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  1. #1
    Senior Member DFrame is on a distinguished road

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    Brief explanation of different types of blue

    At the risk of sounding like a rookie which I'm not I'd like someone to explain the differences in types of blueing. I've often heard "Fire Bluing" "Rust Bluing" and lots of other terms I don't fully understand. The trigger on my 03 though heavily worn has a very bright light colored bluing and I'm confused.
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    Supporting Member BigG is on a distinguished road
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    Re: Brief explanation of different types of blue

    Fire blue is actually just heating the part until it turns the correct shade of blue. This was a form of heat treatment and also finish. To me it is a lighter shade but distinctly blue. The hammers and triggers or other small parts were often fire blued. You can see some old guns where the parts were straw or yellowish in color, same principle different temperature.

    Whatever type of bluing, the original surface determines the quality of the finish. Unless the metal is perfectly polished, it will not look as good. The difference between the Python and the next grade lower model is not the chemicals but the amount of polishing on the bare metal.

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  3. #3
    *** ColtForum MVP *** dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all

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    Re: Brief explanation of different types of blue

    As I can recall:

    Hot salts bluing.
    This is todays bluing system as used by all gun makers.
    The metal is boiled in a tank of chemicals which gives it a black-blue color.
    This is actually "oxidation" or a controlled form of RUST, which has a blue-black color and is smooth.

    Rust blue.
    Rust blue is a process in which the metal is caused to rust with a chemical that gives a blue in color instead of the usual rust-red color.
    The parts are boiled in water, removed and swabbed with the chemical.
    The parts are allowed to rust, then "carded" off with steel wool. At this point the metal has a grayish streaked color.
    As the process is continued the color deepens and darkens into a satin blue.
    There are a number of processes in which rust blue can be done.
    Rust blue has a more satin finish that's blue but not the glossy blue of other methods.
    It is a durable, tough blue, and is one of the few methods by which double guns with soft soldered barrels can be blued.
    Due to the amount of time and hand labor, rust blue is expensive.

    Carbona blue.
    Carbona is an advanced form of heat bluing.
    This is the process many gun companies used years ago, especially Colt.
    The cleaned parts are put in steel drums along with a mix of various materials, including charred leather, charcoal, bone meal, and other often "secret" materials, then the air-tight drums are put in a furnace at carefully controlled temps.
    The materials give off a gas that drives out moisture and air, and the metal takes on a deep shiny black-blue color.

    Heat bluing.
    There are a good number of heat bluing methods, known by various names like "Fire Bluing". These are basically simply variations of heating the metal until it changes color.
    The simplest method is to just polish the metal, clean it then heat it up.
    As the metal heats, it starts to change colors, first a light yellow "straw" to a darker golden, to a brown, then purple, and finally a brilliant blue.
    Most heat blues are very colorful, but very delicate and easily worn off.
    All heat blues must take into account the hardness and temper of the metal. Some guns parts should not be heat blued.

    Cold blue.
    Cold bluing is a commercial chemical that works for touching up worn areas or scratches.
    It's not very durable, tends to turn brown as it ages, and usually doesn't work well for large areas.
    When used to blue a large area, it tends to give a streaked, cloudy gray-blue color.

    Nitre Blue.
    This is another heat blue method, only using a salts compound that melts when heated.
    When the metal is submerged in the liquid hot salts, it changes color like heat bluing, from a light straw to a brilliant blue.
    Again, nitre bluing is rather delicate.
    Some people have done nitre bluing using stump remover chemical from the hardware store.

    Charcoal bluing.
    Simply another name for a variation of Carbona bluing.

    There are other methods, all of which are variations of the above methods.
    They all use either a heat system to heat the metal until it changes color, or a chemical that causes the metal to rust with a blue or blue-black color.

    With all these systems, the color and how shiny the finish is depends entirely on how well the metal is polished BEFORE the bluing process.
    As example, the only real difference between the Ruger's satin black color and the deep, dark blue mirror-like finish of the 1950's Python was the degree of polishing the metal received before the metal was put into the hot salts bluing tanks.

  4. #4
    Senior Member DFrame is on a distinguished road

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    Re: Brief explanation of different types of blue

    Thanks for the wealth of information. May I assume the trigger on my 03 is/was fireblued then? I wish the piece were not so worn. The color, (what you can still see of it), is truly stunning. Does anyone still do firebluing?
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  5. #5
    *** ColtForum MVP *** dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all dfariswheel is a name known to all

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    Re: Brief explanation of different types of blue

    I'm not sure what the finish was on the older Springfield, but it wasn't heat bluing.
    That was too time consuming and expensive for GI firearms.

    There are several places that still do the older types of bluing including heat bluing, but it's EXPENSIVE.

    Among others:
    Doug Turnbull, probably the world's best firearms restorer:
    http://turnbullrestoration.com/

  6. #6
    Senior Member dant is on a distinguished road

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    Re: Brief explanation of different types of blue

    Very well covered above and can only "add" that the colors can be altered (determined) after heating the various parts and 'quenching' in one type of oil or another. You can get a variety of blues, as well as rainbow ala color case effect swishing the part around .....
    as for the hot blues, the formulas have changed somewhat, you'd have to contact someone such as www.dulite.com and get more info. We have used them as well as Houghton Chemicals, they have the 'Black Magic'( black Oxide) and is preferred today. Many of the companies, as they will use Dulites formula , which to me comes out the same as the Black Oxide, very comparable and durable. It is used more in industry for coloring metal parts.
    Years ago , when I was up at some of the factories, I watched the old timers "fire blue" parts , dip (quench) them in some oil and they came out really nice. This was in the service shops and a "quickie"parts reblue, that was fast and permanent.

    There are volumes written on some of the blue processes as well as how and what the factories, like Colt did their own 'proprietary' formulas and ways, vapors, as well as chemicals that EPA, OSHA , whomever would not allow to be used or done today..............all I remember was most of them made MY skin crawl............ [img]/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]
    Dan

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  7. #7
    Supporting Member weagle99 is on a distinguished road
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    Re: Brief explanation of different types of blue

    [ QUOTE ]
    Does anyone still do firebluing?

    [/ QUOTE ]

    USFA offers fireblued parts on their guns: It is an option on their single actions and is standard on their 1911 and 1910 automatics. I think their firebluing is done by Turnbull but don't quote me on that.

    Colt actually still offers firebluing as a custom option on the SAA. Don't know who does it for them...

  8. #8
    Senior Member swamprat will become famous soon enough

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    Re: Brief explanation of different types of blue

    An excellent article on the different types of bluing and their use on Colt & other firearms can be found on Bill Adair's website: http://www.restoration-gunsmith.com/

    It is easy to fire blue small parts at home. Brownells has a product for doing it. However, I do it in my electric oven. All you have to do is be sure the part is polished to bright metal & de-oiled good, the higher the polish the better the blue. Turn your oven on to 550 degrees, when it reaches that temp, put the part in and watch it turn colors. It will turn straw, purple and then blue. If it doesn't reach the beautiful peacock blue, then it isn't hot enough. You may have to adjust your ovens temp until you find the right setting. A gas oven will work also.

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  9. #9
    Senior Member DFrame is on a distinguished road

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    Re: Brief explanation of different types of blue

    Very interesting article. Big thanks to everyone who contributed to this discussion.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Ken S is on a distinguished road

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    Ok I'll add my process.
    Polish the part, then put on a pair of new rubber gloves, and never touch the part again. Finally buff with XXXX steel wool. Wash with nail polish remover. Takes the oil off very well.

    set up a cardboard box with a wire going through the top. put a wire through the piece (Colt backstrap for example). coat with
    American Rush Bluing solution. (Dixie has it, as well as others) Put in the box , close the box, and let it stand for two hours or more. A light red rust will form.

    then, set up a stainless 2 qt. cook pan, fill with distilled water (supermarket has it), get it boiling, and suspend in the pan for about 15 minutes.

    buff with steel wool, and repeat about 6 times. finally, clean and coat with oil and let set for a day to 'cure'.
    You'll get a very hard, beautiful blue.
    What happens is Iron oxide will turn to ferous oxide in the boiling water. a dark blue black. very pretty. very professional.
    And you can do triggers, hammers etc. because you're not putting excessive heat to the part. I've done it many time, and it works. Ken


 

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