Let me introduce myself: my name is Brad Cappello. Some of you may also know me as the "Cerakote Pimp Daddy" over at Redleg Tactical! At Redleg Tactical we love Cerakote. Cerakote is a polymer-ceramic coating that can be applied to metals, plastics, polymers, and wood. The unique formulation used for Cerakote enhances a number of physical performance properties including abrasion/wear resistance, corrosion resistance, chemical resistance, impact strength, and hardness. In this post I am going to cover the steps we take to properly apply Cerakote to your firearm or valuables.
First, a little background on me. I started learning and enjoying firearms at a very young age and they are my passion-turned-occupation! I have had many jobs in my life; I have done everything from appliance repair, road construction, building construction, semi-truck driving, and welding. Fabrication, or tool-making, are also in my bag of skills. These were my main jobs but firearms were my secondary job. I did it because I loved it. Firearms are my true passion. One day my wife decided she wanted a change, so she got a job with Uncle Sam. That brought us to the wonderful state of Colorado. After living here for about a year, and starting a buisness out of my garage, I decided I needed to get into a shop. I went around and talked to a few shops and decided that Redleg Tactical was the place for me. I loved the feel of the shop and Joe and Nick made me feel like family as soon as I walked into the building. I love being a part of Redleg Tactical, but thats enough about me. Let’s get started....
Step One: Getting the Parts from the Customer!
When you walk into the shop you are greeted by a friendly face (usually not me because I'm in the back Cerakoting). That person will come get me from inside our deep, well-lit, well-ventilated paint booth, so that I can consult with you about your Cerakote dream (I like to talk to all of my wonderful customers). We will go over colors, patterns, cost, and lead times. Once you are satisfied the project we will create an order, you'll get a receipt, and I'll take possession of your item(s).
Step Two: Disassembly
The preparation begins immediately after we receive the items you want Cerakoted. I'll take them back to our first station and disassemble the items down to the last spring and roll pin. We keep the parts organized by color and substrate, as plastic and metal bake at different temperatures.
Step Three: Degreasing/Sandblasting
After categorizing the parts to be coated, we soak them in acetone (unless they are plastic/polymer) for approximately 10 min. This step is just to ensure we do not contaminate the sand in the sandblasting cabinet. We then wipe the parts down with an acetone-saturated shop towel. Once this is done, it goes into the sandblasting cabinet. We sandblast every part that we coat with 120 grit aluminum oxide sandblasting media. This is such a fine media that it does not leave any pitting in the material. We blast everything to bare metal (plastic/polymer also gets blasted with the same media to ensure proper adhesion). Lastly, we blow the part off with compressed air to ensure there is no media trapped in the nooks and crannies. Now that all the old coating has been completely removed there is a nice, even, sandblasted surface to work with.
Step Four: Racking/Gassing Out
Next, we rack the parts. Racking is simply hanging the part from a peice of wire so you can handle the part without touching it. We then place the parts in the oven for one hour at 300 degrees for metal parts and one hour at 180 degrees for plastic/polymer parts. This process is called gassing out and it ensures there is no oil or moisture trapped in the part so our Cerakote adheres perfectly to the items.
Step Five: Degreasing/Paint Prep
After the parts are racked and gassed out, we let them cool down and bring them into the paint booth. In the paint booth, I soak them in acetone one last time for approximately 30 to 45 minutes. I then pull them out of the acetone, let them dry, and check for oil residue. If no oil residue is found, I blow the part off with filtered dry air just to be sure there is nothing on the surface (lint,dust,bacon grease,or beard hairs) and begin mixing the paint. The color that was chosen for this job was "Prison Pink". I started by adding 36ml of color to my graduated cylinder, then 2ml of hardener, creating an 18:1 mix ratio. This ratio will provide a nice, smooth satin finish.
Step Six: Spraying/Baking
This part might seem self-explanatory, but attention to detail is incredibly important! For instance, the thickness of paint is by far the hardest part of this entire process. The proper thickness is between 0.0005'' - 0.001''. When I was first learning Cerakote, I used to paint the threads of a 1/4 inch bolt and the threads of a 1/4 inch nut; if they threaded together after curing without effort I knew the thickness was just right. I occasionally do not wear gloves (because I'm not always the brightest crayon in the box) however, as stupid as I sometimes seem, I NEVER paint without a respirator even though we have a negative pressure paint booth.
During our application I start by painting the hard-to-reach areas first, then focus on flat surfaces. After the parts are fully coated I let them hang while I clean my paint gun and graduated cylinder. Once all the equipment is cleaned up, the parts go back in the oven for the last time. I bake metal at 250 degrees for two hours, and plastic/polymer at 150-180 degrees for two hours.
Step Seven: Finishing/Reassembling
The Cerakote is 100% cured after it comes out of the oven. That being said, I am smart enough not to touch the parts straight out of the oven. They will be extremely hot! Usually, I turn the oven off and let it cool with the product inside. After they're cooled down we check for imperfections. We're human, imperfections occasionally happen. If there is a mistake we go back to Step Two. If no mistakes are seen we reassemble the finished product, fulfill the item in our shop system and give the customer a call!
Thanks for reading. We always love getting creative and helping you make the firearm of your dreams a little more dreamy. Come by and see us! Thanks again!