Cerakote and Duracoat1

Cerakote and Duracoat: Behind the Scenes Part II

In Blog by Don0 Comments

In Part 1 of this little behind the scenes look at the Cerakote and Duracoat process I discussed a lot of the preparation that has to be done before Cerakote and Duracoat are even applied. As was essentially said elsewhere, it’s all in the prep work. Think of it like building a house, if the foundation is crap then the house will fall apart. Everything needs to be absolutely meticulously cleaned and degreased to be able to effect the best results. In Part 2 I’m going to get down to brass tacks and talk about the actual process of applying Cerakote and Duracoat. I’ll discuss the equipment I use, and how something as seemingly insignificant as wanting a particular shade of a color or pattern of camouflage can add a significant amount of work to the overall project.

Down to brass tacks. Sort of.

So now we have your firearm all taped up and we’re ready to go, right? Wrong. It’s now time to reassemble the spray gun we use. We use an Iwata LPH80 spray gun for applying Cerakote and Duracoat. After we use it every day we clean it and disassemble it, but we also clean it before we use it to make absolutely sure that there isn’t any contamination, and to ensure that our equipment is properly maintained. So it’s cleaned and reassembled, we’re all ready to run right? Nope. We take a look at what is on our list of colors and quantities to coat. I could have to do 11 pistols, 7 black, 2 pink, and one purple, as well as 4 rifles in 4 different colors in a day. We have to figure out what the most efficient way to do all that would be since every time we change colors we need to clean the spray gun.

Running lacquer thinner through the spray gun to clean out the previous paint.

Running lacquer thinner through the spray gun to clean out the previous paint.

So now we’ve got our order of operations figured out, and it’s finally time to mix the paint. This is where our process differs vastly from that of the one-time use spray can you bought for $40. We mix the hardener and paint ourselves by carefully measuring and dispensing the proper ratios which depend on what products you’re using. So we just dump it in the hopper and go right? Well with Duracoat the answer is yes, with Cerakote we have to actually strain it. If we don’t there could be clumps of material that go through the spray gun and really screw up the finish. It would annoy the crap out of you if you had an essentially a grain of sand sticking out in the brand new finish for your gun now wouldn’t it.

The rack of many paints and paint related tools.

The rack of many different colors of Cerakote and Duracoat and related tools.

The strainer sits inside a funnel, that sits inside the spray gun. This is important to ensure the consistency of the paint.

The strainer sits inside a funnel, that sits inside the spray gun. This is important to ensure the consistency of the paint.

Cerakote and Duracoat – Applying the Coatings!

So now we actually begin to apply the coatings. Each firearm we do we have to make sure we get all the little areas that you wouldn’t immediately think of, but you’d notice right away. The serrations on a slide are a prime example of this. It takes a little bit of technique to do it right, and if it’s not done right it’s exactly the kind of thing that a person’s eye will focus on. During the painting process I’m adjusting all sorts of parameters of the spray gun on the fly. Paint flow rate, fan width, gas flow rate, as well as the distance and angle of how I’m holding the gun relative to the part are all important and can make a big difference in the quality of the end product. On top of that I need to be constantly looking at how the coating is going onto the piece, and be careful not to apply too much. It’s a lot easier to work with a piece where you’ve applied too little rather than too much, because I can always apply more.

Our brand new spray booth. We use furnace filters to capture any over spray so it doesn't clog up the fans.

Our brand new spray booth. We use furnace filters to capture any over spray so it doesn’t clog up the fans.

After the coating has been applied to the part, we place it in a special oven while we continue to apply the coating to other parts. After all the parts have been coated, we start back with the first one and go over it carefully to make sure we have all the areas we need to coated, as well as ensure we have the desired amount of coating to get the end look we want. And after we’re satisfied, all of the parts go into that oven for around 2 hours to fully cure. Now only so many parts can fit into the oven at a time, so there’s only so much we can do at any given time.

This is three rifles in the oven. You can see there's not a huge amount of room in the oven.

This is three rifles in the oven. You can see there’s not a huge amount of room in the oven.

Considerations when Applying Cerakote and Duracoat

Now what you need to realize is that we will try to slide your parts in with what we’re doing for factory coatings, but if you’re asking for something different from the most popular stuff it actually ends up being an entirely special process just for you. Thus far in what I’ve shared we’ve only been dealing with the application of one color, and our most popular at that. Now for every additional color, or even camouflage pattern you want, it takes additional time since we have to apply decals that we can remove to create camouflage patterns. And for each layer we have to cook it for the same duration as well. So you want your bolt-action rifle covered in a 4 color camouflage pattern? You’re looking at an hour and a half of time actually painting, 8 hours of cooking time, and at least half an hour of applying decals. That’s at least 10 hours of time working on just your bolt-action rifle, or your 1911.

So if it’s one color, and it’s a color we commonly work with it can be a lot faster return time. Recently at a gun show we had a gentlemen who approached us to redo the coating on his Mauser floor plate, and that very day he gave it to us. He wanted it done in black Duracoat, a color we very commonly do, and because of that we had it shipped back to him within two weeks. On the other hand we had a guy who wanted us to do his rifle in a 4 color mixed camouflage, including some colors we didn’t have the paint for and had to order. Because of that it took us six weeks to get the rifle shipped out to him.

In Closing

I hope this gives you a better insight into what’s going on behind the scenes when you send your guns out to be coated, and why it can potentially cost so much. One thing to point out is that just because someone is more expensive does not mean they are of better quality. For example we charge below what a lot of people out there charge, but those others don’t necessarily have the experience or clients we do. I highly advise anyone who is going to have it done professionally to do their due diligence on the applicator you are thinking about choosing. After reading this if you are interested in having us do a custom job for you, please feel free to use the contact information below and we’ll get back to you.

Don is a Minnesota college student working his way through school as a firearms coatings specialist. An avid shooter with a love for just about all things gun related, gladly sharing his somewhat unique experiences with anyone who will listen. If you have any questions for me, email us!

Have a question or comment? We want to hear it!