Powder Coating Startup

I have been interested in doing powder coating for a number of years but this does entailaddtioinal equipment and space (and spousal buy-in). I have been frustrated with conventional finishes (paint, black oxide, etc.) for my metal working projects. Paint takes a long time to dry, requires multiple coats, decent temps to spray and is not friendly for spraying indoors (and we live in Wisconsin – so this is important for half of the year).

Basic setup L-R, rack for powder coating, oven, powder coat gun in drawer, blast cabinet, dust deputy cyclone

With my recent retirement (yeah!), I was nearing hte completion of redoing my daughter’s kitchen. At this point I was looking to the next few projects (redoing house exterior lights, redoing bridgeport and SBL controls, new exterior path lighting, David’s motorcycle, etc). These would mean either lots of spray painting and future redos or we could get this done with powder coating. For example, I cleaned up and then had professionally powder coated the crash bars/ engine guards for my bike (Honda VTX-1800) which cost $120. Talking with the shop guys at HyTech Powder Coating in Waukesha they said the typical minimum is $80-120 or small projects. While they did a great job, I restarted thinking about a DIY approach and being able to do powder coating as needed.

Powder coating involves:

  • Mechanically cleaning the part to enable good finish adhesion. This typically means abrasive blasting and chemical wipe.
  • Electrostatically spraying a paint powder on the part
  • Baking the coated part to fuse and cure the powder into the final finish

This is basically similar to conventional spray painting. However there are some similarities and differences. :

  • Prep in either case is key. However Powder Coating does seem to place greater emphasis on mechanical bonding and hence the need for abrasive blasting.
  • Spraying the finish requires a special gun but this is in the same price range as a decent HVLP spray gun. Masking of areas not to be painted requires either silicone plugs or special tapes due to the high temperatures used in the curing. I picked up the Eastwood dual voltage powder coat gun.
  • Oven for curing . This can be as small as a toaster oven or a room sized monster used for powder coating car chassis. For the work I will be doing, a home oven is big enough. DO NOT think you can use your regular home food / baking oven for both purposes. Plus you will need additional ventilation for the fumes. Fortunately, used stoves / ovens (esp. wall ovens ) are dirt cheap. You do want a convection oven. Check your local Habitat for Humanity Restore or Craigs List. I got mine at Habitat Restore in Waukesha, WI . A 30″ GE Profile convection oven for $25 (~1% of the original price) . This wall oven did require a basic cabinet in which to reside (which would also get drawers and drawers eventually).
  • Rack to hold the pieces while spraying. I picked up a stand from Eastwood but it was designed for elves or dwarves and had to raise the top by 3 feet to bring it to a workable height.
  • Blast cabinet. This was the most costly item both in initial purchase price and parts for modifications. I bought the Harbor Freight 40 lb blast cabinet (with the 20% off coupon). However doing the necessary mods basically doubled the price in added parts. Check youtube for the many videos on souping it up. Must haves: caulk ALL the joints form the inside with Vulkem – it leaks powder like a sieve, metering return line off of the dump chute to feed the blast gun, lowering the grate inside, adding a separate pressure regulator for the gun, additional baffling for air intake and extraction, dust deputy cyclone ahead of the shop vac, new lighting, wheeled caster base, additional outlets for shop vac and powder coat gun, EZ open wing nuts for the window for replacement / maintenance. Yes this sounds like a lot but think of it as a “partial kit” and go from there. Besides my 4yo grandson – Sawyer had a lot of fun helping. Good thing it was all metric as I taught him to grab the 8, 10mm wrenches vs trying with imperial fractional sizes.

Reuben Crisps

Reuben crisps are perfect party appetizer. They have been very popular with our family and friends.   The phyllo dough crust gives a great crunch. It is  a bit fussier to wrap than if using crescent dough or bread dough but you will be rewarded with a prettier and tastier treat.  If you have smoked your own Corned Beef or Pastrami, as I do,  all the better.

Filling

8 oz Thinly sliced and crumbled pastrami or corned beef
12 oz Shredded swiss cheese
12-16 oz Franks Polish style Sauerkraut
3 oz cream cheese
3 Tbsp Thousand Island dressing (Ken’s light)

Mix well with  your hands

Making the crisps

Thaw the phyllo dough,  lay out horizontally and then cut vertically into thirds, cover with a damp towel.

Take one strip of the dough oriented vertically in front of you. Place approx. 1 Tbsp of the filling mixture on the dough and fold in a triangle pattern (like folding the flag) . Brush with melted butter and place on the cookie sheet

Variations

Place a few slices of Cowboy Candy on the filling prior to wrapping.

Fermented Hot Sauce

Every few years I make some fermented hot sauce.   We call it “Cold Snap” hot sauce as we harvest the ripe peppers at the time of the first frost.   I greatly prefer to use ripe peppers rather than green for the flavor as well as the color.  A few green ones do get included but if you add too many the bright orange/ red color will become brown.

This year we had: Mucho Nacho Jalapeno, Super Cayenne, Super Chili, Sweet Banana. Unfortunately my habaneros split in the recent rains and were mostly moldy inside, so there were only 4 to distribute among the jars.

Each quart jar has about 15-16 oz mixed chopped peppers (most seeds removed), 1/2 bulb chopped garlic.  2 jars were left as is.  The other 4 jars  also had 1/4 can – 3oz- of Minutemaid Limeade concentrate. Of these 4 jars,  2 jars had a pinch of Lactobacillus Helveticus and the 2 remaining jars had a pinch of  Lactobacillus Plantarum powder. I use these for  my kettle sour beers.  The 6 quart jars started out as 3 gallons of mixed peppers before chopping, destemming and removing the seeds from the larger ones.

The jars are topped off with a glass weight and 4% brine.   Lids and fermentation locks. The jars are placed in a plastic bin (to catch the inevitable overflow) and left in a dark place at room temperature for 3 weeks.  The time is not critical but there is the risk of mold forming.

chooped peppers in fermentation jars
Peppers at the start of fermentation

The Lactobacillus Helveticus kicked off the fastest by a day or 2. In the end it was also my favorite due to a slightly fruitier flavor.

Most of the jars had a layer of pellicle and / or  Kahm yeast to some degree. This was scooped off and the inside of the rim cleaned with a spatula before adding to the blender. Approximately 4 oz of liquid was removed in the process.

Ferment with pellicle and some kahm yeast – normal

After scooping out the pellicle and kahm yeast.

Each jar is blended separately. When starting the blender, beware – the pepper pulp still has a lot of CO2 in it that will be released as you start the blender. Hold your hand over the lid as you start it!   Each pair of jars of the same type were then blended and boiled for 15 min.  This is IMPORTANT. There is still dissolved CO2 in the pulp. If you go straight from the blender to the jars and heat process the bottles will blow their tops!  Blend until reasonably smooth 30-60 seconds. If you go too long, the seeds get ground up too, which is not desirable as they can add a bitter flavor .

Blending the peppers – note the bubbles

All of the batches ended up very sour with pH in the range of 2.85 to 2.94.  This a safe pH (<3.4) for shelf stable canning. I calibrated the meter right before use and checked it twice.

pH checking hot sauce

 

 

 

 

Run the pulp through a food mill or strainer to remove the seeds and skins. Pour the now cooked hot sauce into the jars.  We use a measuring cup and funnel rather than a ladle.  You can see my ever so patient wife, Teal, filling the bottles (she does not use hot sauce).

Teal filling the bottles

Process in boiling water for 15 minutes.  Once they are cool add the labels and shrink bands on top for a finishing touch. We prefer to shrink with a heat gun or you can invert them into boiling water to shrink.

Success

Finished Hot Sauces

All 3 sets tasted great but I am partial to the Helveticus batch.

Resources:

Facebook group: Fermented Hot Sauce Society 

Book: Fiery Ferments

5oz Woozy bottles with red bands

Hot sauce bottle labels

Dr. Meter pH meter  I bought this initially for beer making and is more accurate than relying on the acid range (0-6) pH paper that I had used in the past.

Mirro Foley Food Mill 

Lallemand Sourpitch Lactobacillus Helveticus

Lallemand Sourpitch Lactobacillus Plantarum

 

So did anything go wrong along the way?

Yes.

Moldy Ferment – discard

We were short one of the glass weights as it was in a jar of fermented pickles we made earlier in the summer. We ere going to get it back and then forgot. We should have just placed  a baggie of water in that jar. That jar was ruined by mold.   Above, you can see the fuzzy result with white and green mold.   This is a good reason to split up your ferment / experiment into multiple jars. That way if one goes bad there are still others to use. Basically for us we get one shot at this each year. The farmers markets and grocery stores just don’t have sufficient quantities of RIPE pepper, just lots of green ones.

We initially skipped boiling the hot sauce before hot water processing. 4 lids blew off and we had a good mess to clean off of the underside of the microwave and all over the cook top.  We lost about 1 bottle (net) of hot sauce due to this.  As the sauce heated up,  the CO2 was released from the pulp and it rose up the neck of the bottles and blew the lids.   This was an oversight that will not be repeated.    We had to empty the bottles, boil the sauce, refill and then hot process.  No more issues.

Splattered hot sauce-4 lids blew off

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