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Thread: Mark Lee Express Blue #1

  1. #1
    Boolit Man

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Seoul Korea (longing for Free America)

    Mark Lee Express Blue #1

    Not exactly about gunsmithing, butÖ

    I wanted to post about a good experience with Mark Lee Express Blue. This is a rust blue formula designed for double barrel shotguns that canít be exposed to the heat of a hot nitrogen blue for fear of loosening the soft solder joints.

    So hereís my story.

    I need to reblue a Security Six. Actually, there are several things that need new blue, but the Security Six was the catalyst. Iíve been disappointed with the wide range of cold blue formulas out there, so I sent a note to Brownells asking about their Oxpho blue or any other products. The tech wrote back and said that Oxpho was fine, but for large jobs I might find the Mark Lee product gives better results and it is, in his opinion, the easiest to use of all the rust blues.

    Easy sounds good to me, so I ordered a bottle. Then I read the instructions (gasp).

    Metal prep is standard. Strip off old finish. Polish to 320 or 400 grit, and no finer. Degrease. Degrease. Heat to 200 degrees with a propane torch (I used an electric heat gun), swab on two coats of the solution. Boil for 5 minutes. Card off with fine steel wool. Repeat 6-10 times until desired finish is obtained. Neutralize in a solution of 1.5 pounds baking soda to 1 gallon of water. Well, more or less thatís what the instructions say.

    Well, I get credit for reading the instructions anyway. So now, off to that Security Six. Well, errr, not so much. Thatís a big project and I have this 1911 slide that needs to get blued, so lets start with that. Slides are easier than whole revolvers. So, off to work on the poor slide.

    I sanded the slide down to 400 grit. Now that doesnít really sound like polish to me, but Iím following directions here. Then I degreased with brake cleaner. A quick scrub with simple green and hot water to be sure (I like simple green for detailed gun cleaning). Then a bath in MEK. While I was at it, I degreased two pads of OO steel wool for carding (not in the instructions, but I learned this the hard way using cold blues). Of course, I used rubber gloves during this cleaning process to keep my greasy finger prints out of the final finish.

    Next step. Put on clean cotton gloves (itís in the directions after all). Heat part and swab with solution. Twice This went just fine, though if you try it use a tiny amount of the solution at first cause it runs everywhere. (Good thing for me I put some saran wrap and paper towels down on the counter first.) The slide began rusting immediately. I bright orange rust that scared the heck out of me. Alas, I neednít have worried. Into the pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. It became apparent that I needed a fixture to keep the part off the bottom of the pot because holding it with tongs was going to get old quick.

    After 5 minutes, I pull the part from the water to find a nice thick black oxide with some orange spots. OK, this is progress. With my clean cotton gloves on, I carded off the oxide Ė donít be afraid to scrub to smooth out the finish. Not too hard, just enough to get an even finish with no spots. Ok Ė looking good. Now, off to the garage to degrease some iron wire leftover from a project. Armed with my ďfixtureĒ of bent wires to hold the slide, itís back to the kitchen. And no, my wife wasnít home.

    Put on cotton gloves. Heat part. Swab two coats. Boil for 5 minutes. Card. Repeat. I put on 4 coats and was very satisfied with the color. Could have done more, but I decided to quit while I was ahead.

    The last step is to neutralize. Again, I followed instructions, but I sure couldnít get that much baking soda to go into solution and stay there. At best, it was a suspension that precipitated out whenever I stopped stirring the pot. So much for instructions.

    Rinse, Dry and oil. I oiled with a great product called CorrosionX. I like this stuff a lot. I goes on easy, stays put (relatively) and works good for steel mold blocks, dies, and guns. It wonít replace Edís Red, but it works well for a lot of things that Edís doesnít.

    So thatís it. Good results for less than $20 and a couple hours of my time. It actually looks a lot like the blue on older Colts Ė deep blue, with a little tinge of grey somewhere in the background. Now I just need to get after that Security SixÖ

    Below are some before and after pictures (the frame is stainless). Not great pix, but you get the idea.
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  2. #2
    Moderator Emeritus

    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    I've also used the ML stuff, and it did a very good job for me, too. I was having a little trouble until I realized that adding the lid to my boiling tank of hot water raised the temp just enough to make it work a lot better and a lot faster. Have also used it at home on stove top in a big enameled pot with a lid. That lid made just enough difference in temp of the metal both times to make a significant difference in how it worked on my gun.

    Also, here's another tip. To degrease steel wool pads for carding the rust between coats, just lay a pad on a nonflamable surface and light it with a cigarette lighter. It'll burn all the oil out of the steel wool. JUST DON'T PICK IT UP FOR A WHILE SO IT'LL BE COOL ENOUGH NOT TO BURN YOUR FINGERS BADLY AND VERY QUICKLY. Don't ask me how I learned that, OK? ;^)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    S Texas
    I'm partial to Laurel Mountain Forge's browning solution, which can also be used for rust blueing. It is very forgiving in terms of oil contamination. You don't have to be a clean Nazi to get good results. I apply it, let it rust, and place the part in a container (PVC pipe for barrels and barreled actions, bread pans for smaller parts). Then I pour boiling distilled water over the part into the container. I card with an old wool sock. Takes about three applications for most metals. Neutralize with baking soda/water, then oil. Cheap and easy.

    Here's an old Noble Arms single shot .22 I refinished.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master

    Boz330's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Central Kentucky
    Ditto here, I used it on a BPCR barrel and was very, very happy with the results. I had the same problem with the baking soda. The stuff laying on the bottom of the tank can't be doing anything and even stirring it didn't get it all moving. My problem was that the pan I was using held 5 gal, that is one he!! of a lot of BS. Next time I will try just a little more than what will go into solution. The process is a little time consuming, but not as bad as a rust box, and for the most part can be done with available stuff for small things. I actually got a 40 inch tank to do the boiling since I have a couple more projects to do.

    GUNFIRE! The sound of Freedom!

  5. #5
    Boolit Master rattletrap1970's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Torrington, CT.
    Here are some pics and and explanation of the Rust Bluing I do:
    Here's another one I did.

    Here is a Stevens Tip-up single shot pistol that a buddy of mine inherited. It was in a tacklebox all rusted up. The nickel finish was shot so I Rust blued it and Niter blued the screws. Sanded the grips a bit and put 5 or 6 coats of gloss tung oil on them.

    All in all I'm pleased.

    I use either Brownells slow rust blue or Mark Lee's Express Blue (Both available from Brownells, both work well, but Mark Lee is faster). If you heat up the parts over a clean flame until it's almost too hot to hold and rub the express blue on it will rust almost immediately. Once it's dry, boil it in distilled water for about 10 min. Never throw out your boiling water just keep adding distilled water. Blow off the parts with compressed air then card them (Brush them off) with a carding brush (.002 thick wire brush, they are very soft). Heat and repeat. I Keep doing this till the parts will no longer rust when the stuff is applied. The number of times varies with the alloy of steel you are using. When you are done rub a good oil like RIG, 3 in1, or fine sewing machine oil. I like sewing machine oil because it won't gum up. Let it sit well oiled for 24 hours, wipe with a soft cloth to absorb most of the oil. The parts seem to get even a bit darker after the oiling. I prefer the Mark Lee as it is faster.
    Last edited by rattletrap1970; 03-28-2011 at 07:12 AM.

  6. #6
    Boolit Mold
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Rattletrap1970, your photos have vanished. Might try ImageShack.us. I've got photos years old that they still host with no problem. The Attach Files feature of the Advanced email editor will host them on the forum's server, so that will preserve them even more certainly.

    Sorry to drag an old thread back up, but thought I'd put in a couple of tips:

    Everyone has mentioned distilled water, but not that the reasons for it. One is to avoid water marks on the finished work. It does eventually pick up traces of the rusting solution. Just watch for water marks to see when to change it (if you ever need to). Whatever you do, avoid hard water. That's not just for the water marks, but I've actually had super hard water (35 grains per gallon dissolved solids) fail to convert at all even after 15 minutes of boiling.

    Deionized water is as good as distilled water. I used to drive up to the local Culligan dealer with a 5 gallon plastic carboy and they were kind enough to fill it. It is just water run through a series of highly backflushed (to remove salt) softener tanks until it reads high enough resistance to be called deionized. A lot of laboratories use this method in place of distilled water. I imagine water from a reverse-osmosis system would be good, too.

    Baking soda dip solution is a PITA and unnecessary. Formula 409 and other strongly alkaline grease cutting cleaners (the ones that say not to use them on aluminum) will penetrate really well and neutralize acids. I got onto this fighting after-rust in cold blues and Parkerizing. It stops the problem completely. After spraying the work down, rinse with hot tap water to remove most of it, then pour a little boiling distilled water over it to clear potential water marks from your tap water. The heat helps the metal dry fast and tends to leave any free iron oxidized slightly blue, which helps prevent corrosion, too. Then apply the oil of your choice. I prefer a preservative that is also a water displacing oil sold by Shooter's Solutions for phosphate finishes like Parkerizing. Following it up with LPS-3, Corrosion-X, or Boeshield T9 will get you longer term protection.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master rattletrap1970's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Torrington, CT.
    I'll fix the links, I re-ordered my photos so the links got screwed up.

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    I had mixed results with the Mark Lee stuff. The tech at Brownell's suggested Belgian Blue and it woked alot better for me. I also found that it works alot better if you lightly heat the part just before swabbing on the solution. I degrease my steel wool with MEK. The fire caused residue that got all over the metal parts.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master robroy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    I used Belgian Blue on a double shotgun once and got good results. I might like to try this Mark Lee stuff. I just haven't tried anything other than hot tank bluing on bolt guns and that is what the next 2 projects are. Any tips on not messing up the inside surfaces of the receiver using this method?

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    May 2005
    I started using the Pilkinton rust blue from Brownells. I chose that I guess because it was the most expensive in the catalog at the time. I did 2 handguns and a Marlin rifle with mixed results. I switched to the Laurel Mountain formula and had much better results. More even color and less streaking. I did a couple more rifles and I'm in the process of doing a side by side double shotgun for a friend that made the nice stainless steel tank I have for boiling the long parts. I didn't do the neutralizing thing with baking soda, but boiled the parts again after the last carding. Seems to work OK. Also read somewhere that a fellow that did rust blueing on some really high dollar English double rifles and shotguns, would cure the finished parts in used motor oil for a day or so, then scrub them down with rough paper towels. I'm guessing the brown paper hand wipes or some such thing.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    I've used L/M for years now with excellent results. It can be pretty aggressive when the humidity & temp is up there so you have to watch that unless you really want a heavy matted finish.

    Shorter rusting times, slightly lower temp and humidity will get you a finer grained finish. Cut the soln with distilled water 1/1 and then even 3/1, 4/1 for the later coats to slow down the rusting and avoid matting the finish even more.

    You don't need much of a coating of rust on the metal to produce a coating of blue. Allowing the rusting to really build up only increases the risk of the metal pitting/matting underneath. All that extra nice looking coating of rust doesn't help with the color produced for that coating cycle. A light even coating will give a much better result than a heavy coating of rust each cycle.

    Works well for damascus finish too with ferric chloride for an etch in between rustings. Boil if you want black/white pattern,,don't boil if your want brown/white pattern. Card very thoroughly under running water w/ steel wool after etching (and boiling beforehand if doing a black/white pattern).

    I spray the cold bbls down with most any common all purpose cleaner to neutralize. Works better than the bakingsoda thing plus it's one less trip thru the tank and a chance to spoil the finish. The cleaners are + PH (think I have that right),,alkaline . I haven't gotten any after rust using them, but used to get after rust with L/M trying other methods of neutralizing. After rust was one drawback of the stuff.

    After rinsing the spray cleaner off and drying the bbls,,and making sure there's no water still trapped betw the ribs, they get a coating of any decent gun oil like G96 or Clenzoil and sit for 24hrs or so. Then wipe them down again. After another day or so I clean up the polish on the flats, lugs, muzzle etc, reinstall sight beads, ejectors,etc.

    For a 'hot' rust blue or express rust blue, I still use Mark Lee soln. Works about the best I've ever used and I've probably tried most of them.

    I stay away from the older stuff with any mercury in it now. Probably had too much of it already. It does appear to me that that 'new' Belgian Blue being sold seems to have mercury in it. I got some to try out. I used alot of the old Herters soln years back. Figured they may have gotten the merc out of it, but it looks to still be in there by a quick test on a piece of brass. Kind of surprised me with all the problems it can cause.

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