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  1. #1
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    Powdercoating essentials help needed

    Hey all,
    Please excuse my ignorance on this subject but I'm new to powdercoating and want to start getting my frames coated by a shop nearby and don't know what to really ask for. I just moved to northern California, north of Sacramento by an hour - near Auburn, so if anybody has recommendations for someone that does good work near me, that would be awesome. But since that's an unlikely outcome of this post, I'm wondering if you that have gone through this before can share some words of wisdom.

    What am I looking for in a good powdercoater?
    Any watch-outs i should look out for?
    What kind of media blasting, pre-coating treatment should I be asking for and expect?
    Does everybody apply a clear after and if so what kind/type?
    Other things I should expect from them? Masking off the frame? Clear over decals?

    The few places I've found nearby have lots of photos of car parts and motorcycle parts, but only one or two pics of a bike frame that is coated in some gawdawful bright color. I'd like to take a sample frame to each one to get 'tested' but i don't really want to rack up the costs of that. Eventually, it'd be great to do this in house but that's not in the cards yet.

    thanks for any help,
    Whit

  2. #2
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    I would start by asking local motorcycle and bicycle builders - reputation and experience among customers is important to me. I use a guy with lots of experience, who does nice work, answers his phone, and knows the time and effort I have in my work. I generally pay $125 for a rust-inhibiting 1st layer (zinc maybe?) and a single color. A clearcoat is not necessary, but I have had Spectrum coat before and they offer a sprayed clear. If you want that, just paint the frame to begin with instead of powdercoating.
    I am a few hours north of you in Ashland

  3. #3
    Nemophilist
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    I too will be interested in some good info here, as I am sitting in the same spot as Whit.
    Most people ply the Well Trodden Path. A few seek a different way, and leave a Trail behind.
    - John Hajny, a.k.a. TrailMaker

  4. #4
    RCP Fabrication
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    I've had bad luck with powder coaters, defiantly find someone who knows how to coat tubing. It's more complicated than just spraying on the powder. Getting into the corners requires some skill with setting up the powder coating equipment.

  5. #5
    Nemophilist
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    Quote Originally Posted by RCP FAB View Post
    I've had bad luck with powder coaters, defiantly find someone who knows how to coat tubing. It's more complicated than just spraying on the powder. Getting into the corners requires some skill with setting up the powder coating equipment.
    Indeed;

    I've spoken with one company already who was very interested in my project (that felt good!). The foreman touched on this very topic. He said he would only let one of his guys do this job because he was very good at getting the powder into tight places. I gather that because of differing polarities, the powder is not prone to getting into complex surface crags. He also mentioned that pre-heating the frame would help with that. My assumption is that the heated surface would better accept powder floating by, and begin a cycle where new powder would then stick to that which has already begun to melt/bond in the tight spots.
    Most people ply the Well Trodden Path. A few seek a different way, and leave a Trail behind.
    - John Hajny, a.k.a. TrailMaker

  6. #6
    RCP Fabrication
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    That's a good point. I ALWAYS had them bake the frame first, then spray, then bake again. This is essential to getting all cutting fluids out of the frame. It makes an awful mess if you skip this step.

  7. #7
    Nemophilist
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    Hey;

    I had previously been under the impression that a phosphate dip was part of the process, but I am beginning to believe that a lot of smaller outfits cannot offer that. I don't know about other means of adhesion/cleanliness promotion and how effective they would be. The only thing they mentioned was a prime coat first. Zinc Phosphate, I believe?

    My next step will be finding out from them what I can do on my end to help with cost/quality; Bead blast, acid etch/wash, etc.
    Most people ply the Well Trodden Path. A few seek a different way, and leave a Trail behind.
    - John Hajny, a.k.a. TrailMaker

  8. #8
    650b me
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    Subscribing to this thread...I too would like to get my next frame powder-coated.

  9. #9
    WIGGLER
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    The thing I learned on my first frame is when you have them seal (cork) the holes is you get a nasty build up of the color clear and cork pieces which leaves areal ruff ugly edge
    on the HT it wasnt bad because the inset headset covered it but on the eccentric I had to sand and Sharpy it. So the next frames he just sprayed it all and I sanded it on the inside
    to let the parts fit much nicer end result!!!
    PAYASO 36er.....Live the Circus

  10. #10
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    I work for a company that produces commercial equipment. here are some of my recommendations to look out for.

    What am I looking for in a good powdercoater?
    Process control. how do they pre-treat parts before powder coating. some will use a media blast others will use a burn off oven. for bike frames, i would stay away from the burn off oven. parts need to be cleaned well for good adhesion of the powder coat. this is were baths and washes are critical. parts should not be handled by bare-hands after washing. oils from your hands can leave uneven spots on the metal were the PC did not adhere.
    Any watch-outs i should look out for?
    watch for how the parts are hung. the hanger needs to be placed in a way that connects to an internal part. if not you will get what's called a "hook mark". also each type of powder coat has an ideal temperature to bake. just something to keep in mind.
    What kind of media blasting, pre-coating treatment should I be asking for and expect? a sand blast a good washing would be the best bet. some PC will actually prevent good adhesion for decals. in some cases a primer would be needed or you can expect the decals to peel off pretty early on.
    Does everybody apply a clear after and if so what kind/type? no PC is stronger than wet paint and a clear is not generally needed. it really depends on the finish that you want.
    Other things I should expect from them? Masking off the frame? Clear over decals? don't expect, ask. make sure that you are getting what you want. masking for PC is a little tricky as ovens tend to be around 400 degree's for curing. adhesives break down from masking tape so make sure they have a specific masking tape for your application. i would suggest using a wet paint to clear over decals. just because of the time that is spent in the oven and the issue mentioned about adhesives and temperatures. if you do a PC clear coat the amount of time spent in the oven needs to be watched closely because the clear will start to yellow if it is left in too long.

  11. #11
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    I should clarify, i would stay away from burn-off ovens if you have an aluminum frame

  12. #12
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    One thing to keep in mind is that a good powder coat is very difficult to remove. I would not try to sandblast it off of an AL or steel frame, damage to thin wall tubing can reduce strength and create stress risers. In fact, I will only hand sand frames before painting.

    I like automotive finishes such as acrylic enamel or urethane for my personal frames. Both my truck and bike are painted the same Porsche red and look great together!

  13. #13
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    Thanks all!

    I was waiting to reply until I had also something to contribute (this is long...).
    Awesome answers everyone, thanks for the education!
    I always have heard and experienced that powder is a stronger longer lasting finish than paint and better for MTB and CX bikes. Am I wrong in that? Paint is up to 4 times as expensive but can be way more customized than powder for graphics and decals (unless you're using Spectrum....it gives me so much respect for what they're able to do there). I am having a guy paint a cross frame & fork and it's $400 for a custom deal, and my one color CX frame & fork will cost only $150 for PC.

    So...I visited a local PC'r yesterday after emailing and calling around. I just had a good feeling on this one being around for a long time and a family run operation. We'll see how good he is next week when I get my frame and forks back (1 cross frame and fork, 1 lugged crown MTB fork).

    All of what I learned from all your replies helped me when talking with him. He obviously has done this for over 20 years and done "100's of bike frames." I don't know any framebuilders in the area yet to ask, or that may use certain PC'rs over others(Grass Valley/Nevada City/Auburn).

    The things I thought were important to bring up here are:
    - Do they take the time to talk to you? You're not bringing them the big bucks even if you make 8 frames a month, and bike frames are more of a PITA than their other work for the most part, so having them take the time and talk to you is really important in my mind. If they don't talk to you on *their* work, then I wouldn't expect them to take the time on *your* work.

    - Pre-treatment. He does an Iron phosphate treatment after sand-blasting. The blasting gets the steel some 'structure' to more readily accept powder or paint and it'll last longer. Depending on how the frame comes to them, they may choose to do a quicker blasting or no phosphate treatment. But if you don't do any post-polishing of the frame after soaking off flux on the braze-ons, etc. then they'll need to do both. No extra charge to the overall cost of the PC, but no discount if they don't do it. The lugged fork i brought in was cleaned really well and had been emery'd and wire-wheeled by me so he was just going to do a quick sand blasting and be done with it before the PC.

    - He "runs the frame hot" - he pre-heats the frame because like said by another poster, the frame grabs the powder better and wraps around the tubing better than if not run hot. It also sounded like he's able to run a bit more powder going this route, and able to get into the tight spots around the HT/DT, and ST/SS without the powder orange peeling or something (can't remember details exactly). This may be one of those tricks you learn over time that would be good to bring up to your PC'r if you're not getting the finish you want? Not sure...

    - what colors does he stock? The photo below shows what colors this place has from Cardinal Industrial Finishes. Some are all the time in stock, some are 'on-off's' that he has leftovers from a bigger project. He usually buys in 50lb bags of powder so can get lots of leftovers at times. The stock colors are mostly in the blacks and whites, and not the brighter colors I'd be interested in putting on bike frames.
    Powdercoating essentials help needed-powdercoating_colors.jpg

    - Will he order powder for you and is there a minimum quantity he'll buy? He said it was at most 2lbs of powder for a frame and fork. Since he usually orders big quantities of powder (50lb bags), he would need to special order colors (or I could order from Powder by the Pound and bring to him). There's no discount he gets from ordering powder unless it's in large quantities so it makes no difference to your cost. He would order them in 5-10lb bags at a time, since powder does have a shelf-life and can go bad over time. Like ink in printers, if you don't use it, they go bad.

    - Time. What's their turnaround on a frame? This guy's is one week on average. I'm sure I could have talked this down but I don't want to be a total PITA right off the start. What is "normal" here for other people? He picks up and delivers to regular bigger customers, but I wasn't about to go there since I'm sure it'd be a big fat no.

    - Cost. $90 to 'change up colors' ...usually. So that means, if you want an orange frame and a black fork, that would normally cost $180. But he makes exceptions (good sign) and only charges $150 for both frame and fork in different colors.
    If they are the same color it'd be $100 (frame and fork).
    But if you were to bring 10 forks in that were all going to be black, it'd be much cheaper than having them all be different colors and sounds like there'd be a much cheaper price per fork cost.
    A frame withOUT a clear will be $100, and with a clear would be $145.
    What are others experience with cost? This guy sound good in terms of cost? Still can't wait to see the quality. I'll answer that next week and post pics.

    Hope that helps others...

  14. #14
    Nemophilist
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    Watching intently, my friend....

    I'm close behind on my end. You seem to be doing my legwork for me!
    Most people ply the Well Trodden Path. A few seek a different way, and leave a Trail behind.
    - John Hajny, a.k.a. TrailMaker

  15. #15
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    This is a very important point

    Quote Originally Posted by Meriwether View Post
    ...but I don't want to be a total PITA right off the start. .
    This is the most important thing to keep in mind when striking up a relationship with a powdercoater, in my mind. PC guys make their money doing railings and tractor parts and big jobs. Bikes are a pain to begin with because they're fragile and complex, but bike people have earned a reputation with most PC places for being ridiculous primadonnas who will change their minds 1000 times and never be satisfied.

    So here's what I try to do:

    -Make sure you (or your customer) makes a solid decision on color with a specific color code. Don't say "sky blue" and make them guess. Your idea of sky blue might be different than mine. Don't let people change their minds on colors once the frame is in the PC guys hands.

    -Accept that there will be tiny imperfections on some jobs, especially if the operation hasn't done a ton of bikes before. Have them learn on your own stuff (townie, old MTB that you rarely ride, etc) that you don't mind a little orange peel under a chainstay or whatever. Being understanding of little errors and knowing when to make them redo it (ie, being reasonable) will go a long way.

    -Expect all jobs to take twice as long as they quote and plan for that, rather than freaking out when something isn't done on schedule. Tell your customers it'll be a week longer than you really think. If things take ridiculously long, that's obviously not ok, but be realistic about timeframes.

    -Figure out who really runs the show and make friends with them, even if you have to talk about NASCAR. This might not be the "manager" but you will probably know within a few weeks who makes things happen at the shop. If they like you, that will be a very good thing. Assuming they do a good job, you will be doing a LOT of business with them - for many framebuilders, the powdercoater or painter is their #1 expense (I bet I have spend $100k at this point on powdercoats) and having a good one is GOLD. Having a bad one or a bad relationship with one is a nightmare.

    I know, I know, this sounds like a bad ripoff of how to make friends and influence people.

    -Walt
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

  16. #16
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    I will add that the biggest cost in PC is in cleaning the PC equipement out after coating the frame, so my PC'er tells me.

    I am in New Zealand and I pay $100 for the lot -frame, fork and handlebar (if I do an integrated version).

    My local PC guys are MTB'ers, so this helps. I ask when they have time space so I can flow in with them and usually have a 2 day turnaround.

    I use the colours that they have on the shelf, for the reasons of convience to all. Don't be fussy, my own bike ended up being Orange and was mostly good, but minor peel seems right....

    Definately make sure the frame will be blasted and zinc primed and you will have a good DURABLE finish. I have 12mths (4000mls) of use on my own bike without a single scratch, I cannot say the same for a painted bike and thats the real issue for me. Scratches look worse than peel and other minor blenishes. A MTB receives abuse and PC is the best at taking it.

    Eric
    If I don't make an attempt, how will I know if it will work?

  17. #17
    Stokeless Asshat
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    Spectrum is the only coater I've had consistent, quality results from here in Co. If anyone has a line on someone around around these parts that does top notch work let me know.
    Zip ties? Not on my bike!

    Want:
    650B rims or wheel set. 80's vintage 32 or 36 x 135mm

  18. #18
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    Premium powdercoating

    Premium Powdercoating in Frederick (just 20 minutes down the road from you) did all my bikes until I moved to Utah, with generally very nice results. They are an industrial outfit and will not do fades/multicolors/weirdness but if you want one-color stuff done by people who know bikes pretty well (I brought them something like 400 frames over the years) they are great.

    303 776 7560. Ask for Aaron. Tell him Walt sent you. Typical cost is $100-150 for a frame depending on how much prep work they need to do.

    -Walt

    Quote Originally Posted by jeff View Post
    Spectrum is the only coater I've had consistent, quality results from here in Co. If anyone has a line on someone around around these parts that does top notch work let me know.
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

  19. #19
    Stokeless Asshat
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    Thanks Walt. There's a whole slew of us up here looking for someone good.
    BTW. How's Utah treating you?
    Zip ties? Not on my bike!

    Want:
    650B rims or wheel set. 80's vintage 32 or 36 x 135mm

  20. #20
    Cleavage Of The Tetons
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    Has anyone ever had a PC outfit do their Fox (or whatever) fork lowers?
    Interested in doing a rear triangle/fork one color, and main triangle another. Also curious how they handle corking/etc bearing mount locations, rocker mount interfaces, etc.
    Thoughts?
    "We LOVE cows! They make trails for us.....

    And then we eat them."

  21. #21
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    I've had very mixed results with the local PC places (we have lots to choose from). Think I've finally found a good one......

    One thing I've really noticed is that people with phosphate dip facilities for steel pretreatment (iron or zinc phosphate) say it is essential. People without the facilites always say it does not matter :-)

    For an impartial view, the materials guys / chemists at work (an automotive test house) are adamant that it is a waste of time to PC ferrous parts without some kind of pre-treatment - it won't pass a salt spray corrosion test and will just fall off in any kind of arduous service

  22. #22
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    Utarded!

    Awesome: Singletrack out the back door, more riding within 1/2 hour than you can believe, cheap housing, super cool neighbors, good/inexpensive child care, awesome rock climbing. Great skiing if we ever learn to ski with pretty much zero traffic.

    Not awesome: Air pollution, beer selection, city of ~1 million people most of whom really, really like Jesus and would love to tell you all about it.

    All in all, I could see us staying here long term. The riding access is so much better than the Front Range it's ridiculous. I can go ride really nice trails that overlook downtown Salt lake and see 2 people in an hour.

    -Walt


    Quote Originally Posted by jeff View Post
    Thanks Walt. There's a whole slew of us up here looking for someone good.
    BTW. How's Utah treating you?
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

  23. #23
    Randomhead
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    Utah was the most awesome place I've ever hated to live, it wears on a person after a while. Can't make myself ski now that I'm back East, a horrible day skiing in Utah is better than most of the skiing in the U.S. Our local ski area is known to close if they have powder

  24. #24
    shifty
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    Quote Originally Posted by mickuk View Post
    One thing I've really noticed is that people with phosphate dip facilities for steel pretreatment (iron or zinc phosphate) say it is essential. People without the facilites always say it does not matter :-)
    I build frames as a hobby and powdercoat them for myself and sometimes others (i've done 20-25 frames?). The acid etch/phosphate coat was a big eye opener for me as far as good prep and getting good results. YMMV

    The technique for painting, getting the proper thickness, etc is one aspect to getting good results, but I it all starts with a methodical process for prep.

    -Bernie

  25. #25
    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by einreb View Post
    I build frames as a hobby and powdercoat them for myself and sometimes others (i've done 20-25 frames?).
    Do you have any threads/online pics about your process?

    Trek used to have a series of 7 dip tanks that bikes would go through before paint. I'm pretty sure the last tank was a phosphate treatment. The frames would last unpainted without rusting for quite a while, years even. If you look at the early Trek brochures with the pictures of frames on racks in the background, many of those frames never moved in the time I was there and they didn't rust. Which is pretty good in the 110% humidity of Wisconsin.

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