Fishmaster's Aluminum Powder Coating: Better Than the Competition
There’s more to powder coating aluminum than meets the eye, and Fishmaster goes the extra mile to make sure you have the best possible experience on the water.
Powder coating T-top pipework and other aluminum parts on your boat adds a great deal of value – it looks great, provides a comfortable grip, and protects the metal underneath. Powder coat also creates a super-slick surface that’s easy to clean, which can certainly be a big help on a fishing boat where chum stains and fish blood are always challenging to scrub away. And although all powder coating may look the same at first glance, it isn’t. In fact, there’s a great deal of variation on the market. And in the long run, the quality and application process of a powder coating will have a huge impact on how happy you are with the look and feel of the pipework on your boat.
Before we dig into the details of why the powder coating on Fishmaster products is superior to the competition, let’s make sure everyone understands exactly what powder coat is: a solvent-free paint, which is applied in the form of a powder. It’s heated until the powder melts, flows, and then reacts to form a solid coating. Once cured it forms a durable, glossy finish that traditional paints simply can’t match.
Powder Coat Quality
The quality of a powder coat depends on several things, including the powder paint itself, the level or prep work performed, and how thickly it’s applied. When it comes to the paint itself, we use top quality polymers that don’t run or drip like liquid paint, and emit fewer volatile organic compounds – so our process is also more environmentally-friendly than regular painting.
When it’s actually applied and cured powder coat thickness is measured in “mils.” One mil is equal to 1/1000th of an inch. For most common applications, two to five mils is considered the standard. In the marine world where equipment takes a beating, three to five mils is usually considered good enough. But that’s not what you’ll find on a Fishmaster part. Our powder coating is applied in five to eight mils, to ensure longevity. Another benefit of the added thickness comes into play if the finish ever gets scratched or dinged. Anglers have been known to mis-cast a heavy lead weight or overenthusiastically swing a metal spoon, strike a powder coated part, and ding or scratch it. If this happens on your boat and the powder coat is thin, repairing the damage can be difficult. But having the thicker coating means there’s more material to work with and makes for easier, better-looking repairs.
Powder Coat Preparation and Application
Another key factor in how well a powder coated surface will hold up is surface preparation. Just as it is with liquid paints, the prep work is key. Many manufacturers use sanding or sand blasting to prepare the aluminum surface for powder coating. This scrubs away the surface contaminants and impurities that can cause poor adhesion. But the process is imperfect. Often oil or residue gets left behind, and as a result, prevents proper adhesion during the powder coating process. This can result in dimples in the coating which go all the way down to exposed metal – something we find unacceptable.
Cleaning and Preparation
At Fishmaster, we first prep our aluminum by hand-sanding each and every inch of the material. Many companies would then wash off the part with water, give it a final rinse, and call it good enough. Not us. We add the extra step of chemical etching, with a fluorozirconic acidic liquid concentrate that’s designed to penetrate, emulsify, and disburse both solids and oils, while converting the aluminum surface into a corrosion-resistant coating that’s ideal for powder paint adhesion. The fluid is heated and applied with a pressure wand to ensure complete coverage of every inch of the aluminum. Then and only then do we give the metal a final rinse to remove any the impurities that could cause issues with the powder paint.
Once the surface prep is complete, we apply the powder coat to an aluminum Fishmaster part using a process called “hot coating.” This means that prior to the application of the powder, the part itself is heated. This extra effort results in a finish that’s higher in gloss and significantly smoother than most. It helps us make sure we avoid the “orange peel” effect of a dimpled appearance, so you get a final finish that looks great and lasts for years.
This process ultimately ensures an even coating with no flaws or imperfections that mar the finish or leave metal exposed to the elements. Once the powder coating process is complete, the aluminum is completely protected from the weather and salt spray. And that means there’s one less thing for you to worry about on your fishing boat.