How To Build A Cerakote Oven

How To Build A Cerakote Oven

How to build a Cerakote (or powder coat) oven 

Cerakoting has become very popular in recent years. And there seems to be a surge in the number of DIY cerakoting projects hitting social media these days. Just type in #cerakote or #cerakotethatshit into instagram and scroll through the thousands of examples of custom works of art.

For those that don’t know, Cerakote is basically a ceramic infused coating that is applied like automotive paint, but cures to give a very strong and durable finish. It's excellent for applications where tough environments can be experienced, like automotive components, commercial equipment, and firearms.

The one thing that gets everybody nervous about attacking their own cerakote project at home is the oven. Rattle can spray paint jobs are popular because it's cheap and easy to just grab a couple cans from Home Depot, lay out some cardboard, and get creative. But the curing aspect of a proper cerakote project is enough to scare away most hobbyists from giving it a try at home. 

There are a few options for the DIY enthusiast.

  1. Toaster Oven - Toaster ovens seem like a great idea because they are cheap, plentiful, and take up very little space. However, although some people have used them successfully, they are not designed very well to be used in a cerakote application. They generally have very little space inside. This may not seem like too big of a deal, but you have to be able to hang whatever you are working on, so even just small parts with a few inches of wire for a hook are not going to fit well in a standard size toaster oven. The other issue to worry about is the proximity to the heating elements. Radiant heat coming directly from the elements can cause hot spots of the components that are curing, causing the finish to cure improperly.
  2. Full Size Kitchen Oven - Now, kitchen ovens may work for some people, and are used quite frequently for at home cerakote projects. However, there are a few issues that may keep them from being a viable option for many. First off is that if it is a gas oven, then it is a no go for use as a curing oven. There are too many issues with a flame source and volatile chemicals for this to be a safe option. Second main issue is that many electric kitchen ovens run on 220volt electricity. If you have a shop or garage equipped with a 220v outlet, then this isn’t really a problem. But, most homes don’t have this option standard. The other potential issue with kitchen ovens is just their size. They are large and heavy since they generally also feature a stove top as well. So finding a place to put a full size kitchen oven in a garage could be an issue for some. The only other potential downside is that the inside area of the oven is relatively small for its overall size. So, if you wanted to do larger items, you may be out of luck.
  3. Proper Curing oven - This isn’t the direction DIY’ers tend to take simply due to cost. But, if you're the type to go all in on everything, then who am I to stop you? Complete, purpose built curing ovens are available from a number of sources, but one recognizable name, particularly in the firearms industry is Brownells. They offer a ready to go option that is adjustable from 100℉-400℉, so it will work for a number of different types of coatings and finishes. However, the going price for that oven at the time of this writing is about $2100, which is actually not a terrible price when you look at some of the other commercial options out there.
  4. DIY/Home-Built - Finally, what you all came for...homemade ovens (I know, I can feel the excitement too!).  Building your own equipment just gives you a special sense of satisfaction when the job is done (unless of course you burned down your house, in which case, never admit to any of it). All jokes aside, building your own cerakote oven is not that difficult, and it allows you to customize it to fit your specific needs. The cost can be kept relatively low (probably not quite as low as a cheap toaster oven, or a Facebook Marketplace kitchen oven though) and you can always upgrade it in the future if needed.

So, screw options 1-3, let's build a cerakote oven!

First let’s break down the list of parts that you will need for the project(list of amazon links below):

An enclosure or cabinet of some sort. Some people build one to meet their needs, but most people use the cheap sheet metal gun cabinets, file cabinets, etc. Just make sure that after adding insulation and heating elements, you have enough space for whatever you need to hang on the inside. If you plan on doing whole rifles or wheels, make sure you have a nice large enclosure. For this project, I have used a tool cabinet that measures 18” wide x 11” deep x 21” tall on the interior. This will work for small items such as brake calipers, brackets, hardware, pistols, knives, flashlights, etc. I won't put a link to this one below, as it is one that I just had sitting around already.

Heating Element. For this project I used an electric charcoal starter because it was compact, cheap, and came with wiring and a mount attached. Electric heating elements for small kitchen ovens or electric smokers may also be used and can be found online pretty readily. Just make sure the size physically fits your cabinet. Char-Broil Electric Charcoal Starter


Insulation. The inside of the cabinet has to be completely insulated in order to reach the needed temperature for a proper cure. You also don’t want the heat escaping causing the exterior of the cabinet to become so hot that it could cause burns in the case of accidental contact. Make sure that the insulation is rated for the temperatures that could be reached inside the oven. Most of the standard foil/fiberglass duct insulation from Home Depot or Lowes will not withstand 3-400℉. Thermo-Tec 1500℉ Flame Retardant Insulation

High Temperature Foil Tape. This will be used to install and seal the insulation into the cabinet. Be sure that the tape is rated for the correct temperature, otherwise the adhesive may not hold up when the cabinet gets up to operating temperature. XFasten High Temp Foil Tape

Electronics Enclosure. You will need some sort of junction box/project box/panel to house all of the electronics to keep them protected and dry. Be sure that it is large enough to not only fit all of the components as well as wiring, but has room to get in and troubleshoot in the future should any issues come up. Ogrmar Junction Box 8”x6”x4”

PID Controller. This is the brains of the controls. The PID will take the temperature information and provide a control signal to the heating element to maintain the desired temperature that you dialed in. Inkbird PID/25A SSR/Heatsink/Type-K Thermocouple

SSR (and optional heatsink). The SSR is a Solid State Relay. This basically the switch that is controlled by the PID. When the PID tells the SSR to switch on, it connects the power to the heating element causing the oven to heat up. Inkbird PID/25A SSR/Heatsink/Type-K Thermocouple

Thermocouple (k-type). The thermocouple will reside inside the cabinet itself and will relay the real-time temperature data to the PID inorder to determine whether the heating element needs to be on or off. Inkbird PID/25A SSR/Heatsink/Type-K Thermocouple

Switches. On/off switches can be used as a main power switch or as control to individual components like the heating element itself. Twidec Heavy Duty On/Off Rocker Switch (pair)

Fuse. Use a fuse or circuit breaker (15A in this case) of the appropriate size inside wired into the control box for added security. Invincible Marine Inline ATC Fuse Holder (up to 30a)

Power Cord. A standard power tool replacement type cord (3-wire) should be perfectly suitable for this application. Southwire 14/3 Replacement Power Cord

Nilight 540pc Electrical Connector Set

GS Power Red and Black 14ga Primary Wire

I added the last two items to that list from Amazon, however I used what I had around the shop already so I didn’t factor those into my project.

Lets start building!

Step 1 – Loosely mount electronics in junction box.

You will need a drill and utility knife or small saw. Locate everything where you want it, and loosely put it all together. Make sure you have enough clearance and play to wire everything up.

Step 2 – Wire up the electronics.

Use the wiring diagram that comes with your components to ensure everything is connected correctly. Below is the wiring diagram that I put together based on my build (*Note* I am not an electrical engineer) 

DIY Cerkote Oven Wiring Diagram
cerakote oven controller wiring completed

Step 3 – Mount the junction box, heating element, and thermocouple to the cerkote oven.

Mount the junction box in an easy to access location on the exterior. Mount the heating element in the bottom of the cabinet. I simply drilled two holes in the bracket that came on the heating element, and mounted it directly to the floor of the cabinet. Mount the thermocouple on the interior of the cabinet somewhere near where your pieces will hang so the temperature is accurate for that area specifically.

Mounting The Heating Element To The Interior Of The Cerakote Oven

Step 4 – Cut insulation to fit each panel inside the cerakote oven and tape it in place.

Accurately measure each panel and place a piece of insulation. Use the high temp foil tape to seal all of the seams. Don’t leave any bare spots or you will lose heat as well as have potential hot spots on the exterior that may burn you.

Step 5 – Fire everything up and make sure it all works!

I recommend starting it up outside and using a protected power strip just in case anything should go wrong on the first power-up. You may need to refer to the PID controller manual to calibrate it if it is not set properly from the factory.

Step 6 – Customize the interior of your Cerakote oven with rods, racks, shelves to accommodate the parts that you will be curing!

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