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Old October 6, 2005, 11:54 AM   #1
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Join Date: September 20, 2001
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Reframe a 1911

Picked up a complete 1911 this weekend minus frame, barrel and bushing. Just ordered the Caspian classic 1911 frame to build the parts on and a coworker gave me a new GI barrel for a 1911A1. So pulled out my 1911 kunhausen (sp?) book and started to read up on fitting the barrel. Whew....
I'm no idiot, I'm very mechanically inclined, and I know not to use a Dremel on a gun! But is this a job for an amature, or should I send the assy. off to a 'smith to be installed? Looks like I need to buy a few specialty tools too.
I am planning on bluing it myself using the ammonium nitrate and lye recept I found on another site.
Any recommendations?
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Old October 6, 2005, 12:33 PM   #2
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A GI barrel is a drop-in part, and should require no fitting at all.
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Old October 6, 2005, 02:03 PM   #3
James K
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Hi, ScottsGT,

In that bluing formula, I hope you mean sodium nitrate, not ammonium nitrate, which is a high explosive. Here is what I said on another site about that homemade bluing salt formula. Obviously you can do what you want, but please at least read:

Home made or not, that product is nothing more than regular bluing salts. The ingredients are very dangerous and need to be handled with extreme care to avoid serious burns. In addition, bluing must be done in a well ventilated area, with all precautions, including a face shield (goggles don't cover enough), long gloves, a long rubber apron, a close shower with an emergency release and a high water flow, etc.

So, no, I don't consider hot salt bluing a DIY operation for casual touch up. It takes some serious planning and setup to do right, and is not a "kitchen sink" operation, even if the salts are "homemade" rather than bought.

BTW, he says no aluminum pots, but doesn't say why, and it could be missed. The reason is that the salts will dissolve aluminum, so using an aluminum pot could mean getting a good dose of boiling salts right where you don't want it as the pot comes apart. Nor do I think it is a swift idea to store the stuff in plastic jugs. Maybe the plastic would hold, but I wouldn't trust it.

He does, at the end, have all kinds of caveats, and I hope the prospective user reads them all. But he makes the whole process sound so simple that I am afraid some folks might just jump into doing it without knowing what they are getting into.

Jim K
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Old October 6, 2005, 02:48 PM   #4
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"ammonium nitrate, which is a high explosive."

No, it is just fertilizer. It can be used to make a high explosive. It is an oxidizer. You still need a fuel.
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Old October 6, 2005, 02:54 PM   #5
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Here's one of my sources:
And he does use ammonium nitrate. Trust me, I'm a geek when it comes to safety, you should have seen me changing a lamp in a video projector once! Leather golves, goggles, face shield, etc...
I'm planning on doing this in the garage/driveway and neutralizing afterwards. Doubt I'll ever do this one again.
Another source:
Which uses Sodium Nitrate
BTW, thanks Jim. A lot of people do go into this kind of project not thinking.
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Old October 6, 2005, 03:18 PM   #6
Jim Watson
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The bluing salts mixture has ingredients for two purposes:
1. To dissolve a source of the nitrate ion which oxidizes the surface of the steel. Some of the old recipes call for sodium nitrate, some for potassium nitrate, and some also call for a nitrite compound. The latter may adjust the mix for the steel most encountered by the historical user or it may just be a case of eye of newt, toe of frog.
Roy Dunlap said the ammonium nitrate formulation gives a very durable blue. Ammonium nitrate is not explosive under ordinary storage conditions and certainly not in water solution for bluing. It will however release gaseous ammonia when mixed in hot sodium hydroxide (lye) solution and I would not think of doing it indoors no matter how well ventilated short of a laboratory hood.
2. To boil at a temperature that will let the nitrate oxidize the steel to a uniform black layer of magnetic iron oxide. That is the only real function of the lye, it takes no part in the chemistry. It is, however, a dangerous product to handle. Lye is a basic or caustic compound and will attack skin and eye faster than acids. As Jim K says, it will dissolve aluminum and you must not use it for any purpose. Mild steel is best. It must be welded, solder will dissolve and braze will affect the color. There have been reports of stainless alloy constituents affecting the bluing and while Pyrex is unaffected by the chemicals or the heat, it is still glass and you would be at risk if you rapped it with a steel gun part. A lot of the DIY sources recommend enameled steel pots which should be ok.

In the words of the sage: Y'all be careful, now, you hear?
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Old October 6, 2005, 07:14 PM   #7
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Picked up a complete 1911
Ok. Good start.

minus frame, barrel and bushing.
Huh??? Doesn't sound very complete to me.

I know not to use a Dremel on a gun!
Au contraire, Mon Frere!! I have a Dremel with over a hundred attachments. I can make ANYTHING fit ANYWHERE.

The blueing I wouldn't even attempt. Hot, caustic chemicals just shouldn't be messed with. Unless you have a big factory, and training, and a release form from the EPA.

The barrel fitting you should be able to do, with patience and the right tools.
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Old October 6, 2005, 08:29 PM   #8
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If you are buying one Caspian's precision frames and since you are reading Kuhnhausen., I think you are probably wanting to wind up with an accurate gun. This will mean either getting an aftermarket barrel made with extra lug and hood metal for fitting, or else finding someone who can do a weldup of your barrel. The latter process is the old way of accurizing and needs to be done by someone who knows to apply a chill to the barrel during welding. Preferably it is to be done by someone skilled with a TIG welder. Th build-up metal for a GI barrel should be taken from an old magazine spring or a music wire rod from your local hobby shop (sold for model aircraft landing gear).

On top of that, you will want to fit the slide and frame. An exception would be to simply purchase the slide as well as the frame from Caspian, so you can get a pair already tightly fit. Tell Caspian what you are after, and they can provide it. This would mean selling your kit slide or keeping it for another project, but once you get bit by the 1911 accurizing bug, you tend to keep collecting parts anyway.

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Old October 7, 2005, 08:56 PM   #9
James K
Join Date: March 17, 1999
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I stand corrected on the ammonium nitrate issue. It is not itself an explosive, and I knew that. Just that the term jumped out at me and I associated it with explosives as something one needs to be very careful with.

The whole "make your own" thing bothered me. "You can do this in the kitchen with just some homemade stuff" makes it sound like an easy, simple and safe operation. I have done quite a lot of hot salt bluing, and had ruined clothing and skin burns to prove it. So, no, I don't consider it a DIY job unless necessary precautions are understood and followed.

I had a friend who was seriously injured while doing bluing. He was bluing a BHP and tossed the magazine in the tank, as he had always done with M1911 mags. But the BHP mag has an aluminum follower. The follower dissolved and the spring propelled its remains and a goodly amount of caustic salt into his face, near his eyes. He was burned badly, but fortunately did not lose his sight.

Jim K
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