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Desert Fabworks LLC



So you cut out your part, using all the Cut Quality Tips & Tricks, the part came out great.  Then you removed all of the left over Dross using the Dross Removal Tips & Tricks and your now ready to finish your piece.

You have a million options and counting from rattle can, to automotive grade paint finishes to powder coating and speciality patina finishes or just let it naturally rust the options unlimited.   

Many times these decisions are driven by what the customer wants or the finish the customer can afford or more likely what they are willing to pay for.  The three most popular options for finishes at my shop are Rattle Can, Powder Coat and custom patinas.

Rattle Can (Spray Paint) -   This tends to be my most popular finish option for a

few reasons.   Very inexpensive, few if any equipment costs.  Huge color pallet

to choose from, easy, quick drying.   I started off using Rustolem brand and

Krylon but then found the Ace Hardware brand line.  Everything from the way

they spray to how fast they dry and how durable the finish is, has been better

with the Ace brand spray paint.  Not sure who is making this line for them but its really good

stuff.  I highly recommend this as a finishing option.


After some practice you can get results very close to that of paint sprayed out

of an expensive gun.  I’m too the point where most people can not tell my work

is spray painted.   The way I have found to achieve the best results is to have

a nice clean lint free surface.  I do not use primers unless I’m

doing a yellow.  When spraying I have the piece horizontal and

spray a medium coat going back and forth across the piece

keeping a wet edge as a spray.  Then when one pass is

complete I spray a second pass 90 degrees to the first pass.

I get really good results with this method.  

The Ace brand spray paint tends to also be the least

expensive as well.  They have regular sales where you get

it for $3.00 a can. If I have a really large run of pieces that

are the same color I will sometimes use a spray gun and auto

grade paint and clear but most of the projects that I paint myself are small runs with 20 or less of a particular design or color.

Powder Coating -  If I had the room and could have a powder coating operation in my shop

I would likely do much more of this and less of the painting.  Currently anything that I

want powder coated I send out, and the nearest location is about an hour drive each way

so its not cost effective for me but as far as durability goes powder coating is the best.  

If I want something to have a great long lasting finish I have it powder coated or

recommend it to the customer.   Color selection and options are limitless and the durability

is the best you can get.  Its going to be one of the most expensive finish options but also

one of the best.


Building your own oven and spray booth are pretty easy and inexpensive and with guns

available from Harbor Freight and Eastwood can make getting into it pretty inexpensive

and it can be done with an old electric oven for small parts.   Like any finish option your

prep and the tools you use make a big difference in the final product.  Don't expect to be

having your parts featured on the cover of a magazine when you use the Harbor Freight gun

and an old oven but it is an option. If you have a powder coater near your shop make friends,

trade work and make use of this as an option.

Rusting - I’m in AZ and the rusted look is very popular.   Getting that natural patina and letting it be

is big business.   To achieve this look you can hand off a bare shiny piece to the customer and let

mother nature and time do its thing or you can speed up this process.    My secret for speeding up

the rusting is to take a level spot in pea gravel, set may piece on this level bed then spray it with

Regular household bleach out of a garden sprayer.  Then spread a thin even layer of pea gravel over

the piece.  I mist it with water and bleach alternating every hour or so and in about 5 to 6 hours I

have a piece that looks like it has been outside for years.   The pea gravel adds a pattern and a bit

of texture to the piece the way it holds water and touches the piece. If you have your piece vertical

you will get streaking which can be good or bad depending on the look your going for and if your

piece is not level or has a very un even surface puddle areas can develop and create a different look.

Each piece is unique and looks can be varied pretty easily.

When I have achieved the level of rust that I want I take the piece and carefully knock the pea gravel off without disturbing the rusted surface.  The piece can be left just like this or a clear coat can be applied.   When it comes to clear coating this it goes against all the prep rules, clean rust free surface its not.   But it can be done.   The most durable option is to have it clear powder coated.   This process involves heating the piece up in the powder coat oven then pulling it out while its hot and spraying on the clear powder coat while its still hot then putting it back into the oven to complete the cure.   

I did this process or an entire restaurant that wanted its walls clad in rusted steel.  The rust had to be contained and never flake because of the restaurant environment.  This was successful and after years this finish is still perfect and flake free.  Doing this will dramatically darken the piece and add gloss to the finish instead of the lighter matte finish with natural rust.  

Bare steel -  with a clear coat is also very popular.  You can have a polished or textured look to the metal

with sanding and then clear coat the entire piece to keep it shinny.   My favorite clear to use is Ace

Hardware brand spray paint.   Its my go to option for clear.  It indoor / outdoor does not yellow, dries

supper quick and is very inexpensive.  The quality is top notch.  

Patinas -  This is the last option I will talk about, but one of the finishing options I use the most.   Patinas

Cover a broad category.  They can be finishes that are sprayed, brushed, dabbed, rubbed.  Most of the

time they are translucent to some degree and are rarely completely opaque.  I get all of my patina’s from

A company called Steel F/X  they have a ton of options with most of the patina

options you can blend multiple options to achieve some amazing results.   

Steel F/X has a huge website dedicated to all of the options and photos and

videos to show you and guide you through the use and application so I’m not

going to go into every option here.  Click on the links and check them out. The

two that I will show you here are the two I use the most.   The first one being

called Copper F/X.  This turns plain steel into looking like real copper.   The

spray has real copper in it that binds to the metal. The pieces if not clear

coated with weather and age just like real copper.   The next most popular

item for me are the Metal Solvent Dye.  There is a full palette of colors to

basically stain metal with color.  All of these finishes work best on plain mild

steel with no mill scale / Bright sanded finish.  

As this website grows and I add more projects I will feature more patina finishes and do some videos with tips and tricks along the way.  

All of this is just scratching the surface of what you can do as far as finishing your pieces.   A good portion of my business is made up of just parts that are never finished or they are welded into structures, vehicles, furniture or other components and then powder coated or painted.   

Check our my Instagram page for more examples of some of the work I have done and some of the different finish options that are out there.

Both of these pieces are rattle can, and multiple layers

Powder coated multi layer business sign

Rusted with Matte Clear