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Thread: help with bluing! (not too long)

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    help with bluing! (not too long)

    okay here goes....

    i have a .32acp "ortgies" auto pistol, from the 1920's to the 1930's not sure just how old.
    it seems to me that it was VERY well made. it's not particularly rare but is in nice condition.

    and i want to re-blue it.
    so i took it apart, cleaned it, used 320 grit on all surfaces followed by 600 grit.
    i got out all the dings, nick and scratches from anything visible, and that is ...

    trigger
    grip safety
    frame
    slide

    at first i remembered a similarly "old" pistol that i blued. it was a 1930's "STAR" auto in .38 acp
    i cooked it in potassium nitrate salts for 2 hours and every piece turned out beautiful!

    so i tried it again with this "ortgies" ....
    at the end of the 2 hours it had a baked on scum that was hard to remove and it pitted minorly the surface.
    it took twice as long to get it back to the condition that would allow bluing.
    i noticed that the surfaces under very high magnification had a microporous surface that no amount of sanding, polishing would remove.
    (is that a common occurrence among old guns?)

    then i tried heating the pieces to warmer than touch (not hot) and applied cold blue.
    it was a blotchy mess.

    i removed the bluing and applied oxpho blue cold and while it looks a little better ....it's not perfect by any means.
    is metal porosity common in handgun frames?

    so how do i blue this old boy?

    please after reading this ....don't reply "send it out to be done" by doing that it insults my intelligence and yours
    as well as that would be the obvious answer....but financially not possible.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master

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    One issue with the older pistols and porous metals is the oils that have soaked into them. This is an advantage from preventing rust. But when bluing can create problems. A light sanding or stoning then give it a light acid cleaning followed by a distilled water rinse and then solvent again followed by rinse. Bluing gages that had been surface ground was a lot harder as the metal was too smooth and it just didnt give good results. You might try 1 part polished to 320 give the first application and then lightly polish with steel wool between applications. WIth the 600 grit you may be getting to smooth for the application to take

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

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    Ortgies pistols were well made. I do not have an answer for why the metal is porous.

    Your failures and the porous surfaces suggest rust bluing as a solution.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Gebirgsjager View Post
    Ortgies pistols were well made. I do not have an answer for why the metal is porous.

    Your failures and the porous surfaces suggest rust bluing as a solution.
    yeah ...i thought that as well.

    i don't really consider my attempts as "failures"..... more like 2 attempts and why i should not try these again!

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    A rust blue will be better for your situation......but everything must be clean, or the results will be the same. That means a boiling cleaner, followed by a hot rinse in clean water. All oil and contaminants have to be completely removed.

    Though I've never seen a steel that was really porous, I have run into steel that simply would not polish to a nice finish. It always came out with a "smeared" look to it. I would expect the Ortgies was made with quality steel, they are a very well made pistol, though that doesn't mean it will take the polishing, or bluing solution the same all over.

    As mentioned, you will probably find it better to stop at a lower grit for polishing, the solution will stick much better, and any pits will blend in better. I wouldn't expect heating a part to make much difference with cold blue, but it will with rust blue.

    But no matter what finish you go with, the most important thing is clean parts, nothing will work otherwise. I make holders to avoid touching parts after cleaning, even with a gloved hand. I don't take any chances, re-polishing a part gets old really fast.

  6. #6
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    ok, here goes. Since you said you have Oxpho Blue, try this. Wipe it down with acetone real good, then go over with hair dryer to dry it and warm it up. Take some acetone and degrease some 0000 steel wool and dry it. While the steel is still a little warm dip the wool in the oxpho and rub the bejebbers out of it and keep dipping and applying til the finish you want comes through. My dad showed me this technique over twenty yrs ago. I have done it lots of times over the yrs. Can't hurt to try.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master


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    Sounds like your metal wasn't clean and or your bath temperature wasn't correct. You stated "grit" but you didn't mention what you used, emery cloth or tube polish? The carrier in some stick polishes uses a wax binder to retain the aggregate. When you "hot blue" The temperature starts at 285F up to 310F for nickel steel. You definitely need an accurate stainless steel thermometer. Once the bath reaches temperature, only then do you place your product into the bath, not sooner. The bluing process takes less than ten minutes depending on the freshness of your bath. Bluing salts are composed of sodium hydroxide and sodium nitrate. I have used "homemade" mixtures and some work good and some will damn near kill you. If you wish to do it yourself, Brownell's will provide you, free of charge their bluing instructions for their Oxpho 7 bluing salts. The instructions are pretty much the same for Dulite salts as well. You'll be glad you did. Be sure once your product is blued, be sure to rinse and then neutralize the product (two steps). This will prevent salt creep. when cool, dip in mineral oil ONLY. Do not use any other type of oil, it will make the bluing spot. Once dipped, hang it up to drip, new bluing is tender, wait a couple days to reassemble. Keep aluminum and copper away from you bluing setup, aluminum dissolves on contact and the merest trace of copper will destroy the bath. Wear protective gear, eye protection and an apron and heavy rubber gloves. A bottle of white vinegar close by in case of burns from the salts. You haven't lived until you get splashed with boiling lye. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation, working around it will lower your blood pressure. R.H. Angier wrote a pretty good book on bluing and browning you may want to track down. It will be a big help if you want to use home brewed salt baths. Good luck, and post some pictures when you get it knocked out.

    Update: You can download the bluing instructions directly from their web sight.
    Last edited by Jeff Michel; 03-31-2020 at 08:14 PM.
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  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    Frame porosity = cast as opposed to forged. The other item to consider is flooding the part to allow longer working action can sometimes be detrimental as the solution is caustic and it eating away the surface. Re-read the directions to check working time. Check the frame with a magnet and make sure it is steel and not some pot metal.

    Cleanlyness is next to godless in the finishing world.
    Last edited by Greg S; 04-01-2020 at 03:37 AM.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by mozeppa View Post
    yeah ...i thought that as well.

    i don't really consider my attempts as "failures"..... more like 2 attempts and why i should not try these again!
    I guess I worded that clumsily, and no offense was meant. So I'll rephrase to, In view of your previous experiences...."

    And, you are correct that one bad experience doesn't necessarily rule out trying the same thing again, as circumstances and technique definitely effect outcome.

    Oxpho Blue has usually worked well for me, but never as well as a hot blue. But, it's kind of like other posters have indicated, all metal finishing techniques require thorough prep before you do whatever it is that you've decided to do.

    Hot blue does not work very well, if at all, on cast metal. As far as I know, Ortgies were not cast, and they were made before cast gun parts came into common use. Long before.

    Purchasing salts for hot bluing and building/buying a set-up to include tanks and heat source is not practical for bluing one pistol. There are other concerns besides equipment cost, such as what to do with the overflow from the rinse tank and how to dispose of used salts.
    Most municipalities object to these being directed into their sewer system.

    If bluing is what you desire, I still suggest a rust blue. There are several variations, and some techniques require a humidity cabinet for best success. Dicropan and Belgian bluing are another possibility, basically just requiring a hot and cold water tank (1 each).

    A re-try of the Oxpho Blue preceeded by intensive cleaning of the parts may be worth considering.

    Lots of good information and suggestions in this thread.

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    Go back over it with 320 and stop there.
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  11. #11
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    If you have porous steel, it means that the foundry had rushed the smelting and cast its billets prematurely, before all gaseous inclusions had burned out. Nothing can be done to steel. But if the OP is inclined to make this pistol look good, he could copper plate then chrome or nickel plate it. There are kits for that. They cost a lot of money compared to an old pistol. But one does not have to buy a kit. Buying chemicals in the kit separately costs a fraction of the kit cost. Also, the full bath is not necessary. Galvanizing can be applied with just a few batteries, wires, and a fiberglass tampon soaked in the solution.

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