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Old July 21, 2012, 10:56 AM   #1
Vadi
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Setting up Bluing shop

I have been looking at starting up a bluing shop since around my area (NW ohio) there are none around. All the good shops around the surrounding states are booked and do not even give a return ETA. I am in search for good information on the matter. I believe you have to have a FFL and I am not sure if you need stuff for the E.P.A.
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Old July 21, 2012, 04:00 PM   #2
James K
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You need an FFL because you will be keeping a customer's gun over some period of time; the rule is that unless the gunsmith does the work while the customer watches (and thus retains custody of the gun), the gunsmith needs an FFL.

The main thing that has driven bluing shops out of business has been the EPA and OSHA regulations. Seemingly endless and often arbitrary, those regulations affect any business that works with hazardous materials or in which there is any elevated risk of injury, which certainly includes bluing shops. This, of course, is in addition to local laws and regulations regarding HAZMAT and pollution, such as dumping caustic salts residue into the sewer system.

I strongly suggest that anyone wanting to start that business consult an attorney, pay for his/her advice and keep him/her on retainer. That is better than investing a lot of money and then being blindsided by some GS-3 twerp from an alphabet soup agency who likes to make up the rules as he goes along.

Also, a bluing shop is not that easy to set up. You need good tanks, preferably gas fired, good controls, proper HAZMAT clothing (apron, boots, mask, etc.), a high volume emergency shower (just in case), etc. Those are dangerous chemicals, not some lemon juice cold blue you swab on with your finger.

And of course, you need to be enough of a gunsmith to be able to disassemble and polish guns then reassemble them without damage. Your reputation will go down pretty fast if you send back guns with all the markings buffed off, the corners rounded, the screw slots buggered up, or parts missing.

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Old July 21, 2012, 06:20 PM   #3
Vadi
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Thanks for the information. I am right now just looking into the possibly of starting it up. I have to see how much demand there really is for this service. I will have to find out what i can do with the waste and did find a bit of information out on that. as in smithing I am not a smith so i will be learning 2 things at once. I figure i will get different types of metal to start practice with it.
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Old July 21, 2012, 06:43 PM   #4
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Everything that has been posted is spot on. Here's a few more things (gained from when I delved into gunsmithing and refinishing firearms):

a. There are three important parts to a good bluing job. The LEAST important is the chemical used; the Oxynate compounds sold by Brownell's is an industry standard for hot-tank bluing. Some refinishers use a chemical called Du-Lite, and obtain excellent results as well.

b. The next most important thing to learn is how to totally disassemble a firearm--PROPERLY. This means the purchase of good quality tools, and that's going to set you back a pretty penny. As an example, the last thing you want to happen on any customer's gun is for your screwdriver's tip to bend or break, and to put a big gouge on a highly visible part. Proper disassembly is a must to ensure that you get the parts spotlessly clean and also to make sure you don't have any bluing salts left in hidden recesses.

c. By far the most important thing that you must learn is how to properly polish and refinish metal. This includes knowing what polishing compound to use; how NOT to round sharp edges, dish out screw holes or scrub out engraving or writing. You must have a dedicated polishing motor; you must learn how to use the loose muslin wheels, the bound wheels; what polish is used with which one; the difference between the hard and soft felt wheels; the use of the sisal wheel as well, and the proper polishes for each.

You must learn how to mount the wheel properly, how to clean and true the wheel before use, and how to spply polish--yes, there IS a right and wrong way to do it!

You must also learn flaw removal, recontouring and draw filing, and the things that must be done to turn out a quality job. Bead-blasting might well be used to either reduce or raise metal, too.

You see, the finish itself has nothing to do with the chemical--but the surface and metal prep done before the guns go into the hot tank. As an example, the gorgeous finish on a Colt Python is the result of meticulous polishing with progressive grits and different polishing tools, to include hard leather wheels. The result is the mirror bright surface that (when blued) looks 12 inches deep--you can stand a ruler on the surface and read the whole thing.

Finally, you'll want to explore the alternate finishes as well. Lots of shooters want a good, durable matte-type finish. Duracoat is an excellent finish; there is also a market for good old parkerizing as well.

And yes--I believe that you could do well in Ohio. While I was there visiting my wife's side of the family, her nephew brought out a Mossberg 12 gauge that he used for a turkey gun. The trigger and action were rough. In an hour, I polished the action and smoothed out the trigger. He was very happy--so much so that he called his friends. We were only staying there for three days--but I had requests from 8 different people to tune their shotguns for them!!

Best of luck to you--it can be very rewarding to take an old rusty gun and turn it back into a nice looking piece of machinery.
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Old July 21, 2012, 09:29 PM   #5
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Another thing that has to be learned is that there are some guns and some parts that should not be hot salt blued.

Double barreled shotguns (side-by or over/under) should usually not be hot salt blued. If the ribs are supposed to be sealed and there is a leak and the salts get behind the rib, the salts can sit in there and corrode away the solder used to hold the ribs on as well as the backside of the rib and hidden areas of the barrels. I just rescued a classic double American shotgun from a butcher who took off the wood and threw the entire gun (locks and action still assembled) into the hot salt tanks. There were salts everywhere - under the ribs, in the lockworks, in the action... and there was corrosive damage. If left unattended for a few more years, the shotgun would have been ruined.

Guns that used lower-temp solders to hold on sight ribs, sight bases, etc should not be hot salt blued. This can include some very high-end rifles and shotguns.

Any gun parts that are not steel should not go into the hot blue tanks. This sounds pretty obvious, but with the increasing use of various non-ferrous alloys for some gun parts, it sometimes isn't as obvious as you'd think until you put the part into the salts. If you put a part into the salts and you get a furious frothing action, odds are you've just dropped in something that is an alloy of aluminum. If you don't fish it back out, it will disappear in a couple minutes. The aluminum alloys also are not good to your blueing salts. If there's any doubt, you should have a magnet handy in the blueing shop to test to see if a part is steel. If the magnet attracts the part, you can blue it. If it does not, you need to investigate further.
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Old July 22, 2012, 03:47 AM   #6
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Aluminum will be instantly destroyed in a salt tank.Copper will contaminate and ruin the salt.Plastics will melt !
Polishing is a skill that takes time to learn. One of the most difficult is the polishing of a revolver. S&W used to have a very special high polish on certain guns .One of them was the original 357.It was made on an 'N' frame and came in a fancy box with certificate. You don't see that polish anymore !
The model 27 was 1/3 higher price than the matt finished M28 .The only difference was the finish !
Today you may also have special handling requirements for handling bluing chemicals.
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Old July 22, 2012, 07:01 AM   #7
Vadi
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thanks for the information. I am gathering all the information i need to be able to do the job right. I will be getting various types of steel like i mentioned before to be able to practice on. I will most likely ether try to find a school on gun smithing or find someone who knows what they are doing. as for the polishing one of my good buddy's does polishing on buses and what not he does mirror finishing so i am sure he can help teach me a thing or 2
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Old July 22, 2012, 11:17 AM   #8
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Out of all of the above, I would rate proper polishing the most important - proper polishing is an art, something developed, and not easily learned in a short time.

I would say that I've seen more reblue jobs that stood out like a sore thumb than anything else save crappy stock refinishes (if I can use that word for them).

I would strongly advise anyone aspiring to getting into rebluing first become adept at polishing before they spend ANY money on bluing equipment, etc.

.
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Old July 22, 2012, 11:44 AM   #9
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One of the things one has to learn about polishing is that on guns, the use of power tools (buffing wheels, belt grinders/sanders, Dremels/Foredom tools) is often counter-productive to the desired end result.

If you're polishing a gun part that has edges that need to be maintained, one little slip with a buffing wheel and the crispness of the edge can be gone... forever. You can't polish the two (or more) surfaces that form the edge back far enough to re-create the edge without changing the dimension of the part appreciably.

To avoid this, one polishes by hand. You use polishing paper backed with wood sticks, or flat pieces of aluminum or brass, or other slow, careful methods to maintain edges, leave crisp lines, etc.

The most infuriating thing about gunsmithing is how little appreciation most people have for a job done right. People look at a color cased receiver, or an excellent blueing job, and they think "Yea, that looks nice..."

and then they want to be able to buy that gun for the same price they pay for a POS Remington with some bake-on finish in Walmart. Sorry, the world doesn't work like that. To get those results on a color case or blue job, someone spent hours and hours polishing, detailing the metal, getting all the scratches out, the metal finish aligned with the way light falls on the piece, etc.

On something like a rifle or shotgun barrel, a polishing job starts way back at the beginning with learning how to draw file correctly, how to remove dents correctly, then how to use polishing paper and backing correctly, how to maintain the barrel taper correctly. You should be able to sight down the entire length of the barrel and see no ripples, no waves, no rings/dings/dents, etc. Sounds easy, right?

It isn't. Polishing out a custom rifle barrel to perfection can take days. Polishing old shotgun barrels that had dents/dings/rings can also take days. It takes hours to raise dents and lower rings, then more time to gauge the barrel to make sure there's enough metal left to polish off a thousandth or two, then comes the actual polishing. If the shotgun has a ribbed barrel, you have to polish right down into the corner between the rib and the barrel, without making a mess of the rib.

Handguns seem like they'd take less time because there is so much less surface area, right? Well, on something like a 1911, maybe. On something like a revolver, the complexity of the surface topology means that it can actually take longer than a long gun.
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Old July 22, 2012, 05:49 PM   #10
Vadi
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All the information all goes back to how crucial the polish is. I will be starting on how to polish soon and try to learn in that area before going farther. After the polish is learning all the types of finishing and the methods to produce them. after learning how to polish then you might want to bead blast it to get a nice finish on it so i am sure that is going to take some skill on how to do that as well. I think after all said and done i think this is going to be something i love to do. polishing for days seems like a long time however it depends on the damage that the barrel and receiver has on it. Please keep the information coming. do any of you know what compounds and paper that I will need For polishing?
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Old July 22, 2012, 09:07 PM   #11
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I don't think I mentioned insurance, but carry a lot of it. All the advice about polishing and salts and temperature won't help if you ruin a $30,000 shotgun or have a fire in your shop and lose 100 grand worth of customer guns. Or if a doofus employee or even a burglar tips over the bluing tank and suffers severe burns.

I know a person thinking of starting a business just wants technical advice and could not care less about silly details like laws, regulations, insurance, taxes, and all that other dumb stuff. But a messed up polishing job can usually be corrected; ignoring that other stuff can bankrupt you at best, or get you a prison term at worst.

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Old July 23, 2012, 01:49 AM   #12
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For polishing paper, I use various "shop rolls" of various widths, grits and types of paper - starting at 120 and going up to 400. Above 400, I'll use wet/dry sheet paper and oil or kerosene to keep the paper from loading up. If I'm polishing to a very high finish, I might go as high as 1200 and back down to 800.

The problem in polishing to higher and higher levels is that the speed with which the steel will rust slows down.

Most of the guns I polish I'll take up to 400 grit paper to get out all the 320-level lines, then I might give it a light pass with 320 paper again. Some older .22's from the 30's to 50's were originally polished to 240. Most guns will be polished to 320 to 400.

The advice of buying some clapped-out guns on which to practice is excellent. Go buy some really rough guns - Mosins, Arisaka's, etc - guns about which no one really cares (which is why they're available so cheaply). You can order "gunsmith specials" from some of the surplus firearms dealers - these will have various parts and pieces of guns without being whole guns. You'll need to gain expertise on polishing small parts like screwheads, pin ends, cylinders, slides, etc.

You can also start with a block or round of 4140 steel. If it has deep mill marks in it, so much the better. If I were instructing you, I'd cut you a 1x1x1 over 0.010" block of 4140 bar, then fly-cut it on a mill in such a way as to leave deep toolmarks. Then I'd give you a 10" 2nd cut mill file and polishing paper and set you off to hit a dimension - like "make the block 0.990 square with a 400-grit finish."

The first time you do something like this will be highly instructional. You have to maintain edges, dimensions, achieve a good finish, it teaches you how to use both file and paper.
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Old July 23, 2012, 07:06 AM   #13
Vadi
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Thanks Wyop.. I believe i will try that out.. In fact you mention about getting junk guns to practice on. Well the guy who has been trying to talk me in starting this business said he will give me tons of old guns to practie on most of them are complete garbage and worth crap he also has some scrap peices as well. So i do believe i will beable to have a good start with all the advice from this fourm.

With the bluing salt and disposal there is a company that i know that removes waste they deal with the E.P.A and all the paperwork. might be a little expencive but it is worth the less headaces and fines.


If you have any other tips tricks please share at this point i am going to need all the help i can get and i will take pics to show if you would like.
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Old July 23, 2012, 01:48 PM   #14
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A lot of good information here.

If you want to try your hand at bluing some of your polish practice pieces, there are cheaper ways than the $1000 - $2500 for a Brownell's or Du-Lite hot blue setup.

Rust blue is slow but doesn't take a lot of equipment and supplies. And it looks great when well done.

You can blue handguns and other small items in a cookpot with a combination of fertilizer products.
http://www.blindhogg.com/homemadesalts.html

Brownells bluing instructions cover the use of Oxpho Blue for large areas and whole guns instead of its normal touchup application. I have a couple done that way by a local 'smith who did not want to start up the tanks for one job. It looks as good as hot blue but I have not used them enough to tell how it will wear. But for a practice piece on the cheap, it would do fine.

GunKote is about the thinnest of the spray finishes and will show up surface flaws almost as well as blue or plate. It goes on over grit blasted or Parkerized surfaces, not bright polish, though.

I'm thinking of ways to develop skills without a big investment. You might not like the work in the end.
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Old July 23, 2012, 03:04 PM   #15
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Jim, I have enjoyed excellent results with Oxpho-Blue. I have found that complete immersion of the cleaned part is best for good results.

I clean the work to be done, then simmer it () in a hot water and Simple Green bath. I have also used an ultrasonic cleaner with a solution of 50/50 Simple Green and water with good results.

Next comes a quick swish in boiling water, while holding the part with wire. It's important to use boiling water because it dries quickly and completely.

Next, I immerse it in the Oxpho-Blue. I'll let it sit for 5 minutes; then, remove the part, let it drip for a minute above the Oxpho Blue container, then a quick hard wipe with some crumpled up paper bags.

The next step in the process is a gentle carding of the workpiece with that angel's hair steel wheel I mentioned. This evens out the finish and really cleans up the piece.

Finally, I wet the piece thoroughly with WD-40, and let it sit overnight. Then, a wipe down and re-lube with good oil. It's actually very durable, and with care will last for quite a while.
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Old July 23, 2012, 10:18 PM   #16
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I'm going to lay something out here for your consideration, Vadi:

I know a bunch of the members of the American Custom Gunmaker's Guild. Very, very, very few of them use hot salt blueing. I think I can recall only one, as a matter of fact. Most all of them are using rust or express blue methods on their fine shotguns or rifles. I'm talking of guns that go for $8,000 and up. As I mentioned up-thread, as soon as you start doing some of the high-end features on custom rifles (sweated-on sights, soldered-on quarter ribs on rifles, or ribbed double guns), you can't do hot salt blueing. No way, no how.

The only upside to hot salt blueing is the speed with which you can push a bunch of guns through the process. For a commercial blueing shop, sure, this is the way to go. For a guy just starting out and learning? It's a huge hassle you don't need in order to learn how to polish and blue.

If you really would like to find out what blueing is like without investing thousands of dollars, a truckload of permitting and red tape, go get one or two of the smaller gun tanks from Brownells. Here's the URL to them:

http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=1...ON-BLUING-TANK

If you should choose to go forward with hot salt blueing, this tank can be used to hold hot salts (or anything else, for that matter).

If you get two of these tanks, you could use one for the boiling water in rust blueing to turn red rust black, and you would/could use the second tank to run a solution of Dicro-clean #909 or washing soda.

Put one or the two tank(s) across two burners on your kitchen stove. Fill with water, turn on the burners and get the water up to a slow boil. If the Mrs. doesn't want this going on in the kitchen, get a propane-fired camp stove with two or three burners and a 15lb jug of propane. All you need to do is get some clean water to a slow boil. Same deal with the Dicro-clean: It just has to do a slow boil. You could use the same tank for the cleaning dip as for the hot water. Once you put the guns to be blued into the Dicro-clean and then take them out, put the guns somewhere where they won't get dirty or touched. If you have to pick up the guns after they've been in the Dicro-clean, get some cotton gloves. Use them ONLY for handling the cleaned steel.

Rinse out the tank, fill with clean water and re-boil.

Now, let's do some rust blueing. Here's one solution I've used, available from Brownells:

http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=2...SSIC-RUST-BLUE

Pilkington's, Belgian Blue, etc all work OK too. If you get a copy of "Firearm Blueing and Browning" by R.H. Angier, you can learn how to mix your own rust blueing solutions from a couple acids and a handful of clean iron nails or filings.

http://www.stackpolebooks.com/produc...g-and-browning

You just put the cleaned gun into the boiling water, leave it there a couple minutes, take it out. Apply a single coat of the blue chemical with a cotton swab or a cleaning patch held in a pair of hemostats or other method where you don't have to touch the chemical. Paint the solution onto the gun with no drips, runs or sags, getting it as even as possible. I wear disposable nitrile gloves while I'm blueing to prevent getting oils on the steel and acid blueing solution on me.

If you live somewhere where it is humid (> 50% RH), you can just let the gun now sit for awhile. You're waiting for it to grow "fuzz." Don't let it sit too long (eg, overnight), otherwise the chemical will etch the steel, not just oxidize it, and you'll have to re-polish the steel. Depending on your humidity, you might see "fuzz" grow in 15 to 30 minutes.

If you're somewhere where it is very dry (eg, the intermountain west), you might have to knock together a "sweat box." You can do this one the cheap by getting a 4' long cardboard box and putting a can of boiling water into the bottom of the box when you put a barrel in there. Close the box up - it doesn't have to be taped shut, just keep air from circulating. The humidity from the boiling water in the can will fill the box and raise the temp a bit, which will cause the rusty fuzz to form. You should really see results here within 40 minutes.

When you have some rusty fuzz on the gun, put it into the clean boiling water. Wait, oh, 10 minutes. Remove from the water. The reddish rust will have turned black/blue.

Now you take your de-oiled 0000 steel wool and lightly "card" the barrel or steel. You're knocking off the loose rust and leaving only the rust that has adhered hard to the steel.

Then re-apply the blueing chemical, again taking care to prevent drips/runs/sags of the chemical. Let the rusty fuzz form, then boil again, card again... repeat until you get a blue that suits your fancy.


That's how you can learn how to polish and rust blue a gun for less than a couple hundred bucks. Everything you do with rust blueing (the polish, the cleaning/degreasing, the rinsing, oiling after the blue, etc) will be the same if you do hot salt blueing. The hot salts just are another way of forcing black oxide to happen on steel. There's a whole bunch of different ways to force iron or steel to rust black instead of red. And if you get a fine gun or double shotgun into your shop, you know how to rust blue and do the job right, rather than dunk it into the hot salts and ruin it.

ps -- oh, yea... just thought of something: If you want to turn this into a business and you get your FFL, you can start with rust blueing and polishing. For what you should charge for a blue job on a rifle or shotgun, you could pay off all the expenses of rust blueing in probably two jobs:

http://www.brownells.com/userdocs/mi...ricesurvey.pdf

Last edited by wyop; July 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM.
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Old July 24, 2012, 04:34 PM   #17
Vadi
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Thanks a ton for this great information. I have defiantly learned a lot. I have been trying to calculate the cost of opening up my own shop and it is going to cost a bit. However I figured what company take away the hazmat salts after being disposed off but that adds additional cost. the way that you described in the latest post sounds like a good option and maybe better and safer that doing hot salts. As guns are being made i am sure they will be using more stuff you will not be able to dump in the hot salts.
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Old July 25, 2012, 11:45 AM   #18
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Just my $0.02. I own a 7500sqft Machine Shop and have a lot of background in metals not to mention much mechanical knowledge to go with it. I am also pretty ambitious when starting new skills. I would not try and do chrome plating much less bluing. You may want to look into alternative finishes. Polishing & beading of SS guns. CeraKote / powder coat or aquacoat. If you really want to blue perhaps go to a shop and check out what they have and how they do it. Maybe even apply for a job with one. I think its an art that is going by the wayside. If more people dont learn it then it could one day become lost.
Good Luck
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Old July 25, 2012, 02:46 PM   #19
Vadi
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Actually that is funny that you mentioned about going to a place and see how they are doing that and whatnot. I am going to be going for a tour of Ithica gun company in Upper Sandusky Ohio. They actually blue their own guns only and they will give me a tour of there facility. I am going to be contacting the owner and seeing if I would be able to go in acouple times per week and see how they do it hands on. I am not going to just simply dive into it then be like o well here goes nothing LOL
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Old July 26, 2012, 06:03 AM   #20
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Vadi- Thats a great idea. I think most finishers have done some type of an apprenticeship. I watched my BIL lose his house by opening a restaurant with nothing to go on except a BBQ recipe.
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