Friday, November 14, 2014

Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II Review

Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II Review

At one point or another we all want to have a firearm of another color. Historically, that means something like Duracoat or Cerakote with a cost of a couple hundred dollars and two months or so separated from your precious firearm. In many instances we want something faster, less expensive, and in DIY format.  Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II gives you a durable DIY home option for customizing and protecting your firearm. I have found to be pretty darn good; it easily resists aggressive fingernail scratches and remains unaffected by any of the harsh cleaning chemicals uses on our firearms and does it for $12.99 a spray can.

I have heard a lot of people's conjecture of this $12.99 per can spray on firearm epoxy paint. Some say it is just remarketed Krylon Enamel or some downgraded Duracoat finish. Actually if we get down to it, Aluma-Hyde II is basically the same readily available VHT Epoxy appliance spray paint usually available in only glossy tan, white, and black. Brownells Aluma-Hyde II is offered in around a dozen shades of camo and other gun finish colors. Oddly enough it was the smell of the stuff that I recognized and remembered from when I had repainted a couple old refrigerators with Black Epoxy VHT spray paint long-long-ago. That finish still is there fifteen years later on those refrigs have taken a beating.


The $8 appliance epoxy spray paint mentioned is available lots of hardware stores, however generally all those paints are pretty high sheen. Brownell's variety of around a dozen different flat and semi-gloss colors add a few extra dollars to the final $12.99 price tag. You can use any of the hardware store appliance spray epoxy paints to deliver the same results however colors are limited and they will be high gloss requiring a light buff with steel wool to take the gloss off after final curing


I  picked up can of “Earth Brown” Aluma-Hyde for a AR15 pistol build I was working on.  Initially I was skeptical about the coating, so I chose to use a $39 Blemish lower receiver along with the customized Black Rain Ordnance stripped, chopped and milled forend. I also painted my buffer tube which was a DIY pistol buffer tube which I milled off the entire buttstock rail interface. Why would I "buy" a pistol tube when I am drowning in rifle buffer tubes and its easy to just mill off the "illegal" portion when mounting to a pistol?

Like appliance epoxy spray paint, the Brownells Alma-Hyde II is not regular spray paint and if you treat it like it is, your results will suck. Epoxy spray paint was originally designed for use in marine environments however it works well on anything that needs a very tightly sealed and durable coating. You do need to assure your coated parts are pretty immaculately clean. The easiest way to achieve cleanliness of parts is to fully strip and clean parts then just soak all the parts liberally down with spray brake cleaner then rinse with clear water and air dry using a heat gun or blow dryer to speed things along.


The "real" epoxy paint requires mixing the epoxy paint with a hardener, however the spray on version relies on warm parts and a long cure time. For spray on epoxy paints, users have four basic phases - a coating/tacky phase 0-60 minutes, short-cure phase promoted by a low heat source 60 min - 24 hours, long-cure 1 day - 14 days, and finally the fully cured phase.  

Generally, you are able to reassemble the Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II coated parts 24-48 hours after painting "if" a low heat source is applied. I recommend just letting everything full cure for a couple weeks otherwise I will guarantee your fingernail will end up finding and scraping off that one area which is still soft like I did on some later projects.  


Once the pristinely cleaned and dried parts are ready, you should hang them on heavy wire hooks. I made my hooks from electrical wire and hung them on my 2-wheeled cart outside. Cure time will decrease if the can and parts are warm, so gently warming the parts and can on a furnace register will really help deliver a harder finish faster. At this point, applying the Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II is similar to applying spray lacquer which means lots and lots of very very light coats. If you try to rush with heavy or even medium coats you will end up with lots of runs and drips which equals a crappy looking final finish and in some cases waiting for several weeks for the finish to be hard enough to sand down and recoat. Be patient with thin coats.

Once you are done with six or so light coats of your chosen Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II, you can move the parts carefully inside. I say carefully, because this is where I bumped one part into another and added a few imperfections to a near perfect finish. 

Once you have the parts safely hanging, I pointed a couple utility lights on the parts to keep them around 90 degrees and left them cook under the lights overnight. The overnight low heat cure worked well however, a second slightly higher temp 100-115 degree cure in the oven overnight delivered a harder final finish and will speed the final long term cure considerably. I freaked out a bit when I heard people “had to” bake the parts to get a hard finish. This is simply not try. The Aluma-Hyde II will cure fully in about two weeks, however if you are an impatient SOB like me, a very low temp oven cure is the answer. 

Initially, I also imaged placing still wet parts into my wife’s high end Wolf oven and ending up with a mess and a very mad wife. This is also not the case either. In my opinion, the parts should not be placed in an oven to speed the final cure until a day or two after they have been sprayed. One of the parts I did put in the oven a little tacky had some finish issues. If you do choose to low temp bake your Aluma-Hyde II parts, it should be any no messier than just placing dry to touch parts on a sheet pan in the oven overnight. I did use a piece of cooking parchment paper … just in case the Aluma-Hyde II suddenly slid off the parts, which is did not.

The Before "raw" stripped and chopped Black Rain Ordnance handguard.

Normally, all spray epoxy paints will continue to cure for a couple weeks. Even three weeks later a nose on the part will still detect the scent of curing paint. I witnessed that although the lower receiver was fingernail hard at the 48 hour mark after the lamp cure and over cure, my thicker coated handguard has taken nearly a week to get to the same hardness point. In reality, if you don't want to cock up a perfectly good paint finish I would wait at least two weeks to assemble the painted parts. Its a great low cost DIY durable finish, I just never said it was fast. If you talk with many of the professional finishing and coating places most will end up air curing your painted parts for a week or two before shipment just to assure the final product is as durable as it can be before shipment back to you.
The after Aluma-Hyde II coated Black Rain Ordnance handguard.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The final hard long cure phase finish of this $12.99 spray can of Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II is quite impressive. In fact I would say if you take your time and do a good job with many coats, it is every bit as good as many most premium spray on finishes I have seen and used on firearms with the exception of CeraKote. Sure this super durable paint will wear through eventually, all will, however it is exponentially more durable than every other rattle can finish I have used on firearms and will not melt away when a drop of gun cleaner its hits the finish. The great part is that if a year or two down the road it does look a little beat up, you can just recoat it yourself without needing to strip off the old finish.




The finish does offers some corrosion and weather resistance and if applied as directed will deliver a pretty impervious finish to the elements.  What I like is that an old and beat up firearm can have new life and a new look with just $12.99 of Aluma-Hyde II and if you start combining colors for a camo look, the combinations could get really interesting.

Descriptions on Brownell’s site and the pictures of the colors are not particularly accurate. You may have to experiment with the colors to find the shade that matches your furniture or expectations. The “Earth Brown” I purchased is pretty close to old WWII army Jeep green, so I am somewhat convinced that whoever named these was partially color-blind and has been confused at the sight of brown stoplights for years. The green color is OK, however not what I wanted or was expecting. Just be aware that the colors they described, pictured, or on the cap may not be quite what you get on the final product.


For those will little patience, rush projects, and like to take short cuts, you will be unimpressed with the look, finish, and durability the Brownell’s Ala-Hyde delivers, however if you are willing to do the job right the results are impressive, durable, and transformational from a looks perspective for only $12.99.

SPEC
Approximately a dozen different colors
$12.99 Per can
Available in spray can or liquid for airbrush application

SOURCES
Brownell's - http://www.brownells.com

1 comment:

The Safety Officer said...

Did you take any special precautions to preserve serial numbers and/or any other stamping or engravings?