Scoop on a company that can help cover things…
Just suppose you’re looking to sort out the running gear of your bike but wanted something a bit more robust than, say, the more traditional routes. Powder-coating is a fine thing but just like any professional finish it needs to be done right or it can create more problems than it solves. Two pack paint generally looks more like the original finishes and it’s very often the medium chosen for those who turn out show standard machines. But let’s say you want to build a good looking bike that’s also going to be actively ridden, in a variety of conditions and not necessarily overly pampered. How about a finish that can take a bit of wear and tear and not show every little mark; what are the options then? When the classic movement took off two decades ago there were still many companies carrying out stove enamelling and by all accounts it’s a damn good finish. Sadly the basic economics of the set-up meant it was costly and when health and safety regulations changed many of the old time enamellers decided to call it a day. And this left a gap in the market which, until recently, few have sought to fill. Fortunately, in a parallel market, similar H&S changes saw the use of many metal passivation systems either outlawed or severely curtailed and this hit military applications especially hard. The use of manganese, chromium or zinc compounds had disproportionate environmental impacts and most were either banned or heavily restricted. Yet for all that, as the
saying goes, it’s truly an ill wind that blows no one any good. An American company, NIC Industries Cerakote, just so happened to be developing a unique system based around a wet painting process unlike any other up to that point. It’s formulated around a carrier vehicle which not only contains the ‘paint’ pigment but also cleverly suspends a super-hard micronised ceramic component. The product is applied via a traditional spray gun yet it’s only activated when the catalyst is kick started via heat curing. The end result is a seriously strong coating. Better still, by varying the level of catalyst within given parameters, the resultant finish can be adjusted for levels of sheen or gloss. The US military loved the new super hard finish and the rest, as they say, is history. Seeing almost limitless markets for the product has led Cerakote to run a training set-up where would-be licensees learn the intricacies of the products and processes. Of course, it wasn’t long before the concept found applications within the automotive market and especially the refinishing and restoration fields: which is good news for us classics fans who like to work our older machines hard but still want them to look good. Imagine having a paint/coating application that’s resistant to everyday abrasions? How reassuring would it be to know one drop of brake fluid isn’t going to mess up that rebuilt brake or clutch master cylinder? Or know that the paint on your engine cases won’t simply melt in front of your eyes at the first whiff of ethanol containing petrol? All this and more is now available and amazingly it’s not outrageously expensive either. Enter Mark Dunford of High Calibre Coatings who is a Cerakote-accredited practitioner and motorcycle enthusiast. He’s a highly skilled fine detail engineer who just so happens to be a fully qualified and registered gunsmith. Having been working with Cerakote for a number of years now he’s gained a fine reputation within two disparate worlds for quality work at affordable money; both firearms and bikes can now benefit from a finish that stands the rigours of daily use. To further verify his credentials Mark was the man selected to apply Cerakote to Guy Martin’s record-breaking Wall of Death Indian motorcycle. There’s nothing quite like the glare of national media to focus the mind! Mark’s workshop is in the middle of rural East Anglia and neatly set up around the various different tasks the process requires. The main area is dedicated to the stripping and examination of the components; here a precise evaluation of their condition is made and any serious defects flagged up to the customer. From there the parts are carefully blast cleaned but not before critical areas such as master cylinder bores, bearing areas and brake caliper internals are masked off. The use of both 80 and 120 grit garnet powder gives a good compromise between removing old coatings/corrosion versus ideal surface preparation. Knowledge of blasting and its limitations is key to the preparatory work, as is recognising defects that were previously not visible. Any serious defects such as road rash in alloy engine cases is rectified using a marine grade epoxy putty which is also temperature resistant. All critical areas
are hand finished to ensure blemishes are eradicated and any outstanding issues rectified. Once the surface is clean and defects sorted the components are masked up as necessary but not before every surface is scrupulously cleaned with an air jet and industry standard tack cloth. From here it’s into the spray booth and to all intents and purposes what happens here is pretty much like any went paint system but with some notable exceptions. Firstly you’ll not see Mark using a high-end mega expensive spray gun. The Cerakote paint is, by its nature, abrasive due to the ceramics it contains and tends to rapidly wear guns and nozzles. For this reason alone a medium-priced gun is the weapon of choice and gets replaced when it wears out. Secondly the Cerakote paint and the activator-cum-catalyst are mixed to give the required level of gloss, satin, or matte. At ‘base’ dosings, a given amount of catalyst gives the level of gloss you’d expect to see on a bike frame; changing the level gives the satin finish seen on brake calipers and at extreme levels the catalyst delivers a flat matte coating as used on early Yamaha engine covers etc. If you’re not sure what colour or finish you need just like any good sprayer Mark can advise; with over one hundred stock colours there are plenty of options. Post spraying, the components are oven cured at 100ºc and from there on in your bike parts have a quality coating that will resist pretty much anything your bike and Her Majesty’s highways can throw at it. Typically the finish is around 12-25 microns which with an ordinary paint really wouldn’t be anywhere near enough but with Cerakote there’s more than enough to withstand the rigours of the two wheeled world. Any components that aren’t exactly right go back to the blast cabinet where the whole process then begins again. We’ve only touched the surface of what Cerakote and High Calibre Coatings are capable of so have a look at the website below. There are complex exhaust systems, brake components, firearms and a stunning pair of Yamaha LC wheels that typify the attention to detail. Prices are sensible, the range of options extensive and the possibilities nigh on unlimited. Chances are you might never pick up a rattle can again! Thanks Mark Dunford for access to the process: www.hccoatings.co.uk 07941 668265
The magic ingredient...
Before the procedure: not bad, but not good!
Cleaning down for the coating itself.
Paint off and ready for the next stage.
It’s all about the prep!
In the blast cabinet.
The medium used.
Myriad colours available.
Before and after: chalk and cheese!
On it all goes...
Getting the right colour is key.
Loading the gun.
Painted and curing.