So I spent some time playing with the recent powder coating addition to the shop. I had done what research I could prior to trying it out for the first time but it finally got to a point where I just had to get my hands on it and experience the procedure for myself.
I went hunting around for some metal objects that were willing to sacrifice themselves for a practice round. I stumbled upon a pneumatic cart wheel that was looking for a second chance in life, how could I deny it an opportunity for a mid-life makeover? So out into the garage we went and the sacrificial wheel was disassembled and the bearings removed.
The more projects I complete the more evident it becomes that prep is everything. Whenever I see a quality, well done, impressive finished project it is the preliminary steps, detail, and prep that always seems to shine through. So in keeping with the prep theme I ran the rim of the pneumatic wheel through a series of cleaning chemicals to ensure that there was no grease or oil present.
Then it was off to the sandblast cabinet to give it an exfoliation. What I have read, but have not experienced, is the importance of cleaning grease and oil from the metals prior to sandblasting. I know this to be true for aluminum welding and anodizing as any grease and oil that may have been present during the blasting process will get itself forced into the pores of the metal thereby compromising the cleanliness required for welding or anodizing.
So with the rim cleaned, blasted, and then cleaned again using Acetone I fired up the electric oven and gave the rim a bit of a preheat. Following the guide supplied with the Hypersmooth 02 I loaded in some Safety Orange into the hopper, hooked up my wiring and hoses and proceeded to blow some powder onto my sample rim. I was amazed at how well the powder attracted itself to the rim. I was just set up in the middle of my shop for now with no booth and there was some powder that made its way to the floor but not much. The powder does not appear to be nearly as airborne as paint and didn’t appear to leave a layer of orange on everything in the shop.
Being the first try I was unsure just how much powder to lay on. The powder took well, including the corners. I decided to stop at the point where everything was covered and the rim was left with a light dusting. With the oven pre-heated to 400 degree Fahrenheit I gave the rim a bake time of 10 minutes PMT (Part Metal Temperature). It is pretty cool to watch the powder melt itself into a smooth flowy coating.
With the bake time complete it was time to move onto close inspection of the work. Initial impression was that the coating looked very good and fairly professional. Upon closer inspection I was able to see some dust type particles in the coating which I believe was a result of my “less then perfect” initial cleaning and wipe down. The second issue was that the coating appeared to be a bit thin in some areas. The orange had almost a transparent look in some minor spots. Again I suspect this was a result of my inexperience and I simply did not lay the coating on thick enough.
So I was starting to have some fun with this and didn’t want to stop so I decided to break out the Satin Clear powder I had and gave the orange rim a top coat. I performed no prep work. The rims were still slightly warm from baking on the orange powder so I simply cleaned the gun out, swapped over to clear and gave them a light dusting. Back in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and behold I had a decent looking satin cleared orange wheel. Again I am unsure if I laid the clear on thick enough, I suspect I went a bit on light side. Anyway…for the first round I would have to say I was fairly impressed. Not only does the finish look great but the clean up associated with the gun, and shop, is quick and easy.
So a couple days later I was looking to go another round with the powder coating. I had built a wheel adapter for an automotive shop to use with their tire changer. The adapter simply needed to serve a purpose and was not required to be a work of art. I decided to see what kind of luck could be had using the Red Wrinkle powder. With the hub adapter machined and welded it got an initial cleaning of acetone and then a session of sandblasting. It was then placed in the oven for a presoak. The adapter had quite a bit of mass to it so it spent awhile baking in the heat. With some temperature put into the metal I then proceed to lay on some of the wrinkle red. The stuff sticks great. I decided to go a bit heavier with the coating this time round just to get an idea and feel for it all. Back into the oven it went for 15 minutes PMT at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the powder was baked on and the adapter cooled close inspection revealed a nice even smooth coating. There was no evidence of any wrinkle effect, unsure why, perhaps too heavy a coat or maybe the pre heat was a bit too hot. Anyway…I’ll work at solving the problems.
So a few days later I decided to have another go at some test pieces. I had an old stainless steel license plate frame lying around so I tossed it into the blast cabinet and removed all the old black coating. Then, for no particular reason, I shot it with Safety Orange. End result? Fairly impressive, the coating was smooth, even, and lacked no bare spots.
I then moved onto some sample chips. I had planned to spray 4 steel chips with the 4 colors I had, Safety Orange, Wrinkle Red, Super Wet Black, and Tucson Matte Black. I also sprayed a couple of aluminum chip samples using the Satin Clear. One of the aluminum chips was sand blasted and the other had a 4 stage polishing done to it. Well the first round turned out to be a failure. I laid the Satin Clear and Super Wet Black on way way way too thick, so thick that the powder started to drip off into the oven. The end result was hideous, the cleared aluminum was just and ugly mess with nothing visually pleasing about it and the Super Wet Black sample developed pin holes and a wave look. Okay lesson learnt, however it was a necessary step for me to go through as I typically need to experience failure before I can understand how to make things better.
So on the 3 remaining chips I decided to lighten up a bit and take it easy. I started to get a much better feel for how much powder I was applying. The Safety Orange, Wrinkle Red, and Tucson Matte Black samples turned out fantastic. The Wrinkle Red actually ended up displaying the Wrinkle finish it was intended to have. I suspect this was a result of a lighter coat.
In the end I would have to say I am very pleased with the testing rounds I went through. I learned some basic lessons and achieved some success and satisfaction. As there are still many more challenges to work through I will continue to practice and strive to get better.