May 22, 2012

DuraCoat: First run

I've been reading non-stop about DuraCoat lately, as I got ready to try it out. I finally accumulated all the pieces in one place to do some testing, and decided to start with a couple of my pre-ban AR mags. They're functional, but both are date-stamped 1991, and showing the wear you'd expect from a 21-year-old magazine.

I highly recommend watching the videos posted by IraqVeteran8888, in particular this one. (Thanks to BubbleHeadLes for that lead!)

When I ordered the colors for MrsZ's rifle, I added in a bottle of "Extreme Tactical Grey" for myself. I had in mind doing some kind of a brush/camo job on my 870, possibly before doing her rifle. If I screw up the coloring on my 870 ... eh, who cares? It's a utility gun. On MrsZ's rifle? Not ok.

Before I take on a full-size gun, I wanted to do a trial run on something smaller, to get a feel for how the stuff goes on. The magazines seemed like the perfect option. I neglected to take a "before" picture, but this one scraped from the internet is a pretty fair representation:

Step one: disassemble. The DuraCoat instructions say (in reference to a firearm) to disassemble "as far as you are comfortable with". With the mags, that's easy: floorplates off, springs and followers out. Done.

From this point on, you need to wear gloves. Not only are you playing with nasty chemicals, but the oils from your fingers will prevent DuraCoat from adhering and curing properly.

Step two: degrease. Even if they don't feel greasy. You can order the "TruStrip" from Lauer directly, or use a can of BraKleen from the auto parts store. Lauer even says that people have good results with the brake cleaner, with the caution that it must be residue-free. Hose 'em down and let 'em dry.

Step three: hang them wherever you're going to paint. Word to the wise: you want very good ventilation and minimal dust. Then put down drop cloths on anything you don't want to get sprayed.

Step four: set up your airbrush and anything else you're going to need. Rags, thinners, lights, whatever. Once the DuraCoat is mixed, the clock is ticking and you can't really screw around with things. Hang your parts in a box or from the ceiling or whatever is right for you. Get your compressor on and rough in the pressures you want (I did 50psi working pressure on the primary regulator, and 25psi working on the brush regulator. Seemed about perfect.)

Step five: Shake and mix the DuraCoat. Seriously, shake that color can. The instructions say 3-5 minutes after you hear the ball rattling around. They mean it. Mix carefully - and a little goes a LONG way. Lauer says that 4oz will finish 1-4 firearms, and I can believe it. I decided to be cautious and mix a little extra. (Handy tip: syringes sans needle are perfect for careful measurements of this stuff. Available from Amazon and ag-supply stores.) I mixed 6cc of DuraCoat to 0.5cc of hardener; right on the 12:1 ratio they recommend. Shake the mixture well, then put it in your airbrush.

Step six: start spraying. A small piece of plastic, metal, or cardboard is great to check your pattern before you start spraying for real. Once you are spraying, smooth even strokes and multiple thin layers are the way to go. Put on one thin coat, and wait for it to "flash off" - stop being shiny - before adding another. This took about five minutes for me today, but it's somewhat weather dependent.

Step seven: WALK AWAY. Seriously. Once your parts are sprayed, don't touch them for 24 hours. Yes, Lauer says you can handle it in an hour, but why bother? Start doing the cleanup ASAP.

Step eight: Clean up. Take apart the needle of your airbrush and dump it in a pan or jar of acetone*. Same for your color jar, mixing jar, anything you want to save. Flush things with acetone and dry them off. Dispose of your waste acetone properly, please. Don't pour it down the drain, save it for hazmat day at the dump. Don't burn it, that's ... dangerous. ;-)

And here's the final result. You can see one bright-ish spot that didn't coat as well as I'd like; that's my own fault for not having enough light where I was working. No big deal in this case. (My "spray booth" was a large rubbermaid tub. It mostly worked, but I'll be investigating a more proper setup ASAP.)

Other tips I picked up:
- a respirator and safety glasses of some kind are essential. Seriously. Go spend the $30 for a half-mask respirator at Home Depot or Lowes (link is to Amazon), and USE THE DAMN THING. You're spraying nasty stuff inches from your face.
- buy a box of exam gloves or prep gloves from a restaurant or EMS supply shop. Change them frequently.
- 3cc syringes are perfect for small batches, 12cc are good for larger. ($2 for 6 of the 3cc and $3 for 4 of the 12cc from Tractor Supply here. Much cheaper in larger quantities online.)
- coverage is impressive. I had 6.5cc of mix and made two-plus complete coats on two thirty-round magazines. And spilled some. And had a fair splash (half a cc, maybe a touch more) left over. I absolutely believe an ounce will give you a fair coat on a gun, but if you need to make 2-3 coats - well, that's the 4oz covering 1-4 guns.

If there's any interest, I may take a crack at a video when I actually start coating a gun.

* - Lauer recommends using their reducer for cleanup. Various places suggest that their reducer is simply acetone, but I can't confirm that. If you're reducing the DuraCoat, use their reducer. If you're doing cleanup, acetone worked great.

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