How to Properly Ground Your Parts



Improve the attraction of powder to your parts while powder coating.

If you are powder coating a metal part, it should be grounded. The grounding is what attracts the powder to the part. The better the ground, the less problems you have, especially when doing multiple coats. Often a powder coating gun or the guns control box will come with a little 18 gauge ground wire and a mini alligator clip that you can connect to your part to ground it. I will call this the "stock" ground. The stock ground continues through the control box, through the wire it uses to plug into a wall outlet and after that is a mystery to me. This is not a good example of a ground. No matter how good of gun you have, you should have a DEDICATED GROUNDING ROD.
Powder Coat grounding rod


What are the advantages of using a grounding rod when powder coating?

Faraday Cage Areas:

Using this ground method helps with a phenomenon called faraday cage areas. Faraday cage areas are areas of your part that get electrically shielded by a more prominent area of the part.  These areas are usually recesses or tight corners.  You will notice them when you are spraying powder at a part and no matter how much powder you spray, the powder will not go into one of these areas.  All of the powder is attracted to the larger, more open surfaces next to this area.  Having a proper ground like the grounding rod will significantly reduce these problem areas and allow these areas to attract the powder more easily.




Multi-Coats:  2nd, 3rd, 4th... Coats:

After you have sprayed your first coat of powder and cured it, you may want to another coat after this, whether it be clear, a candy, or any other coat.  This is another area where the grounding rod will help.  That first coat of powder acts as an electrical insulator covering the entire part.  It is insulating the ground that attracts the powder.  This causes the following coats to fall right off of the part UNLESS the ground is sufficient.   The strong ground that is provided by the grounding rod will attract powder even through coats of powder.  This will not be accomplished by the tiny gauge wire that came with your powder coating gun.  Mutli-coats are much easier after a properly installed grounding rod is connected to your part.



So What is a Grounding Rod?

A ground rod a long bar copper coated bar that gets driven into the ground. The sizes vary, but for the powder coating application, I recommend an 8ft or a 10ft bar.   It can be bought at your local Home Depot or Lowes for $10.00, see: Lowes Grounding Rod. The ground rod gets hammered into the ground almost entirely. You want to leave about 6 inches of the rod protruding above the ground to attach the wire to. You then attach this wire to your parts and your parts are now grounded with a very strong ground.

While you are out buying the grounding rod, you should also buy a grounding clamp, this is a clamp that fits around the rod and has a bolt to attach your wire to. Like this:
Powder coat dedicated grounding rod clamp

You will also need a length of wire to connect your grounding rod to where you hang your parts.  8 gauge wire is the recommended size as long as you are not running the wire long distances.  If you need a long distance run, then it would be best to opt for a larger wire size to reduce resistance.  Although you want the shortest wire and the least amount of connections possible to make sure you have a reliable ground. If you plan on powder coating in your garage or shop, you can actually drill a hole in your garage floor using a masonry bit, and hammer the grounding rod through the garage floor down into the ground below. If you no longer want it in the garage, just pound it the rest of the way down and fill the hole up.


What I did was install the grounding rod right outside my garage door, I put an upside down flower pot on top of it to keep anyone from tripping on it, don't want to get sued by the guy who checks my electrical meter. The ground rod has a foot of lead wire with a little quick disconnect plug. I coated the ground rod and connection with some dielectric grease to prevent corrosion. Then on my rack I have a 9 foot long wire that I just connect to to the grounding rod wire via the plug. It takes less 10 seconds to plug in and is very convenient. On my rack, the wire runs up the side and over to the middle and it is soldered to my "master hook". I hang everything from this hook and it has worked very well. Testing with a multimeter has confirmed the resistance from the ground rod to the part hanging on the rack is 0.  Once your grounding rod is set up, you no longer need the "stock" ground clip that came with your powder coating gun.  Just coil it up and put it to the side. 


Powder Coat Grounding Rod
This is the ground rod and lead wire outside my garage door.  I hammered it down more since then and only about 3 inches is protruding from the ground.


Powder Coating Rack
My old powder coating rack setup. I have since switched to a powder coating booth with 8 gauge wire.


Powder Coating Rack
You can see the wire running up the rack and is soldered to the hook.




Powder Coating Rack
I soldered ground wire directly to the hook which minimizes resistance.


Now that you have seen a proper grounding rod setup, set one up yourself.  It is worth it! I noticed improvements immediately.  2nd coats sprayed on like they were the 1st coat.  Faraday Cage areas were minimized to only the tightest areas.

One more thing to add about the grounding rod.  If you live in a dry environment with dry soil, you can improve your grounding rods performance by wetting the ground around it before powder coating.  I live in Florida, where the dirt is more sand than anything so I just keep a gallon of water next to the garage door.  Before I powder coat, I just dump the water all around the base of the grounding rod.  Give it a couple minutes to soak down into the soil.  This improves the grounding rods connection to the actual ground.

55 comments:

  1. VERY GOOD (and useful) INFORMATION! Keep it coming man!

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  2. Thank you, more will be coming soon

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  3. Can you explain why such a heavy grounding wire is needed? This is carrying very little current.

    Great site, by the way. There is very little info on powder painting out there. Not a single book that I could find!

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    1. I am definitely not an expert selecting wire size for the required current. A lot of very good powder coaters use a heavy gauge wire to ground their work so I do and teach the same. I wish I could tell you that I tested it with a smaller gauge wire and saw huge improvements when I went with the heavy gauge but I never tested it. I just used the heavy gauge wire as soon as I set up my ground rod and never looked back.

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    2. Anything over an 8 gauge wire is totally unnecessary and even a 8 gauge is probably total over kill. If you look at some of the professional powder coating guidelines produced by companies such as Wagner and Parker Ionics they recommend an 8 gauge wire for an automated powder coating line. Resistance in most any gauge wire in lengths under 100' is almost nil. Increased wire gauge is necessary for high amperage loads or to protect from lightning strikes, neither of which come into play in powder coating.

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    3. Same reason long distance power lines are high voltage, these guns are kV so resistance will be minimal. The real problem with relying on the stock ground clip is *reliability.* Anyone who's dug into an old or shoddily built building's wiring knows how suspect they can be! My current location had a proper ground setup but the clamp had badly corroded which was not obvious until fiddled with. That's worth sorting if only for safety but if powdercoating is your livelihood it makes sense to cut out the black box of in-wall wiring if there's any doubt whatsoever.

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  4. I am starting up a business on the side and while I knew a good bit about it, there are some very helpful points

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    1. I am glad you have found the information helpful so far. I have plans to start writing new information before the end of this month so make sure you check back. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. You have an amazing site, so much info. I want a powder coating setup now! About the ground wire, does this require the powder coating machine to be grounded too, via the electrical plug to the wall socket? Or is the ground to the earth all you need? What do you do with the small ground clip, just leave it on the table connected to nothing? Thanks from Denmark!

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    1. Thank you for the comment, I still have plenty of more info to write. You are correct with the ground wire, once you ground your parts through a grounding rod, you can leave the ground clip for the gun disconnected. I just keep mine rolled up and out of the way.

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  6. What wire are you using to connect to your rack? Don't appear to be 8 gauge bare. Stores carry only 8' ground rod in 5/8 or 1/2" which would you recommend?

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    1. I use 8 gauge wire. The pictures in the article are of my first setup but I changed it to 8 gauge at the time of writing the article. I would recommend the 5/8" ground rod as it has more surface area.

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  7. It's not mystery where that ground goes when you plug your machine in, in the USA it better go to a ground. If you do not have a good ground you had better call an electrician. That ground is suppose to go back to the box where it is connected to a grounding rod into the ground like the one you are making, if not then every thing in your house is not properly grounded and you can die from electrical shock. You can check the ground by reading the hot to that ground and seeing that you have full voltage, if not that lower voltage is the amount that is not going to the ground. If you see 90 volts and you have 120 input, that means 30 volts can go through you from any appliance you use if you touch something like a faucet that acts as a ground. That's my two cents.

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    1. Luckily, my house hasn't killed me yet so I'm sure it is properly grounded. When it comes to powder coating, the dedicated ground rod is a tried and proven method that gives better results over using the ground clip that comes with powder coating guns. I was just joking around with the "mystery" comment. I don't actually know how about intricacies of building electrical or where it actually grounds at, definitely not my area of expertise. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the info!

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    2. I have no powder coating experience and am in the research stage.
      So far you have answered all the questions I have been looking to answer and you do it in a manner that is easy for someone with absolutely no knowledge of powder coating that is easy to visualize and understand.

      Thank you and well done

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  8. Thanks for the info, my question is , I have both harbor freight gun and Eastwood gun. After I use the rod ground method , you said that I don't need the alligator clip anymore, but do I still need to plug the equipment to an outlet?, or just hook my air line to the gun and not worry about the power and the pedal and button that you press when operating. Thanks for prompt response

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    1. You definitely still need to plug it in. Don't forget that the powder coating gun is providing a charge to the powder as you spray it out of the gun. If you don't plug it in or operate the foot pedal, then the powder would not be charged and it would not be attracted to the grounded part. Let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks for reading.

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  9. Hi, I just built my spray booth and I'm running a copper ground bar across and plan to hang parts on copper ground hooks. Will my setup be effective as yours?

    Thank you.

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    1. That sounds like a great setup as long as the hanging copper rod is hooked to a ground rod in the ground. As long as all the connections are nice and tight and you use as few connections as possible, you can't go wrong.

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    2. Hi Sean, thanks for responding. However, I'm curious. How necessary is it to have a ground bar into the ground? Can't I just clip the ground wire from the guns control box onto my hanging ground bar?

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    3. The ground rod in the ground is the most important part of the setup. Once you connect your parts to the grounding rod in the ground, you don't even need the clip from your gun. The whole point of the ground rod is to provide a better ground than the powder coating gun clip can provide.

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    4. Yes, that makes total sense. I was trying to figure it out last night after reading this article and kept replaying it over and over in my head until the light finally turned out. Ground rod it is! Thank you for all the informative information!! Great site!

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  10. From an electricians point of view this makes no sense, you need a good ground to the source of the high voltage, which is the control box, the only way to improve this is use a larger cable from your part to the control box.
    If you are connecting your part to the ground rod only, you are then relying on the general mass of earth as a conductor and it will have a much higher resistance than your "stock" ground which is entirely copper.

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    1. The idea of using a grounding rod for powder coating is not mine. I read about it, tried it, and noticed unquestionably improved results when shooting more than one coat. Grounding rods are very widely used in powder coating from small shops, to huge high-production factories. It is the only recommended way I have ever read about to ground parts for powder coating. It has been written about it technical articles, The Powder Coating Institute, even some of the manufacturers of professional powder coating guns.

      I am not an electrician, nor do I know the exact science behind why it offers better results, but it is a tried and true method that I will continue to use and recommend.

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    2. I too am trying to reconcile what I know about electricity and HV generation (as an EE with 35 years of experience) as compared to what seems to work practically. I don't know how powder coating systems are designed but if I were designing one I would electrically isolate my ground from earth ground so I could build up the largest voltage potential between my part and the gun tip. Adding earth ground to the equation is unnecessary and potentially (no pun intended) counter-productive because paint would then want to stick to anything at earth ground potential. I will nevertheless try this. I can tell you that heavy gauge wire is definitely unneeded. The difference between very fine wire versus thick will make no difference when voltage potential is in the thousands of volts with high impedance (i.e. low current capability). They effectively have a very large resistor in series with the voltage at the gun tip which prevents much current from flowing. Adding a wire with, say 1 ohm of resistance, effectively adds that resistance in series with that very high resistance. I have difficulty seeing how a better earth ground could make a measureable difference. You might improve the path to ground by a 10th of an ohm which is probably about one part in 1,000,000. However, as I said I will give it a try to see it I can see a difference myself.

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    3. Unfortunately, I know very little about the intricacies of electricity so I can only partially follow what you are saying. I also cannot argue "electrically" why the grounding rod works better. However, is is a tried and true method in the powder coating industry from large production factories to custom shops. I will tell you 100% that there is a very noticeable improvement with the grounding rod.

      Just recently I moved and did some powder coating using the grounding clip on the gun because I did not set up my grounding rod yet. I thought there was something wrong with my gun, half of the powder ended up on the ground and shooting powder into the tight areas was near impossible. I set up my grounding rod the next day and it was a night-and-day difference. The length of time spent coating was shortened quite a bit, I wasted much less powder, and I was able to do 2 coats easier than just one coat while using the gun clip.

      I believe you mentioned isolating the earth ground from the gun ground, however, when using a grounding rod, I recommend ditching the gun ground all together, there is no reason to even connect it to the part.

      This topic has been quite controversial so I think I will shoot a video to compare the two methods.

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    4. Very good Sean, yes I can see your point about grounding and it does make all the sense in the world. I don't know why it would be questioned. The more strands of wire also adds to the conductivity as electrons actually travel around each strand and not through it. Great job on this entire article by the way!!

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    5. This is incorrect. You want more strands for flexibility, not conductivity. Electrons only move to the surface of a conductor when there is no electric field (they are all like charges, like charges repel and will migrate away from each other). Once you connect a conductor to a voltage source the electrons will flow through the whole wire, not on the surface. This is why your house is wired with solid conductors - you don't need the flexibility since they never move once they are in the wall. Welding cable has a ton of conductors because you are constantly moving the welding head, not because the conduction is only on the surface.

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  11. I grounded for wire like you said to and when I apply powder it seems to stick on the part.. once it starts to cure spots seem to open up... and bare metal is exposed.. almost like cracks in the powder. do you know why this is? thanks

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    1. I grounded "my" wire not for wire.

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    2. That sounds like poor prep work. Wipe down the part with a lint-free rag using acetone or Pre cleaner. Heat the part up to about 200, remove from heat and give it one more wipe down while trying to to burn your fingers :) Powdercoating results are usually based more on prep work than gun work.

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  12. hi Sean I would like to say thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. Question, I live in an apartment complex and I cant go out because its too cold. I have everything to powder wherever my hands can grab, now and then the external grounding where can I plug in or put it or something, because I want to do it or play around with it, inside of my apartment?

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    1. Well coating in an apartment is probably not the best idea, you'll probably end up with powder on everything. However, I would probably do the same thing if I had no choice. I would definitely built a spray booth with a fan and a filter to capture as much over-spray as possible. If your apartment is not on the 1st floor, there is no way around it, you will not be able to use a grounding rod realistically. You'll have to use the grounding clip on your gun. However, if you are on the first floor, I would stick the grounding rod right outside the door and use a wire with a connector at the grounding rod so you can easily disconnect it and bring it inside when you are not coating. When you are coating, just run it under the door.

      I doubt any of this would be allowed by your apartment so this is all a do-at-your-own-risk type of thing.

      What type of oven do you plan on curing the parts with inside your apartment? Do NOT use your kitchen oven of your apartment unless you never plan to use it to cook food with and you plan on replacing it when you move out.

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  13. What kind of wire connector did you use?

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    1. I'm currently using some 8 gauge stranded copper cable. Nothing fancy.

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  14. Question . My company has just moved in a powder coat booth ,they want me to get it up and going. Where it came from it had no ground rod.. I'll fix that .But what I noticed was the ground wire for the parts was connected to the metal booth ??Wont this pull the powder away from where you need it? I'm going to be moving racks of parts in and out all day .Looking to making a ground strap on each rack with a magnetic connection ,like on some of the newer kitchen appliances, just a magnetic cord connection.

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    1. It is not uncommon for the powder coating booth and racks to be grounded as well as the part. It will attract a very minimal amount of powder as long as you are not directly aiming the gun at the booth or rack. The part can be grounded to the booth as long as the booth is grounded to something, ideally, a ground rod. However, the fewer connections between the part and the grounding rod is the best way. So if you have the part hanging on the rack which is then grounded to the booth which is then grounded through the ground rod, you have several connections there can increase the resistance. I would prefer to ground the rack directly to the grounding rod and ground the booth through a separate connection to the grounding rod. Make sure that your rack always has a clean bare spot when hanging parts though. A magnetic connection would be fine and that is a neat idea as long as it does not increase the resistance of the ground path.

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  15. Can I use the same grounding rod that grounds my house electrical panel or do I need a separate grounding rod for powder coating?

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  16. Maybe some of the uncertainty about grounds in these comments is from not completely realizing that the powder coating guns work by putting a *static* charge on the powder particles. We're much more used to examples of electricity as a current flowing in a complete loop (e.g. a "circuit").

    A good example of static charge is when you were a kid in the wintertime and you shuffled your feet across the carpet. This built up a static charge, which you then dissipated by touching your brother's arm and shocking the dickens out of him.

    A powder gun uses the output of it's high-voltage transformer to set up an electric field. The field generator is the little wire thing at the end of the gun barrel. The compressed air fluffs (good word!) the powder, and sends it across the the electric field and out the end of the gun barrel. As each particle of powder crosses the electric field, it picks up a charge; just like you did when you were shuffling your feet across the carpet. Although the exact amount of charge taken on by each powder particle will vary, each particle will be charged with the same polarity: a negative polarity since all electrons always carry a negative charge (positrons carry positive charge).

    So, we've got this air stream headed out of the powder gun, and it's loaded with powder particles that each contain a negative charge.

    Like 2 magnets, where similar poles repel and opposite poles attract, electrical charges behave similarly: two particles with the same polarity of charge repel each other, but different polarities attract. With the powder in the air stream, they all have negative charges, so they (faintly) repel each other. Good thing, or they would clump together in mid-air and you'd have a mess.

    Now, the air stream with the charged powder particles comes in contact with the Ferrari Dino valve cover you're restoring. The valve cover is well grounded to Mother Earth: it contains 0 electrical charge. As the negatively charged powder particles hit the valve cover, they're attracted and they stick to the cover.

    Now, here's the reason the excellent quality ground is needed: As more and more charged powder particles come in contact with the valve cover, some of their negative charge is passed to the valve cover. This is exactly like when you shocked your brother. You were the powder particle, and you transferred a good bit of the charge you had built up over to your brother (the valve cover). If you have a poor quality ground (either resistive, or not making good electrical contact with Mother Earth) the negative charges will build up on the valve cover until it is nearly as negative as the powder particles themselves. Bummer: additional powder doesn't stick as well, and the existing powder is much more likely to fall off the valve cover.

    If you get a good quality connection between the valve cover and Mother Earth, it will constantly drain the charge off the valve cover and leave the cover at 0 volts potential, which will be attractive to the powder particles!

    Mr. Castle is correct to use thick wire (less resistance per foot) and to optimize his ground rod by soaking the earth around it in water.

    I hope this is useful to all. I also hope it's actually correct, since I'm writing it at 4AM.

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  17. Sorry, I forgot to mention something important: If you use a separate ground rod and wire as Mr. Castle suggests, then you should probably also do the following:

    1) The grounding pin on the powder gun's power supply's AC cord that you plug into the wall is still absolutely necessary. It grounds the chassis of the power supply. Do not cut off or otherwise disable the AC cord's grounding pin.

    2) Don't use the grounding wire and clip that connect the powder gun's power supply to the object being painted. Just cut it off or tape it up. Having two grounds is almost always a bad idea. The power supply generates thousands of volts; why take the chance for no benefit?

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    1. Thank you for the clarifying the ground rod. If its okay with you, I'd like to summarize your post and add it to the article to add some more clarification for people who doubt its effectiveness.

      And yes, to anyone reading this, do not cut off the ground pin on your powder coating gun's electrical plug. If you, there is a chance of getting a shock from the gun as it is no longer grounded. The newer Redline EZ50 guns have no grounding pin and that is exactly what happens: it shocks the users. That is why you must actually ground the gun to a grounding rod using the ground clip.

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  18. Certainly you are welcome to summarize, edit and include my comment; no attribution is needed. I'm glad you think it is a worthwhile comment!

    These are deadly voltages we're dealing with. If the manual for your powder gun contradicts something I've written, it's probably for a damn good reason and you should do exactly what the manual tells you to. Each manufacturer has designed their own circuit to generate the high voltage required. Mr. Castle pointed out the new Redline EZ50 guns having plugs with no ground pins: this really surprised me. I imagine the circuit they designed to generate the high voltage creates it's own isolated ground on the high voltage side. I looked around on the internet today trying to find schematics of the EZ50 and other commercially available powder guns, but I could not find any.

    So, my hands are kind of tied as far as exact recommendations on the ground wire between the gun and the object being painted goes. To say for sure, I'd need to see the electrical schematic for the particular gun being used. What I can say with reasonable confidence is:

    1) Always do what the manual specifically says to do. Always.

    2) If the AC power cord is a three-prong cord, then insert it into a three-prong wall outlet that you are totally confident is actually connected to your home or shops electrical ground. Assuming that you're using Mr. Castle's ground rod and wire, there may or may not be a need to use the ground wire connecting the gun to the object being painted. I can't tell without seeing the particular gun's schematic. Do what the manual says to do.

    3) If the AC power cord is a two-prong cord, that's OK, but you're almost certainly going to have to attach the ground wire between the gun and the object being painted whether you use Mr. Castle's ground rod or not.

    You should get a licensed electrician out to look at your installation if:

    A) You're not absolutely positively certain that the AC wall outlet is truly connected to ground.

    B) You get sparks when you do the following:
    1) Turn the the gun's power supply off.
    2) Fully discharge the gun by the method recommended by the manual.
    3) Leave all the wiring hooked up as if you were going to paint.
    4) The ground wire between the gun and the object being painted will have
    an electrical clamping terminal on the end to clip it onto the object
    being painted. Put on thick gloves, and hold the electrical clamping
    terminal. Drag it across the bare-wire end of Mr. Castle's ground rod
    wire, like you were striking a match. If you see sparks, then you have a
    problem with your building's ground that requires a licensed electrician
    to examine and fix.

    I hope this is helpful.

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  19. From Rod Danglewood:. Thanks to Mr. Castle for all the outstanding information. I have one small contribution to add. During my 20 years in the USMC, I was aware that our utilities and communications guys would mix in water softener salt to the backfill that went in around grounding rods for portable generators. These high output MEPDS power systems needed a solid ground and the salt made the soil around them much more conductive, depending on soil type. The water you add doesnt conduct elecrical current by itself, but the electrolytes in it do (deionized/distilled water is a poor conductor). The water also creates more surface contact between the ground rod and the soil. I dont know how much, if any, this would benefit powder coating but I thought I would make the observation.

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  20. Can I use the existing grounding rod that my house is grounded to or does it need to be a dedicated rod?

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    1. The overall consensus is that you should always use a dedicated grounding rod. I don't have any experience otherwise though.

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  21. someone told me about a neg side of a battery. run a wire from bat to part..is this true? thanks very great advise here...

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    1. No, absolutely not. You should either use a dedicated ground rod (preferred) or the electrical clip that is attached to your powder coating gun box.

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    2. ok thank you.......i learned alot here.....

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  22. i get less spark when it's graund'ed to mother earth..more alot more when doing it with the power box...when turn'ed on of cores..is this normal?

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  23. Hi I live in Hawaii where the ground is...rock. volcanic rock. You can't drive anything into the dirt more that a foot or two. I work out of a large industrial building, can I ground to the building (even though I doubt the foundation is deeper than a couple feet)??? What are my alternatives? Ive got the craftsman gun and doing a small motorcycle gas tank.

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    1. In this situation, you have me stumped. I wouldn't know what to do except to use the green grounding wire attached to the Craftsman gun. If you can get in touch with a local electrician, they might know what to do in this situation but its a long shot. I wish I could offer better advice but I have no experience with terrain like that. You may not be able to use a dedicated grounding rod, but on the bright side, at least you live in Hawaii!

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  24. Great site. I ran power to my detached garage a couple years ago, could I use that ground rod as my ground for powdercoating or should I run a dedicated rod?

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    1. Thanks. A dedicated grounding rod is always considered ideal.

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  25. Really learned a lot here and solve a lot of my problems. I am working with Eastwood dual voltage gun . I am coating when the part is hot because I can't add seconds coat or that I can't get the powder to get in some areas. Good result so far . Any way my house fuse box is right next to my painting booth . Can I run my grounding to the green/yellow grounding in the box ????

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