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Drying paint with a food dehydrator

Q: I've been fascinated by the idea of using a food dehydrator to dry paint, and I finally picked up an old one at a local flea market. Now that I've got it, I'm not sure of the best way to use it. Where should I set the temperature to get the paint to harden properly?

- John D'Orio
via E-mail

Ken: A food dehydrator can be used to speed up the drying process by forcing the paint to outgas more quickly than it would otherwise. It also hardens the paint somewhat and gives the paint something akin to a baked-on finish.

The key here, as with any technique that mentions "heat" and "plastic" in the same sentence, is to ease into it carefully and keep a sharp eye on the progress to avoid a sudden, accidental meltdown of your prize-winning car body.

Generally, the optimum temperature would be 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit, but certainly no higher than between 102-105 degrees F; however, you'll really have to experiment, and ease up to that temperature as you get more comfortable with the technique. Higher temps won't make the paint dry any more quickly - they'll just lead to disaster, so be careful.

It's advisable to check the temperature which another thermometer (instead of relying on the dehydrator's temperature knob) to verify the heat level before baking the paint. And remember that resin bodies won't require as much heat, so adjust the temperature accordingly.

Thanks for the question, John.


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