Over the course of the cool-water season extending from late October to late March, my primary tactic for fishing Stillhouse Hollow and Belton lakes involves the use of lead slabs fished vertically.
Over the course of a single trip, all anglers aboard will “snap” the slabs I’ve provided several hundred times in an attempt to fool fish.
Multiply this times several trips per week, and the number of “cycles” each slab experiences is quite high. This puts a lot of wear and tear on the finish of the slabs I make and use. Between the primary treble hook and the added stinger hook contacting the lure’s convex surfaces, to the bony teeth of hooked fish scratching that surface, to the often-rocky lake bottom roughing up the lure’s finish, I found the finish on my slabs not lasting as long as I would like.
Initially, I bought painted “blanks” to produce the slabs I sell on my website. These were finished using a white paint and a clear coat to give the lure a bit of shine. Unfortunately, this finish was not all that durable, and once the dark lead of the slab began to show through the paint, the lure was no longer useful.
One day, as I drove between Killeen and Harker Heights on Chaparral Road, I took note of a new sign at the location of the former Chaparral Feed Store. The sign read “BJ’s Powder House.” A lightbulb instantly came on in my head — I wondered if powder coating my lures might enhance the durability of the finish.
I collected a handful of soon-to-be discarded slabs with their scratch-and-dent appearance, took the hardware off (treble hook, stinger hook, split ring), drove over to BJ’s Powder House and introduced myself to the owner, Brian Davis, who, with his wife, Jessica, makes the magic happen.
The Davises began their business in their home garage in 2015.
“I grew up in a garage where we coated parts for my father’s project cars and it became a bit of a hobby through the years,” Brian said.
As I walked in, Brian, who was obviously in the middle of a job involving automotive parts, stopped what he was doing and listened carefully to what I wanted to do, and why I wanted to do it.
This started my introduction into the world of powder coating, a process able to breathe new life, new looks and new color into used (and new) metallic and glass products of all sorts.
At the most basic level, powder coating, also known as electrostatic painting, is accomplished as the dry powder used in the process passes through a powder spray gun and is electrically charged. These colored, charged powder particles bond to the grounded parts they are sprayed upon.
The process of powder coating, however, begins before the application of the powder.
First, a part intended to be powder coated is chemically stripped of paint or pre-existing powder, rinsed, dried, sand blasted, rinsed again, dried, out-gassed (by being baked in an oven to pull any oils remaining out of the substrate material) and cooled.
Next, the item is masked by installing caps, plugs or tape to areas where no powder should be, such as sealing surfaces, bolt holes, bolt threads, etc.
Powder is then applied followed by curing in an oven to complete the process.
Powder coating is a dry finishing process. The powder may be mixed with specialty chemicals for specific applications and enhanced durability. During the curing phase, these agents bond together to create a durable and functional finish that is stronger than paint. Some powders include specialized agents to create a multitude of textures for decorative finishes. Powders are available in a limitless array of colors and textures.
Brian shared that color matching is available through numerous manufacturers. He went on to say that with the more than 20,000 off-the-shelf color options, the expense of color matching is generally not needed. Additionally, many manufacturers of powder have had OEM color codes released to them, including names like Harley-Davidson, Ford, General Motors, Ferrari, Yamaha and many more.
After my first sample batch of 3/8-ounce and ¾-ounce slabs was completed, I used them to see just how durable the coating was. I came away convinced that I would not return to painted slabs.
Since our first encounter, the Davises have now powder coated several hundred slabs for me. Each time they seem to come up with some time-saving improvement over the previous effort to make the process shorter and more affordable for me. Brian now has a set of hanging racks created just for my slabs, allowing him to coat several dozen lures at a time. Jigheads, spinnerbaits, bullet weights and other fishing tackle are all candidates for powder coating.
When asked about what other manner of outdoor gear he has dealt with, Brian said he has coated boat props, shallow water anchors, anchors and rope cleats. Aside from this, he’s also coated more common items such as gates, doors, security bars, signs, patio furniture, mailboxes, custom automotive and motorcycle parts and bird baths.
In applications where heat and/or close tolerances are a concern, the Davises also do ceramic coating on items such as firearms, fire pits, BBQ grills and more.
Brian recalls the most unusual items he ever coated were an industrial mixer for a bakery and an antique hand-cranked ice crusher. He is currently working on making an old, black antique Singer sewing machine purple for a woman in Nolanville, and just finished the new, colorful, “butterfly” benches adorning the streets of Salado.
My clients and I are now not only able to enjoy a more durable finish on the lures I fish with and sell, but I can also now recycle my lures and have them powder coated time and time again when the finish eventually does wear through.
The Davises may be reached at 254-289.6121. They are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturdays by appointments. BJ’s Powder House is located at 6207 Chaparral Road in Killeen.