View Full Version : Bluing Workshop

May 22, 2012, 08:31 AM
Can anyone point me to literature about setting up a hot salt bluing shop. I've seen the equipment at Brownells, but I'm interested in shop plans including floor space, ventillation, etc.

Any help appreciated.

May 22, 2012, 06:59 PM
Brownell's furnishes instructions with their bluing salts.

I can tell you my set up. I use a small building with lots of ventilation.

I have a stand with 4 tanks, on for Fresh water, one for soapy water, one for the salts and one for the water saluable oil.

I have two burners that run under the first three tanks. Soapy water, Salts, and oil. The fresh water tank isn't heated. I keep fresh water running through this tank

Throw the gun or part in the soapy hot water, then into the fresh cool water then into the tanks. After about twenty minutes I take the blued part out of the salts and into the fresh water again. Then into the oil/water.

Critical issue is temp. Keep it between at 295 degree. Too cold and the part will have a greenish tint. Two hot and it will have a redish tint.

Get a bluing thermometer from Brownell's, keep the needle in the black. If it the salts cool down turn up the fire a tad, if it gets too hot, cool it off with fresh water.

Bluing isn't really hard, what makes or breaks a bluing job is prep, (Polishing) before the bluing.

Brownell's sells everything thing you need, tanks burners, thermometer, salts.
burners, etc.

For soap you can use powdered dish washing soap. Not laundry soap, you don't want suds all over the place.

You also need some water salable oil, you can get that at any petroleum supply or machine shop.

May 22, 2012, 07:04 PM
I'd talk to the Brownell's Tech Staff.
They'll know of anything that's available.

Basically, a bluing operation needs to be either outside under a cover or in a separate room with nothing else in it except the bluing tanks.
The fumes from the chemicals will corrode anything else in the room including pipes and electrical fixtures.

If it's outside, the cover has to be large enough to ABSOLUTELY prevent ANY chance of rain blowing in. One drop of water in the tank and you get a violent steam explosion that blows hot caustic chemicals every where, including in you eyes.

One other option for info is to send a SASE to the NRA American Rifleman Tech Staff and ask them for any info.
NRA members can send ONE question per SASE and the Tech Staff will give the best answer they can come up with.

May 23, 2012, 08:06 AM
Thanks to Kraig and Dfariswheel for great advice.

Separate enclosure it is with good ventilation and careful placement of salt tank.

I appreciate your responding.

July 21, 2012, 10:52 AM
I am interested in Opening a Bluing shop my self. Do you fine gents know if there is E.P.A guidelines on opening a shop?

James K
July 21, 2012, 04:08 PM
I don't know if there are specific rules about bluing shops, but "da guv" has tons of rules and regulations you will have to follow, not to mention local and state rules. I addressed this in a bit more detail in response to your own post.


July 21, 2012, 06:17 PM
Among the rules is a requirement that if you do ANY work for anyone else, you are required to have a Federal Firearms License for gunsmithing.

You'll also need business licenses, a State tax number, meet local zoning laws, and know and obey all EPA requirements on disposal of chemicals.

July 21, 2012, 09:15 PM
As Dfariswheel indicates, you'd need a FFL for such a business.

Once you need a FFL, you must be in compliance with all local and state zoning regulations. Here, you can often go down the rabbit hole, because blueing and metal finishing often comes under an industrial zone classification, and you'd need to situate your shop in an area zoned as 'industrial' or even 'heavy industrial' (depending on your community). If you don't get zoning approval, you don't get your FFL, end of story.

As far as EPA regs... Here's some light reading for you:


Personally, I don't need and don't want hot salt blueing in my shop. The only advantage of hot salt blueing is the speed with which steel can be blued. For all the hassle, regulatory compliance and personal injury potential, I'll stick with rust/fume/express blueing methods.

July 22, 2012, 09:44 PM
the big question is what are you going to do with your old blueing solution after your done with it? The finishing shops in my area were shut down by the EPA for chemical storage violations. If your going to talk to the EPA please do it before you have any work done or they may just fine you into the ground before you ever start work.

July 23, 2012, 12:57 AM
You don't even have to go as far as the EPA. You'll have to deal with local Fire Inspector yearly inspections, the County Hazardous Materials inspector, etc.

Bottom line- any chemical- double containment. A fume hood to draw off the fumes. A non-skid floor, as you're dropping water and oil all over the place. Water plumbed to top off the bluing and rinse tanks. Gas for the burners.

How do you get rid of the chemicals legally? You have them picked up by a hazardous waste service. I used to run an industrial battery shop, and was running, shall we say, a "surplus" of spent battery acid. I called around and back then (1995 time frame) a 55 gallon drum was about a grand to dispose of.

As far as the actual bluing, kraig's post sums it up well. You'll need iron mesh baskets for all the little parts, and hooks that hold the action by the bore so you can lift the action out again. Lower them in gradually, at a gentle angle, as the salts will froth and come shooting out of the last part of the barrel that submerges.

Some fans are a life saver- our operation was indoors, and a 90 degree day plus the tanks going meant it was piping hot.

I didn't find leaving parts out around the bluing setup as troublesome as some. Brownells "Hold" is a great chemical to have. You can polish something, spray Hold in it, and leave it 'in the white' next to the bluing setup for months, then wash it off and blue it, and there's zero corrosion.

Our bluing room was about 15 x 15, and if you were facing the four tanks you had a rack for barreled actions to your left, a rinse tank to your right,
a slop sink at your 5 o'clock, and another rack for barreled actions behind you.

Polishing-well, doing it right is way, way harder than it appears. You'd realistically need a 4x polishing setup- i.e.- 4 polishing wheels, with, lets say, 2 hard and two soft wheels. 240 hard, 240 soft, 400 hard, 400 soft, plus some extra wheels. I'd buy a couple of beat Mosins and practice, and be ruthless of you appraisal of your work. Trust me- everyone else will.

Wonder why people get so much for a blued finish?

Hunter Customs
July 23, 2012, 07:54 AM
I sold my tanks, stands, burners and salts several years back to a gentleman that wanted to start bluing guns.

Here's something else to keep on hand, a jug of white vinegar.

Best Regards
Bob Hunter

July 23, 2012, 11:02 AM
....truth. I wiped at my temple one time at what I thought was a bead of sweat- it was a blob of salts sitting there eating away at me- and it burned as soon as I wiped it. Vinegar neutralized it quickly.