Everyone has their own method in which they swear by, regarding sealers they prefer. There's really no right or wrong way, as long as you arn't putting so much silicone on, that it's pinching out inside the engine and potentially creating contamination.
due to crudely machined gasket surfaces, primitive gasket designs, and other elements, surfaces have acquired from age and abuse, including scoring, heavy pitting, and people taking abrasives to surfaces to remove old gasket material, its important to use some kind of sealer on every gasket aside from intake gaskets and head gaskets. the exception would be "copper coat" on steel shim head gaskets and intake gaskets. if you don't use sealer on your gaskets, it's highly likely it'll leak. this has nothing to do with the quality of the gaskets. we're already using and selling the best gaskets available.
cannot stress enough how important it is to never use abrasives to remove gasket material with power tools. single edged razor blades that come in 100 packs at napa are all i ever use. those scotch brite style rolox 2 inch pads, do in fact remove material, and they remove it really quickly and round off edges. not to mention, you're slinging contamination all over the place with power tools. been doing this a long time, and i've yet to find a more efficient way, than scraping the gasket by hand with a razor blade.
to list every type of sealer i use on engine assembly:
here's a shopping list of the stuff i prefer to use
-ultra black permatex black silicone
-high heat copper exhaust rated silicone
- indian head or permatex "make a gasket."
-red and or green loctite/ bearing mount/ sleeve retainer
- (optional) 3M weather stripping adhesive in black
-plumbers tape/ teflon tape
-cheap latex gloves (optional)
my standard method for most gaskets, is simply put on cheap latex gloves. generously rub in black silicone into both sides to saturate the cork or felt gasket until entire gasket is saturated and wet, but not so caked on that the sealer will pinch out, look unprofessional, and create contamination on the inside of the engine. now simply lay gasket on the clean and dry surface and bolt together. put engine into service after its dried. usually it doesnt even matter if the sealer has cured, as it it'll cure when you fire up the engine. if you're concerned, there's nothing wrong with letting it dry over night. remember to not over tighten sheet metal covers and pans. valve covers and plug wire covers can be straightened and trued up in a vice. caved in valley pans can by reversed with a dull straight blade punch and hammer, and raised sections around the bolt holes on the oil pan need to be tapped down with a hammer on a work bench. also take note that prying pans and covers off can cause dame to seal surface that must be corrected. when prying oil pans off, try to pry down over the top of a bolt hole an not between the bolt holes. although seals for the bolts come in gasket sets, the factory didn't use them. i typically run a thin copper washer under valley and valve cover bolts, but even that isn't really necessary. half way through 57 to 62, they used big grommets under the bolts, however. do not use lock washers on timing cover bolts. the head of the bolt seals off the cavity. otherwise coolant can
leak past threads in block, or gasket failure later can allow water to leak externally through bolt holes.
in some cases, i'll use the 3m weather stripping adhesive to glue gasket on one side to the removable part, and just thin coat of black silicone on the other. that comes in handy when you cant see what you're doing, such as installing valve covers with heater hoses and wiring in the way, as an example. i usually avoid using it for the most part these days is its a lot more difficult to remove than silicone, and the adhesive tends to bubble out the sides of the gasket upon tourqing down. gaskets shrink. expect to have to go over them a second time after engine is ran. head bolts do not need sealer. just a thin coat of oil on thread. make sure the timing cover gasket gets a dab of extra sealer around the water port to the block where seal surface and gasket thickness is really thin.
the indian head watery sealer, i've found to be perfect for applying between the rear main cap and block on bottom/top. i've always had good luck with it and it does not interfere with bearing crush. DO NOT use silicone on top and bottom of rear main cap and block. using silicone on side seals in encouraged. no reason to put silicone on crank snout to prevent leaks, like on a chevy. that being said, i always use loctite on balancer bolt.
exhaust manifolds were bolted metal to metal from the factory and should be mounted the same way, to avoid cracking and rotting away of the mating surface from trapped condensation. surfacing the manifold isn't a bad idea, but more often than not, you can get by with just a very skinny bead of high temp silicone around the ports, so that it doesn't pinch out excessively. the same goes for all produced aftermarket headers for these engines. you void the warranty if gaskets are used.
on freeze plugs, i coat a generous layer of black silicone with the swipe of my finger tip on block and head openings. knock in the plug, and wipe off the excess with brake cleaner and a paper towel. i always use brass pipe plug fittings on water jacket. pre 58 use 1/4" pipe." later is 1/8" pipe thread. use teflon tape on those or they can leak. also use teflon tape on oil sender (if not already equipped with sealer from factory) as well as temp gauge or idiot light senders. as for oil galley plugs and rear cam plug, i prefer to use green lock tight on them. steak in the oil gallery plugs after. i never steak the cam plug. contact area is already super thin and you dont want to distort and disrupt the thin plug.
again, for the most part, there's no right or wrong way. only preference that each person develops over the years. i get asked daily, how i do my gaskets and seals, so there you go. please check one of the 3 rear main seal blog articles i've written for more in depth focus on that.