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Old July 13, 2012, 10:04 AM   #1
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Restore blue

I have a JC higgins 22 that I adore and have shot all of my life. From the years and less than ideal storage the finish has become more browned than blued. Can I restore the finish without stripping and re-blueing? I have heard of some wipe on products with mixed reveiws. Any suggestions?
I also have a 870 wingmaster youth that has very-very light raised dots on it. I plan to try some rem oil and a cleaning cloth first but is there a backup plan for that gun also? I have become fanatical about the upkeap on my guns since my youth so I dont expect either of the conditions to progress.
While I have the attention of those that "know" can anyone recomend a stock refinishing product. I plan to strip the .22 stock and put fresh coat of urathane (or whatever) over it.
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Old July 13, 2012, 10:17 AM   #2
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The cold blues will never match the original well, and you are likely to end up with a mottled finish trying to use them on the .22. If you are planning to strip and re-blue anyway, though, you won't hurt anything if you want to try one. The acids in them will tend eat into the original blue so you may be able to get some blending, but just don't count on it.

If you don't have hot bluing equipment, it won't be worth the investment to do yourself. You can save money by doing the stripping and polishing prep yourself, then taking the gun to a bluing operation and letting them run it through their tanks.

The best home blue, in my experience, is rust bluing, but you will need a tank big enough to let you submerge and boil the parts in water. If you do the bluing without taking the barrel off the action, you will likely want a tank in which you can submerge the action and start of the barrel in water displacing oil to help remove any water that gets into the gaps between the barrel and receiver (though just heating with a hair dryer can drive a lot of that out if the heat from boiling didn't do it.

There are also paint-on gun finishes and Parkerizing you can apply at home, though I prefer real blue for its looks, myself.

For the shotgun, try using Gunzilla CLP. It removes trace rust very well if you apply it, let it sit a day, then wipe off with a cloth. Keep repeating that until it's gone. If you have a boiling tank for rust bluing, you can first degrease the gun thoroughly with a solvent soak, then boil it to convert trace red rust into black magnetite. Then go to the Gunzilla routine. That will blend colors and loosen the excess rust.
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Last edited by Unclenick; July 13, 2012 at 10:22 AM.
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Old July 13, 2012, 11:45 AM   #3
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Thank you. I will try the Gunzilla on the 870. As for the .22 I will look at the cost of the cold blue and see if its worth it to try. If not I may just glass beed it and apply ceracote or something similar.
Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.
Milton Freidman
"If you find yourself in a fair fight,,,
Your tactics suck"
- Unknown
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Old July 15, 2012, 02:43 PM   #4
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Before you strip off all the old blueing, try this:

Take a nickel (as in a coin - the one with Tommy Jefferson's head on the front) and some gun oil. Soak down the rusted surface with gun oil, then rub the rust off with the nickel coin.

Don't make funny faces at me until you've tried it.

You will end up with a blue finish that has a "haze" in it where the rust has etched the polished layer. When rust on an older gun isn't too bad and is fairly uniform, I find that this can improve appearances quite quickly without having to re-polish and then re-blue.
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Old July 15, 2012, 08:01 PM   #5
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Tried a lot of cold bluing products with varied success. For my last refinish bluing I used Brownell's Oxpho Blue on bare steel. About 5 applications and the finish is great. It buffs to an acceptable shine with 0000 steel wool. Oxpho Blue is the best cold bluing I have used.
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Old July 16, 2012, 05:12 PM   #6
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With my limited experience, I agree on the Oxpho Blue. Tho it seems to work differently on some receivers than on barrels, due to metallurgy, I suppose.
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Old July 17, 2012, 10:58 PM   #7
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Boogie, the long of the short is you can't get the blue back from the brown. Any type of "scrubbing" will bring you down to the white of the metal.
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Old July 18, 2012, 08:44 AM   #8
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I used Oxypho blue on guns I was reselling in my shop. It does make them look better for display. But, it is not a durable finish.
Also, ask yourself if you wish to preserve the old or antique value of the firearm. Refinishing can destroy value. I have a collection of old single shot .22s and would never consider rebluing or refinishing them.
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Old July 19, 2012, 08:22 PM   #9
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I have had good results using Oxpho Blue. What works best for me is having the metal slightly warmed, and making sure the metal is ABSOLUTELY free of oil. Using surgical gloves will prevent transfering of you body oil. I use denatured alcohol as a degreaser after the final cleaning. 4 or 5 applications will give you pretty good results. Make sure you give the metal a good rubbing with fine steel wool between applications. It will darken with each application. Finish with a good quality gun oil.
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Old July 19, 2012, 10:41 PM   #10
Bill DeShivs
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If you work really hard, you can get an OK-looking finish with cold blue.
But, it won't wear well at all, offers no rust protection, and usually stinks badly.
Why bother?
Bill DeShivs, Master Cutler
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Old July 19, 2012, 11:57 PM   #11
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I've gotten reasonable results with cold blueing solutions on fixtures, jigs and tools by doing the following:

1. Metal prep. Polish to 400, then back down to 320. The quality of a blue job is directly connected to the quality of the metal prep. If you need to just remove a blue job without polishing it off, there are blue removers. Most of them contain phosphoric acid. A couple years ago, there was a toilet bowl cleaner that had a combination of phosphoric and muriatic acids. It stripped blue so fast, it had to be seen to be believed.

2. Completely de-grease/de-oil the metal. This is perhaps the most important step to getting an even blue. You can wash the metal in hot water with Dicro-clean 909, Du-Lite #37 or something similar, or you could use solutions of hot water with washing soda or lye, etc.

Brake cleaners work, as does acetone. I would strongly recommend you clean with these products outside.

3. After you're done cleaning the metal, you cannot handle it with your bare hands. Get some disposable nitrile gloves.

4. It helps to pre-warm the metal before applying the cold blue solution. You need to heat it up, and to do this you could put it in a clean hot water bath, or put it in an oven, warm it with a propane torch, etc.

5. You now apply the cold blue solution.

Please note: So far, everything we've done applies exactly the same to rust blueing. The only point where we diverge here is in the type of corrosive formula for oxidizing the steel. Cold blue solutions are more aggressive than rust blue solutions in that the rust blue solutions will cause red rust to form, and the red rust is converted to black rust when the item is put into clean boiling water. The cold blue solutions skip over the red rust step and try to jump directly to black rust.

6. In cold blueing, you won't have to wait for "fuzz" to form, nor will you need to convert red rust to black rust. What you will do in both types of blueing is "card" the steel. If we are rust blueing, then at this point the steel goes into a tank of boiling distilled water for 10 minutes.

7. Get some OIL FREE 0000 steel wool, and LIGHTLY rub down the blue job. You're not trying to scrub off the black oxide, you're simply trying to even up irregularities. If you have a slow speed grinder, you get get a 6" wire wheel of .005" wires to do your carding. This wire wheel should never be used for anything but carding during blueing. If it gets loaded up with any oil, you will have to clean it in the Dicro-clean or somehow else remove all the oil from the wheel.

Oil free steel wool is available through woodworker's supply companies, or you can de-oil your own steel wool by filling a coffee can with acetone, dunking the pad of steel wool and letting it then drain/dry.

7. If the metal has cooled off, you will want to re-warm it.

8. Apply a second coat of cold blue. Repeat the steps above. You might want to repeat up to, oh, four or five times. When I'm express or rust blueing, it might take as many as nine iterations to get the depth of blue that I would like. When I'm hot blueing, I might go back into the salts tank up to three times.

9. When you're satisfied with the quality of the blue, you need to rinse off any excess solution, no matter what method you're using. Usually this is done with clean boiling water.

10. You should then get some water displacing oil and either coat the part/gun with it, or if you have enough of the oil, just drop the gun in an oil bath for 30 minutes. Pull part/gun out and allow to oil to drain off, but DO NOT wipe it down. Leave the part/gun sit unmolested for 24+ hours to allow the oxide time to harden. The oiling and leaving it sit for 24 hours is what I do whether I'm hot blueing, rust blueing, cold blueing, whatever. I leave the blue layer sit without handling for a full day.

For the trouble I go through to blue anything, I'll usually go with the rust blueing process, even tho it might require the most iterations to get the depth of blue I like. I think the only process that's better than rust blueing is fume blueing. As long as you have a tank of sufficient size to hold your item in boiling water, you can rust blue. Many people could use a small rifle-length steel sheet metal tank on their kitchen stove to accomplish the boiling.

For people who have had blue "rub off" - this is a classic sign of incomplete degreasing. The reason I believe my cold blueing doesn't rub off my tooling and fixtures is because I degrease/de-oil my metal, even when the cold blue solution/glop says you "don't need to." I view any claims that no de-greasing is necessary, regardless of the blueing method, to be complete nonsense.

BTW, for those who wish to make a study of the topic, I recommend the following book:

"Firearm Blueing and Browning," by R.H. Angier, (c) 1936. Available from Stackpole Books.

Contained in this volume are a great number of formulas for blueing and browning chemicals, as well as other methods of metal surface treatment. Some of the chemistry in this book is dangerous, so if you've never handled caustic or acidic chemicals before, you might want to learn how to do that before experimenting with the contents of this book.
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