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Deepest darkest blue I've ever seen

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Was down at the Chambers Rifle homestead back in April, got the grand tour with Mom Chambers (awesome lady!)
There was a gun in the museum room that had some of the decorative bits and screw heads blued to a dark reflective depth like I've never seen before and can't get out of my head.
I wish I took a photo, even though the odds are it would never do justice.

How did they do that ? How did they achieve that perfect deep dark finish with no irregularities at all ?

Also, for those who have been there, the gun with the gold and rose gold roses inlay on the barrel !! Wow, simply wow!!
 
Was down at the Chambers Rifle homestead back in April, got the grand tour with Mom Chambers (awesome lady!)
There was a gun in the museum room that had some of the decorative bits and screw heads blued to a dark reflective depth like I've never seen before and can't get out of my head.
I wish I took a photo, even though the odds are it would never do justice.

How did they do that ? How did they achieve that perfect deep dark finish with no irregularities at all ?

Also, for those who have been there, the gun with the gold and rose gold roses inlay on the barrel !! Wow, simply wow!!
That’s called “fire” or temper blue.
The part is heated until the desired color appears and then it’s quenched, locking the color.
Fire blue produces spectacular colors but the finish is somewhat delicate.
Smaller parts like screws, triggers and plates are easy to do but larger parts like barrels are a challenge.
 
Charcoal blueing can look like that but is usually done to barrels. Heat a trough of charcoal with the barrel buried in the coals.

Tempering or fire blue wears quickly in my experience. Heating red hot and quenching in potassium nitrate gives color like that too.
 
That’s called “fire” or temper blue.
The part is heated until the desired color appears and then it’s quenched, locking the color.
Fire blue produces spectacular colors but the finish is somewhat delicate.
Smaller parts like screws, triggers and plates are easy to do but larger parts like barrels are a challenge.
It is easy to over rub it and when you do you get thin spots.. But, it is a spectacular blue!
 
That’s called “fire” or temper blue.
The part is heated until the desired color appears and then it’s quenched, locking the color.
Fire blue produces spectacular colors but the finish is somewhat delicate.
Smaller parts like screws, triggers and plates are easy to do but larger parts like barrels are a challenge.
Only issue with "fire/temper" blue? STAY away from it with steel wool. That's like the color on a lock. Steel wool removed it. :(
 
Charcoal blueing can look like that but is usually done to barrels. Heat a trough of charcoal with the barrel buried in the coals.

Tempering or fire blue wears quickly in my experience. Heating red hot and quenching in potassium nitrate gives color like that too.
Concerning our periods of study, the 18th and 19th Centuries....
To simplify the “ heat” bluing processes for barrels it come down to two basic processes.

1. Charcoal Blue....

The item like a barrel is buried in charcoal. Usually it’s in an iron trough with a log fire under the trough. The trough of charcoal burns in in a slow manner. The barrel is buried in the trough of coals.
Every few minutes the barrel is removed and replaced primarily to keep the color even.
There’s various methods for this process.
Sometimes the bore is packed with charcoal.
Sometimes not.
Sometimes the barrel is retrieved and wiped down with lime laden rags...
Sometimes not.
Sometimes the elevated trough is used.
Sometimes the barrel is simply buried in a trench of coals.
There’s different methods of this basic process.

True Charcoal blue produces a deep blackish blue that will usually show a slight mottled appearance due to uneven heating from the individual coals.
It’s a very attractive finish.
Also it’s my understanding that a “skin” is sometimes produced that can flake off over time...a long period of time.
I believe that is one reason the bore was packed with charcoal, to prevent scale from forming inside the bore.
This can be a pretty tough finish.

Heat blue....

Heat blue is very similar to charcoal blue. Instead of the barrel being buried in coals, it is suspended above the heat source.
This method produces an vibrant almost electric looking blue.
It’s a very beautiful color but it is rather delicate. The part will turn back to the white/gray or “brown” over time.

Wallace Gussler believes that a large number of 18th Century American Longrifle barrels were blued this way.
This is based on traces of this vibrant blue being seen on the underside of the barrels when these old guns were disassembled.

These two historic process can become rather confusing even for the best firearm historian.
Both processes use coals or charcoal.
Even a barrel that’s buried in coals may end up being a heat blue rather than a true charcoal blue because it was not allowed “soak” long enough to form that dark charcoal blue.

When you add in factory marketing like Colt or Winchester and even Mauser it’s gets even more confusing.

Then you have present day marketing, for instance “ charcoal blues” revolvers from .... for instance Cimarron firearms.
Those vibrant blues are more akin to the electric heat blue rather than the charcoal soak.

It’s quite a study.
 
The OP stated - "screw heads blued to a dark reflective depth" which tells me that it was not fired blued. For my guess I would bet on Niter Blue or caustic hot blue with the parts being highly polished. Charcoal blued - maybe:dunno:.
 
Hi,
The heads were probably blued by dipping and soaking in hot potassium nitrate. However you can achieve a deep radiant bluing with simple temper bluing. The secret to both is the metal is highly polished before bluing. The gun with gold roses sounds like the work of Jerry Huddleston. Most descriptions of charcoal bluing fail to include the metal parts must be highly polished and a deep bluing requires several cycles of heating in the charcoal pack, then rubbing the barrel with linseed oil dipped in rottenstone, degreasing, and reheating. Here are examples of temper bluing and charcoal bluing.

niAYIi2.jpg

JFztE8H.jpg

3Be6neI.jpg

LHAsbDl.jpg

HDDxM8F.jpg


dave
 
20231230_160557.jpg


Hot water blue over a draw-filed finish. Any finer than 180 grit and it turns into a mirror, which I did not want on this rifle. Very durable. Do not sand finer than 400 with this method. The heat oxide blues are only skin deep and most of the rust resistance they imbue is a by-product of the necessary high polish prep.

Same process on a magazine tube and front barrel band sanded to 150 to try and leave scratches to match the original barrel finish. It glossed up a little much even then but made a nice finish.
20200412_224852.jpg
 
Last edited:
Hi,
The heads were probably blued by dipping and soaking in hot potassium nitrate. However you can achieve a deep radiant bluing with simple temper bluing. The secret to both is the metal is highly polished before bluing. The gun with gold roses sounds like the work of Jerry Huddleston. Most descriptions of charcoal bluing fail to include the metal parts must be highly polished and a deep bluing requires several cycles of heating in the charcoal pack, then rubbing the barrel with linseed oil dipped in rottenstone, degreasing, and reheating. Here are examples of temper bluing and charcoal bluing.

niAYIi2.jpg
Yup, that's it right there !

Potassium Nitrate bluing ?? I need to look into that.
 
Concerning our periods of study, the 18th and 19th Centuries....
To simplify the “ heat” bluing processes for barrels it come down to two basic processes.

1. Charcoal Blue....

The item like a barrel is buried in charcoal. Usually it’s in an iron trough with a log fire under the trough. The trough of charcoal burns in in a slow manner. The barrel is buried in the trough of coals.
Every few minutes the barrel is removed and replaced primarily to keep the color even.
There’s various methods for this process.
Sometimes the bore is packed with charcoal.
Sometimes not.
Sometimes the barrel is retrieved and wiped down with lime laden rags...
Sometimes not.
Sometimes the elevated trough is used.
Sometimes the barrel is simply buried in a trench of coals.
There’s different methods of this basic process.

True Charcoal blue produces a deep blackish blue that will usually show a slight mottled appearance due to uneven heating from the individual coals.
It’s a very attractive finish.
Also it’s my understanding that a “skin” is sometimes produced that can flake off over time...a long period of time.
I believe that is one reason the bore was packed with charcoal, to prevent scale from forming inside the bore.
This can be a pretty tough finish.

Heat blue....

Heat blue is very similar to charcoal blue. Instead of the barrel being buried in coals, it is suspended above the heat source.
This method produces an vibrant almost electric looking blue.
It’s a very beautiful color but it is rather delicate. The part will turn back to the white/gray or “brown” over time.

Wallace Gussler believes that a large number of 18th Century American Longrifle barrels were blued this way.
This is based on traces of this vibrant blue being seen on the underside of the barrels when these old guns were disassembled.

These two historic process can become rather confusing even for the best firearm historian.
Both processes use coals or charcoal.
Even a barrel that’s buried in coals may end up being a heat blue rather than a true charcoal blue because it was not allowed “soak” long enough to form that dark charcoal blue.

When you add in factory marketing like Colt or Winchester and even Mauser it’s gets even more confusing.

Then you have present day marketing, for instance “ charcoal blues” revolvers from .... for instance Cimarron firearms.
Those vibrant blues are more akin to the electric heat blue rather than the charcoal soak.

It’s quite a study.

Great post - stolen for my records, BTW. ;)
 
A test piece done in charcoal, high polish then packed in wood charcoal filled container. Headed to 800* for two hours then heat turned off and allowed to cool. Part was oiled and allowed to set for two days. The lighting of this photo doesn’t show the blue as it is in sunlight.
IMG_0241 by Oliver Sudden, on Flickr
 

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