Cerakote Firearm Refinishing

The action ready for service.
1895 Marlin brush gun chambered in 45-70 with Cerakote graphite black finish.

We’ve been using different sprayed on heat cured finishes here for a while.  Our favorite is Cerakote, a two-part heat cured ceramic based epoxy. Cerakote provides a durable protective finish that we have come to love on our pistols and long guns. Unlike some non-heat cured paints, Cerakote is durable and will not wipe off with Gun Scrubber or TCE.

The process we use is an improvised method that fits our needs. Complete (and proper) Cerakote application instructions can be found here.

Proper safety equipment is a must.  Be extremely careful to wear proper protective clothing to include a respirator, safety glasses and rubber gloves.  A detailed MSDS sheet can be downloaded here.

A few pointers if you plan on trying spray finishes:

  1. Never cut corners on preparation or degreasing
  2. Take your time and don’t rush
  3. Always mix a little more then you think you need.  This will save you a lot of time and head aches
  4. Be careful and follow appropriate and common sense safety precautions FYI, we think it’s a bad idea cooking parts in your kitchen’s oven
  5. Read the manufacturers application instructions
  6. Our curing oven is a unique solution that works for us, we aren’t recommending it.  If you build your own proceed with caution.

To apply Cerakote we ordered the following items from Brownells:

This is our 1895 45-70 brush gun.  We begin by disassembling and attaching black iron wire to each piece.

Like any coating process, the amount of work you spend in your preparation will determine the final quality of your finish. Holding the black iron wire, we rinse each part with TCE cleaner greaser over a bucket and allow the liquid to run clear.  Make sure you degrease the wire as well as the part.

After the parts are initially degreased, we blast them with 100 grit aluminum oxide media at 80 PSI.

Parts are blasted with 100 grit aluminum oxide at 80 PSI.  Be careful not to erode away shallow markings.  Take the time to use compressed air to throughly remove excess media from the parts. The bore and chamber are both plugged with rubber stoppers to prevent fouling.  After blasting each part, we wrap it in newspaper to prevent marring the finish.

Notice we have the screws we plan on coating threaded into the parts for blasting.  We find this prevents parts from getting lost.  We will remove them for the spraying process.

We used to use a small bench top sand blasting unit and air compressor until a friend offered use of their commercial set up.  Since then we have never looked back.  If you don’t have access to one, ask around your gun club, you may be pleasantly surprised.

We attach small alligator clips to black iron wire to hold small parts such as screws.
The block shown in the rear is used to hang the parts secured with the black iron wire. A series of 3″ drywall screws are left exposed to wrap the wire. On the top right you can see screws being secured in alligator clips.  Here the parts have been degreased and allowed to dry.

We conduct all of our refinishing outside. At Rifleshooter.com refinishing is a weather, light and temperature dependent exercise.  Each part is individually hung over a bucket and sprayed with TCE cleaner degreaser until the liquid runs clear. This is a critical step, Cerakote is an interesting finish, it’s either on or it’s not. Skip and step and you will be starting over.

If you have a part you suspect is embedded with oil, you can heat the part, this will cause the oil to rise to the surface.

We measure the Cerakote in the graduated cylinder and pour it into the cup, then measure and pour the hardener into the cup to mix them both.

Prior to mixing the coating we set up our spray area and open our oven door. Brownells includes a graduated cylinder to measure the coating in the kit. We like to mix 24:1, Cerakote to hardener. We measure the Cerakote in the graduated cylinder and pour it into the cup, then measure and pour the hardener into the cup to mix them both.

This application is using the color “Graphite Black” with has a nice sheen and finish. We have one set of application equipment we use specifically for black finishes so we do not cross contaminate lighter finishes.

We apply light and even coats. Be careful not to apply the coating too thick and cause drips.

We use an airbrush to apply Cerakote. We have found running it around 40 PSI with a larger nozzle works well. We apply light and even coats. Be careful not to apply the coating too thick and cause drips. If you have a drip, clean the entire part with TCE and start over. Cerakote can be unforgiving at times.

This is our homemade curing oven. It looks a lot like a cheap gun safe doesn’t it?

We hang the parts in the oven and allow them to stand for 30 minutes before applying heat. Instructions call for 2 hours at 250 degrees for the finish to cure. Be extremely careful not to bump the parts into each other or the oven, if you do you will need to remove the finish completely and start over.

It is a cheap and rusty gun safe that has found a new lease on life. We welded two 5/8 galvanized rod sections inside to hang parts from.  A hole saw was used to cut and opening for our heat source in the bottom rear.
Here is the heat source. A Milwaukee heat gun. It’s kind of like an industrial hair dryer for dudes. We bought it to strip paint ten years ago and find it works great as a heating element. When we started applying heat cured finished a few years back, we would have two different thermometers inserted into the “oven” to monitor temperatures   After years of use we are familiar enough with how it works and set the heat gun without worrying about the thermometers. What we have noticed is while the gun is rated for 1400 degrees, the oven gets nowhere near that. As shown, temperatures with stay around 250 degrees all day.
While not needed here, this is the custom rigid foam insulation cover we use for higher cure temperature finishes. We thought it was pretty clever, that’s why we shared.

After 2 hours we remove the heat source from the oven and allow the parts to cool. Once cooled, we remove them from the oven and apply a light coat of oil before reassembly.

The 1895 bobbed hammer we Cerakoted.
The action ready for service.