Frequent TTAG commenter Dyspeptic Gunsmith saw the gun above in our post A Garden Gun Cultivates a Newfound Fascination and answered reader questions about blueing/reblueing a gun thusly:
If the rust is very fine and there is still substantial blueing left on the gun, you might want to strip the blueing. Brownells has a product that will strip blueing and rust (Fe3O4 and Fe3O2, respectively) and not corrode the underlying steel. Remove the barrel & action from the stock. Remove the bolt & trigger group – this might require a pin punch on some guns to pull the trigger group. From what little I can see in the picture here . . .
it would appear these sights are drifted into dovetails. To remove them, you put the action/barrel into a sturdy vise (padded with soft jaws) and you use a piece of brass rod to drift the sights out. You’ll want to clamp on the barrel directly under the sight you’re about to drift out. They’ll usually go in from the right, and be drifted out from the left (ie, drifting them from left to the right as the muzzle is pointed away from you).
So basically, you’ll want the rifle in the vise with the muzzle pointed to your left. You should put the brass drift (which you can make out of a piece of brass rod about 1/4″ in diameter) on the sight base, and then start tapping the end of the drift with a small hammer. Before you start, it might do you well to mark the sight base on each side of the dovetail with a Sharpie marker, so you can see when the sight begins to move.
OK, now with the sights out and the trigger group off, you can put on the rust/blue remover on the barrel/action. Follow the instructions. You might need two applications to clean up more deeply rusted spots.
Once you strip the blue & rust, then you can see what you’re dealing with. If you have very light, fine pitting, you can polish this out. You’ll need some shop rolls, ranging from 180 to 400 grit (typical 4-packs are 180, 240, 320 and 400 grit, in 1, 1.5 or 2″. I like 1.5″ wide shop cloth myself)
When polishing something like the above rifle/shotgun, you’ve got a pretty light coat of rust, without severe pitting. You might be able to start at 320 grit. When I’m polishing on barrels, I polish lengthwise. Use a backing block of wood or even a Pink Pearl rubber eraser. Always back your paper when you’re polishing over edges and up against features.
Polish to at least 400 grit. If you want it smoother/shinier, you can polish up to 600 grit, with wet-or-dry paper. I use kerosene to wet my paper from 500 on up.
Here’s instructions from Mark Lee Supplies on using their Express Blue #1. I used Express Blue #1 on lots of guns, where I want something less labor intensive than slow rust blueing (which I won’t describe here):
– most steel wool isn’t oil-free. It’s oiled in production to keep it from rusting on store shelves. You want 0000 steel wool for carding between coats. To obtain oil-free steel wool, get some acetone in a container (say, an old, clean yogurt container you were going to throw away anyway). Pour in some acetone, and while wearing rubber gloves (dishwashing gloves are OK), put in a pad of 0000 steel wool, swish it around and pull it out. Do this outside, so you can do this next part: Just whip the steel wool at arm’s length to extract the excess acetone. It’ll evaporate rather rapidly, but still, don’t whip it at cars or house finishes. It can soften up some paints and plastics.
Alternatively, you can press the pad of steel wool between your hands over the container of acetone, and then put it on some paper towels to dry. It’ll take perhaps 20 minutes to really dry down.
– Acetone is also useful for de-greasing the barreled action. I like using acetone to strip the heavy oil on guns, because it lightens up the oils and makes them easier to strip with a water-based cleaner.
– Old school ‘smiths use something called “washing soda” to strip oil off guns. It is slightly caustic, so be careful you don’t leave it on the gun for long.
– When putting water in your boil-out tank, use distilled water if you have water with high mineral content. Most waters in the Rockies clear out to the west coast will have high(er) dissolved solids in them. These minerals (often calcium and magnesium compounds) tend to result in blotchy and uneven results. Just use distilled water.
– Some people might not have a tank long enough to contain a barreled action to boil out. Brownells has steel tanks, and there are some steel/stainless long/thin tanks available from other sources.
To heat this, I use a Coleman camp stove and a 15# jug of LPG gas. you could also heat this size tank with anything from a hibatchi up to a Weber charcoal grill – or you could put it on top of a wood-burning stove or even a kitchen stove.
When you’re done and have neutralized & washed off the Express Blue #1 solution, you then should spray down the barrel with water-displacing oil. Fortunately, this is easily had at any hardware store: WD-40 is a water displacing product, not a lubricant (contrary to widespread advertising). Spray down the whole barreled action with copious amounts of WD-40, inside and out. Stand on end over some paper towels to drain.
If the sights need to be stripped & blued, follow the same procedure, but don’t polish on them. Just remove the blue/rust, degrease, dry, then blue/card/boil-out/oil/drain.
Drift the sights back in from the right side of the barrel. Hang the trigger group again, re-stock and you should be done.
If your barrel has heavier pitting, now we’re into filing to remove pitting, and that’s something I can’t teach people in mere text. To remove pitting and keep the barrel profile intact requires skill with a file, and that requires hands-on training.
Better than cold blueing?
Oh mas oui. Express blueing, slow rust blueing, hot salt blueing, nitre blueing, carbona blueing – all are better than cold blueing.
Cold blueing is OK for touchups, at best. Cold blueing solutions usually just don’t wear well. You can improve your results by doing two things:
1. Do all the prep you would for express or rust blueing, especially degreasing. It is always essential to remove all oils from metals you want to blue, even if the cold blueing solution claims you don’t need to do so.
2. Heat the gun parts. Cold blues will react with steel at room temperature, but you get more aggressive reactions when you heat the gun to, oh, 150 to 200F.
Still, you will find that cold blues don’t last.
I have at least three cold blue solutions in my shop – including Oxpho-blue, 44-40 and others. I rarely use them. They have their place, but doing a whole gun with them isn’t that place.