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Posted 1/10/2019 17:36 (#7235431 - in reply to #7235267)
Subject: RE: Gunsmithing


I do have a FFL.

What you're talking about for the wood finish would require stripping the old finish, some light, detailed sanding, and then re-finishing.

Here are my thoughts on wood finishes:

The "old fashioned" finishes of blued/wood guns were usually done with a natural oil. Successive coats of a purified linseed or tung oil were built up, wet-sanded in, and the grain would be filled. If the gun had a "satin" finish, it was typically achieved after the oil finish had reached a point of being "shiny" and the shine/sheen was knocked back with something like bronze wool (or in the case of English gun, "rottenstone" abrasive). The issue in classic oil finishes is that it could take between nine and 20 coats to achieve what you want, depending on what you want and the particular species/cut of wood involved. Woods like black walnut (very common in lower cost American guns) is a very soft wood, and needs to be soaked in oil finish and dried before you can even start such customizations as checkering, and black walnut can soak up a large amount of oil in the first couple of coats. Tighter, more expensive, "thin-shelled English walnut" requires less oil, but the wood started as a tighter, harder, higher quality, dense piece of wood.

For those who like the high-gloss finishes, there is a product I like to use called "Pro Custom oil" which is a combination of purified linseed oil and a varnish. A Browning/Weatherby-like gloss can be achieved in perhaps only four coats. I also use Pro Custom oil to repair high-gloss finishes, such as you see on Browning's stocks.

Surface rust on the barrel can be polished out, and the barrel re-blued. On something like an Ithaca, the new blue I apply might be darker or "grey-er" than the older blue, because I'm using things like the Mark Lee blueing solutions, or rust blueing. The hot salt blueing Ithaca used has a little different color to it on many steels. I bring that up because you said "restore," which to me means "looks like it did from the factory in fit and finish."

As someone working alone, I don't use hot blue salts. I advise people who want to do their own 'smithing (and I encourage as many people to learn as much as they can, so if people here on NAT have questions, ask, and I will try to answer gun questions here) to avoid hot blue salts due solely to the safety factor. Hot blue salts are basically lye and sodium nitrite, with some water added into the salt bath. At room temperature, the salt tank will be a solid/slightly gelled mass of sheer corrosive ability. At operating temperatures (between 282 and 292F, depending on your elevation and the alloy of the steel) they are pure evil in a small place.

At these temperatures, any water trapped in a gun barrel or gun part dunked into the molten salts instantly flashes to steam, and the salts can splash on you. Salts this corrosive at this temperature can seriously harm you in literally only seconds. While I was at Trinidad, I was running the hot blue tank one fine Friday afternoon and I dropped in a .17 HMR rifle's action/barrel that had water in the bore. Instantly, the water flashed to steam and blew a bunch of salts all over me. I was wearing safety glasses, and a full face shield, as well as a rubber apron. The salts got on my hair and into my scalp. I instantly back out, handed my  phone and wallet to a classmate to hold on to, walked under the safety shower and pulled the handle. After a few minutes, I figured I rinsed off the salts enough. The instructor came over with a diluted vinegar solution, sprayed that in my hair/scalp - and at that point, I knew exactly where and how much salts had landed on my scalp. If it had been in my eyes, I could well have had permanent eye damage, even with the eye wash station only an arm's length away. Hot blue salts are nothing to screw around with.

Then there are the times you must add water to the salt bath, because the temperature of the salt bath is climbing out of your operating range. This is best done with water introduced into the salt tank through a long steel/copper tube that allows you to stand back a bit from the tanks.

My advice is: never hot blue alone. Always have someone there to help you if something goes wrong. Better yet, leave the hot blueing to those who are set up properly for it. A proper four or five tank hot blue setup could cost upwards of $7K+ to install - before you buy supplies and such.

Rust/express blueing works and works well; you need only a tank of boiling, distilled water to convert "red" rust to "black" rust. The pre-WWII Winchesters would be rust blued. The reason why almost no one but custom gun makers rust blue any more is because it takes time and labor. Rust blueing, as a process, produces the most durable blueing there is - even better than hot salt blueing. It might take a week to fully blue a gun, however. The process is more involved. 

Edited by WYDave 1/10/2019 20:43
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