If I can Rust Blue, you can too!

Discussion in 'Fluff & Buff / TecWerks' started by lklawson, Jul 27, 2013.

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  1. lklawson

    lklawson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 13, 2009
    Huber Heights, OH
    OK, years back I bought a P11 in good mechanical condition but with significant holster wear on the stock Hot Blued finish. Eventually I sent it off to Don "Golden Loki" to be professionally Duracoated. He did a great job. I asked for an "Aged Bronze" and that's exactly what I got.

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    It looked good but after some years eventually began to wear. The corners and high points were beginning to wear. I Cold Blued the barrel but, well, it's cold blue: Thin, quick wearing, and not particularly protective.

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    So because of the finish wear and because I'd decided I was tired of that color after these years, I started looking at my options. After much reading and research, I eventually decided that I would try my hand at Rust Bluing. Of course, I had to strip off the Duracoat. It's epoxy based so I had to use a special stripper to remove it, as detailed in this thread.

    I was, eventually, rewarded with a slide "in the white." Doesn't look very white. In fact, down right dark gray looking.

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    Plus the media blasting that Don did left a surface rough enough to use as a fingernail file. OK, so I'd have to sand it. The rusting agent I'd settled on is Mark Lee's Express Blue #1, $20 + $10 S&H. OK. Anyway, Express Blue instructions recommended sanding to no more than 400 grit. I pulled out the handy palm-sander. Good thing too. Block sanding would have taken forever. Still took me an hour or more but eventually I was rewarded with a very matte slide, still in the white but a lot "shinier."

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    Then off we go to clean and degrease. According to my research, degreasing is an absolutely critical step.

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    Now I was ready for the Rust Bluing process. I got all the components ready. Research (and the advice of forum regular Picatinny_Pete) also indicated that distilled water is, again, absolutely critical. Tap water may have minerals which would inhibit the process, or create blotchy patches (or worse). Rain water is usually acceptable. Unfortunately I hadn't collected any rain water so I bought 2 gallons of water from Wal-Mart and had it waiting for me. When I got up that morning to start my project... it was raining heavily outside. <sigh>

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    The manual directs that the piece be heated to between 175 and 200 degrees with a propane torch or the like. I used a toaster oven set to 200. No guess work on the temp.

    Heat the piece, then wipe it with the rusting agent. Always use clean cloth or similar gloves to prevent skin oils from contaminating the work. A thin brown-red coating of rust will form almost immediately:

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    When a nice coat of rust has formed, put it into the boiling water for five minutes.

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    After 5 min., remove the piece. The boiling water will have converted the brown-red ferric oxide to black ferro- ferric oxide. Remove the piece, drain and dry immediately, and then "card" the loose black oxide off (rub it off). Further, forum regular Picatinny_Pete recommends carding with paper towel, but I had better luck with 0000 steel wool, which is also commonly recommended.

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    Lather, rinse, repeat. The instructions specify 6-10 times. However, my research indicated that best results were achieved by repeating the process until the rusting agent simply failed to create any significant rust when applied. That's how I knew when I'd reached the final application. For the slide, that was cycle number 7 (or maybe 8, I lost count). After the final repetition, dry the piece and neutralize the rusting agent. It is a mild acid (note: Mark Lee's Express Blue #1 is "Non Toxic" and has no mercury - good for the environment and safe for the kitchen but I wouldn't recommend drinking it anyway). At the advice of a Picatinny_Pete, I used Ballistol. It was developed for use on firearms to clean corrosive residue left from corrosive ammunition. The instruction booklet specifies a solution of baking soda but that is known to be messy and difficult to prepare. The Ballistol was a superior solution to the problem.

    The results were amazing to me. Not a Ruger blue but, wow. I never expected it to turn out so well for a 400 grit polish and looking so very dark, non-reflective, "matte" the whole time. It's still not a mirror finish but it's no longer non-reflective matte.

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    I did the barrel too. I had Cold Blued it with an old Birchwood Casey solution, which I didn't bother to sand off. The rusting agent ate that off immediately, but oh what a replacement it left!

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    I want to include "assembled" pics too but I've reached my limit on linked pics per post. I'll post them below.

    While the process was comparatively time consuming, it was dead simple and fairly idiot proof. Further, the sand and degrease steps are the same as what is recommended for Cold Bluing, as is heating the metal and repeating the application process multiple times. Rust Bluing requires boiling and carding that Cold Bluing does not, but the results are vastly better in almost every way.

    I will never Cold Blue again unless it is to touch up a small scratch.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
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  2. lklawson

    lklawson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 13, 2009
    Huber Heights, OH
    Here's a few shots of the gun assembled.

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    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     

  3. Pinstriper

    Pinstriper Well-Known Member

    Dec 28, 2011
    Orygun
    Freaking awesome job. Almost gives me the courage to try it.

    Almost, I said.
     
  4. lklawson

    lklawson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 13, 2009
    Huber Heights, OH
    Like I said, darn near idiot proof. Only a little more difficult than cold bluing. And the KT slide is simple enough that even I was able to take it apart and put it back together correctly. :)

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  5. phideaux

    phideaux Fido for short Supporter

    Feb 8, 2011
    West Ky
    Kirk,

    Good job with the Rust Blue. and great job, instep by step details of the process.

    Looks really good.

    Thanks


    Jim
     
  6. Beastly

    Beastly Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2012
    Birmingham, AL
    Very nice. Closeup pics with lots of light from different angles would be appreciated if you have the time and inclination.
     
  7. lklawson

    lklawson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 13, 2009
    Huber Heights, OH
    Always busy, of course, but I will see if I can carve out some time. :)

    Peace favor your sword (mobile)
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
  8. CitizenX

    CitizenX Active Member

    309
    Feb 18, 2012
    Thank you for taking the time to put such a great presentation together! I think I'm actually going to try this when I get the time.. make it one of my winter projects. I'm impressed with how your slide and barrel turned out. Great job!
     
  9. Picatinny_Pete

    Picatinny_Pete New Member

    Sep 2, 2009
    Kirk,

    Great presentation:) Just a note to prevent "Honey, the spaghetti tastes strange?":confused: Use a dedicated pot or thoroughly clean the one you used for bluing.;) The salt that leeches out during the boiling process is not toxic in small amounts, but can leave interesting after tastes if it leeches into your food. I can guarantee wife and the kids would not be amused.:eek:

    Oh by the way if the finish does get scratched Mark Lee's Express Brown #2 can be used for touch up using the same process for the blue with a q-tip applied to the scratch. It has a copper sulfate/acid base and will convert to a black oxide blue upon boiling with one coat if done right for small areas.

    Best Wishes: Greg aka Picatinny Pete :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2013
  10. TxCajun

    TxCajun Administrator Staff Member Administrator Moderator Supporter

    Sep 7, 2004
    Texas
    Looks great! Much better than how cold bluing usually turns out. Thanks for posting. :cool:
     
  11. Charley

    Charley Active Member

    327
    Feb 4, 2011
    San Antonio, Texas
    Good looking blue, and nice presentation. I rust blue everything that is slide sized or larger, nitre blue small parts. Rather than Mark Lee's Express Blue, I use Laurel Mountain Forge's Browning solution. Other than that almost the exact same setup. I blue barreled actions in PVC pipe, with one end capped. Boiling water is poured into the pipe, rather than heating it and dropping in the part.

    The amazing thing is, rust bluing is really a simple process, but when you actually tell someone that you blued a particular part or gun, most people almost don't believe you....they seem to think it takes a PHD and a couple jillion dollars in equipment to do.
     
  12. lklawson

    lklawson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 13, 2009
    Huber Heights, OH
    It is way easier than I expected when I started researching Rust Bluing. No humidity box was required and it took hours instead of weeks.

    I've read of a few home-brew rusting agent solutions which might work but Mark Lee's worked spectacularly well.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  13. lklawson

    lklawson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 13, 2009
    Huber Heights, OH
    Hey Greg,

    Thanks for the heads up! I didn't buy a dedicated pot. I had one located at Good Will but didn't buy it immediately. When I went back, it was gone. <shrug> Because the Express Blue #1 is supposed to be "non toxic" I decided that it should be safe enough to use the Macaroni & Cheese pan. :) I made a point to scrub it by hand but I'll run it through the washer once or twice just to be sure.

    I was really surprised at how well it turned out. It's not a deep mirror gloss. More of a semi-gloss but I was honestly expecting a black matte appearance like what I see on most Black Oxide tools. I suspect that using the steel wool burnished the finish and gave me that nice semi-gloss look.

    I appreciate you putting me on to the process.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  14. lklawson

    lklawson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 13, 2009
    Huber Heights, OH
    When I first started researching Rust Bluing it was as an alternative to, well, everything else. Most of the Hot Caustic Bluing home-brew recipes just seemed like either too much trouble, too expensive to get the set up, too dangerous for my area, or all of the above. Cold Bluing is good for small touchups but when I've seen slides that people did with even what is considered "the best" of the various cold blue solutions, they worked for at least as many hours as I did and only got "OK" results. And it's cold blue: Thin, wears quickly, and not particularly protective. I could have tried a home duracoat job but it just didn't appeal to me.

    But, when I looked at Rust Bluing at first, it looked a lot like it required, not a PHD in Chemical Engineering, but, well, an Artist's touch. It really looked like an art form to me, and one that required special skill and a fair amount of experience to get it right what with all the rusting boxes and taking weeks to complete. But I was wrong. The various browning and belgium bluing solutions really bring it down into the realms of the average tinkerer.

    Nitre Bluing still kinda intimidates me. What do you use?

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  15. Charley

    Charley Active Member

    327
    Feb 4, 2011
    San Antonio, Texas
    For nitre bluing, I use potassium nitrate stump remover, sold at nurseries and big box home improvement stores. You need the stump remover, a pan, and a heat source. I bought a stainless steel pan at a thrift store, after a thin sheet metal bread pan rusted out. Heat source is a Coleman stove. Pan goes on the stove, crystals go into the pan until melted. When fully melted, add your pre-prepped part (polished to taste, and degreased), let the part sit in the solution for about 5 minutes, then quench the part in 30 Wt non detergent oil. then clean and you are ready to go. Pretty simple, really.
    The stump remover is much cheaper than the "gun stuff" sold specifically for nitre bluing.

    Here's a sample picture...http://www.handloadersbench.com/view_topic.php?id=16017&forum_id=102&highlight=nitre+blue
     
  16. lklawson

    lklawson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 13, 2009
    Huber Heights, OH
    I added a bunch of pics to my picasa album. Any of them laying flat on the white background or leaning against the Johnson Paste Wax can are new. I hope they're high enough res. (couldn't get my wife's good camera to work - bad CF card).

    http://plus.google.com/photos/102660776892698939832/albums/5905392746010187121

    If you go to the picasa page and click the pics they will zoom a great deal. There pics that I took no flash seem to be higher detail with no blurring even in zoom.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  17. lklawson

    lklawson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 13, 2009
    Huber Heights, OH
    Quick question: Do you use a thermometer to gauge the temperature in order to ensure the 600-650 degree range or do you just let the crystals melt and call it good?

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  18. Charley

    Charley Active Member

    327
    Feb 4, 2011
    San Antonio, Texas
    Get it to just above melting point, then cut back the heat a bit. Just hot enough to stay liquid. As I mentioned on the board that the link was to, it goes without saying that absolutely NO WATER should be anywhere close to the pot of solution.
     
  19. keltectoter

    keltectoter New Member

    132
    May 25, 2013
    Indiana
    I am always amazed at some of the stuff people do themselves, at home. You did very nice work on your P-11!
     
  20. Deuce3

    Deuce3 Active Member

    565
    May 6, 2008
    Thanks for that tutorial. Looks great.

    I Duracoated my P11 myself a few years back and it is wearing around the edges. I might try the rust thing.