After my post last week on Gun Kote frame coating, I received a lot of questions about Gun Kote and the process used to apply it. Gun Kote is a product and the application of it is a process developed by a company called KG Coatings located in Wisconsin. As of now, all bicycle applications of Gun Kote are handled through Ben’s Cycle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I contacted Andy of Ben’s Cycle and he gave me the lowdown on the process used for Gun Kote on bicycles and some details on the coating’s properties.
As of right now Ben’s Cycle is “officially” only offering this on Milwaukee Bicycle Company frames as an option for an up charge of $150.00 over the base frame price. That said, if you have any questions they should feel free to e-mail at “email@example.com”. Otherwise, the first step in the process is to send a frame in to Ben’s Cycle, as for now this is how the process would be handled. Then they would send a raw frame up to KG Coating.
KG would prep it (blast, acid bath if necessary) so that it is completely bare. They immediately “K-Phos” it inside and out. This will keep it from rusting and also serve as a good base for their coating. This treatment coats the frame inside and out and can be thought of as a kind of primer/frame saver sort of covering for the bare steel. The process is completed after baking and results in a very long term coating that prevents rust on the inside and gives the final coating a better base to adhere to.
Then KG coats it with one of their 2400 series coatings normally. Andy told me that Ben’s has had a few 2300 (original black) and a 3000 (Gear Kote) KG Coatings has many colors already for 2400 but can develop new colors that will come very, very close to matching any sample. Then the frame has to be baked at 325-375 degrees Fahrenheit. (depending on the coating type) and then may go through various touch-ups and re-bakes if necessary.
Andy has related some pretty fantastic claims of durability and how thin the coating actually is. As for the toughness of Gun Kote, Andy had this to tell me: “As opposed to a wet paint which gets its strength from the pigments in the coating, and the thickness of the coating, Gun-Kote gets it’s strength from lubricant in the coating. So, once it bakes hard, things will just slide off the coating instead of chipping or nicking it. This is also why colors will come very close to matching, but not always exactly. They’re (KG Coatings) limited by the lubricants they can use and what colors those are.” Andy went on to say that, “The strength and corrosion protection, and the fact that they coat and seal the inside of the frame are why I think this is so wonderful for steel frames.” Update: KG Coatings also adds that the “binder” for the lubricant is just as responsible for the anti-peeling, anti-scratching, and toughness qualities as the lubricant is. Both are equally as important in the Gun Kotes process and both add to the durability.
Now as for how thin the coating actually is, this statement from Andy really makes for an eye opener! He said, “We haven’t had to chase any of our bb (bottom bracket) shells, nor have we had to face or ream head tubes or seat tubes after getting them coated. We’ve also coated seat posts and they slide right in as if they were straight from the manufacturer.” That’s admittedly a pretty hard to believe statement, but take a closer look at the following images and I think you will see the detail of the weld beads is easy to make out, lending credence to his claims. (Click photos to make bigger)
Andy says that the finish is so thin that if your frame has any gouges, scratches, dings, or other imperfections the Gun Kote won’t hide them. Nope! Your frame will have it’s imperfections showing quite nicely, thank you! Andy says that this is why Gun Kote may not work for a lot of folks because the powder coat may be hiding some things that Gun Kote will reveal. Not everyone is ready to have all their frames imperfections showing and especially so if they never knew they were there. Obviously, if you strip your own frame, you will already be aware of these things, but don’t expect Gun Kote to cover them back up again!
Not only is Gun Kote available in a wide variety of hues, but also one can get different “sheen levels”. There are four sheen levels and they are as follows:
-Matte: textured almost like a high grit sandpaper. No gloss at all
-Satin: Low gloss, smooth to the touch.
-Gloss: Higher gloss than Satin, still smooth to the touch.
-High Gloss: Very high gloss, almost sticky to the touch.
Andy tells me that all these sheen levels have shown very comparable durability, but they have only done about 70 frames and there is not enough frames out there to have a firm baseline on long term durability. However; with the exception of one coating, (that Ben’s had done in a method KG isn’t using anymore), they haven’t had any issues. I’m told that frame was re-coated and is holding up beautifully.
Since the matte finish is rough it will serve as a good base for other paint, however, a “K-Phos” (baked so it hardens) coating is also a good idea as a base, I’m told. That said, it would be a rather expensive first coat.
Now for some questions and answers on Gun Kote:
How about aluminum frames? Can these be Gun Koted too?: Aluminum frames can certainly be coated. Ben’s Cycle has had this done to a few frames. When Gun Kote-ing an aluminum frame, there is no need to “K-Phos” the interior though.
Weight? How much does Gun Kote weigh versus say, a powder coated finish?: According to a (very preliminary) comparison, a frame can lose a lot of weight by switching from a powder coat to Gun Kote. For an example, a Stumpjumper FSR was sold to a customer by Ben’s Cycle and he weighed it before stripping, with no finish, and after Gun Kote. There was approximately 500 grams of powder coat on it, and after the Gun Kote was applied it only added about 75 grams over the raw frame weight. Update: KG Coatings chimed in on this and says that typically the weight savings appears to be more in line with the 200-250 gram range with the exclusion of any decals that may figure into the original frame weight.
How much does it cost to have a frame Gun Kote treated?: Again, Ben’s is offering this Gun Kote finish only on Milwaukee Bicycle Company frames “officially”. That said, a ballpark figure for a one color job on most steel frames would be $300.00-$350.00. Turn around time averages about three weeks, but could take up to a week more, or less.
I’ll have my Salsa El Mariachi in hand this week and I’ll take a close look at it with a report to follow.