powder coat, just have the toaster oven near an open window, with a fan GENTLY blowing air in that direction, and that will be plenty. It's not a stinky process at all.

As for getting your powder, when i email you, I'll direct you toward a guy on a bullet casting forum that I deal with. since a lot of bullet casters are powder coating their bullets now to prevent leading their barrels.... the guy i'm mentioning buys powders that flow and cure well in bulk, and kindly sells them at a low markup in 1/4 lb bags. For $20 I think you can get 8 different 1/4 lb sample bags (Might be a little more or less, that's off the top of my head so don't hold me to the exact $$$). That would be the most affordable, fast, easy way for you to get an assortment of colors for your projects. 1/4 lb of powder would probably coat a bunch of 1590bb enclosures.

The purple powder coat in the photo I linked is from that guy. He's tested and selected nice powders that flow smooth and nice when they are heated in the oven, to give good results easily. "Gloss" powder coats tend to flow much more nicely than matte, so I recommend sticking with those for easy, good results. Here are some more photos of bullets I've powder coated to give you an idea of what some various powders from smoke4320 (the guy on that forum selling 1/4 lb bags) look like. Some 45acp 200 grain hollow points, in gloss black, and hot pink. Don't judge! My best friend's wife wanted pink bullets. :)

http://i1272.photobucket.com/albums/y382/cowpuncher72/Mobile%20Uploads/20150709_231826_zpsyuyegil3.jpg

http://i1272.photobucket.com/albums/y382/cowpuncher72/Mobile%20Uploads/20150710_230247_zpsxlxzkug2.jpg

Look how shiney they are, and I'm not even a very good photographer or a very experienced powder coater. It's dead simple.

Answer
avatar

Wow, I didn't know about the gun that doesn't need a compressor. It would make sense though, since they need very little air pressure to work

Answer
avatar

Yep. Very economical in both cost and space. Mine came in a plastic case like you get for an 18V cordless electric drill. Takes up very little space at all when not in use.

Answer
avatar

Agree ..I just used an entire can of paint trying to get a good finish, and failed..

Answer
avatar

Slash's guitar builder used to build & lacquer guitars in his small New York City apartment. I don't know how people do what they do in those tiny apartments, but they do. I am looking at a run down old farm with a 3600 square foot house and a 1600 square foot garage/shop, and another garage. I already make 2000 mile round trips running back and forth picking up and dropping off gear for repairs, restoration, modifications, and dropping off new products. My first paint booths were visqueen plastic outdoors, with an explosion proof fan and a furnace filter. Sunlight was the best lighting for some colors & finishes on guitars. 10,12, or 20 coats of finish, and then the buffing begins. Powder coating is easy in comparison.

Answer
avatar

I do hammertone paint, but it takes a year or so for the stuff to cure up and harden. Crinkle paint is about the same too. Powder coating is lead pipe simple. Bake it and it's ready to go. Car paint takes a few months to harden up too. It's just the nature of the stuff.

Answer
avatar

Wow! Great work! I will give it a try then!

Answer
avatar

Hammertone is long to harden, however it looks really nice compared to classic spray painting!

Answer