- April 11, 2016 at 9:14 pm #26934
Wright Arms asked a couple questions after I mentioned rust blueing a small homemade action I have been working with.
While I prefer a good hot caustic bath blue myself sometimes what you are doing will dictate the method one has to use when coloring a steel surface.
Double barrels shotgun barrels when soft soldered ( a good many are ) thimbles to the bottom of many especially older muzzle loading rifles there again anything soft soldered. Actually you might say anytime soft solder is involved, it must not be put in a hot caustic tank.
Rather than go into specifics as each manufacture of blueing liquid seems to have their own form of witchcraft involved I thought I would hit on a few of the points that seems to be required of all formulas both old and new.
Metal preparation is one of the main things that will control the final finish. I usually bring to a 280 finish and go no further. For me at least, to try to bring to a Smith & Wesson finish is a lot of wasted effort.
A highly polished, especially a machine buffed finish seems to resist the blue or rusting effort and it almost seems like the surface becomes sealed and when the solution finally takes “bite” it can become streaky or blotchy.
Any machine marks , scratches , rubs or anything you can see in the polished surface ,you will see in the finished product– period. It is best to try to keep all polish marks going linear, blend until all marks become a 280 finish.
I wear cheap white cotton gloves and change them when I feel they are getting too soiled. Just throw them in the washing machine and they are clean and usable again.
Touch nothing with your bare hands, keep those gloves on. Cleanliness is truly next to Godliness here. As the parts are finished, I put them in clean paper towels.
Some say to put a grease in the bore to protect it, I just use a light oil as I pull the bore plugs when done and immediately run a brush followed by oiled patches.
Try to use the toughest wood you can find for the bore plugs. I have had pine break on me especially with smaller calibers. Shotguns are usually not much of a problem.. Removal usually isn’t too difficult but does add to the chore involved. I try to save scraps of hedge wood as it seems very tough and is dense and dosn’t seem to have a real predominant grain. Hickory would be tougher but I could see from the harder growth rings in the grain it might allow some seepage into the bore. Maby yes, maby no. Ain’t gona take any chances.
When all parts are polished cover everything you do not want touched with the blueing solution with news papers and switch from clean white cotton gloves to a clean rubber glove. Have everything neatly laid out. I don’t wear a apron but some do but for cats sake DO wear a good pair of safety glass’s.
My understanding is that it was a rust blueing formula that took Harry Popes sight in one eye way back when. Get the glasses that have side protection.
If Harry had worn a good pair of glasses back then he might be able to still see today !!! Keep the glasses and gloves on all the time when around the blueing project.
I make my own swabs from clean, soft cotton cloth on a dowel stick. Plan on using a couple and don’t save them. Throw them away when done, make new as needed.
I try to apply the solution in long even strokes ( wipes ) running from top to bottom. Don’t use so much solution as it tends to run sideways. You want many long over lapping strokes or wipes– whatever, to build up into one even layer.
I always plan on many more layers of solution than the formula manufacture says. I put a small amount of solution into a small jar and actually keep in in the boiling tank at the same temp as the water. Any solution left over throw out, do not try to put it back into the main container.
To remove each layer of rust as it builds up, I get a 3# coffee can, wash it well and put in several bundles of 0000 steel wool, fill close to top with water and boil it well changing the water at least twice. Steel wool is protected with a fine oil to prevent rusting and you want this oil completely removed. It will cause streaking for sure. Use the steel wool pad until it starts to look cruddy then throw it away and tear off another piece. Don’t try to make one small piece last for the whole job. Use plenty and keep it clean.
Once you are satisfied with the final blue, take it outside and look at it in good sunlight. Any streaking can often be cured with a couple more blending coats.
Put back into the boiling tank and boil the heck out of it for about 45 minutes. Don’t worry, the boiling action will actually kill the rusting effect but not harm the layers built up.
Remove from the boiling water and quickly wipe down with clean paper towels to prevent water spotting and while still hot cover with any good light weight oil.
One trick I use is when oiling, rub the heck out of it with a soft cotton work rag. It seems to add a bit of sheen to the finish. Remove the bore plugs and make sure there is no rust in the bore. There usually is no problem here as if you get a good tight fit on the plugs to start with, the water will just swell them and make them even tighter.
Make sure the metal surface is well covered with the light oil , wrap in clean shop rags and put it away for about 24 hours.
I have sometimes seen that were there might be a very minor amount of streaking left on the blued surface that by wrapping in oiled rags and putting away they will actually blend out. Not always , but it happens. It is almost like the surface is “alive” or something and tends to “level ” itself.
Follow the directions the formula manufacturer supplies but I think you will find all the processes are about the same. Attention to cleanliness and metal surface attention are the biggies.
You will find this kind of blueing is really quite simple but like most things there will be a learning period. You will actually blue several firearms before you get the knack and you will pick up many little kinks along the way. What I have above is not the gospel but rather a starting point. I have no idea how many whole firearms or double barrel shotgun barrels I have blued but I find I am still learning with each job but the more I do , the better they seem to turn out.
Give it a try and lets see your end results !!!
- April 12, 2016 at 4:55 pm #26958Wright ArmsParticipant
- Posts: 8
- Comments: 130
- Overall: 138
Thank you for posting this thread. I have slow rust blued a few pieces, and while I was pleased with the end results, there are still a few things I was not completely satisfied with. On one piece in particular, the finish had an odd brownish tint in places, particularly when viewed in direct sunlight and held at a particular angle. Some have suggested that some metals simply blue that way and there is nothing to be done. And some have said in is the solution. I think the most likely culprit is water quality. I know I can improve that, and as the other 2 potential causes are out of my control, water quality is what I plan to focus upon in the future.
Here’s a couple of my projects, both before and after.
I felt both of these pieces were perfect opportunities for slow rust bluing, because they were simply not worth the investment of a caustic bath bluing job. Don’t be too hard on me, fellas. I’m still learning. And thanks again for starting this thread. There are always things to be learned from the methods of others.
- April 12, 2016 at 8:05 pm #26968
I agree, I too think that different metals will blue differently. I am wondering if that brownish tint might also be what I am seeing in the 4130 steel on the Flea receiver ? What few times I have seen it before have been with steels that seem to have high amounts of chrome or nickle in them. Lower the carbon content and the better the steel seems to blue. Most side by side barrels, the older ones anyway seem to be made from a lower carbon steel and take a very deep dark blue.
Freckling or spotting can usually be related back to the water. Most city water has lots of additives to either make it drinkable or do something else that someone somewhere thinks is a good idea and I have had bad luck with it in general. I try to use our well water or rain water collected in plastic or buy water in town that has gone through reverse osmosis.
Same problems show up in the hot caustic process as well. Bad water, you can get spots, if the steel is case hardened, it turns red etc.
No apologies needed on your two reblues, they both turned out very nice in my book. The pistol especially. When they get that rusted up they can be a lot of work to bring back and I would say you did– very nicely !!.
Also yes to the learning. I don’t care how long someone has been at it there is always something new to learn, some new trick to make the job easier. It is nice to have a place to trade ideas and perhaps pick up a new trick or two. You cannot go forward until you have trained someone to take your place.
- April 13, 2016 at 6:56 am #26988Wright ArmsParticipant
- Posts: 8
- Comments: 130
- Overall: 138
It’s interesting to me that you like the bluing job on the pistol the best, because that is the one that had the odd brown tint in it. I did not do anything to the receiver on the shotgun other than clean it up, but obviously, the barrel was a job.
I have been using distilled water. The tap water around here has much too much minerals in it to use. But being the cheapskate I am, I try to re-use the water that is left after boiling. I do not know if it causes me trouble or not, but it is something I plan to keep an eye on. May have to abandon the idea and use fresh water every time. I donno.
Thank you for the kind words on these projects. I was satisfied with both of them, but I guess I’m my own worst enemy. I always think I can do better.
- April 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm #26995
Well, I still think the pistol is just fine. Wouldn’t throw it out of my collection for sure.
I don’t think I would reuse that water. After use it not only contains trace elements of the solution you had used but also can pick up metallic contamination from the tank and even the firearm you are blueing.
Water is something we all need to be thinking about especially for the future but for drinking and for the process of blueing we want it to be as pure as possible .
We have a reverse osmosis machine in the local market and even though our well water in our area is good water, many people just use the heck out of that machine even though there is some cost.
The state changed it’s laws two years ago to where if you are a land owner and have a domestic well you can collect any rain water that falls on your property.
We and others are planning on taking advantage of this and are setting up for the collection of rain water on a scale that can actually be useful. According to the experts rain water other than in some cases with nitrates, is actually some of the purest water you can get.
I played with this on a very minor scale and did blue one rifle with rain water and I think it turned out very well so if it is feasible, you might want to consider this approach. It cost a bit to get set up but it is free after that.
Was down in Goodland over the weekend and noticed where some of the homeowners there, in town, have stacked up two of those 275 gallon “totes” in such a way as they can collect rainwater ( 550 gallons ) from each down spout and are using it on their lawns and bushes.
Those totes seem to be everywhere and in some cases can be picked up for little money.
All this is just a thought but it might give you a cheap source of pure water not only for blueing but if you are one of those who worry about our future you might even carry it further than that.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.