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Discussion in 'Engraving & Refinishing' started by perrymc1, Dec 25, 2011.
What's the best, "at home," bluing compound that shows best results?
Blue Wonder is as good as they get. Home use products, that is.
Herter's Rust Blue. Takes longer than the "cold blues" but you have a superior blue. The only equipment you need is a pot of water to boil the part in question in.
I've used Birchwood Casey, Blue Wonder, Formula 44, Oxpho Blue and Van's Instant Gun Blue so far on my 30-30 and a 9mm pistol. The Birchwood, Blue Wonder and Formula 44 were tried on my Marlin 336. The Oxpho and Van's were used on both guns.
The Birchwood Casey would never get dark, no matter how many coats I used. I tried twice following the instructions so the letter, but still not close to blue.
The Blue Wonder was darker than the Birchwood but seemed to wear easily with minor handling and after comparing it with the Formula 44, Van's and Oxpho it was light on the blue. Several coats of BW still didn't match the other three.
The Formula 44 looked almost black, nice deep dark color, but it would not quit oxidizing on my Marlin. No oil, no amount of cleaning would keep it away. So it had to go, I stripped the Marlin and started over.
The Van's and Oxpho were good and dark, and covered well but would wear off with use and now it seems just by sitting in the gun cabinet. Just pulled my 30-30 out of the gun cabinet Wednesday and noticed the blue has faded away. Sitting in a cabinet in a climate controlled den it disappeared. The 9mm was similar, not quite as faded, but still wore off sitting still. It had a re-bluing not too long ago to replace what was worn off from range use.
Needless to say, they were all disappointing when it came to long term use, the Oxpho Blue and Van's do a great job of covering small scratches and have lasted for a couple of years on my 60's minor blemishes. But whole gun use just isn't working.
I believe this will be my next step, or possibly Sarge's Herter's Rust Blue. If they don't do the job I'll hand both weapons off to someone with the right equipment to put on a professional blue. Anybody got a pot big enough for my 30-30 barreled action?
PILKINGTON CLASSIC AMERICAN RUST BLUE - Brownells
Herters and Pilkingtons are both similar products, used in a similar manner, and both are sold by Brownells. I would recommend studying the instructions for both on the Brownells website to help guide your decision making. A note on "rust bluing". This was the method used before the current caustic salt process was developed. Caustic replaced rust not because it was superior, but because it was cheaper. Rust is a time consuming process that can take several hours work to perform, whereas with caustic, it's dip, wait, pull, oil. Caustic costs more on set up (substantially so) but is preferred by manufacturers because of labor savings. Rust is still the preferred method by most custom smiths, and is actually better wearing. For someone with time, I would highly recommend rust, as it is a far superior end product. Not to mention that you can brag to everyone that your firearm was rust blued, which is kinda' fancy to say.
That's actually what I'm doing now, reading up on the Herter's, Pilkington and the Belgian (Herter's formula) blue. Looks like a lot more work than the cold blues, but also sounds like it will be worth the added time and expense.
I think I'm done with the cold blue for whole firearms. It seems to work fine for small touch-ups and blemishes and even some small parts, but the whole firearm just doesn't last.
I should be able to build a boiling tank big enough to submerge the 30-30. Got some adjustable gas valves for propane to regulate the heat. Weld in a few heat tubes or build a burner for the bottom, plumb in the propane and set everything on fire.
Get good at at and people pay good money for that finish.
I've used Van's and it showed up rust spots, no matter how many times I sanded down the metal or prepped it still showed up
Cold bluing? Rather than specific brands preparation is probably the most important key to a good home bluing job. The part must be ultra clean and free of oil and grease. In fact, wear rubber gloves and avoid handling with your bare hands. Everything else you use should be grease and oil free including clean wipes, rags, Q tips, swabs, etc.
Persistence is also the key especially on stubborn mottled or patchy parts. Just keep at it. If it seems like it's not taking the blue try using a good degreaser from the hardware store, or acetone, and wipe the hell out of it then apply blue. If it fails try again...degrease, blue, degrease, blue, degrease, blue...eventually it will come.
Two excellent products for bluing small areas are Birchwood Casey cold bluing paste, and bluing pen. The manufacturer claims that the paste works at a slower pace than regular bluing solution thus penetrating deeper for a more robust bluing job. Regardless, it's much easier to use than bluing solution and gives you more time to work it. The bluing also comes out with a smoother finish rather than the uneven, or sometimes matted finish of the liquid blue which you must then smooth out with steel wool and oil.
The Birchwood Casey bluing pen is a great idea too. It's in a "Sharpie" type marker and the felt tip helps agitate the surface for good penetration on stubborn areas.
For small parts you can try the following (warning: I don't think this is recommended by manufacturers but it works). It's like faux hot bluing:
- Make sure you are wearing rubber gloves at all times.
- Remove any old bluing with bluing remover, or in a pinch you can use rust remover from a hardware store, or boil it in a solution of water and vinegar (then immerse in water and baking soda to stop the acidic reaction). Thoroughly wash with soap and water under running tap water.
- If you want an ultra smooth and shiny finish then scour the part with steel wool going in one direction only to prevent swirls.
- Next bring a pot of water to a boil with a drop of dish washing detergent and put the part in the boiling water for about 3 to 5 minutes. You are thoroughly degreasing and cleaning the part.
- thoroughly rinse the part under running tap water.
- Bring a pot of clean (preferably demineralized) water to a boil again.
- cold blue the part by whatever means (swabs, Q tip) then immerse in the boiling water for about a minute.
- Bring it out. It may look greyish when it comes out of the water but will turn darker as it cools.
- Careful it's hot! But reapply some more blue vigorously and reimmerse in the boiling water.
- Repeat this until you are sure you have a nice even layer of bluing.
- Take gun oil and fine steel wool and gently buff it out.
That's what has happening to my Marlin with the Formula 44, except it was the whole rifle instead of small spots.
The type of metal will also effect the results. Of the two firearms I've blued, they not only have a different color between them, they have parts that are different shades of blue. The slide and frame on my 9mm are two different shades and it didn't matter what I used on them. All these cold blues showed similar results.
As stated earlier, rust blueing is probably the best all around process for a deep blue that will last for years.. Cold blueing can be enhanced by heating the parts prior to application of the blue solution. What I have found that works to help set the cold blue finish is to dunk the parts in oil and let stand untouched for at least 24 hours. This has shown to do two things: Sets the finish and makes it darken.
I typically use WD-40 for this process and then wipe clean before applying a perminant coating of a high quality gun oil. I've got several firearms in my cabinet that were done over the past several years and they still are as nice as the day I completed them.
But remember this most importantly... PREPWORK is EVERYTHING! I always wipe down with acetone prior to blueing.. It's amazing how dark those paper towels get off what appears to be clean steel.