How to built a paint booth for less than $50
Last summer, I decided to repaint my Honda CB600F Hornet – I love the matte black but it needed a touch up on the tank (because the factory put the clear coat OVER the decals – so when I pulled them off, you could see where they once were 🙁 ), and the aftermarket front end’s color was off from the rest of the bike.
I had everything I needed for this project: a spray paint starter kit, a bucket of matte black paint, and no clue what the hell I was getting myself into.
But one essential piece was missing: a proper paint booth.
I don’t have a garage so sealing up my garage wasn’t an option. And for those who consider painting their motorcycles in a sealed-up garage instead of a paint booth to save money: think again. The advantage of a spray booth is not just about quality; it is also about safety (the paint fumes might spontaneously ignite if they reach the ignition threshold of a plug in the garage wall, or when the compressor kicks on …)
So, I decided to build a paint booth on my patio. It didn’t have to be big – the compressor was going to stay outside (safer that way!). It just had to fit a front fender, a tail section, a tank, and the headlight piece, plus the 5′ 5″, 120 lbs girl that I see in the mirror every morning.
I decided that 4 feet (120cm) wide by 4 feet (120cm) deep by 7 feet (210cm) tall would do it. I drew up a blue print on a sticky note, did some math (yes, I am a bit of a geek – it’s not my fault though, I was raised by a physics professor), and ran off to the hardware store for some 1.5″ PVC pipe and joints, a couple of air filters, a box fan, and some clear plastic tarp.
I didn’t glue the joints and pipes together, because I wanted to be able to disassemble and re-assemble it later. A rubber mallet makes it much easier to fit the pieces together – as my dad (yes, that physics professor) always says: If force doesn’t work, use more force!
Next, I attached the air filters to the frame with a bunch of zip ties and sealed up the crack between the two filters with some painters tape (on both sides – can’t be worried enough about those pesky dirt and dust particles).
What’s with the humming bird feeder?, you might ask. Not sure … haven’t seen a humming bird in Georgetown in 5 years … but hope dies last. 🙂
Next was the box fan. By the way, there is a reason why the air filters are up high and the fan is down low. You want to create a downward air stream (air gets sucked in through the air filters and goes out through the fan) for two reasons: 1) pulling the fumes and paint particles down will keep them away from your respiratory system (yes, even with a charcoal-activated filter face mask, you will want to keep as much of that shit away as possible); and 2) it will suck dust particles down that you might kick up with your feet – wouldn’t want those to stick to any freshly painted surfaces.
Wrapping the frame with the plastic tarp was admittedly a much more annoying enterprise than I had imagined. I reinforced the tarp with duck tape where I cut small openings to slide zip ties through the tarp and around the pipes (see right side).
I cut the tarp around the air filters and box fan and used painters tape to seal any cracks.
I also realized that the frame wouldn’t do a very good job of keeping the “ceiling” tarp up, particularly if it starts raining and water would collect on the “roof”. So I spun a web of heavy-duty string across the top pipes before laying the tarp over the top (sorry, I don’t have a picture of how I did that).
The added advantage of doing that was that I created a perfect system for hanging up my motorcycles parts and let them dangle off the ceiling while painting – gave me much better access than having the parts sit on a box.
I cut a double-layered piece of tarp to serve as a floor (again, keeping dirt and dust out) and … DONE!
1) When I turned on the fan, it sucked the tarp inwards, effectively diminishing the inside space of the booth. I used the same trick I used for the ceiling and spun a web of string across the side walls to keep the tarp in place.
2) The “door” wasn’t really as air-tight as I had hoped (I had the tarp overlap by about 2 feet and used a system of zip ties and carabiner snap hooks to keep the overlapping parts in place. If I ever build another paint booth, I would definitely design a different door.
The paint job itself is another story, waiting to be written. I can tell you this much now – it was a labor-intensive, somewhat frustrating project, but the end result was totally worth all the sweat, blood, and tears.