Sunday dawned – cold but clear. The rising sun streamed through the window and caressed my slumbering self. I awoke at once, leapt out of bed and declared, “today is the day for painting our stocks!”. (actually… what really happened is that I rolled over, pulled the blankets over my head in defense against the glacial temperatures, put my cold feet on Jared and went back to sleep until around 8.30am).
We have been waiting for this day for quite some time. A single sunny day when we are not preoccupied with other things such as shooting or work or… well… anything really! Today is the day we managed to get our stocks primed ready for airbrushing! This is a bit of a mission because our stocks are aluminium which is a fickle thing to paint so they need a wee bit of love before the paint goes on.
After a bucket of coffee each, we swept the ice off the outdoor table, opened some beer and set up our workstation.
Step one – Degreasing and Sanding.
Pretty much the standard steps before any paint project. Detail degrease with wax and grease remover and then follow the instructions for the product. We are using RALI Durepox primers which recommend 150 grit sanding before application. I would usually use 600 grit but who am I to argue?! The stocks seem to have been finished with maybe a 300 grit finish so we roughed them up a bit!
I had ALMOST forgotten how much I hate sanding but this refreshed my memory somewhat…
Step 2 – Masking…
I sent Jared off to the hardware store to purchase some PPE for the next steps and while he was gone, I masked off all the bits of the stocks that I do not want paint on. The bedding, the bolt holes, the grip and the handstop rail. For this I mostly use blue masking tape. I use blutac to protect the boltholes. Masking is a very important step and is a bit of a skill in itself! Useful tools are nail scissors and good quality tweezers. Handy hint: Use good quality masking tape!
After masking, we don gloves and degrease again. From now on, we will only handle the stock whilst wearing gloves to avoid oil contamination from our hands.
Step 3 – Acid Wash!
Yep… Aluminium tends towards the oxidation buzz so the tough oxidised layer needs removing before even thinking about painting or the paint will just fall off. The easiest way to do this without a big industrial setup is to etch it with phosphoric acid. This involves spraying or painting the acid on. We chose to paint it on with a brush because spraying acid sounds like a terrible idea on our deck and I am also not very excited about spraying it through my nice spray gun! Jared drew the short straw for this job… Doesn’t he look like he is having fun?
The acid sits for 10 minutes and then is scrubbed off with copious amounts of water. This really is very messy! The acid becomes extremely safe and non polluting with water so we just wash it into the garden.
The stock is then dried thoroughly – first with cloths and then with a heat gun/hairdryer then is degreased AGAIN ready for the next step…
Step 4 – Etch Priming!
We are using a 2 part etch/wash primer from RALI. This requires pre-mixing 30 minutes before use so Jared prepared it while I was masking. After the induction period, I loaded my small spray gun and got to work on painting the stocks. This is just a wash primer so only needs a light single coat. It is the colour of baby poo and is very transparent so for a few short hours, our stocks will be a lovely gold colour! The etch-primer contains isocyanates so I am very careful to use a half mask with organic vapour filters, goggles, nitrile gloves and I wrap my hoodie around my face to minimise skin contact. I should really be using a forced-air hood but never mind.
Our health and safety officer is always watching to make sure we are wearing the correct PPE!
3 hours minimum dry time for the etch primer and then we are ready for…
Step 5 – Primer…
This is the last step for today. Once the primer is on, we can relax and do the artistic stuff at out leisure. This particular primer can also doubles as a top coat so we can keep shooting without a top coat over it.
We have chosen RALI Durepox Primer due to its indestructibility and also because it sticks to just about anything (including most plastics!). These rifles will have a lot of use and abuse – not to mention the force and vibrations during recoil so it is important that we use something pretty durable. Durepox was developed for NZs Americas Cup Yachts so it should be pretty good. Another bonus is that it is a top quality kiwi company – support local businesses and all!
Once again, this is a 2k paint full of isocyanates. Jared is pretty good at the chemistry side of paint application but don’t let our health and safety officer catch him without his gloves!
I did the nasty job of applying the primer. Once mixed, the primer has a 45 minute pot life so I had to work fast. My little spray gun doesn’t really cope with this thick primer so it was slow going. I expect I will have a LOT of sanding to do once it hardens.
Jared not only has his paint mixing technique mastered, he also knows how to drive our DSLR so here are a few nice photos of me applying primer (decent photos of me painting don’t happen often!).
And finally a couple of snaps of the stocks and bits and pieces primed.
I made a mess… whoops! Black asphalt is boring anyway lol!
All that remains here is to remove the masking and our stocks are ready to shoot on! A degrease and a 400 grit sand and another degrease will render them ready for airbrushing but until then they will survive anything we can throw at them! I need to be very careful about when I airbrush because once the airbrush process is started, the stock becomes unuseable until the final clearcoat goes on. We are bracing ourselves for a couple of weekends sharing stocks but this should not be too much of a problem as everything is interchangeable!
It is now 5.30pm and we have been working constantly throughout the day. It is a little discouraging that all we have done is prep but the prep shouldn’t have to be done again for at least 10 years if we have done it correctly. Looking forward to the artistic side of the process! Time to clean up now as it about to rain!