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Old April 25, 2014, 11:01 AM   #1
Buzzard Bait
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Color case hardening faded

Is there a poor boy method to add some color back to faded color hardening even if results are not perfect?

Last edited by Buzzard Bait; April 26, 2014 at 04:54 PM.
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Old April 25, 2014, 07:49 PM   #2
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Color case hardening is delicate. Wear and sunlight fade it.
Applying chemicals like cold blue or acids will just remove it.
There are various more or less effective ways to fake color case hardening but there's no way I know of to "restore" or "refresh" it without removing what's there first.

One method that may make it look a little better is to apply a coat of lacquer or a varnish type coating.
Some companies applied a varnish to new guns to protect the colors from wearing or fading too fast.
A coat of gloss lacquer might make it look a little better but won't restore any of the coloring.
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Old April 26, 2014, 04:57 PM   #3
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What About

What about heating it with a small hot flame? Like a propane torch.
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Old April 26, 2014, 06:45 PM   #4
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I've had a little luck on faded case colors by using a little of Formula 44 Instant Gun Blue ( ) on the CCH action of an N.R.Davis & Sons SxS.

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Old April 26, 2014, 06:58 PM   #5
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What about heating it with a small hot flame? Like a propane torch.

NOT a smart move.
You don't apply that level of heat to a receiver.
If it's hot enough, even in just spots ,to change the color of steel it's TOO hot and will affect the heat treating of the metal.

Faking color case hardening with cold blues and various chemicals is one thing. Trying to "touch up" existing color hardening is quite another thing.
Usually what ever you use to try to touch it up only destroys what colors are still left.
Like most all gun finishes, once color case hardening is damaged or faded you're left with the choices of living with it or having a full re-finish done.
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Old April 30, 2014, 08:02 PM   #6
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Agree with Dfariswheel. Either you have color, or you don't. Let it fade and when it's a dull grey, then consider sending it out.
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Old May 3, 2014, 07:10 PM   #7
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40 years ago I started gathering data for a gunsmithing alchemy book I intended to write. I recently ran across this in my notes, "Fake Case Hardening? 1 gal water 1 oz potassium nitrate 10 cc sperm oil." I have no idea of where it came from or how or whether it works. lol gunslinger
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Old May 5, 2014, 07:30 AM   #8
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First, let me say this: If this is an original gun with traditional case colors, do not try and touch it up. Either have it professionally re-colored or just live with the nice faded look color case hardening gets as it ages.

I work on a lot of replica guns from Italy. They have cyanide case colors, NOT traditional bone/charcoal colors.

If I need to do a light touch up I use Dicropan T-4 Creme from Brownells. It's basically a cold blue but if you rub it in varying degrees over the bare metal it can make a passable touch up.

I agree with the above: Do NOT use a torch on the frame. You could ruin the heat-treat.
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Old May 6, 2014, 06:34 PM   #9
Alex Johnson
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Potassium nitrate is occasionally added to quench water in color case hardening to get more blue, some parts were also likely originally quenched in sperm oil to reduce shock from the quench thereby reducing the risk of distortion and cracking, however, oil is not generally used anymore and probably did not give the colors that plain water did.

I have done a lot of bone and charcoal color case hardening under controlled laboratory conditions and am just finishing up an academic research paper on the subject. I have never seen conclusive evidence that the colors are UV sensitive, but the color layer is extremely thin and the colors themselves do wear away fairly quickly if not protected. I would suggest just leaving well enough alone. Faded colors are an absolute on a gun that is being used and there is nothing wrong with that. You absolutely do not want to do anything brash like take a torch to it. The temper colors that you will create are nothing like the true colors from the casehardening process and the amount of heat necessary will, as was mentioned earlier, change the heat treatment of the receiver. Chemicals like cold blue could be used I guess, but again the color is wrong.
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Old May 20, 2014, 02:02 PM   #10
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One can do it on smaller parts, but I've never done it on a large parts such as a frame. I stumbled across a method, that I sent in to Brownell's, which is in Gunsmith Kinks III, by using a cold blue on parts saturated in alcohol, which did mimic case coloring, and Bob Brownell experimented further with the method. However, it will wear quick, if you don't cover it with a clear poly coating, etc. I used it to replicate the coloring on S&W hammers, etc.

Even though flame coloring is taught, I do not recommend it, as it can set up stresses inside a frame, (HAZ or heat affected zone), and cause it to crack. During case hardening, the entire frame is brought to a high temperature, and the heat is evenly distributed that way. Some frames, like those on some Ithaca doubles, may crack faster by flame coloring, so I would stay away from that method, and I think it ill advised to teach it.

Do a search on this forum, and the bluing/alcohol method should show up, with a quote from the book.
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Old May 20, 2014, 05:35 PM   #11
mark clausen
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Here is something I experimented with a while back using Oxphoblue and alcohol. This is a piece of mild steel I picked up somewhere. The colors are not as good in the picture.When I tried it on previously hardened receiver, it was a Stevens favorite, it didn't hardly take at all. Just an experiment.
BTW I have Gunsmith Kinks III. I am going there now thanks
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Old May 23, 2014, 02:01 AM   #12
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It's purdy!
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Old May 25, 2014, 05:28 PM   #13
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When working in a gun shop years ago I would do most of the case coloring . Strip the reciever and buff and polish it , use a accetyline (spelling ?) torch with a little more oxegine heat til the color starts to show but not til the metal turns red then dip in a bucket of used motor oil . You can use any pattern you want . I always used tiger stripe pattern . Some times I would clean the piece up with solvent and then run it through the bluing tank with the other pieces and it would get darker or a little red tint depending on the type of steel . That was all fun I may start my own shop as a retirement plan one day .

Last edited by psalm7; May 25, 2014 at 09:40 PM.
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Old May 25, 2014, 07:58 PM   #14
Bill DeShivs
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That's not how case hardening is done. What you are describing is heat coloring.
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