Will I be able to make a rust blue solution with citric acid and salt?
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- Last Post 25 February 2021
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I have had excellent results with the Laurel Mountain Forge brand. They advertise it as being a rust blue and degreaser, and I think it really does work as advertised, however, I still degrease and use nitrile gloves. Their process of making a trough out of pvc pipe and pouring boiling distilled water over the metal parts works great. I made up two of these troughs- one out of 3" pvc for barrels and one out of 4" pvc for pump and semi-auto shotgun receivers with the magazine tube. I boil my water in a large pot over a propane turkey fryer burner and then carefully pour it over the metal parts already in the pvc trough. Small parts can be done in a retired sauce pan or stock pot.
One thing about this product, if you live in a high humidity climate, it can be rather "fast" acting, as rust blue chemicals go. In other words, if you leave it to rust too long, it may etch more than you want it to and you'll end up with a very matte finish.
As Ric said above, cleanliness is the key, and you must use distilled water. And be very thorough with your initial degreasing! There's nothing more frustrating than having oil creep out of some nook when you do your first boiling.
I second the use of the Laurel Mountain Forge product. I got tired of not having a good outfit to blue my gun metal needs without having to package and mail a gun.
I should have started decades ago. It is not very hard to do with a minimum of equipment. You can get started slow rust bluing using small gun parts like action, trigger guard or butt plates. Also, I have blued a lot of machine shop home made tools, just for the practice. It takes very little of your time each day. Blueing non gun stuff allows you to see how careless you can be and still have it work out - or NOT!
I blue things often just to keep my hand in. My few good rifles I have blued have turned out well. Then too, if there is a problem you can easily redo it. Much like doing a poor job mowing the lawn. It only takes a little work to do it over again to your satisfaction.
I like the Laurel Mountain Forge product because you really don't have to be very careful about touching the parts or de-greasing. I am not saying you don't have to try, I try to get it right but, there is a some wiggle room for the little mistakes.
One other something. The small bottle goes a LONG way. You can do a lot of parts and barrels and it hardly dents the amount left in the bottle.
I use the SS wire wheel (Brownell's) in my small drill press and man, is it worth it in ease and speed! I had too much trouble with the steel wool. Done with that.
I boil my work on the kitchen stove. I have not used the steam or PVC method.
For barrels, I got a length of 4" iron Chanel 42" long. Chanel is 3 sided iron. ( think flat strap = flat, Angle Iron is two sides and Chanel is three sides = trough) Then cut a piece off the end a hair over 4" to have scrap to make (weld) ends on it. This involves some light welding but even if you have to take it to a welding shop, it should be soooo much less $ than getting a Brownell's tank!
Black iron is perfect. You DO NOT need SS tanks.
I have used tap water for tool projects and it works OK. For my real blue projects I use distilled water. Why not? It does not cost much and you can reuse it even when it looks like red rust - works fine.
I live in the high country. Water boils at less then 212. It still converts the rust just fine. I stuck a kitchen thermometer in the water and watched the conversion. Even tho my water boils at about 201F, the 'rust to black' happens at a few degrees under the boiling point.
Sorry! I got carried away...
i remember using the original Herter's Belgium Blue way back in 1956. just the tip of my 16 gauge winchester 37 barrel which had a big scratch ... just dipped the rusty tip in a boiling pot on the kitchen stove. didn't match that well but that my first " gunsmithing " project ... well, ok, the first that wasn't a disaster .
now i use Laurel mountain.
a slight drawback in rust blue is that .... they tell us ... that we should only go to 300 polish, as the rust method likes the " bite " for the first coat.
i recently read an interesting input where a guy used some cold blue as the first coat/which gave an etch for his subsequent rust blue. reported fewer coats and great finish.
so ... always looking for a miracle ... my next barrel i am going with a mirror finish from my spinneroo, then one oxpho-blu, then card, then the Laurel Mountain routine. looking for a shiny rust blue.
don't try this at home, this will be my own barrel .... and i only saw the one report ..
ken, having a blue winter
just another experiment this with cold blue ... oxpho blu ..... ... i etched a 22 barrel with naval jelly first then oxpho-blu until dark ... worked great, the most even job with cold blues ...
then i tried that on my wife's dan wesson 15-22 cylinder latch ... small part .... oops ... different metal, maybe too much etching ... resulted in a granular kinda fuzzy finish ... really bad match for the nice factory blue ...
Yes, but the texture of the metal will be pretty coarse. IMHO, you will be happier if you buy the commercial chemical.
Ric is there one commercial brand you found easier to work with. I recently bought a steamer and plan to use the white PVC pipe to avoid the boiling water tanks. Have you tried this system??
I have used both the Plinkinton (sp?) and Brownell's brand of solution. Neither is cheap anymore. The first ones I did was at a friends house who had boiling tanks and it worked faster, after set up, but did not make a better finish. Since then, I have used the PVC pipe rusting process. The first couple of coats are slower to "etch" than having the metal 212*. But they turned out just as good as the other, just took a couple of more coats, days, to make it even.
The key is always cleanliness. Touch one finger print on the metal and you have to degrease every thing again. Get the cotton dabbers and use a new one each coat. Because I live in the desert, I had to add an inch of water at the bottom of the tube to get anything to rust. Practice moving the metal and laying out your set-up to make a smooth process. Use distilled water, no well or tap water.
Good point on the distilled water and dabbers I had forgot. I seem to recall now you shouldn't over lap the solution when apply. Some years ago I got a very fine (very soft) S.S. wire wheel at a car show for almost nothing. I plan to use it as a carding wheel. This wire wheel is almost 12" across and 3/4" thick. The only motors I have are some older 1/3 and 1/4 hp at 1750 rpm. Would that be too fast with a wheel that big? Thanks for the help
ray h, I tried it once, but it had been used and I could never get all the oil/grease out of the wheel. Then I had to start over and degrease everything. I have always used OO steel wool that I had boiled in Dawn soap water. Others tell my you can use acetone to clean the wool, but that is too expensive for me in my state. cfp4570 makes an important point, use nitrile gloves as this stuff is toxic and corrosive. Ric
I will attest to the Laurel Mountain Forge solution. I rate it better than anything I have used. I have rust blued with a little bit of everything including liquid soldering flux but that was years ago. I have an old floor furnace burner that I set on a couple or so bricks and have a campfire cooking stand that I set over the burner and set my steel bluing tank on that. I degrease in a separate tank than I use for boil outs. I clean with that stuff that Brownell's sells, I can't remember the name off hand but it looks like old oxyodol washing powder. It does a real good job, but here is a warning, if you put a barrel and receiver such as a shotgun barrel with a anodized aluminum receiver, you will take the finish completely off the receiver.. I clean my steel wool in lacquer thinner and store it in zip lock bags. It will rust, but who cares, you're going to be carding off rust.
Here is an interesting tidbit. As soon as I got my temperature controlled damp box built, I was in a hurry to try it out and didn't have any kind of acceptable rust agent. I had and old all steel auto pistol that was in such bad shape that I glass beaded it .I had a bottle of old Birchwood Casey Plum Brown and I thought I wonder what this stuff would do as a rust blue agent. it took a little longer to get the desired coat of rust but it did a pretty good job. After about the 3rd. boil out and carding it looked pretty good, and with about 3 more coats and carding it looked great. That was years ago and it still looks good.
David a. Cogburn
I bet you will have some success. Let us know how it comes out. I browned all of the parts on a rifle one time and the results were spectacular. It was as slick and shinny as ceramic objects. Beautiful it was. The problem is, I've never been able to do it again. I don't know what I did to create such.
David a. Cogburn
I forgot to mention this in my post a couple of hours ago. This will work to make cold blue bite a little quicker and it should make rust blue solution to work al little better. I have taken a swab and swabbed polished steel with Purex. It works on some steels better than others. Old Fecker target scopes loved it.
David a. Cogburn
Did you apply the bluing solution on top of it? Or did you remove it before going on with the bluing process?
I have been happy with just starting in with clean steel but would be interested in seeing what Purex would change in the outcome.
I swabbed the purex on the clean polished steel and left it to dry. I didn't have it dripping wet. Like I said, "it works better on some steels than it does on others." .It just gives a slight etch. Most steels will turn a little darker color.(more gray)
David a. Cogburn
Okay. It is worth a try on some scrap to see. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I believe I will try the Laurel Mountain solution. I can practice on old wrenches. We have a new puppy that seems willing to supply a plentiful browning solution.
I have a Euroarms two band Enfield that I have been giving a face lift. It may look good on something like that.
Thanks for all the help, I have an 870 that got smoke damage from a fire as my first experiment. I just need the shop to get warmer before starting. I'll order my rust solution in the mean time.
While waiting for my lanolin to get here I went to Brownells and couldn't find Laurel Mt Bluing, just their Browning. Went to the Laurel Mt site and there's only Browning there that I found. Is this the Browning and Blue the same. Thanks
yes the LM brownijg is the same ... the difference in finish is you don't boil the browning ... it is the hot water boiling that turns the brown to black ( blue kinda ) ...
i have never " browned " but have shot old " browned " guns ... actually an attractive finish, it is shinier than the black rust.
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