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Old 05-24-2011, 07:13 PM   #1
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Default Control Panel Enclosure - DIY?

Having to rethink my ekettle control panel enclosure as the one I have is only going to give like 1/2 inch of clearance between the backside of the PID and the back plate of the enclosure, without any mounting plate in the way.

Can one build an enclosure out of regular wood? How DIY can you get, safely?

Saw a lot of plastic toolbox enclosures, are they fairly easy to work with? That's my backup plan.

A proper metal enclosure would be ideal, I just can't find one locally (no surprise there) that is more than 4 inches deep.

But if I can build one from scrap plywood that would be awesome for easy mounting of stuff, and for easy precise cutting. So long as it can't conduct current and such

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Old 05-24-2011, 08:26 PM   #2
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I wouldn't use wood for a panel enclosure. You know...moisture, electricity and wood... not a good combo.

I'd say your best option would be to get one online. If that fails, an electronics store should have a pretty good selection of metal enclosures, although they will probably be more expensive than an electrical enclosure. Third option would be a plastic one.

Another option, a little more work intensive (if you want to go the diy route) would be to use thin plywood, and cover it with a couple of coats of fiberglass. A lot more work, but you may end up with one helluva control panel...

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Old 05-24-2011, 10:30 PM   #3
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You could weld a metal one together out of sheet metal. It's cheap and easy. A couple guys on here have done it.

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Old 05-26-2011, 02:16 AM   #4
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My control panel box is 1/2 plywood for the back, sides and top. The front panel is aluminum. I finished the wood with a polyurethane wiping finish. I have seen other wood control boxes on this and other forums. What is the problem with wood if it is finished and the components are grounded? Plastic is an insulator, metal is a conductor, they are both used in enclosures, so what's the issue with wood, an insulator?

I say go for it. Use a cabinet grade plywood and have a piece of art when you're done.

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Old 05-26-2011, 03:36 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by AiredAle View Post
What is the problem with wood if it is finished and the components are grounded? Plastic is an insulator, metal is a conductor, they are both used in enclosures, so what's the issue with wood, an insulator?
There's a reason why plastic and metal are used for commercial electric panels and wood isn't. Wood is flammable, and absorbs moisture. Moisture inside an electric panel is a great way to get a short circuit, and a short circuit inside a flammable box is a great way to have a house fire. Meanwhile, neither metal nor plastic absorb moisture, and, while metal is conductive (so you can have a short circuit), is non flammable, and the plastic used for electric panels is fire retardant.
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Old 05-26-2011, 05:36 AM   #6
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I used this plastic junction box from lowes. Home depot also carries a similar one. Size 12" x12" x 6"

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Old 05-27-2011, 12:04 AM   #7
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True, wood burns, but if you use gfci circuit breakers (as I do) then shorts that last are pretty rare. Plus, if it's water in the wood that causes the short, it will be hard to ignite the wood that is so waterlogged as to cause a short. So, while I agree with wood wouldn't be the right material of construction for commercial applications I still don't see an issue for our uses, given the proper circuit protection - good grounding and gfci breakers. Oh, and your comments would apply to the toolboxs some folks use for control boxes - they aren't flame retardant.

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Old 05-27-2011, 12:17 AM   #8
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Anything that would cause a wood enclosure to burn would be bad news for ANY enclosure. What I find odd is that people treat brew panels as if they are running an elevator filled with old women and children over a pit of hungry lions. Sure they can be dangerous but you have to do quite a few things wrong at the same time.

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Old 05-27-2011, 01:02 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AiredAle View Post
True, wood burns, but if you use gfci circuit breakers (as I do) then shorts that last are pretty rare. Plus, if it's water in the wood that causes the short, it will be hard to ignite the wood that is so waterlogged as to cause a short. So, while I agree with wood wouldn't be the right material of construction for commercial applications I still don't see an issue for our uses, given the proper circuit protection - good grounding and gfci breakers. Oh, and your comments would apply to the toolboxs some folks use for control boxes - they aren't flame retardant.

About 17 years ago, I used to work for this company (sorry the site is in Spanish.- The company is in Argentina), building digital measuring ans safety equipment for industries.
One day, the chief engineer had to build a very complex selector switch for a steel company. The switch was a 24 "floor" (IDK if that's the right English way to say it), 6 position, 3 phase, 100A selector switch, for an old machine (again, I don't know the English name, sorry) that takes the steel, heats it up, and rolls it into what's (so imaginatively) known as "hot rolled steel".
Once he finished it, he proceeded to test it. For that kind of equipment, it's mandatory to do the test at full voltage and current, so the guy had a test bench set up, with a 3x220/3x380V connection, a 3x100A breaker, and a big bank of purpose made resistors to provide the load.
For some reason (even he couldn't say why), he decided to use pliers to move the switch. The moment he did (I was with him at his office, taking a "non sanctioned" break), the switch shot an 8 ft. long flame, the office door (8 feet away) instantly caught fire, and the breaker literally melted, together with the wires, most of the test bench, and, of course, most of the selector switch.

The reason I'm telling you this is to illustrate how powerful an electrical fire can be. Water evaporates at 212*F. An electric spark is typically over 4900*F. The box can literally be soaking wet, and it wouldn't make a difference.

Of course, you have the right to decide for yourself what risks you're willing to take, but there's a difference between taking your own risks, and advising others to take the same risks you do.

About the plastic toolboxes, yes, most of them are fire retardant (although I agree that wouldn't make much of a difference in the scenario I posted above), but, most important, most of them are made out of PVC, which is self extinguishing.
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Old 05-27-2011, 01:12 AM   #10
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Inodoro_Pereyra,

Wait... Wait... You paint a senerio that is beyond imagination. AND - It has nothing to do with what we, as brewers, are doing.

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