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Old February 26, 2008, 11:49 PM   #1
berkmberk1
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19th Century firearms lubricants

With all the hubbub about what to use or not to use, petroleum or no petroleum, etc. etc., are any of you historically astute afficiandos and pistoleers aware of what great-grandad used to oil, grease, or other wise slick up his six shooter or rifle out there on the plains or at Gettysburg? Petroleum was in its infancy at that time so I'm figuring.....tallow? lard? veggie oils? Any good references?

Seems to me whatever they used would be just as good today and.....actually "greener" and sustainable!

(Hows that for a come back to the anti-gunners......we're sustainable.....we recycle......we use natural product........
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Old February 27, 2008, 12:00 AM   #2
Wildalaska
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Sperm oil?

WildamirightAlaska TM
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Old February 27, 2008, 12:27 AM   #3
jtaylor
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Old recipes seem to be based around Beeswax/Tallow/Olive oil in various ratios. I've settled on Beeswax/Olive Oil and wintergreen exrtract ( Doubles as great lip balm! ) It smells just like TC bore butter, but I can make it as thick or thin as I want and it works great as a lube to melt into your felt wads, or an over the ball lube. I use the same mix to coat the cylinder pin and to cut lube pills sometimes.
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Old February 27, 2008, 01:28 PM   #4
berkmberk1
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Sounds interesting..........can you email me a "recipe"?
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Old February 27, 2008, 02:51 PM   #5
CraigC
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Quote:
Sperm oil?
With so many more common options on-hand I would imagine that whale oil would have been cost prohibitive for most. Terrestrial animal fat was (and still is) everywhere.
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Old February 27, 2008, 03:08 PM   #6
jtaylor
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I've never sat and come up with a recipe, but more of a method to make the lube. I break up a brick of beeswax ( about 1 pound ) and put the chunks into a pot on medium heat. I add about the same amount of Olive oil and a tablespoon of Wintergreen. Once the mix has melted and mixed well, I cool a single teaspoon of it over an ice cube and check it's viscosity. I'm not too picky there. Thick enough to withstand summer heat, thin enough to be used in the cold. I actually use the same mix to fill empty chap stick tubes too, if that give you an idea of the thickness I go for; soft but not liquid.
I used to use tallow too, but it's to greasy feeling and makes more of a mess. This simple wax/oil mix is the cleanest and I get less fouling using it. For some reason, olive oil works much better than other veg. oils too.
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Old February 27, 2008, 03:24 PM   #7
Steve499
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Sperm whale oil was considered one of the best lubricants prior to the petroleum age. I imagine what you greased your firearm with depended considerably upon your wealth and/or your location in the country. I'd bet money the Burr/ Hamilton duelling pistols never had anything but the finest sperm oil used on them, but that bear grease was most likely used on Daniel Boone's Ticklicker.

Also, since one of the largest uses for whale oil was in oil lamps for light, it would seem that it must have been fairly plentiful and fairly cheap, so, even though I hate to have to say it, I think Wildalaska nailed it the first post. :-)
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Old February 27, 2008, 07:18 PM   #8
Hawg Haggen
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I don't know that they would have wasted whale oil on a firearm. True it wasn't expensive but most folks didn't have a lot of money to waste any. I would think they'd save the whale oil for lamps and use tallow for the guns.
Course I wasn't there so what do I know?
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Old February 27, 2008, 07:20 PM   #9
berkmberk1
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Thanks JTaylor......it gives me something to go on.

Speaking of olive oil.......I'm sure I'll pick up some flack on this......thats what I use for case lube when reloading cartridges. When I'm done sizing and belling I put the brass in a small tub with some soap and hot water, mix them up for a while, and dry them with a moderate heat source. There is still a slight film on the case afterward and I used to worry about it. I then figured out it probably helped a wee bit when ran the through the seating/crimping die. Since I final inspect each round anyway, I just wipe them with a rag.

It's cheaper than commercial sizing lube in as much as if you're out of lube your wife more than likely has some extra virgin in the cupboard. It doesn't take much. I use probably less than a tablespoon per 50 + rounds.

I also used it for lubing my .45 and Navy Colts after I broke them down for BP cleaning.
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Old February 27, 2008, 10:33 PM   #10
CraigC
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Quote:
I don't know that they would have wasted whale oil on a firearm. True it wasn't expensive but most folks didn't have a lot of money to waste any. I would think they'd save the whale oil for lamps and use tallow for the guns.
That's what I'm thinking as well.
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Old February 28, 2008, 03:11 AM   #11
Gbro
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Here is the recipe for a 1865 carbine i own.
"A warm composition of one part Spermaceti and two parts tallow, That has been melted together".

This old post relates to that carbine.
http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/...light=platinum
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