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Walker 03-16-2010 02:34 PM

control box / enclosures - some tips for anyone considering it
I'm building a HERMS system and thought I would share some thoughts. I took my time and was very patient while searching for good deals and one day an offer too good to refuse presented itself on ebay. I picked up a new-in-box Weigmann brand 10"x12"x5" NEMA 4X steel enclosure (with an inside panel and hinged door) for $35 shipped. This thing sells for no less than $130 online.

I was very pleased with myself for having scored such a good enclosure for such a good price.


Now I have to work with that thing, and the steel is 1/8" thick. I don't know if you've ever spent time cutting through 1/8" thick steel, but it ain't exactly easy or quick with common tools. I can pretty easily DRILL through it (stepping up a little at a time). A 1/2" hole through it takes just a couple minutes. Easy as pie.

Cutting big 2 1/8" holes for my output receptacles was a chore. Lots of time, pressure, cutting oil, and a big hole saw. I had to take a few breaks to let my drill cool off, but I got it done. While doing this, I started to get pretty damn concerned about what lay ahead for me.

Cutting square or rectanglular holes in that f*cker is not fun. The PID needs a square hole, and it has to be a pretty clean one, so brute force and sloppy lines is not an option. A little finesse is in order. I'll get it done because I really have few options, but I am starting to reconsider all of the switches I bought that need to be installed. They are all rectangular in shape with a very small lip around the front to keep them from going all the way through the panel holes, but the lips on them are very very very small.

This means I have a good bit more straight-line cutting, with very clean and precise lines.

I am seriously considering cutting my losses on the switches re-ordering round ones that I can just install in drilled holes. This will save me hours of work and be less prone to error.

So... sorry for being long winded... but if you are considering building a control box for a HERMS or RIMS or just a box for the controls of an electric kettle, think about what you are buying, how you will cut and or drill it, and what you will have to actually install through the walls of the thing.

If my box were made of plastic, I think I would already be done with everything.

Walker 03-16-2010 02:50 PM

Forgot to add... one thing I am considering is cutting rough holes in the thing and covering them up with blank face plates from the hardware store. Those face plates will be much easier to do precision work on so that I can mount switches and the PID and whatnot.

I don't really want a bunch of faceplates screwed to the thing, but I absolutely think that I will not be able to do a good job mounting the small rectangular switches directly through the thick steel.

EvilGnome6 03-16-2010 03:31 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Maybe a nibbler would work for cutting the straight lines.

Attachment 15022

Boerderij_Kabouter 03-16-2010 03:34 PM

Try that with stainless steel.... hehe I have 5 LOVE profiles and 8 switches to cut in.





That will help a lot!

diatonic 03-16-2010 03:39 PM

If it makes you feel any better, had the majority of my panel done, but was waiting on some new L6-30 flanged power connectors. I wasn't able to find plugs that fit the ones on my box. Sent it off to powder-coat. Came back real pretty, but the new flanged inlet/outlet are about 1/4" bigger in diameter and don't fit. Now I'm struggling with taking a jig saw to my shiny red panel to make the holes bigger... or trying to track down a 2" chassis punch. I feel your pain.

Walker 03-16-2010 03:40 PM


I am (or have been) trying to use a dremel with cutting discs at this point. I have not tried the exact (large) cutting disc you have pictured at the top, but I actually think that this will be TOO big to help me with the switches.

By the time the disc made it through the 1/8" thick steel, it will have cut a line into the metal that is too long.... it would reach past the edges of my switches. I guess i could cut from the inside instead of the outside to get around that ugliness. I will say that using the small cutting discs, the dremel gets REALLY f*cking hot and I have to stop either because of that or because the batter is nearly drained.

I was looking at a dremel cutting tip (a bit, not a disc) that is meant for hardened steel, and might pick one up today and try some practice cuts on the back panel.

I'm also considering removing most of the metal with drill bits and then cutting away the teeth that are left behind with the dremel.

Boerderij_Kabouter 03-16-2010 03:42 PM

Where did you get the switches from? Returnable? The controllers are one thing, but tiny square holes are a bit silly IMO. Do you have any machinist friends? A mill would be handy or maybe look for a square punch...

Those bits are very hard to control without a jig FWIW.

Walker 03-16-2010 03:45 PM

I bought the switches from mouser.com. I don't know it they are returnable, but I only have a few of them (costing me a couple of $'s), so it's probably not worth the effort.

I agree that, in retrospect, rectangular switches were probably a bad idea. It was just something I didn't think about when I purchased them (which was really the thing I was trying to get across to others with this thread.... think CAREFULLY about what you are buying, what you have to install it in, and how you will go about doing that.)

No machinist friend for me.

RegionalChaos 03-16-2010 03:45 PM

The dremel or a small cut off disc on an air tool would be my suggestion.



Walker 03-16-2010 03:47 PM

I'm am using a dremel. It will eventually get the job done, but it'll take forever.

1/8" is a LOT of steel to cut through.

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