View Full Version : Cleaning up surface pitting

Nick Charles
October 17, 2006, 11:46 AM
Is there a way to clean up surface oitting enough that a gun can be reblued. I just bought a 1903 pocket hammerless and the left side needs some work.


most of the bad pitting is near the muzzle

October 17, 2006, 01:36 PM
I have cleaned up worse pitting, but most of the lettering on the gun will be very shallow at best, possibly gone altogether. The answer to your question depends on how you want the gun to look after rebluing.
1- Do you want it to look brand new? If so, then you need to take a very good quality photo of both sides of the gun, so that after sanding the slide and frame sides flat, an engraver can use the photo as a model to recut the lettering and numbers.
2- Do you want it just good enough? In that case, the lettering and numbers will be shallow after sanding the slide and frame sides flat, and a light buff after sanding will still show some of the deepest pitting, but most will be gone.

Whatever you do, do not allow anyone to work it down using abrasive wheels, as this will round off corners, wash out lettering, and ruin any value the gun has. The frame should be hand sanded to keep all corners and slots from rounding and washing out. By hand sanding it, the gun will look like new when the you are done.

Nick Charles
October 18, 2006, 12:24 AM
so what do you reccommend, a fine grit metal papper followed by a polishing then extra fine paper and repeat?

October 18, 2006, 01:14 AM
Fully disassemble the gun, clean it up so you know you are looking at the metal. Study it carefully and plan out your work. When you are done, you want the gun to look the same as when it left the factory.

Make your own sanding block about 1-1/2" wide by 3" long. This is small enough that it will lay flat on the flat surfaces and not tip. Do not use power sanders, files, or any other tools except the flat sanding block.

If you look at the factory finish, it will likely have a grain direction from front to back. Always sand in one direction for all the parts, do not cross the grain once you have laid it down. Curved surfaces are polished with the sanding block also, then carefully blended with a strip of cutting cloth.

I always start with 150 grit backed by a solid sanding block. Once you can no longer see pits or scratches at 150 grit, drop to 180, then 220, then 300. At this point, it is ready for a light buff and bluing. If you are going to have the markings re-cut by an engraver, this is the time to do it.

For a really fine job, you can drop all the way to 600 grit and wet sand it with oil, but that is an awful lot of work. Metal finished like that has a glow to it you cannot get any other way. If you want to know what it looks like, look at a 1970's Browning Hi-Power pistol.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. If you would rather pay someone else to do it, find a really top-notch gunsmith and let him refinish it. Because of all the flat surfaces and straight lines, the Colt Hammerless Pocket Autos are really nice when redone properly, and really sad when poorly done.

You might be able to find a replica of that grip, or even an original.

October 18, 2006, 10:24 PM
I generally use a new Arkansas stone in my vise to remove the pits. It is easy to keep the surfaces flat and true.

October 20, 2006, 03:02 PM
You can also mount some sand paper on a flat surface and move the metal on the paper rather than the paper on the metal. I find this works a lot quicker for large flat areas and also maintains a very consistent direction of any "brushed" look if you're not going to full polish.

James K
October 20, 2006, 03:35 PM
I hate to rain on parades, but there is no practical way to get that gun looking "the same as when it left the factory." The fact is that those guns are common, and (with exceptions like the GI ones) don't bring much even in new condition. It is simply not worth spending a lot of time on a first class restoration with engraving of the markings (at $10 per letter). I agree on hand polishing, but a good job can be attained on a wheel, it just takes know-how.

The trick may be to not overpolish. While many of those guns were polished to a mirror finish, the later guns were not polished as well and 600 grit paper with polishing running the same direction will achieve good results using a hot tank blue. In spite of a lot of hype for various products, there is no cold blue I know of that will give anything other than a shallow and temporary color.


October 20, 2006, 11:23 PM
I have used fine and very fine grade steel wool to remove similar surface rust. Most of the time, it leaves the original finish mostly intact or apearing as a slightly worn spot in the bluing. The material does not round off corners and I have never seen any negative effects on engraving. I have cleaned up some pretty rough guns this way. Good luck.