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Old November 5, 2018, 10:32 AM   #1
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Location: Assawoman Va
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Brownells hot bluing system kit

Does anyone have experience with buying this system? I've been thinking about it and I'm wanting to get into bluing but wonder if it's worth it to jump right in that deep considering the system(Kit) when available is $2300. Also wondering if I can get into it cheaper without running into headaches. Thanks
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Old November 5, 2018, 11:07 AM   #2
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Take welding and sheet metal and make your own. Get your gas burners from an old water tank. Save some bucks.

Be sure you have a cement floor with plenty of water to hose it down. Also check with your local waste authority about salts that get into the drain. Some places it's a no-no.
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Old November 5, 2018, 01:07 PM   #3
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Got a room with no ferrous metal you don't care if it rusts? Hot bluing will do that. The salts get in the air and anything ferrous will get a light coat of rust. That's why few gun shops do it.
Like Gary says, bluing tanks aren't hard to make, given the skills. However, it's the temperature controls that usually give the most grief.
"...your local waste authority about salts..." Isn't just salts. There are a lot of nasty chemicals and acids involved too. Potassium nitrate and sodium hydroxide, for example. The potassium nitrate, purchased in bulk, will bring attention from assorted government agencies too. It's one of the main ingredients in things that go BOOOM.
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Old November 5, 2018, 03:38 PM   #4
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If I was to get into bluing id build a small shed devoted only for bluing, and i could make the tanks I was more concerned with the burners and making sure I would have everything. I get asked at least twice a week if I blue guns, around here we have plenty of duck hunters and salt water, so i think there would be plenty to do, and some of the rifles I build Id like to seen blued rather than cerakoted.
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Old November 5, 2018, 06:13 PM   #5
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Well, I think the shed is a good idea. I'd be more inclined to use gas burners salvaged from a furnace. There must be a lot of them around, as most furnaces get trashed when the heat exchangers crack, but the burners still work. These will be straight line burners instead of circular ones, so it should be a little easier to get even coverage than with ring burners. You also need to decide what gas you will use. Running a natural gas line isn't hard, but if you choose to go with propane you want to the furnace you salvage burners from to be a propane furnace.

You'll need polishing equipment. That can stay in your shop. Waste disposal is a fact of life. Neither potassium nor sodium salts should cause a problem in the quantities you will pitch out, but never say never. The authorities will tell you for sure. But if the salts you use have nickel in them (often used to make the blue blacker) or cyanide salts, then watch out for restrictions. Brownells can provide you with an MSDS sheet for their salt formula and I would get that and cross-check it with the local authorities before buying in.
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Old November 5, 2018, 06:27 PM   #6
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I did hot salt bluing for quite a few years. I used a set up that was sold by Heatbath Corp. (they still sell chemicals) and used a Nickel Pentrate salt. I had tanks set up in one stall of a 2 stall garage and it worked fine. It consisted of 3 tanks and 2 burners and all the equipment needed to do high quality hot blue/black except for the fuel. I used 20 lb propane bottles for fuel and got a couple of sessions from 1 bottle. I only blued a few times per year and always had a waiting list for when I did blue. Just amazing at how many friends you acquire when you do hot bluing...

I had a couple of extra tanks welded up but never finished the legs. Everything sits clean and dry in my shed waiting for me to get motivated to offer them for sale. This set up can be used with any of the salts sold by Brownells or other chemical distributors. If you ever get to upstate NY (150 miles north of NYC) and think you might be interested in this I'll give you the $.50 tour and a deal...

An important consideration is protective clothing, it is a must have. One time when I was cleaning up at the end of a session, (tanks were cold) I had an itch on my cheek and brushed it with the back of my heavy rubber gloved hand. I didn't realize it at the time but I had deposited a minute amount of dried salt on my cheek. About 2 hours later after a shower I noticed that I had a tiny burn on my cheek where the salt was. Took a long time to heal but it did.

The bluing of steel is pretty easy and straight forward. It is the polishing that is where the real work is. You'll need buffing wheels, (both loose and sewn), polishing compounds, a very fine wire wheel. It takes some practice to not polish down or wear away the stamping on the firearm, (you should practice on some old clunkers) IMO that is what makes a good job. To make a re-blue look like original or better is what I was after. Some firearms had 2 or 3 different surface finishes and in most cases I strived to duplicate those finishes. I suppose it could be considered restoration work. It also depends on what the customer wanted. I had a lot fun and met some crazy people...

If you didn't know, anything with barrels soldered together will have to be cold rust blued. Bluing temps are high enough to melt solder and that prized s/s is not a s/s anymore... No brass or lead goes into the tanks, It will ruin the salt solution.

Sorry I was so long winded here and didn't address your question. Feel free to pm me if you have any questions.

Last edited by tango1niner; November 5, 2018 at 07:01 PM.
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Old November 6, 2018, 12:40 AM   #7
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While I am sure that Brownells sells a good quality kit, they do not make them themselves, they just rebrand national brands and jack up the price. I am sure you could get as good or better kit for a lot less money elsewhere.
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Old November 6, 2018, 08:47 AM   #8
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I'd check on the legal requirements also. I'm sure an FFL is required to store someone else's firearm.
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Old November 6, 2018, 11:11 AM   #9
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Legal requirement, I am pretty sure that if you are keeping somebody's gun overnight to work on, you must have a FFL.

Brownells sells a down the drain disposal kit for bluing solution. It is built on sulfamic acid, hot bluing salts contain sodium hydroxide and are strongly alkaline.

You can still get Dulite bluing, used in WWII before Parkerizing became universal.

Depending on your level of involvement and interest, you can make your own.

My FLG said he was glad he lost his bottle of 19th century rust bluing solution in a move. It gave great bluing at the cost of a lot of work.
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Old November 6, 2018, 12:24 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Rblevin1 View Post
Does anyone have experience with buying this system? I've been thinking about it and I'm wanting to get into bluing but wonder if it's worth it to jump right in that deep considering the system(Kit) when available is $2300. Also wondering if I can get into it cheaper without running into headaches. Thanks
I have used the Brownells system. The Gunsmithing School at Piedmont Technical College purchased one, and it is still in use there. The stands are well designed, and the burners work OK. We no longer use the Brownells salts, using Dulite instead (because of bulk pricing -- not quality). You might want to check out Dulite's similar system

Over the years we have made some changes to the original Brownells system, but it remains a good place to start.

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Old November 6, 2018, 12:52 PM   #11
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I'm aware of the FFL requirements.
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