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Discussion in 'The Gun Builder's Bench' started by bud in pa, Nov 3, 2019.
What are your home made solutions for browning a barrel?
Slow, but apple's will oxidize gun barrels and like I say, it is slow. I have never used this method, but I knew a blacksmith that just propped the barrel up in the corner and urinated on for 14 days. The secret to browning barrels is to get the oxidation under control after the desired luster has arrived.
Wash the barrel with soap and water, while you wear rubber gloves, then rinse. Wipe down with an alcohol wipe and let dry.
Then using yellow mustard, apply a thin layer while you wear the gloves to keep oils from your fingers off the metal. Hang the barrel with a piece of wire from the tang bolt hole, and allow to dry for a full day. The mustard holds the vinegar in the condiment in a more even layer than vinegar alone. After the mustard is dry and brown, use an old toothbrush to knock it off, and repeat. It will take several repeated coats of this to fully work, though I like to use only one or two to get a patina as if the barrel came polished but not browned, and the patina formed "over time". When satisfied, you wipe down the barrel with a solution of baking powder and water to neutralize the vinegar, rinse it well with a paper towel very damp from the solution. Then plain water rinse . Allow to dry then rub in an oil. This is non-toxic and I came up with it (doubtless not the first guy) because my toddler son was into EVERYTHING. Mayo works but goes rancid, and ketchup apparently has sugar and thus the ants go for it...personal knowledge....
Laurel Mountain Forge browning solution isn't necessarily not home made, depending on what you have around your home, and will give a more even finish than the mustard patina browning.
Laurel Mountain Forge. Why put yourself through all of that. Quality product = Quality finish.
Salammoniac, a crystal that is used as a flux for soldering and available at some Home Depot's and Hardware stores can be used to brown or blacken steel. According to the book, "Firearm Bluing and Browning" by R.H.Angier, a 0.5% solution created a "satisfactory dark brownish black after 5 or 6 passes" without boiling the parts. Boiling the parts in the solution with a 2% solution produced "a very fine, deep black after 3 passes...". The author said he didn't know how durable the finish was.
This is about the simplest, least dangerous formula the author gives in the book. Many of the other solutions contain sulfuric acid, antimony, fuming nitric acid, copper sulphate, potassium iodide, Mercuric chloride and other hard to get ingredients.
I just used Laurel Mt’s browning solution. The gun was an old Parker with little finish on the barrels.
The stuff works as advertised....a beautiful deep dark finish and little trouble to get it. Plus...there is enough leftover to do another gun.
Laurel Mountain Forge.
I've used it on all of the rifles I have built over the years and as Darkgael posted it's enough for a couple of rifles.
As posted preparation is the key to a nice finish, heed that advice.
Zonie, have you used that salammoniac 5% solution to see what happens? I was wondering if that 5% was by weight or by volume into water? I think I have some somewhere, as a solid that was used for soldering. I need to dig a bit to see if its still around.
No, I haven't used salammoniac dissolved in water to blacken any steel parts.
I thought it might be interesting to see if there was some simple thing that a person could use and I found "common salt" in the book which at best gave a gray-brown color after "8 to 15 passes", carding between each one.
The Salamammoniac process was next in the book followed by Antimony in the form of equal weights of antimony trichloride and olive oil.
I chose to mention the salammoniac method because it is readily available to the home gunsmith and not very hazardous.
Although I couldn't find anything that specifically said the author was using density, but based on things he said elsewhere in the book, I'm sure that was what he was talking about.
If he was, to make a quart of the solution this is what I come up with: Using the old saying "A pint's a pound the world round", (at least in America) so a quart would be 2 pints or, 2 pounds.
2 pounds of water times 7000 grains per pound = 14000 grains. A 0.5% (not 5 percent like you mentioned) solution of salammoniac would be 0.5% times 14,000 grains = 70 grains weight of salammoniac in a quart. That would be 280 grains of salammoniac in a gallon of water. With the hot solution 2% solution that would be 280 grains of salammoniac per quart or 1120 grains per gallon. (I'm using US gallons here for simplicity. The British gallon is 20% larger).
The water by the way must be distilled. The author mentions elsewhere in the book that even rainwater has enough dust and possibly acids in it that can mess up the browning process.
Getting back to that Antimony trichloride, the author says this was the first large scale process used by the British "towards the end of the 18th century" on their Brown Bess's.
To use it stir the antimony trichloride into an equal weight of olive oil while gently warming them until a uniform paste is made.
Apply the paste to the barrel "with a woollen rag". "After 24 hours they were covered with red rust, when they were oiled and the rust rubbed off. The steps were repeated until a uniform, smooth, sufficiently dark-light to dark reddish brown-coating without s pots or ridges, had been obtained, which took from 10 days to a fortnight, according to the weather.
After the last pass, the barrels were smoothed with a hard-wood polishing stick, scalded (not boiled) with hot wter, rubbed with a burnisher, then with linseed oil or wax, and finally varnished with shellac..." ("FIREARM BLUING and BROWNING" by R.H.Angier, ©1936, pp 62-63).
I like this method idea; cheap, non-toxic."...solution of baking powder and..."
OOOPS yes baking soda...
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