Brass furniture: Polished or not?

Discussion in 'General Reenacting Discussions' started by JB67, May 19, 2019.

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  1. May 19, 2019 #1

    JB67

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    Would a mountainman or plainsman have kept the brass on his rifle polished, or would it have likely developed a patina from everyday use and carry? Polished is pretty, but a nice darkening can look good also. I'm wondering how much care and attention was put into these things. Their rifles were a thing of pride and expensive, but also a tool of their trade.

    I'll be doing some simple brass inlays on my CVA Frontier. I'm going for a "just got in off the trail" look. I've already stripped the poly and given the brass furniture a little darker look as the buff-polished looked too bright to me, but I figured I'd ask before I do the inlays (on order.)
     
  2. May 19, 2019 #2

    mushka

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    Probably most mountain men had iron furniture on their guns. Brass was expensive. Personally I like the duller look and ignore care on the brass furniture and let it get scuffed and dirty looking. Non glare so to speak. Everyone has their own tastes in appearance. No wrong choice but probably in the old days brass wouldn't have been used for field guns.
     
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  3. May 19, 2019 #3

    Juice Jaws

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    Hunting rifles let the brass go dull. On my Northwest Musket keep it shinning like a good soldier.
     
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  4. May 19, 2019 #4

    JB67

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    Here's an example of the current finish on the brass. 20190519_102325.jpg
     
  5. May 19, 2019 #5

    sawyer04

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    Don't hanker for shiny, pretty things in the bush
     
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  6. May 19, 2019 #6

    hanshi

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    Initially, I polished the brass from time to time to keep it moderately shiny; but it became more trouble than it was worth. Now, the brass simply ages at its own rate. As long as it doesn't turn green, well, I don't care.
     
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  7. May 19, 2019 #7

    tenngun

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    Military kept it shiny. No one could tell a civilian what to do. We all know slobs that don’t care for their gear, and OCD’s that do everything shy of putting gun in a nitrogen filled box.
    Meek told a story about his first trip to the mountains. Guns were inspected but he groups leader. I think it was Jackson. One man was told to clean his gun. Sometime later the mans gun was rechecked and still found in need of a cleaning. He was told to do it again. On a third check it was still found dirty. The leader asked Meek if he could clean that rifle for ten dollars. Meek quickly volunteered. The rifle owner thought it was a hoot, till he found out he was fined the ten dollars Meek was paid.
    How clean was clean to a party of trappers?
    Most of the guns sold to the fur companies up through 1840 were brass mounted Pennsylvania trade or plain rifles.
    Even many of the Hawkins were brass mounted.
    I polish my brass pretty bright then let it dull and tarnish.
    Many of the guns of that time frame, 1800-1850 were silver mounted, I don’t know if some one would pay for silver then let It tarnish.
    I don’t know of silver mounts that went west during that period.
     
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  8. May 19, 2019 #8

    Coot

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    Brass was used for a majority of older guns. While brass cost more than the same weight of iron, we are not talking about much metal. Brass was/is much easier to cast & finish especially in a smaller shop.
     
  9. May 19, 2019 #9

    Baxter

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    It seems to me that someone engaged in work in hostile Indian country would not want a shiny brass-mounted firearm where sunlight glinting off the brass might call unwanted attention.
    I prefer the "iron-mounted" rifles' appearance for "plains" and "southern mtn" rifles.
     
  10. May 19, 2019 #10

    Pete G

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    Brass was used because it can be easily cast, which makes it cheaper to form. A lot of "iron" fittings today are just cast copies of brass fittings, which is not hc. The original iron fittings were all hand forged.
     
  11. May 19, 2019 #11

    Stantheman86

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    I let all my brass get dull and tarnished, I think it looks better.

    Even all of my military muskets and rifle-muskets , so far, are all Confederate type weapons so I'm not sure if they were as big on the spit and polish type stuff.
     
  12. May 19, 2019 #12

    Loyalist Dave

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    IF the musket belongs to His Majesty, polish the brass....
    If not, then let it patina. Just don't ignore if any of it goes green.

    LD
     
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  13. May 19, 2019 #13

    JB67

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    Agreed. Green is corrosion and equal to rust on iron or steel.
     
  14. May 20, 2019 #14

    Brokennock

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    Probably? Based on what?

    Hmmmm?

    It might "seem" logical to us now. But, is it what really was?
    You might "prefer" something, but this is the reenacting area, what can be substantiated reigns over what we "prefer" and what our modern thinking tells us would seem to make sense.
    I "prefer" the looks of a long, lean, Lehigh, or Bucks County, but, they do not fit my time and place, a fowling piece or shorter heavier transitional rifle fits my time and place better.

    Steel may be out for the o.p.'s time and place and his question was about brass anyway. Keep it smooth, but, when you clean the gun, rub the brass with the dirty patches, this will darken/patina the brass without it looking neglected.
     
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  15. May 20, 2019 #15

    sawyer04

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    Seems as though I asked this questions many times in my life,
     
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  16. May 21, 2019 #16

    Brokennock

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    Good! We should all be asking this question,,,, about a lot of things.
     
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  17. May 22, 2019 #17

    tenngun

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    42581FC2-94EC-4130-AE89-A5A22B249D3F.jpeg 42581FC2-94EC-4130-AE89-A5A22B249D3F.jpeg D29C1040-C114-43E8-8F0C-42FF20CD142C.jpeg 42581FC2-94EC-4130-AE89-A5A22B249D3F.jpeg 2B2AD269-18D8-4238-9E7B-F4ACDA098229.jpeg 8572D058-059E-44DC-A67C-5A16BC290383.jpeg Back in the day many bright colors were popular. We know white blankets were common. Bright Red is also seen a bit.
    Rangers were famous for their green, but plain unbleached or dyed linen and linen woolsy was common.
    While you can flash off of brass holding it in such a way as to get a reflection and a person being at an angle to see the that reflection would be a very unusual angle.
    In the tall timber your mostly in broken light or shade. On the plains you keep off the ridge top.
    Someone who could see you flash a rifle could probably see you moving.
    I think the idea of brass giving you away to a deer or a Comanche is a modern idea.
    These are plains rifles from the 1840s-60s
     

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  18. May 24, 2019 #18

    Grenadier1758

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    While there are rifles made at the Hawken Brothers' Gun Shop with brass furniture, these were the smaller caliber rifles made for the local trade or for the target shooters. Almost all of the Plains Rifles were iron mounted. Exceptions exist, such as the silver mounted rifle for the boat captain. I won't say many, but some few may have brass hardware.

    Once again we have the Hawken / Hawkin issue being brought forward. I know that even in the family there existed variations in the spelling of the name. The stamp used by the Hawken brothers was J & S Hawken St. Louis or S. Hawken.
     
  19. May 24, 2019 #19

    tenngun

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    I suffer mild dyslexia and wrong spelling gets past me all the time. I have no problem reading Clark’s journal.:D
    Few probably would have been a better word then many in that case.
    I do think that my point is valid that contrary to the idea that men reached or an iron mounted gun when going west is a modern myth. Most of the guns bought nd sold by the fur companies during The rendezvous period were brass mounted. And during the plains period brass remained popular.
     
  20. May 24, 2019 #20

    Grenadier1758

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    Now, tenngun, if you had said, "many of the plains rifles used by the members of the fur trapping brigades were brass mounted", I would have been fully in agreement. My non-Hawken plains rifle is a brass mounted flintlock Derringer (because it a replica, not an original Deringer). The 1803 Harper's Ferry rifle is brass mounted. We need to remember that most of the trade guns were Henry, Tyron, Deringer and many others.
     

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