Updated: Sep 25, 2020
First off download the application guide or training manual from Cerakote.com.
There are 3 main types. H series which I baked, over 100 colors, 1 mil to 1/2 mil thickness, most widely used. E(Elite) series, most durable, goes on thinner 1/2 mil or less, only a handful of colors. C series is air cured, not quite as durable as H, same prep as H, lots of colors. Cerakote comes in 4oz tester $35 enough to do an AR and pistol. Pint $60, Quart $95 and Gal $298
My first batch of Cerakote I ordered off of Amazon. I now order directly from Cerakote, it has a shelf life of about 1 year. With Amazon you have no idea how long the have been holding on to it. It’s $35 for 4ozs which is enough to do a full AR and a pistol. The price difference between Amazon and Cerakote, even with shipping is about the same. The basic process is 1. Disassemble and separate metal and plastic parts. 2. degrease, metal with Acetone or Brake-Kleen and plastic with Simple Green. 3. Sand blast 4. Racking/masking by attaching hooks and high heat masking tape, if needed. 5. Gas out (bake the parts to make sure grease and oil is removed.) 6. Mix/prep the Cerakote 7. Spray 8. Cure, let parts air cure for 15 minutes then bake.
My First Cerakote, for Acetone you can get a gallon at at Lowe’s/HD for about $17. I use disposable aluminum baking pans to soak the parts. Anything metal that you can submerge the parts in should work. For sandblasting, I got a cheap sand blast gun with hopper from Harbor freight($20). I used 100 grit garnet sand from a local sanding/abrasive shop, vs aluminum oxide, it’s half the price.(approx $40). These are the only mediums recommended by Cerakote. I used a small 2.5 gallon air compressor and blasted the parts in a large cardboard box outside. It was a little messy but did the job. Be sure to have proper gloves and respirator(I got both from harbor freight). For gas out(baking) I used our kitchen oven.(more later) For spraying, I got an HPLV spray gun from Amazon, pretty cheap with .8mm tip, it had a plastic cup(not good, more later.) Also an air/oil in line separator. Graduated cylinder for mixing the Cerakote and 100 mesh paper disposable filters all from Amazon. I used a white color which required a finer mess filter, I couldn’t find paper disposable ones but got a plastic reusable one(bad choice). You mix the Cerakote, pour through the filter and into the spray gun cup, then spray.
Lessons learned and upgrades.
First off, apparently Cerakote reacts with certain types of plastics, basically it quickly thickens into an useable sludge. My spray gun cup had a plastic cup, I missed the warning, but read it the day before spraying, so I lined the cup with tin foil and it worked fine. (Afterwards I mixed up a little more for touch up and did not line the cup, I got the job done but it sludges up in a few minutes. Secondly, the 150 mesh filter I used was plastic with metal mesh, pouring the first batch through the filter, it thickened up instantly. I lost the entire batch. Fortunately I had bought 2 bottles.
When I sprayed, I had some large pieces of cardboard that I made into a makeshift booth, with a rod to hang parts to spray. I used some stiff metal wire, cut and bent into hooks. I didn’t have great lighting when I sprayed, which led me to miss a couple thinly sprayed areas. Also, after spraying the parts need to sit for about 15 minutes prior to baking. I set up another rack to hang from, the into my oven. 250 degrees for 2 hours for metal parts, 180 for plastic. Some colors like white 250 degrees max, other colors can bake at 300 for 1 hour. When my parts were done, I realized the thin areas, behind the trigger and part of the charging handle, plus a couple spots in the hand guard where the metal hooks blocked the spray. I resprayed the thin and missed areas. It’s held up so far, but not recommended, as the say the adhesion my not be as good.
My recommendation, have better lighting and careful attention to areas the hooks my block and hard to reach areas.
Also, the tacking method, used when use more than one color(ie camo) after spraying first coat, bake at 150-180 for about 8 minutes. Just until it’s not sticky, then take out and touch up areas hooks are touching.
But what I did was bake for 2 hours, touch up and bake for another 2 hours. Here I found another issue. I was using white, the metal parts basically were baked for 4 hours at 250, the plastic 2 hours at 180. The additional 2 hours for the metal, tinted the white to more of an antique white. A definite contrast from the plastic and what the metal parts had been. I don’t think this is an issue with darker colors.
What I have changed since.
-I upgraded to a 20 gal compressor and better oil/water separator, my small compressor just struggled to keep up especially for sand blasting, the more the compressor runs the more the chance for moisture in the air. The Pros use a cooler. I got a sand blast cabinet(Harbor Freight $120) much nicer to contain and reuse the sand, but the cardboard box worked fine.
-I also got new HPLV spray gun w/Metal cup. Cerakote sells their fancy Iwata for $300+, they also sell a practice gun with 3 samples and I think the filters for about $180. If they had that when I started I would have gone that route.
-I also got an electric smoker oven. Branson Cerakote had a video on pros and cons of using an old oven, so I decided it’s probably better to use a separate oven. It was about $140. Apparently you could get old microscopic particles of oils that could cause issues and vice versa you could get microscopic Cerakote particles baked into food.
Cerakote has a YouTube channel and has recently been putting more useful information.
I also highly recommend Branson Cerakote on YouTube they have tons of videos from equipment, techniques and styles how to setup has a video on how to adjust the settings on the gun and basic spray techniques. They also sell high heat stencils, which I used.
Jesse James Cold War gray
Graphite Black, Sniper Gray, Magpul Stealth Gray
I did the camo stencil. I fully enjoyed it.
The blasting gun in front of the cabinet, is what I used before I had this cabinet, and just sprayed into a box.
Pressure regulator and oil/water separator
This is my make shift booth. This one with the wire rack I use for parts awaiting spray and also the 15 minute air cure after spraying before baking.
I don’t have my spray booth set up, but basically the same with cardboard but bigger. The rod with the wire hooks sitting on top of the booth in the picture is what I hang parts on for spraying in the spray booth
This is the oven I use to bake. Just an electric smoker oven.
This the spray gun and cylinders
Personally if I were doing all over I’d go with the Cerakote starter kit. This is assuming you might get another addiction and want more than 1 color. I have about 10 in the fridge. $180 for H series, $105 of that is the 3 colors(of your choice) Also Cerakote has a YouTube video on how to exactly adjust their spray gun. I will probably get this kit the next time I need some more color.
Any oven would work, but just use caution with something used, due possible contamination with old baked in oils. But perhaps an intense cleaning would work. Every now and then people give them away or cheap on Craigslist, Letgo or OfferUp.