USFA Rodeo Antique Rust Blue
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    USFA Rodeo Antique Rust Blue

    For those interested, I thought I would do a little write up on the “antique” finish I recently applied to my USFA Rodeo. It’s basically a home-brew rust blue with some additional steps to encourage some uneven etching of the metal resulting in a more mottled look to the final finish. I’ve used all sorts of products for rust blueing in the past when I was after a more uniform, factory look but I’ve come to appreciate the peroxide/salt combo suggested by many other internet hobbiest for achieving that sort of well-worn patina we all love in those no-finish 1st gens.

    Before and After:
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    Steps...
    1.) Strip gun to white: I like plain ‘ol white vinegar for this but I’ve also had good results with products like Naval Jelly. Break the gun down and let it soak in the vinegar bath for an hour or so. If it makes you feel better, generously swab the bore and chamber down with some gun oil first to reduce the chance of unwanted etching in these areas.

    2.) Remove remaining finish with fine steel wool. At this point for a traditional rust blue, I’d focus heavily on metal prep by sanding and polishing out the steel with increasingly finer grits etc...on my Rodeo the metal was pretty well prepped prior to the application of that “gorgeous” matte blue so I called it good.
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    3.)Neutralize the vinegar with a bath in baking soda and water...usually 20-30 minutes gets me the sort of peace of mind I’m after.

    4.) This is where the “antiquing” process deviates from a traditional rust blue. After all the factory finish is removed and that first vinegar bath is neutralized, I lay out all the parts I intend to blue and procede to trash them...sort of. I apply a mottled and messy blend of white vinegar and yellow mustard to the surface of all the parts and allow it to go to work on the surface of the raw metal for a spell. The duration for which you allow this reaction to occur is pretty subjective. But once again...don’t over due it. Differing Carbon contents in your steel can mean the difference between light etching taking minutes or hours to occur. There’s no harm in wiping of the “paste” periodically to observe how things are progressing. In my experience the areas where the mustard is blotted tend to etch more quickly. This will manifest itself in the form of slightly darkened freckles and splotches. When you’re satisfied with the result, it’s time to wipe everything off, rinse it in water, and plunge it into another neutralizing baking soda bath.

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    5.) From this point on you pretty much procede with traditional rust bluing protocol...which I won’t outline in detail here as a quick Google search will render you all the info you need on that. But here are a few pics and tips:

    -Before applying any sort of rusting agent be sure the parts you intend to blue are CLEAN. Like real clean. I use a thorough wipe down with denatured alcohol to accomplish this. From this point forward, avoid touching the parts with your bare hands. Any oils you transfer to the steel will inhibit the rusting process.

    -The home-brew rusting mixture I use for this stuff is a mix of Hydrogen Peroxide and table salt. The ratio isn’t critical. Just warm the solution and stir in salt until things start looking nice and cloudy. *Quick note on the “warming” of hydrogen peroxide...not sure about all the intricacies involved here but from my very limited internet research it seems that at extremely high temps hydrogen peroxide becomes a noxious gas...or explodes...or both...so maybe avoid bringing it to a boil in the microwave?? End of disclaimer
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    Wipe this Hydrogen Peroxide/Salt solution onto the steel and watch the magic happen. A hair dryer will help speed up the process. You’ll see a layer of rust begin to form almost instantly.

    Once the parts are complete dry and covered in a nice red film of surface rust drop them into boiling water for 5-10 minutes.

    The resulting reaction converts that nasty red iron oxide to black iron oxide (or something to that effect...I’m no chemist) and it’s time to remove the parts from the boil and lightly card with steel wool.

    Repeat this process of rusting, boiling and carding until you’re pleased with the depth and tone of your finish. (Usually 5-6 cycles for me)

    You’ll notice at this point that the areas you etched earlier with the vinegar and mustard are taking the finish more readily resulting in the sort of splotchiness you’d be trying to avoid if you weren’t trying to make your gun look like it has been left in a barn for the last 100yrs...

    One final long boil of say 20-30min should convert any and all rust hiding out in those hard to reach places.

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    6.) Once my rust blueing cycles are complete, I assemble the gun and do a final carding/buffing with fine steel wool. In this case, paying some attention to “distressing” the finish a little more in those traditional high wear locations.

    7.) The final step for me with all my rust bluing projects is a soak in BLO. This is a traditional method of impregnated the finish with oil for the purpose of completely halting any rusting that may still be occurring and it imparts a darker, richer tone to the final finish IMO. Now there are those who will argue that your store bought BLO isn’t the BLO of yesteryear and therefore is a poor choice for this application...I don’t feel qualified to comment on this as I’m not even sure what a linseed is, but I’ve hade pretty decent luck with whatever this crap is Lowe’s sells. I usually soak the parts for an hour or so, then remove them, wipe them down, and let them sit overnight. In the am, I thoroughly wipe down any remaining oil on the surface and inspect everything closely to ensure no further oxidation appears to be taking place.

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    So that’s about it. Not sure how many folks hung in there for the duration of this little write-up but hopefully those undertaking an “antiquing” project of there own will find it of interest. See below for some more pics of the finished product:

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    Nicely done. I have printed out your technique and will try it. As for the BLO, it is my understanding that raw linseed oil does not contain dryers. I believe some manufacturers in the past added some lead to their raw linseed oil. I have a quart of 60 year old Dutch Boy that I guard with my life!

    One last idea that I have yet to try. Many times I have cut myself and if any blood gets on steel it will rust real fast.


 

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