Black paint on late 16th century - mid 17th century muskets.

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Does anyone know the what and why for the black paint on muskets and other firearms in this period? I assume it is to protect the wood (duh), but it only seems to be in a relatively narrow time period and primarily on German made guns. I know very little about wood finishing, so I do not know if there is a specific issue its supposed to address, or just a 17th century version of "it looks cool". I am also wondering what the paint/finish would be made out of. Below are some examples of what I am referring to.

From Michael's(?) collection Ethnographic Arms & Armour - View Single Post - A Highly Interesting Regensburg Matchlock Wallgun of ca. 1640, the Barrel ca. 1490
Excuse my awful photoshop attempt to highlight the pieces I believe to have that finish.
Wand 16.-17.Jh., Febr. 09, GESAMT, OPTIMAL! kl.png

Royal Armories Matchlock muzzle-loading musket Littlecote collection. - Royal Armouries collections
large_DI_2011_1035.jpg

From searching google A military matchlock musket, Suhl, circa 1620
A-military-matchlock-musket-Suhl-circa-1620_1619789158_6114.jpg
 

Loyalist Dave

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Well in the 1600's a technique for finishing wood called Japanning became very popular, and I suspect that as these seem to be military arms, this was likely an excellent manner of weather proofing or at least weather resisting that wasn't too expensive, and likely took less time than other wood finishes of the period.

Painting of muskets continued into the 18th century, especially with Sea Service muskets used by the British Royal Navy. Trade Guns were painted sometimes red, or blue, sometimes with vine patterns or geometric patterns applied in a contrasting color, or even unstained wood might have a vine pattern in black applied before final finish.

A Treatise on Japanning and Varnishing (1688)

LD
 
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Well in the 1600's a technique for finishing wood called Japanning became very popular, and I suspect that as these seem to be military arms, this was likely an excellent manner of weather proofing or at least weather resisting that wasn't too expensive, and likely took less time than other wood finishes of the period.

Painting of muskets continued into the 18th century, especially with Sea Service muskets used by the British Royal Navy. Trade Guns were painted sometimes red, or blue, sometimes with vine patterns or geometric patterns applied in a contrasting color, or even unstained wood might have a vine pattern in black applied before final finish.

A Treatise on Japanning and Varnishing (1688)

LD
Thank you for providing an in-depth source!
 
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Wow! I could spend hours and hours in that room!!!

RM
If you have the time and interest, I highly recommend you follow the link and go through that guys post history. The website is horrible to navigate, but he had an insanely extensive collection and knowledge on early modern firearms.
 
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We like finished wood, but a look at eighteenth century wooden world shows a lot of paint.
Even furniture made in very fine woods were painted.
Ships were often varnished, in early seventeenth century and through till middle eighteenth were done plain,then painting became very common.
The plain slender undecorated shaker style t think really set off a style of unpainted wood.
I have heard the reason for Brown Bess name was at a time when guns were painted black the bess was a varnished finish.
I don’t think that’s true, but was seen.
We know of a blur painted Carolina gun. And a floral pattern was done on another.
 
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We like finished wood, but a look at eighteenth century wooden world shows a lot of paint.
Even furniture made in very fine woods were painted.
Ships were often varnished, in early seventeenth century and through till middle eighteenth were done plain,then painting became very common.
The plain slender undecorated shaker style t think really set off a style of unpainted wood.
I have heard the reason for Brown Bess name was at a time when guns were painted black the bess was a varnished finish.
I don’t think that’s true, but was seen.
We know of a blur painted Carolina gun. And a floral pattern was done on another.
Brown Bess - Wikipedia
My personal favorite explanation is that it is a synonym for generic prostitute.
 

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in WW2 the BRITISH & THE FRENCH, used to CERACOARTE there weapons, I beleave that is what it was called?. it was a rely thick black type of paint on them.
 
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in WW2 the BRITISH & THE FRENCH, used to CERACOARTE there weapons, I beleave that is what it was called?. it was a rely thick black type of paint on them.
Do you mean Parkerizing/phosphate coating, which I believe cerakote is a more modern evolution? That was used on the metal bits, like on post war Mas 36s.
 
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I emailed the Royal Armories and they provided some really helpful information.

Apparently, most surviving matchlocks from this era that have the black paint, are actually refinished and painted black to cover damage or look more aesthetically pleasing in relatively contemporary formal collections.

Another possible explanation is that years of refinishing and aging turn the wood finish black. It seems that it is possible there were original guns with black stocks, but there is no known solid evidence.

It is unfortunate so many surviving pieces apparently have ahistorical finish, but always great to learn something new.
 

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Well in the 1600's a technique for finishing wood called Japanning became very popular, and I suspect that as these seem to be military arms, this was likely an excellent manner of weather proofing or at least weather resisting that wasn't too expensive, and likely took less time than other wood finishes of the period.

Painting of muskets continued into the 18th century, especially with Sea Service muskets used by the British Royal Navy. Trade Guns were painted sometimes red, or blue, sometimes with vine patterns or geometric patterns applied in a contrasting color, or even unstained wood might have a vine pattern in black applied before final finish.

A Treatise on Japanning and Varnishing (1688)

LD
Dave,
Thank you very much for that link. It is exhaustive and very valuable.

dave
 

RAEDWALD

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Royal Navy Sea Service muskets were painted black including the barrels etc. as a protection from sea air. Later Royal Marine muskets went over to a bright finish as a mark of pride and because the boot necks had the time to maintain them thus. The long arms of the sailors (for boarding and land service) remained black painted as they had a ship to run and no spare time for cosmetic frippery. The practice also was applied to civilian arms at sea and led to the market for slave guns to demand a ‘proper’ black finish. I once had a 10 bore Bess type such gun painted in original black paint. FWIW the Honourable East India Company sent their muskets by sea from Britain for months by sealing them in melted mutton tallow. 18th century cosmoline. If you want to paint them black then look up 18th century linseed oil paint recipes and their black pigment. Note that the boiled linseed oil they used was actually boiled not made with synthetic driers though lead based driers were common. You will be looking at artists quality supplies rather than cheap paint bit a gun uses little paint so the cost for quality ingredients is not so much. My old slave musket‘s finish was, naturally, worn but in good order. The barrels for black paint finishes were file finished, not polished I.e. a draw file finish to give the paint some ‘tooth’ to grip.

Irrespective of the authenticity, a matte ’white’ wire wool scrubbed metal finish with black painted wood is a handsome sight.
 
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For clarity on my comment from the royal armories, it was specifically about pre 1650s matchlocks. Thanks to all of your comments, I am now convinced by Wikipedia's claim that naval service Brown Bess had black stocks and I appreciate the instruction on how that was done. It certainly adds some variety and a potential future project.

Ironically, I looked back through my posts from another thread and saw I posted a picture from Maximillian's Armory, that had multiple black stocked arquebuses, so who even knows what is real.
 
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1740's British Sea Service Musket (reproduction). I know you werre asking about earlier muskets but I thought this appropriate. They are painted with Asphaultum. Sorry it is mixed in with other muckets in the background.
 

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