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Thread: Re-bluing

  1. #1
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    Default Re-bluing

    I have an old gun and all bluing is gone. All I want to do is remove old oil and grease, remove all rust via chemical means, remove any traces of original bluing, and then re-blue using hot blue, leaving any pits, dings or scratches. I DO NOT want to buff, sand, nor sandblast the firearm.

    What steps and methods are best to effect my desire.

    Harold
    For those having fought for it, Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.
    Freedom is only one generation away from extinction.

  2. #2
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    Bluing is an oxide. Whatever means you use to chemically remove rust will also remove the bluing. Degreasing is best accomplished by soaking and scrubbing in a strong detergent solution, it doesn't hurt to boil the parts. TSP, available in paint stores is a good degreaser.
    Jim H.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCHannum View Post
    Bluing is an oxide. Whatever means you use to chemically remove rust will also remove the bluing. Degreasing is best accomplished by soaking and scrubbing in a strong detergent solution, it doesn't hurt to boil the parts. TSP, available in paint stores is a good degreaser.
    Good Morning JC,

    Thanks for replying. Around 30 years ago, I had a rather large (best described as comprehensive) bluing setup. It was a pain in the butt managing various tanks during active operation. While setting idle (cold), managing the setup was about as demanding as when it was at operating temperature. Salt creep was a constant problem even though I used a bar of Stop Creep sold by Brownells. Though the basic principle of bluing is still in my head, some specific, important aspects (tricks of the trade) have been lost with time.

    Trying to remember, I'm almost certain that the first step was to place all parts in a hot bath of degreaser (Dicro-clean 909) and give parts a good soak followed by a scrubbing (using a brush) then followed by one more soak and then rinse in a hot water tank. I believe my next step was to use HCL to to rid parts of any rust. If I'm not too badly mistaken, any rust left would end up as white spots during the bluing process. It was this process that ALWAYS stressed me because HCL was not only attacking rust but was also attacking "good metal".

    Surely there is something far better than HCL to remove rust without attacking good metal.

    Q1) Do you have knowledge of an agent that will surely remove rust without attacking good metal?

    There was a rapid "down side" to using HCL. As soon as parts were taken from the acid bath and transferred to boiling water, parts appeared to rust very quickly (before one's very eyes). I even tried immersing them first in a backing soda solution without any success.

    Q2) How does one prevent such a rapid oxidation?
    Q3) Is this a product of dissolved atmospheric oxygen in the warm water?
    Q4) If so, would boiling water for a specific time be sufficient to rid the water of "free oxygen" thus preventing such rapid oxidation?

    In passing, the water I used was well water. I lived in the country and did not have city water.

    The only thing I was able to do was buff this light surface oxidation from parts. This worked BUT as stated in my original post, I do not want to buff the parts. My reason is, the parts have some very fine, well defined stampings that need to be preserved. Even a light buff will reduce the crisp stampings making edges look "smeared".

    Would you mind addressing these questions?

    Thanks,
    Harold
    For those having fought for it, Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.
    Freedom is only one generation away from extinction.

  4. #4
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    I have never done hot bluing as the problems you mentioned turned me off. I have had some dunk bluing done by a local fellow, but do the metal preparation myself.

    I can't make any specific recommendation for chemical removal of rust as I prep by hand. I do not buff, but use abrasives backed up with files ot wood forms to support the abrasive cloth. In severe cases, I start by drawfiling and work down to around a 300 or finer grit. This preserves stamping and keeps features sharp. I also use fine (000 or 0000) steel wool and/or scotchbrite.

    HCL is nasty stuff, and I keep it out of the shop as even the fumes will cause rust. Cleaned metal will rust almost immediately unassisted, HCL aggravates this tendency tenfold.

    On the other hand, rust bluing can take advantage of the tendency to flash rust, the rust being converted to a deep blue/black finish. If I were to do any hot bluing, rust bluing is what I would do. It is a bit more labor intensive than hot tank bluing, but, I understand more forgiving and easy to repair if it goes wrong or gets damaged.

    A problem with rust bluing it that it requires boiling the part in a tank of distilled water to convert the rust. This can be overcome by using a steamer in this step.
    Jim H.

  5. #5
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    I use to use 50-50 HCl/water dip to strip a lot of blued and lightly rusted guns and gun parts. I never had a problem with flash rust afterwards because I always immediately immersed the stripped metal into a strong baking soda - water solution( cold). You must do it as soon as it comes out of the acid. For pitted and heavily rusted metal, straight HCL is not too much.
    Once neutralized, the metal showed no tendency to rust after drying. I was using city water that had very little dissolved solids and measured zero on the hardness scale. That might have helped; I do not know. Anyway, I had no problem storing HCL in my shop. The container was a 1 gallon glass jug with a heavy plastic screw-on cap, well gasketed. It did not leak vapor.


    RWO

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    Quote Originally Posted by RWO View Post
    I use to use 50-50 HCl/water dip to strip a lot of blued and lightly rusted guns and gun parts. I never had a problem with flash rust afterwards because I always immediately immersed the stripped metal into a strong baking soda - water solution( cold). You must do it as soon as it comes out of the acid. For pitted and heavily rusted metal, straight HCL is not too much.
    Once neutralized, the metal showed no tendency to rust after drying. I was using city water that had very little dissolved solids and measured zero on the hardness scale. That might have helped; I do not know. Anyway, I had no problem storing HCL in my shop. The container was a 1 gallon glass jug with a heavy plastic screw-on cap, well gasketed. It did not leak vapor.


    RWO
    Good Morning RWO,

    I too have kept HCL in my shop over the years and have never ...... yet ...... experienced a rusting issue re: equipment. I will again give it a try by first immersing a part in HCL and then immediately into backing soda solution and report my experience. In the past, my NaHCO3 solution is as concentrate as I can make it. Some salts of sodium bicarbonate remain at the bottom of the container and do not dissolve so that's how concentrated the solution is. In other words, the water is saturated to the point that no further NaHCO3 goes into solution.

    Harold
    For those having fought for it, Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.
    Freedom is only one generation away from extinction.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwingo View Post
    Good Morning RWO,

    I too have kept HCL in my shop over the years and have never ...... yet ...... experienced a rusting issue re: equipment. I will again give it a try by first immersing a part in HCL and then immediately into backing soda solution and report my experience. In the past, my NaHCO3 solution is as concentrate as I can make it. Some salts of sodium bicarbonate remain at the bottom of the container and do not dissolve so that's how concentrated the solution is. In other words, the water is saturated to the point that no further NaHCO3 goes into solution.

    Harold
    Hello Harold,

    Just trying to think about some alternatives to the normal rust and removal procedures. The degree to which your firearm has rusted will ultimately dictate which method you should choose. Oxalic acid will work, but it's sort of nasty stuff. I suspect it is the active ingredient in Brownells "Rust & Blue Remover". They sell another product called "Steel White" that strips rust & bluing that is non-toxic. Before I retired (I was a gunsmith in a very large shop) I did use Steel White and obtained good results a time or two. I was not tasked with much bluing work - I did other things- so I'm no expert. If flash rusting becomes problematic, I do know that there are commercial preparations sold by Brownells that will allow one to remove rust and bluing, then keep them safely dry without surface rust taking hold for quite some time. Sorry, I can't recall the name. Baking soda, applied as a paste or slurry does dissolve rust too. Won't strip bluing, though. I know you do not wish to scrub, but you can get pretty fair results on the rust this way with a soft bristle toothbrush. Citric acid, available in powder form at some grocery stores will remove rust gently too. Don't know if any of this is useful - just thinking out loud.

    Best of luck with your project!

    Old Squier

    Sent Using Tapatalk - Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldSquier View Post
    Hello Harold,

    ....... Before I retired (I was a gunsmith in a very large shop) I did use Steel White and obtained good results a time or two.
    ........Citric acid, available in powder form at some grocery stores will remove rust gently too. Don't know if any of this is useful - just thinking out loud.

    Best of luck with your project!

    Old Squier

    Sent Using Tapatalk - Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
    Good Morning Old Squier,
    Thank you for your reply and contributions to this thread.

    In your reply you said, "I did use Steel White and obtained good results a time or two". Please clarify. Are you saying that you used Steel White more than several time but *only a time or two* did you realized good results or are you saying you only used Steel White a time or two and got good results each time?

    I've never used Oxalic acid. As a side note, I have used Nitric and Sulfuric acids which are certainly aggressive and quite harmful if not treated with utmost respect. Additionally, I've used a lot of citric acid for cleaning copper and brass. My experience with citric acid has been good and it certainly cleans copper and brass in an effortless fashion. However, I have never used citric acid on ferrous metals. Perhaps that's worth a try. Using the power form of Citric acid, how long did you allow the steel to soak? Was the acid solution as concentrated as you could make? Soaking copper or brass in citric acid takes about 30 minutes and will do a nice job.

    As a side note, when using H2SO4, I was taught that *concentrated* H2SO4 does NOT attack metal aggressively; it must be diluted to free H ions so that they may react with ferrous metals.

    In passing, and keeping my word to RWO, I soaked a ferrous part (cold roll) in HCL (strength as sold in the jug) for 15 minutes, then immediately transferred the part directly to a concentrated solution of NaHCO3 for neutralization. Afterward, I washed the part in hot water using dish-washing liquid, and the part did NOT rust. I allowed the warm part to air dry. I have checked it this morning and still no sign of discoloration.

    Harold
    For those having fought for it, Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.
    Freedom is only one generation away from extinction.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwingo View Post
    Good Morning Old Squier,
    Thank you for your reply and contributions to this thread.

    In your reply you said, "I did use Steel White and obtained good results a time or two". Please clarify. Are you saying that you used Steel White more than several time but *only a time or two* did you realized good results or are you saying you only used Steel White a time or two and got good results each time?

    I've never used Oxalic acid. As a side note, I have used Nitric and Sulfuric acids which are certainly aggressive and quite harmful if not treated with utmost respect. Additionally, I've used a lot of citric acid for cleaning copper and brass. My experience with citric acid has been good and it certainly cleans copper and brass in an effortless fashion. However, I have never used citric acid on ferrous metals. Perhaps that's worth a try. Using the power form of Citric acid, how long did you allow the steel to soak? Was the acid solution as concentrated as you could make? Soaking copper or brass in citric acid takes about 30 minutes and will do a nice job.

    As a side note, when using H2SO4, I was taught that *concentrated* H2SO4 does NOT attack metal aggressively; it must be diluted to free H ions so that they may react with ferrous metals.

    In passing, and keeping my word to RWO, I soaked a ferrous part (cold roll) in HCL (strength as sold in the jug) for 15 minutes, then immediately transferred the part directly to a concentrated solution of NaHCO3 for neutralization. Afterward, I washed the part in hot water using dish-washing liquid, and the part did NOT rust. I allowed the warm part to air dry. I have checked it this morning and still no sign of discoloration.

    Harold
    Hello Harold,

    My best recollection is that I have used Steel White four times - obtaining good to excellent results each time. My memory is admittedly poor. Still, I seem to recall that among the guns involved, one was a fifties or sixties-era triple-deuce rifle, the others were double shotguns. Steel White will not attack soldered ribs, so it was just the ticket for fine old double guns. I am really a fan of the product because it is non-toxic, contains no hazardous chemicals, is completely safe and one bottle makes up to 20 gallons of solution.

    I think the Citric Acid at 1 lb
    diluted in enough water to fill a Brownells black-iron tank will do. Should cost about 4 or 5 dollars if you order online. I would check the gun at 10 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter. A word of caution, though: Steel having a relatively high carbon content could turn black. The citric acid will first attack rust, but then it can (though not highly likely) work on the steel in a way that will reveal a black carbon coating that is HARD to remove. So check the gun quite often and pull it out fast once the rust is gone.

    Given that you are trying to preserve faint stampings and the like, I would avoid the aggressive acids completely. I know you want to hot-blue the guns, but I think you should at least consider a cold blue like Oxpho. I've seen pretty good results obtained this way. Finally, if your firearms are older guns and very valuable to you, you might consider Pilkington or Herter's rust blue solutions. The solutions are not at all offensive and you can realize absolutely beautiful results. They are particularly appropriate for older firearms. I have been doing rust blue for 35 years and don't care to hot blue ever again. Hot bluing is a huge pain in the posterior! With this said, you will need to card the rust using 0000 steel wool, but this will do no harm to the delicate markings you seek to preserve.

    Sounds like you have an interesting little project. Best of luck Harold!

    Squier

    Sent Using Tapatalk - Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

  10. #10
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    Thanks Squier!

    Harold
    For those having fought for it, Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.
    Freedom is only one generation away from extinction.

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