Step 1: Step One: Clean Your Buckle Up
That disclaimer aside, throw you solid metal buckle into your sandblaster and clean off any finishes that may be still intact after all these years. These buckles had been chromed so I decided to also remove the layer of copper used in the chrome plating process before I took them into the powdercoating room.
When I learned how to perform powdercoating my instructor said that "95% of a great powder coat job lies in the prep work. You can still ruin it in the last 5%, but you are far more likely to destroy your finished product during preparation." With that statement in mind, take your time in the sand blaster. It often takes the same amount of time to do something correctly as it does to do something incorrectly. I made sure that I cleaned one small area of the skull and wrench buckle before moving onto another section. ie: I began on one side of one wrench before I moved onto the next and only after I was completely satisfied with all four wrench sections being clean did I start cleaning up the skull that had already been hit in the crossfire.
The last picture shows me handling my cleaned part after coming out of the sandblaster WITH GLOVES ON. I say this because human hands are always secreting oils and other liquids that can adversely affect the awesomeness of your finish. I cleaned my buckle with Simple Green and a nylon brush to remove the grit and grime of sandblasting gloves, then proceeded to dry it with compressed air. Drying your part this way deals with the dust that could collect in the water droplets and thus remain on the part when dry.
Step 2: Step Two: Prepare Your Powder Coat Room and Shoot Your Part
Now that I have shared my oven thought process, its off to the powder coat room to actually cover your buckle with color! I used a brand new piece of picture hanging wire wound through the buckle attachment points on the reverse. For such a small buckle I only loaded about 50g of Black Chrome powder into my coating system (and I ended up transferring a little back into my bulk bag at the end). I would advise following the directions that come with your coating system first and foremost.
At the Techshop in San Jose we have access to an awesome new powder coating system that has both a high (~240Kv) and low (~120Kv) setting. I used the low setting because that is what was recommended to me by the staff for this project.
Step 3: Step Three: Bake/cure Your Buckle
As I mentioned in the previous step, the curing time does not begin until your oven reaches the cure temp printed on your powder manufacturer's instructions. I normally crank up the heat 20+ degrees so that I can minimize the amount of "reheat" time once I open the oven and load my part. Once the buckle is securely inside the oven I re-adjust the thermostat to about 7 degrees over the target temp.
Step 4: Step Four: Remove and Inspect Your Buckle
Remember everyone! All of this and more is possible at The Techshop!