Lightweight Fabric Spray Booth
Photos by Karen McBride
I needed a spray booth to fit into the oddly shaped upstairs dormer of my 200-year-old log workshop, and that quickly got me thinking how a hospital-curtain design might work. My booth needed to be bright and large enough to spray beds and dining room tables, but still easy to set up and stow away. For a number of reasons this style of spray booth is for water-based finishes only.
When a friend suggested that I permanently install an exhaust fan on the ceiling, the concept for my curtain booth was complete. Essentially, my design consists of fabric walls that are held taut with bungee cords when the booth is set up. When it’s in storage, the fabric walls roll up and are kept in dust-free tubes on the wall. Between the two fabric walls, a drop-down, fabric-panelled frame holds lights and an exhaust fan in front of the window, used to expel the overspray.
The booth walls are constructed from about 12m of approximately 1.25m wide substandard parachute ripstop nylon cloth. Additional supplies for the booth include two lengths of household central-vacuum tubing, six simple wooden battens, an exhaust fan, two bungee cords, epoxy, PVC glue and hook-and-eye hardware.
To build the booth, cut and sew the parachute material together to make two 8′ wide panels that run floor to ceiling, minus 4″. The cut edge of the parachute material can be melted with a lighter to prevent fraying, so there is no need to create elaborate seams when sewing it together.
To create the dust-proof storage tubes, cut two lengths of central-vacuum tubing that run from floor to ceiling. Using a jigsaw, cut out and save a 1-3/8″ PVC strip the full length of each tube. This creates the storage opening for each wall.
Tips, Techniques and Three Great Plans
You Have Successfully
Make four wooden battens 3/8″ x 3/4″ for wall-terminating poles. They should be a few inches longer than the material is tall, but no longer than the floor-to-ceiling height of your shop. Carefully glue a set of battens to each wall panel by sandwiching the material between battens. I used epoxy for this job and left clamps in place until it set. Be careful not to let too much epoxy squeeze out onto the curtain material. To form the spray-booth front, temporarily tack a piece of PVC tubing to the wall so the tubes are about 4′ apart, with the slots in the tubing facing out. Now use PVC glue to attach the 1-3/8″ wide PVC tubing offcuts that were removed earlier to each of the fabric wall panels. This PVC glue will not be a substantial glue bond, but it will hold long enough to screw the PVC strip to the inside of the tubing. First, roll the fabric around the PVC strip once or twice and then screw it to the inside of the tubing using washers and screws every foot, to secure both the fabric and the tubing in place. Now each 8′ wide fabric panel is attached to the storage tube at one end and has a wooden batten on the other end.
To complete the spray booth, determine the placement of each spray-booth wall and drill two 1″ dia. x 3/16″ deep recesses in the floor to hold each wooden batten in position when the walls are in place. My booth is 12′ wide at the back. Drill a small hole about eye level on each batten to attach the bungee cord that keeps each wall taut. The force on the bungee cord should be down and out, not horizontal, in order to keep some downward pressure on the batten so it stays seated in the hole. Be sure you can still walk under the bungee cords when moving around the booth.
The exhaust-fan frame can be constructed from wood and parachute cloth, or from plywood. A short length of central-vacuum tubing with a cutout is mounted on the bottom of the exhaust-fan frame. It houses a length of parachute material, weighted with a wooden batten, which protects the area below the exhaust fan from overspray. Suspend and hinge the exhaust-fan frame from the ceiling using large eyebolts and hooks fastened to a ceiling joist. The frame is also an excellent location to install task lighting for spraying.
To use the booth, simply unroll each wall. Place the wooden battens in each of their drilled detents in the floor, and secure the walls with bungee cords. Open the window, drop the exhaust fan from the ceiling and unroll the protective fabric panel from the bottom of the exhaust-fan frame. Plug in the lights and the exhaust fan and let the spraying begin.
Almost Invisible – The spray booth is so compact and simple that once it’s out of the way, you will almost forget you have it.
Use Your Offcuts – In order to attach one side of each fabric wall in place, wrap the fabric end around the PVC offcut a couple times. You can then screw it through the PVC storage tube, into the wall.
A Small Hole – Drill a small hole in your floor to house the lower end of the fabric walls. If you don’t have wooden floors, you can drill holes in either end of a thin, long plywood strip and place it on the floor between the two ends each time you set up your spray booth.
A Helpful Bungee Cord – Drill a small hole in the batten and use a bungee cord to keep the spray booth taut. Notice the bungee cord is on a downward angle, helping to keep the batten seated in the hole in the floor.
Don’t Get Fancy – Simple hardware will hold the exhaust-fan frame in place, wether it is in use or not. Task lights are also a great way to shed some light on your furniture as it’s being sprayed.
Protection Below – The same sort of method for attaching the two main fabric walls can be used to make a small wall directly below the fan to direct any overspray outdoors.
Karen creates contemporary furniture of her own design, never missing the chance to do complex, intricate work well beyond her skill level.
Tips, Techniques and Three Great Plans