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A Guide To Metal Refinishing

A Guide To Metal Refinishing

Metal Preparation

There’s nothing quite like the deep colour of a beautifully blued firearm or the authentic patina of a browned muzzleloader. And nothing can help you achieve flawless metal finishing like Birchwood Casey metal finishes.

  1. Removing old blueing and rust is a necessary step before reblueing or browning. First, after removing the stock/forearm and trigger assembly, clean all metal surfaces with a saturated sponge of Birchwood Casey Cleaner-Degreaser and rinse thoroughly with water. Always wear gloves during the preparation and blueing process. Tip: Cleaning and degreasing are critical. Do not cut a corner here. For the best results use Birchwood Casey Cleaner-Degreaser. If you do not have access to it, ordinary dish-washing liquid soap will work as a substitution. When you think it’s clean enough, clean it two more times!
  2. Apply Birchwood Casey Blue & Rush Remover with a saturated swab and allow it to work for two minutes. With a small pad of steel wool (dampened with Blue & Rust Remover), polish the metal lightly to remove old blueing and loosened rust. Continue this process until the metal is shiny.
  3. If the metal suffers from deep scratches and/or pitting, sand the affected areas with fine 280-grit paper followed by a steel wool polish. A file may be needed for deep pits. Tip - When sanding metal surfaces, wrap the paper around a stiff, at backer like a file. In addition to reducing hand fatigue, it will keep surfaces at and edges crisp.
  4. Whatever you do, don’t try and rush metal preparation. Keep polishing until everything looks right. If you don’t, you’ll regret it later. Also, don’t forget the trigger, screw heads, or anything else that shows. Disassemble any multiple-part mechanisms for preparation and metal nishing.
  5. Re-apply the Cleaner & Degreaser, scrub with a sponge and rinse again with cold water. At this point, be careful not to touch the metal with your fingers as this can leave tell-tale marks after blueing caused by the natural oils from your hand.

Tip - When preparing rounded surfaces such as musket and shotgun barrels for browning, take strips of cloth-backed sandpaper or emery cloth and give the barrel a brisk back-and-forth treatment like an old-fashioned shoeshine. This technique cuts mighty fast, so be careful not to cut any unsightly ripples or grooves. Follow up with a good steel wool polishing.


Blueing Application

  1. Apply Birchwood Casey Perma Blue® Paste or Liquid Gun Blue with an applicator swab over the entire surface to be blued. Work as quickly as you can, but remember to be thorough. Rather than blueing the entire surface at one time, you may want to divide the work into 2 or 3 sections.
  2. Allow the blueing to stand on the metal for 30-60 seconds. No longer. Then neutralize the chemical reaction by rinsing immediately and thoroughly with cold water and wipe dry.
  3. After or during rinsing, polish very lightly with fine steel wool to blend the colour if needed. If steel wool is used, you must use Cleaner & Degreaser again to remove any surface oils that may have been introduced. Appraise the blueing for coverage. If streaking exists or you desire a deeper/darker blue, simply repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 until the desired colour is obtained.
  4. Saturate all areas with Birchwood Casey Barricade® Rust Protection and allow your new blueing to cure overnight
  5. Re-assemble your firearm. Your richly blued finish is complete. To keep it looking new, rub on a coat of Barricade Rust Protection from time to time or after each shooting session.


Browning Application

In the old days, gun metal browning was a slow-rust process that involved the proper combination of chemicals and atmospheric conditions to create a thin layer of corrosion on the metal’s surface. It was time- consuming and often an inconsistent Endeavor. Today, browning is quick and easy thanks to Birchwood Casey Plum Brown Barrel Finish. The most important part of the equation is the proper preparation of the surfaces to be browned. If you’re browning an antique muzzleloader or a rough kit weapon, chances are you will need to repair scratched, pitted, rusted or file-marked areas. Refer to the Metal Preparation section when tackling this critical task.

  1. Birchwood Casey Plum Brown Barrel Finish requires heat to activate the authentic browning character of the product (a chemical reaction between the solution and ferrous metal). With the steel properly prepared and cleaned/degreased, apply heat using a butane torch, gas, electric stove, or whatever means is safe and convenient. For best results with a propane torch, use a large flame nozzle and hold it 3-4 inches away from the surface. Holding barrels in a vise can create cold spots (since the heat radiates into the vise). Instead, make a barrel cradle out of a bent coat hanger to eliminate this problem.
  2. Heat evenly by moving the heat source back and forth along the item being browned. Note that heavier areas (like the barrel breech) will take longer to heat and will retain their temperature longer. Also, small parts are more likely to get overheated. So, heat thoroughly to 275°F.. It is not necessary to heat the entire barrel at the same time. The barrel may be heated and finished in sections. Tip - To test the temperature use the sizzle test Drop a small amount of water on the heated surface. If it remains on the metal and evaporates slowly, the metal is too cold. If the water vanishes in an puff of steam, it’s too hot. Ideally, the water will sizzle and dance about as it evaporates. That is when it’s time to apply Plum Brown Barrel Finish
  3. When the ideal temperature of 275°F has been obtained, apply Plum Brown Barrel Finish with a saturated swab in long even strokes. The rich plum brown colour will appear immediately. Tips: 275°F is the target temperature for achieving the Plum Brown Barrel Finish effect. The exact temperature isn’t too critical, but it is important that the temperature be as uniform as possible. For example, a long Kentucky rifle barrel must be heated uniformly so the temperature is neither too high nor too low in any area. An uneven temperature can possibly result in uneven coloration.
  4. As the metal is being browned, you may become concerned at what appears to be a lack of uniformity in both depth and colour. This is usually caused by deposits left over from the chemical reaction. Don’t worry about this. If the colour isn’t too thin, with areas of bright or semi-bright metal showing, everything is going fine. 
  5. As soon as the metal is cool enough to handle, rinse it thoroughly with cold water, dry with a clean cloth, and polish lightly with steel wool. If you desire a deeper, more uniform finish, repeat the entire heating and browning process.
  6. When browning is complete, rub all surfaces down with Barricade Rust Protection. This is very important after rinsing and will penetrate the surface and give you a deep, rich, mahogany- brown permanent coating. Allow to cure for 24 hours.
  7. Reassemble your authentically- browned firearm.

Plum Brown Barrel Finish is a protective coating that will withstand lots of hard use and cleaning chemicals. To keep it good looking, just rub on a coat of Barricade Rust Protection from time to time or after each shooting session.

You can buy a Birchwood Casey Deluxe Perma Blue and Tru-Oil Finishing Kit on our website for refinishing needs.