Powdercoating for frames and forks

This is mostly a re-post of what I replied to the mtbr framebuilding forum for a thread i started here. More on this topic when i learn more…the linked thread is a good place to look too.

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).

So…I visited a local powdercoater (PC’r) yesterday after emailing and calling around.  I just had a good feeling on this one. He’s been around for a long time and is a family-run operation.  I hope he’s good as he says since I brought him 1 cross frame and fork, and 1 lugged crown MTB fork.

He has done this for over 20 years and has 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. The phosphate treatment cleans the frame of any residual oil or other contaminants.  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 do they 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_colors

– 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…

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