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Old April 14, 2013, 12:35 PM   #1
chickenmcnasty
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Browning a brown Bess barrel

Hey all,
I just recently bought a pedersoli brown Bess carbine from a forum member. I absolutely love this gun, however, the barrel and lock are a nice shiny silver.
While I like the appearance of this gun, I would like to brown it as I intend on doing a lot of hunting with it. Can anyone offer any advice on where to start?
I have cold blued an sks with naval jelly and birchwood Casey products, but that is the extent of my knowledge in this matter. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you
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Old April 14, 2013, 02:50 PM   #2
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There's two ways you can go about it. You can use a cold browning solution like Birchwood Casey's Plum Brown or you can use Laurel Mountain Forge's slow rust solution. With the BC the metal needs to be heated. With LMF it takes several days of treating and then carding off the rust.
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Old April 14, 2013, 03:26 PM   #3
chickenmcnasty
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Re: Browning a brown Bess barrel

Will the barrel need to be stripped with the naval jelly prior to treating?
What is carding?
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Old April 14, 2013, 03:29 PM   #4
4V50 Gary
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No to Naval Jelly. Naval Jelly is used to strip paint. Rather, you need only remove the oil before applying a browning solution.

You might want to research the F&I War here in America. The light infantry carried shortened Bess' and browned their barrels. You might want to check out De Witt Bailey's book on British military firearms.
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Old April 14, 2013, 04:47 PM   #5
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"Carding" means to remove the scale that forms over the rust brown. Generally it's done with a piece of heavy cloth, canvas or denim that retains some stiffness. You can also use a soft wire brush.

The hot process absolutely requires a clean surface, so be sure to thoroughly degrease it before heating and think ahead about how you're going to suspend it so you don't have to touch the hot metal. And wear gloves to prevent getting any oil on the surface between coats. Be sure to plug the bore and touch holes before heating.

The cold process does not require absolute cleanliness as the solution is a degreaser in itself. Again, think ahead about suspending the item. It has to hang in a very humid environment for up to 3 hours. Unlike the hot process it's not necessary to plug the bore and touch holes.

Don't be disappointed by the appearance of the first coat whatever process you choose. The first coat always looks awful and you're sure you've ruined the surface. Just plug on ahead with the next coat and pretty soon you'll be much happier.

First coat on my GPR barrel:
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Old April 14, 2013, 09:29 PM   #6
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Re: Browning a brown Bess barrel

Great info guys. Mykael, which product did you use on that project? Do you have any pictures of the finished work?
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Old April 14, 2013, 09:31 PM   #7
chickenmcnasty
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Re: Browning a brown Bess barrel

Quote:
Originally Posted by 4V50 Gary View Post
No to Naval Jelly. Naval Jelly is used to strip paint. Rather, you need only remove the oil before applying a browning solution.

You might want to research the F&I War here in America. The light infantry carried shortened Bess' and browned their barrels. You might want to check out De Witt Bailey's book on British military firearms.
I will definately check into it. Lately I have been obscessed with these guns and the history of them.
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Old April 14, 2013, 10:06 PM   #8
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Well if you obsessed with the bess , then your probably going to want it in the bright Or a French grey color which can be produced by knocking the blue back with Navel jelly . IE you get a deep grey color

As to browning .
Browning and rust black , is just rusting .
The difference is that red iron oxide converts to Black iron oxide when its subject to heat , oxygen and hydrogen . IE when b red iron oxide is boiled in water , it will convert to Black .

So basicly anything you use that stimulates rusting will start to produce the brown your asking about . As the rust begins to grow , its carded back to remove the large . Thus leaving only the finer rust. Repeated rusting and carding then builds a nice , smooth and even brown color . Once you reach the depth of color you want , the rust is then neutralized with oils

Any of the products mention will work OR you can simply strip the barrel and then place it in a damp box . The humidity of the box will begin to produce your brown .
Depending on how much iron is in your barrel , dictates how fast the rusting will happen . Thus a damp box can be as fast as using any of the products like laurel Mt

Now here is a photo of a Clorox brown on an old set Damascus of SXS barrels that I did .
The barrel on the left has been carded , the barrel on the right had yet to be carded .
Now let me say that this process is very quick . But it also takes a well ventilated area.
Its also different then Antiquing a barrel which gives a somewhat pitted surface

First the barrel is heated to the point water will sizzle . You DON’T want to heat it to the point it the steel changes color .
WEAR RUBBER GLOVES!!!!
Once the barrel is hot , you wipe it down with bleach. The bleach will then instantaneously brown , then produce a white coat . continue heating down the barrel tell you have complete coverage. Let the barrel cool , then card and repeat tell you get the depth of color you want ..
If you want a black , simply boil the barrel between rusting coats

bleach rusted "Brown" barrels


bleach rusted " Blue " barrels


Bleach rusted "Black" after 1 pass


french grey


now if you rubb a cold blued barrel back with bleach , using a soft cloth and rubbing , you can then get a Remington Green as seen on this barrel


Last edited by Captchee; April 15, 2013 at 09:22 AM.
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Old April 15, 2013, 06:43 AM   #9
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I used the Laurel Mountain product on the GPR barrel above. This is the finished product:

I built a little fixture to hold the barrel and other parts on top of a sawhorse, then set the whole thing in a bathroom, turned on the hot water in the shower until it was 100% humidity in the room and applied the solution. I did 4 coats over 4 days.

I've also used the Birchwood Casey Plum Brown product, which is a hot process, with excellent results. Both Plum Brown and Laurel Mountain come with full instructions.
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Old April 15, 2013, 07:51 AM   #10
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@Capchee, I had never heard of bleach finishing, but the proof is in the pudding. I think the results you came up with are more beautiful than any other method I have seen thus far. I am going to antique a replica Griswold & Gunnison, and had bought B.C. Plum Brown, but after seeing your results, I am rethinking if I am going to use it, or maybe try the bleach method
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Old April 15, 2013, 08:15 AM   #11
Rifleman1776
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Laurel Mountain is a good choice. But do protect the inside of the bore. Browning is rust. Not good to rust your bore.
Do degrease before browning despite instructions. Not degreasing will give blotchy results. Not a difficult task but takes several days.
However, you are talking apples and horses. If you want historically correct, leave in the white. If you want a hunter and not shiny go ahead and brown. It is your gun, do as you want with it. If the "historically correct" crowd gives you a hard time, shoot 'em.
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Old April 15, 2013, 09:20 AM   #12
Captchee
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just remember Dave , that using bleach to brown is different then antiquing.
If boil the barrel in water and bleach , you will pit the finish and make it look worn .
Just heat the metal up like you do plumb brown and then apply the Bleach with a soft cloth .
don’t use a cloth you want to keep as the Bleach and heat will eat it up .
Be sure to wear rubber gloves and don’t breath the fumes . IE make sure you have proper ventilation.

There are many ,, Many ways to do rust brown , black and blue , all do basically the same thing in that they stimulate the growth of iron oxide. Like with most things not being I to big of a rush , is usually best

as to plumb brown . the neat thing about it and most browning products is that you can tent the rust to give a slightly different color .
lets say i want a deeper red to the brown after oiling . what i do is use ATF to oil the barrel . DONT SCROB IT , or you will start taking the rust off . just wipe it down , keeping it good and wet. the result is that you will achieve a very nice burgundy color to the rusting

Last edited by Captchee; April 15, 2013 at 09:26 AM.
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Old April 15, 2013, 11:14 AM   #13
chickenmcnasty
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Re: Browning a brown Bess barrel

If the laurel and plum brown are comparable I may go with the laurel as the process sounds easier.
I love the picture of the gray, but my main priority is for use in the field. I feel like browning may be best for use on my new turkey gun!
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Old April 15, 2013, 11:22 AM   #14
chickenmcnasty
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Re: Browning a brown Bess barrel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rifleman1776 View Post
Laurel Mountain is a good choice. But do protect the inside of the bore. Browning is rust. Not good to rust your bore.
Do degrease before browning despite instructions. Not degreasing will give blotchy results. Not a difficult task but takes several days.
However, you are talking apples and horses. If you want historically correct, leave in the white. If you want a hunter and not shiny go ahead and brown. It is your gun, do as you want with it. If the "historically correct" crowd gives you a hard time, shoot 'em.
What is the best way to ensure that none gets in the bore?
Also, I assume the lock should not be browned, is that correct?
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Old April 15, 2013, 11:48 AM   #15
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mcnasty,
Since you like the look of the gun, have you thought about just spraying it with a cheap can of flat black paint. I have done this with several of my guns with stainless steel barrels to knock off the shiny appearance until after season, then I remove the paint with a bottle of Mrs. WWB's finger nail polish remover, and re-oil. Doesn't hurt the metal at all, and re-stores the gun back to it's original finish.

Just a thought
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Old April 15, 2013, 01:44 PM   #16
chickenmcnasty
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Re: Browning a brown Bess barrel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wild Bill Bucks View Post
mcnasty,
Since you like the look of the gun, have you thought about just spraying it with a cheap can of flat black paint. I have done this with several of my guns with stainless steel barrels to knock off the shiny appearance until after season, then I remove the paint with a bottle of Mrs. WWB's finger nail polish remover, and re-oil. Doesn't hurt the metal at all, and re-stores the gun back to it's original finish.

Just a thought
I like the look, but I think I would appreciate the look and functionality of a browned look better.
I love BP guns and I enjoy the history, but function in the field is paramount.
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Old April 15, 2013, 02:10 PM   #17
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Plugging the bore: mandatory with a hot process, recommended but not absolutely mandatory with a cold process. I've never seen any rusting in the bore using Laurel Mountain, although the dowel I use to support the barrel does pretty much plug it up. For the hot process I use a wood dowel with a cloth patch .

Browning the lock: in general, no, certainly never to the same amount as the barrel. Sometimes you see a slightly browned lock for the purposes of antiquing the overall look.
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Old April 15, 2013, 04:31 PM   #18
Captchee
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cant say i have ever seen a bore rust unless your your using a humidity box .
dont put the LM , PB fortis or what ever you use , down the bore .

also remeber that if you boil the barrel , you better have good plugs in the bore or you will pop them out
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Old April 16, 2013, 08:14 AM   #19
Rifleman1776
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Quote:
What is the best way to ensure that none gets in the bore?
Also, I assume the lock should not be browned, is that correct?
Give the bore near the muzzle a good coat of protective grease like vaseline or RIG, etc. apply the browining outside with cotton balls or small rag and just be careful of the bore.
The second question could take volumes to discuss with styles, timelines, etc. But generally on a Bess, no browining. IMHO, the lock looks good as is. I like mine unbrowned even though I did brown the barrel.
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Old April 19, 2013, 07:47 AM   #20
chickenmcnasty
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well the Laurel Mountain browning solution is arriving today. I got the barrel removed from the stock last night without much trouble, so she is ready to go under the knife. If anyone has any before/after pictures of any browning that they have done on barrels that are "in the white" that would be great so that I have something to compare it to.
If anyone is interested, I will post some before/after shots so that everyone can see why I'm not a gunsmith!
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Old April 19, 2013, 09:24 AM   #21
mykeal
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I don't know how much this will help, but here's my GPR "in the white":




See post #5 above for the results of the 1st coat before carding.

After carding:


2nd coat, before carding:


Final product is in above post #9 above.
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Old April 19, 2013, 09:42 AM   #22
chickenmcnasty
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Wow! I never would've guessed that would've started out "in the white." That is awesome!
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Old April 19, 2013, 03:42 PM   #23
mykeal
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There's a message in those photos that shouldn't be missed: browning, whether by the hot or cold process, looks terrible at first. It takes some patience and work to get it to clean up, so don't get discouraged.
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Old April 19, 2013, 05:09 PM   #24
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how exactly did you get that "French grey" finish? That is one of the most striking finishes I have ever seen!
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Old April 19, 2013, 07:59 PM   #25
Captchee
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there are several different ways to do French grey .
normally what i do is cold blue , then bring the blue back with either naval jelly or Bleach . Bleach you have to be careful with because if you rub to hard , the heat generated will produce a green color .
In this case i brought the blue back with muriatic acid . Slowly reducing the blue by lightly wiping with a cotton ball in long strokes so as to get an even finish , then neutralizing with baking soda .
here is another photo of the barrel prior to the stock being finished

Last edited by Captchee; April 20, 2013 at 06:34 AM. Reason: spelling
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