How to rust blue, for those that want to know

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I_Like_Pie

Blackhawk
Joined
Aug 24, 2006
Messages
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Chattanooga, TN
Picked up some old rifles that I am gonna fix up and plan on trying my hand at rust bluing. note...not cold bluing, but rust bluing...supposedly better even than hot blue. Figure that it is gonna be hot and humid here in Chattanooga soon and may get stuff ready for a particularly hot and humid weekend.

There are two old single shot .22s that I will practice on...then a really beat up old parker dbl barrel if they turn out well. Brownells sells a mix, but like most gun chemicals...it is much better and cheaper to do it yourself. I have actually tried the hot bluing recepie in the sticky here on nuts and bolts with great success, but would like to see if this rust blue thing is as nice as everyone says it is.

Here is the mix that I have found in two or three places:
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Nitric acid 2.5 ounces
Hydrochloric acid 2 ounces
Wire nails 1 ounce
Distilled water 30 ounces
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Supposedly there is a pre-war book written by the guru of this process that has about 30 mixes with pro/cons of each, but it is proving elusive.

So what do you guys know about this? Has anyone else here gone the whole 9 yards and tried their hand at rust bluing?
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2002
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Ohio , U.S.A.
nope, sorry, the recipes are in the books of course, but "bluing" makes MY skin crawl, so I leave that to the others...I just do all the 'prep' (hand work) you should talk with others who actually do it, as its' the process (steps) more than the actual 'recipe' itself...my friend 'kritter' ( Jeff) over on one of the other Forums ( S&W) has it pretty well figured out, talked with some of the guys I referred him to and has done a awesome job...
let me know and I will put you in touch with Jeff, he really did his homework......
 

WOB

Bearcat
Joined
Feb 18, 2007
Messages
98
Location
Central Texas
You can make up your own if you like but the commercial preparations are proven and not so expnsive. My favorite is Laurel Mountain Forge Barrel Brown and Degreaser. Brownells sells 2 oz. for $8.50 and will blue 2 or 3 rifles and 6 or 7 hand guns. I know it says barrel "Brown", but it does a great blue job if used according to the standard rust blue directions. I have blued about 6 rifles and 7 or 8 handguns with it with satisfaction.

It has one advantage over all other potions out there in that it contains a detergent. This allows it to work without having all the metal completely and perfectly clean and also allows barehanding the metal while applying the chemical and later carding the rust. If you don't yet understand the advantages this gives you, you will when you try your first blue job.

One other thing, make sure your boiling tank contains distilled or reverse osmosis filtered water. It has to be mineral free, or you are asking for trouble.

BTW, the book you are looking for is also sold by Brownells:
http://www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/store/ ... 20BROWNING

WOB
 

I_Like_Pie

Blackhawk
Joined
Aug 24, 2006
Messages
659
Location
Chattanooga, TN
Thanks folks! You are right in that I will likely have to go the Brownells route simply because the crackheads made it next to impossible to get chemicals anymore.

Good to know about the Laurel Mountain formula...that is the thing that will always get ya...even with the regular bluing. Can spend 8 hours prepping the stuff only to have a 0.01 second touch to make it blemish.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
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Kentucky
Disclaimer: I am not a gunsmith nor do I play one on the internet, but . . .

If this is actually a hot process (which it may not be) I have been led to believe that some older double-barrel guns don't like heat and their barrels may separate.

Ask a pro.

Dan??

:D
 

I_Like_Pie

Blackhawk
Joined
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Messages
659
Location
Chattanooga, TN
It is actually the "cold" process (not to be confused with cold bluing) often reserved for old guns. Hottest it gets is the boiling point of distilled water. From what I have seen...the results are very, very nice. Much deeper color than regular bluing.

Another cool thing is that you do not have to polish...stop at 200-300 grit. It is a superior finish, but is often forgotten/ignored in moder times because it is so labor intensive. Can't sell it and make money.
 
Joined
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Ale-8 , that is why the old ,soft solder barreled guns are 'rust blued' just because of that, not hot enough temp for any 'separation' of the solder joints between the barrels & ribs, etc.......
 
Joined
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Messages
11,396
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Kentucky
Yes, but what is the process then? How hot is this "rust bluing" process? Everything I read says it's essentially the same process temperature wise, but with different chemicals.

The "browning" process just uses actual rusting and cool water, doesn't it?

Just wanna know . . .

:D
 

WOB

Bearcat
Joined
Feb 18, 2007
Messages
98
Location
Central Texas
Rust bluing is an extension of browning. In the browning process, the clean metal is coated with an acidic solution and left to rust until a fine grain red rust covers the parts. The rust is burnished off with coarse cloth and the proccess is repeated until the desired color brown is achieved. This was the common finish on firearms for hundreds of years.

In rust bluing the rusted parts are boiled for a few minutes in clean water after each coating/rusting cycle. This converts the red rust to black rust and also allows it to be easily carded off with a fine wire brush or steel wool. The color darkens with each additional application cycle until a dark blue-black is reached. On low alloy steels, 4-6 coating/ rusting/ boiling/ carding cycles is usually enough to produce a fine grained blue-black that is very durable. Since the rusting solution etches the steel surface, you cannot achieve a mirror finish blue as you can with conventional hot salts blue. Rust blue was the common finish on barrels until the hot salts blue process was commercialized in Germany in the late 1930's.

Obviously, this kind of blue job is labor intensive. However, it is still used on double shotgun barrels that are soft-soldered together because conventional hot salts blue will corrode soft solder and lead to eventual failure of the joints.

The above is just brief dscription of the processes, as there is much more to it. However, it is one of the blue processes that a hobbyist can do at home without a big investment in a multi-tank hot blue rig.

WOB
 

I_Like_Pie

Blackhawk
Joined
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Messages
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Chattanooga, TN
About to gather everything up that I need....will let everyone know how it goes. Like most processes it seems in the description much worse than it really is. Gonna try and see if the fears are warranted.

First up will be a Springfield Model 15 single shot .22 that I picked up for $20. It is in pretty bad shape...so I really have nothing to lose here. Talk about a simple firearm...a 20 cent mousetrap is fractionally more complicated.

089Zz15.jpg


If all else fails I will just polish everything back up on the first try and hot salt blue them. Right now I am trying to salvage what appears to be the world's most neglected firearm stock. I am pretty sure that I have an old axehandle buried in the back yard that looks better than this thing.

~Matt
 

I_Like_Pie

Blackhawk
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Chattanooga, TN
Since I am pretty much chained to the house with a little one in the nursery. I spent the weekend doing the Rust Bluing job on the barrel of my rusty old Springfield model 15 I picked up last week for $20. It took a lot of time...as expected, but turned out really, REALLY well. Here is the "short" version. I feel that I can, after even one job like this, produce similar results on just about any gun made now. Learning curve was not very steep. Click on the pictures and it will pull up a larger one.
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I pull filed all the dents and cuts out of the barrel and only sanded it to 240 grit...any more and you are wasting your time as this process actually roughens up the surface a bit.

Made a mount for the barrel to rest while the rusting process takes place...Since I plugged the barrel I used the dowl pins to rest on a wire framework


Here is the boiling mechanism. This allows the rust brown to react with water to form the rust blue. It only has to be in hot water for 5 minutes so I just poured the boiling water in there. MAKE SURE that if you do this that you use distilled water...otherwise it will not work hardly as well.


After the boiling I "carded" the excess rust off with a wet piece of rough cotton cloth. Heated the barrel with my wife's hairdryer


Got the solution ready. This formula has detergent...so fingerprints are not that much of a problem, but I still used gloves and washed everything down with Acetone to make sure it was without oil. I then gingerly applied as little of the solution to the barrel as possible. I then waited for 4 hours.


DO THE ABOVE 3 STEPS AGAIN AND AGAIN...6 times for me on this one...

It turned this


Into this


Of course there is a lot more detail going on between these pictures, but that is the gist of it...no real magic to it. This is a much better finish than using hot bluing salts. Very hard and very impervious to about anything. If you folks have time...you can do this. Very satisfied with the end result.

Pretty sure this method of bluing is unknown these days by 95% of the shooting world. It is time intensive, but that is about the only downside to it.

I can not stress how much easier it is using that Laurel Mountain Solution mentioned above...it contains degreasers. This keeps you from having to worry about oil and fingerprints messing up your project. It maybe took me one more pass to complete to satisfaction, but not having to worry about starting over if I accidently touched the barrel is worth it.
 

I_Like_Pie

Blackhawk
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Chattanooga, TN
mikeruth":1a4he7dr said:
I_Like_Pie,

What is your "boiling tank" made of? It looks thin and cheap (cheap is good).



4" PVC pipe and two end caps...about $5. You can see I cut a large scallop off the top and used it to make a base by securing it to some scrap wood.

Despite what some will say it is not required to actually boil the parts in the water for a full 5 minutes. All you have to do is boil the distilled water in a pot on your stove, place the part in the tank, and pour the boiling water in the container.

Wait 10 or so minutes and take it out to dry, card it, and do it all over again.
 

mikeruth

Bearcat
Joined
Apr 21, 2009
Messages
25
Location
Indiana
Thanks. I had thought of PVC but in the picture it looked thinner than what I see for sale.

It is time for a trip to the HW store (much to my wife's dismay).
 

Aeroscout9

Single-Sixer
Joined
Sep 7, 2008
Messages
220
I've been wanting to try the rust blue for awhile. I ordered some from Midway or Brownell's a few years ago and just haven't gotten around to it yet. Looks fun!! Thanks for the photos and the write up.

Joe
 

I_Like_Pie

Blackhawk
Joined
Aug 24, 2006
Messages
659
Location
Chattanooga, TN
Aeroscout9":v5u0zvf9 said:
I've been wanting to try the rust blue for awhile. I ordered some from Midway or Brownell's a few years ago and just haven't gotten around to it yet. Looks fun!! Thanks for the photos and the write up.

Joe

Since this writeup I have done 2 more guns and a Home made knife....This is they way to go for sure if you are a "do-it-yourself" type of person.

I highly suggest the Laurel Mountain formula as it has a detergent that cuts oil from fingers...very difficult snafu when typically doing this.
 

SAJohn

Hunter
Joined
Jan 6, 2007
Messages
2,300
Location
Terrebonne, Oregon, USA
Very interesting. I have always had the water boiling in an iron tank so that the parts will immediately self dry. I can see that the hair dryer accomplishes the same thing with much less trouble and less water boil-off.

I will give your technique a try on my current Single Six project.

SAJohn
 

I_Like_Pie

Blackhawk
Joined
Aug 24, 2006
Messages
659
Location
Chattanooga, TN
SAJohn":3w6832kl said:
Very interesting. I have always had the water boiling in an iron tank so that the parts will immediately self dry. I can see that the hair dryer accomplishes the same thing with much less trouble and less water boil-off.

I will give your technique a try on my current Single Six project.

SAJohn


Actually I have found that the parts only need to be in the boiling water bath for 5 minutes or so to convert the Iron Oxide/hematite (Fe2O3) to Magnetite (Fe3O4). By just pouring the boiling water into the tank...you can take them out in time to still be hot enough to dry almost immediately. Hit them with the wet low thread count cloth or 0000 steel wool, rub down with acetone, then re-coat with the solution. The hair dryer is what I used in the first pass simply because I was overly cautious about doing it "right"

The only thing that really slows this process down with rifles is plugging the barrels to avoid pitting the chamber. Much easier when doing a revolver or knife.
 
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