Only in California! Someone I know has a friend that is a butcher, he said that he gets Sodium nitrate all day long. It's the food grade but that doesn't made a difference. I'm on my way to the Meat Locker now!
I purchase my lye in 50 lb. bags - it can be found at suppliers for industrial cleaning. It's used to clean out tanker trucks with steam washers. You can order it and potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate at Duda Diesel. They sell supplies to make bio-diesel. I might add that you can order one pound up to as much as you want of both chemicals.
Ammonia nitrate causes fumes when starting the heat process - be sure to be far away or else the fumes will be overpowering. I would suggest outdoors because ammonia will penetrate into walls and it is near impossible to get rid of. Like a skunk - it takes time.
I ordered a tank on ebay made from stainless. It handles rifles and I use it for parkerizing. My main bluing tanks and burners came from a gunsmith and I have had them 40 years. The stainless tank was 70 bucks and has come in very handy for chemical bluing of stainless barrels and parkerizing. For pistols I use a stainless salad bowl and a propane fish fryer. I can also use a smaller bowl with pure potassium nitrate for nitre bluing and straw colors. Never use aluminum as it dissolves rapidly with any of these chemicals. I blued a Ruger No#1 and never gave a second thought about the trigger. When the bluing process was complete there was no trigger to be found. The solution also eats lead silver solder - so no side by sides or stack barrels should be done. A good thermometer with stainless probe is a must. I use a meat thermometer and it may not be accurate as a bluing one but I can tell when something has taken a blue when the temp starts to rise above 275. It will rise quickly when the process is done. I immediatly dunk the blued part in cold water until the part is cool and rub the part down WD 40 to displace the water then a heavy coat of vaseline and let it hang overnight. If bluing a barrel screwed to the action it is critical to get the residue out of the joint otherwise it will leach out. Doesn't hurt anything but it is a pain to clean.
For the handguns I use three enameled canning pots. #1 has TriSodiumPhosphate, #2 Distilled water, #3 the caustic salts. I rig the parts on concrete tie wire that is degreased with spray brake cleaner on a rebar "tree". The tree goes onto the Tsp to degrease the parts. Any oil at all will screw it up. Then into the distilled water to rinse the TSP off, then into the salts. 10 minutes per tank, 45 minutes in the salts.
As stated aluminum will dissolve immediately. Stainless tanks work. My long gun tanks are made from 316l stainless. A stainless turkey fryer pot will work. Water quality is more important than you think. Some are successful with RO water. I use distilled or de-ionized for all solutions.
I use a digital thermometer with an industrial 1300*f probe.
This is a controlled process. Measuring, timing and temp control are critical. If you want it to turn out right you have to pay attention ALL THE TIME!
The few times I did a Hot BLue was some decades ago.
We used a Welded up Sheet Steel Tank, sitting on a piece of thick Steel Plate, set on to a Two Burner Gas Hot Plate.
We'd let the Salts melt of course, and, regulated the Temp by using a high heat Thermometer and manually regulating the Flame size to keep a steady constant Temperature in the molten Salts.
We then used Iron Wire or Tongs to set parts in to the Bath, and just watched them by Eye to see the colors coming up...pulling them out as the desired color was nearing. Then cooling in Hot Water and allowing the parts/frames/whatever to Air Dry, which they would to very quickly since they were pretty warm.
It was fun and worked splendidly.
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