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1873 Restoration Project
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January 25, 2022 - 10:16 pm
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Good afternoon – thought I’d document this here.  Forgot I had registered for the site and reached out to Bob.1873Win for a couple questions.  He helped me a ton.  As I did more research I realized I needed to see Mike Hunters article on wood – was all set to sign up and found the email was already in use.  Sure enough I registered and paid in the past and had forgotten.  How’s that for a 40yr old brain?

Either way…..

I picked up a 32 cal 1873 at an auction a while back.  I told Bob I overpaid, and boy did I.  I knew it was sloppily refinished but that was just the start…  I’m so far down the rabbit hole there’s no going back now!

I got home and snapped some pictures.  I sent them over to Bob and he pointed out the poor forearm fitment, the “refinish”, the incorrect butt plate, the incorrect front sight.  Here’s the rifle as purchased –

1873 32

I tore down the rifle – it’s got a cracked toggle link, a broken safety bar, and it’s got the wrong magazine end plug (no tab, but needed a tab).  The magazine has the mid pin driven through in a different location than what the original location was.  Odd.  The follower is probably one of the most… ingenious?… I’ve ever seen.  About half of the case head end of an empty brass shell case has been cut and soldered to the follower.  Double odd.  Keep in mind, this is my first 1873.

I ordered parts from Homestead and Win Bob…  Hammer (1/4 safety is broken), Ejector Pin, Magazine Tube, Follower, Lever and Carrier springs, new butt stock and foreend, trigger safety bar and spring.

I received the wood yesterday.  The magazine tube that was on the rifle doesn’t fit the predrilled center hole of my new fore-end – looking closely, starting to click…  the magazine tube also doesn’t snug into the recess in the receiver, its too large diameter.  Ok wait.  So THATS why there’s a double mark for the hanger pin – the tube was taken off another rifle.

Yep- somebody took a large cal mag tube, adapted the follower to push a 32cal bullet clear of the receiver and feed, and hung it on the rifle with large cal wood – thats why the foreend wasn’t tight to the barrel.

Ordered a foreend cap, hanger, and tube spring for 32cal.

With the exception of a set of links (still searching) and a correct front sight and butt plate (those are luxuries I can swap out later, I can build as is), I think I actually have all of the parts if I include what was ordered today.

I’m planning on a Mark Lee Express Blue for the rifle.  I was waffling between a plum brown or blue and I think I’ve decided on blue.  ( I emailed Mike H about a refinish but didn’t hear back, I understand, I’m sure projects like this people can flake out on.  I get it. )  I’ve used the Mark Lee product before on a 1903 Hammerless and it turned out brilliantly.  I read about using the ML product as a slow rust blue and will continue to research.  I bought the 1930s Blueing book and found the Win recipe, but I dont have a way – AT ALL – to get the ingredients listed in any sort of manageable quantities.  (By the way, it is just a fascinating read.)  I know I like the ML product, so that’s the direction at this point.  I’m going to nitre blue pins/screws.  I’m not near advanced enough to try any sort of case hardening.  For the wood I’m working with the alkanet powder and most likely a tung oil finish.  I’ve got three trials going on using some scrap english walnut now.

Alkanet steeped in alcohol.  Foam brushed onto the wood gives me a light pink hue, I’ve experimented with differing number of coats, but the red is still VERY subdued under either BLO or Tung Oil.

Alkanet steeped in Tung oil.

Alkanet steeped in mineral spirits.

When I use tung oil for stock work I usually cut the first two applications 1/2 with mineral spirits.  My logic here is to see if regular (non-tinted) tung oil cut 1/2 with the alkanet-tinted mineral spirits will bring more red.  Also want to see what alkanet infused tung oil looks like.  I cannot imagine that the fine craftsmen at Winchester were spending hours poring over the stocks – so I’m looking for a relatively straightforward process that would’ve been close to correct and not super labor intensive.  Not because I don’t want to do the work, but because I know that whatever was done for standard wood wouldn’t have been a labor intensive process.

 

I know I’ll never get the money out of the gun.  But it’s not another rifle broken down for parts, and thankfully we’ve got two kids that both are into my collection and I’m confident this one will be around for a good while longer.  Anyway, though I’d share.  As I start actually building back up – the blueing and the stock fitment/finishing – I’ll add pictures.  Thank you for this great community and the resources you all have created.

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January 26, 2022 - 1:10 am
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Thanks for taking us along on your adventure, Pete. Looking forward to hearing more as things progress.

 

Mike

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January 26, 2022 - 10:59 am
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Good for you ! 
it’s hard to accept you have bought something that wasn’t what you thought, but putting the time and effort into sorting out your gun to something you’re proud of, is something I look forward to watching .

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January 26, 2022 - 7:37 pm
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Thanks both of you.

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January 28, 2022 - 3:00 am
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There`s a set of `73 toggles for sale on Ebay now.  Can`t speak for the price.  Laugh

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January 28, 2022 - 4:13 pm
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wayne spears said
There`s a set of `73 toggles for sale on Ebay now.  Can`t speak for the price.  Laugh  

Thanks Wayne – I keep my eyes open.  The 169 set is for a 22lr without the bolt tab, the 250 set is for a 66.

There are individuals available in the 110-150 range.  Right after the first of the year there were a handful of SETS that came through at the 150 range.  I missed those because I wasn’t quite ready to get started.  I didn’t know how RARE it was to see good sets listed.  Oh well, live and learn.

I ordered the Lee Shaver replacements but unfortunately one of them came bent, so I sent them back.  The real kick in the teeth was the day after I ordered the Lee Shaver set, a nice condition original set listed at 160-170 on ebay and I didn’t buy them because I had ordered the Lee Shaver replacements.  Haven’t seen a nice set listed since, three weeks later…

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January 28, 2022 - 4:49 pm
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Been working with the Alkanet.

Here are the recipes that I’ve tried

Anything with BLO… the BLO goes darker faster (in earlier/fewer) applications, but next to the Tung Oil I feel like I’m losing quite a bit of grain detail.  I like BLO for ease of application, but I just don’t like it compared to Tung.  Tung for me is more difficult to work with, because if you make a mistake and rush even a single application you’ll lock in haze under your top layer and the only solution is to buff/sand it back down below that “mistake” layer.  Further work will include Tung, unless there’s a compelling reason to keep on with BLO.

2tbsp Alkanet steeped in denatured alcohol. 
 + Nonmixed/clear BLO or Tung Oil.
Used a foam brush on test Eng Walnut.  It imparts a bit of a pink tone, for me, anything less than 10 applications of altering directions with the foam brush didn’t impart enough color to be even noticeable through clear Tung or BLO.

2tbsp Alkanet in a half jelly jar of Tung
Usually I cut my Tung oil with mineral spirits for first couple applications.  In this, I just put the TO on full strength – without alkanet/alcohol pre-stain.  It’s a rich color and the Alkanet has added some warmth, but I don’t know that I’m seeing the red I’m looking for.  The other concern I have is that the red is purely in the finish, and I don’t want it to rub/lessen too much with wear, or the alkanet to stain other things through wear.

2tbsp Alkanet steeped in denatured alcohol – 10-12 “coats”
+ 2tbsp Alkanet in a half jelly jar of Tung Oil.
+ Mineral Spirits
I cut the Alkanet Tung 50/50 with regular MS.  This imparted color more than regular, clear, Tung, of course.  But still not the richness I’m looking for.  I’ll continue a couple more layers/applications and see what it warms to.

2tbsp Alkanet steeped in denatured alcohol – 10-12 “coats”
+ 2tbsp Alkanet in a half jelly jar of Tung Oil.
+ 2tbsp Alkanet in a half jelly jar of Mineral Spirits.
For this I cut the Tung with MS, layed on top of the Alk/DenAlc “stain.”  This, predicably, imparted the most color and warmth.  I’m still early in on “coats” here so I’m interested to see how this warms with more coats.  After a couple with the MS mix, Ill go to straight Tung, and then finish with clear tung for a couple applications.

Alkanet-Trials-first-coats.jpgImage Enlarger

 

Next is to continue to add coats to each test till I get to 4-5ish and see where it shakes out.  Dont know yet if I’m set on finishing with PTO only (plus the Alkanet mixes), or a varnish on top.

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January 28, 2022 - 6:16 pm
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Have you tried a walnut stain mixed with a mahogany stain then the boiled linseed oil?  The mahogany will add the red you want.  Stains will bring out the grain.  Tung oil will add more sheen than the BLO.  A little Tru oil in the BLO will add some sheen but not all of the work.  Tru oil can be sanded between coats.  When you get the sheen you want and everything is flat don’t sand the last coat.

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January 28, 2022 - 6:48 pm
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Here’s the large cal to small cal follower I pulled from the rifle…

20220128_114537.jpgImage Enlarger

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January 28, 2022 - 7:52 pm
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He

Chuck said
Have you tried a walnut stain mixed with a mahogany stain then the boiled linseed oil?  The mahogany will add the red you want.  Stains will bring out the grain.  Tung oil will add more sheen than the BLO.  A little Tru oil in the BLO will add some sheen but not all of the work.  Tru oil can be sanded between coats.  When you get the sheen you want and everything is flat don’t sand the last coat.  

Hey thank you – haven’t gone the stain route yet.  Want to see how this tung/alk warms it up.  Put the second coat on all samples, the most promising (the one 50% cut with ms/alk), and from here out that one gets uncut tung/alk.

I don’t usually take my tung finishes to the high polish level you see on furniture or fancy doubles.  When not polished and 30 thin layered to death, it can have an eggshell finish, which is where I’m looking to land.  Not gloss, not totally flat.

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January 29, 2022 - 12:02 am
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Take a look at this.

I like my guns to look the way the factory did them.  Some new guns have the flat finish tung oil will give you.  Tru oil will come out a high gloss.  The BLO is the least gloss and a mixture of the 2 will give some gloss.  I bet you know this already but you need to test on the actual wood you will be using.  No two  pieces will stain the same way.  On a long board one end will sometimes stain differently.

Good luck and keep us informed.

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January 29, 2022 - 3:22 am
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Chuck said
Take a look at this….

The only point I disagree with him is the impact of not continuously maintaining the finish of a pure tung oil finish.  Once the original finish is achieved, it’s more maintenance than a modern poly finish, sure, but it’s not like if you miss a year or two the finish will cloud, frost up, or die, you know?

 

Considering danish oil mixed with or over the alkanet tung.  It’s the sheen we’re looking for on an original varnish finished gun I believe.

What I use is pure tung.

I do enjoy the experimentation, thanks for the input.

 

Heck I might even try alkanet in Danish oil.

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February 7, 2022 - 3:43 pm
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I’ve continued to mess around as parts come in.  I’m not sure I can get it dark enough using just alkanet.  I guess so much of the darkness we see today in stocks is from age.  The alkanet mixture will throw a pinkish/reddish tint to the wood pretty well, but as soon as any finish/oil hits it, it really just disappears.  I’ll keep working with it.

The stains that I’ve messed with (I’ve got a red mohogany stain on hand and a handful of oak) give deeper color.

I was really trying to stay with what I found in the magazine – both from color and make-up, and M Hunter seems to point away from BLO.

TruOil give me a relatively soft, pleasant finish, but I think it needs to be punched up a bit to get closer to the factory varnish on standard wood.

 

I’m going to try evaporust to remove the existing wipe-on browning finish that was applied to the rifle. 

On another note, I received the carrier lever and hand lever springs from Winchester Bob and they look like high quality springs.  The only bummer there is they shipped with two clearly different screw heads.  One is more flat with a slight dome, the other is a higher almost pointed dome head with a noticeably narrower slot than the other.  I emailed him to see if he would supply another of one or the other, so at least the screw heads are the same.

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February 7, 2022 - 5:20 pm
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CoRifleman said
I’ve continued to mess around as parts come in.  I’m not sure I can get it dark enough using just alkanet.  I guess so much of the darkness we see today in stocks is from age.  The alkanet mixture will throw a pinkish/reddish tint to the wood pretty well, but as soon as any finish/oil hits it, it really just disappears.  I’ll keep working with it.

The stains that I’ve messed with (I’ve got a red mohogany stain on hand and a handful of oak) give deeper color.

I was really trying to stay with what I found in the magazine – both from color and make-up, and M Hunter seems to point away from BLO.

TruOil give me a relatively soft, pleasant finish, but I think it needs to be punched up a bit to get closer to the factory varnish on standard wood.

 

I’m going to try evaporust to remove the existing wipe-on browning finish that was applied to the rifle. 

On another note, I received the carrier lever and hand lever springs from Winchester Bob and they look like high quality springs.  The only bummer there is they shipped with two clearly different screw heads.  One is more flat with a slight dome, the other is a higher almost pointed dome head with a noticeably narrower slot than the other.  I emailed him to see if he would supply another of one or the other, so at least the screw heads are the same.  

Try a walnut stain.  I did a stock many years ago and finished with many coats of Truoil.  I ended up with a very high gloss.  I have repaired a few stocks and the walnut stains with the right mix have always worked.  I don’t sand the whole stock but just match the repair area.

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February 25, 2022 - 1:00 am
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I cannot help but notice the dark-ish gold hue on most of the metal. On the right side of the magazine tube and forearm cap is a small area of bluing. I wonder what it is that that was used on your rifle. Does anyone know what it is that’s been used on the metal of this Winchester to give it that color? 

Angel ? 

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February 25, 2022 - 4:36 am
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Sixguns said
I cannot help but notice the dark-ish gold hue on most of the metal. On the right side of the magazine tube and forearm cap is a small area of bluing. I wonder what it is that that was used on your rifle. Does anyone know what it is that’s been used on the metal of this Winchester to give it that color? 

Angel ?   

I have no idea for certain but just guessing. I imagine the gun had a re-blue job and then to make it look aged back a solvent was brushed over it. I suppose something slightly acidic would change the dark rust blue to the lighter brown seen. It was likely wiped on and off until the desired color came out. But obviously not evenly applied, as some protected areas still have the bluing. Possibly done with something mildly acidic like apple cider vinegar.  

Just a thought.

Sincerely,

Maverick

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February 26, 2022 - 2:04 am
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Maverick, Thank you for the explanation. Way too many Bubbas out there. Angel

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September 10, 2022 - 3:13 pm
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Apologies first – I didn’t take any “along the way” pictures.

First the bad – I botched the foream shaping, and ended up shorter on one side.  It’s leaving a gap at the nose cap.  Might try my hand at another sometime down the road.  This was a homestead blank, so no original wood was harmed in the process.  🙂  Also, I don’t know how to case harden.

The rest – I used alkanet steeped denatured alcohol for a couple passes for stock coloring, finished with alkanet steeped tung oil and japan dryer – I’m at 4 coats on the wood and may continue to build.  I used Mark Lee Express Blue for all parts except screws.  Screws I used stump remover crystals melted down – Could have gone darker on them (either hotter or longer).  The stainless carding wheel didn’t like the edges of the octagon barrel – so if I undertake another of these I’ll just use denim for the carding.  I replaced the hammer, tube, hanger, hanger pin, end plug, follower, spring, toggles (Lee Shavers work WONDERFULLY), touched up the sear to not jump off the hammer (it was worn more at a lesser angle on one side of the face so I evened and slightly sharpened the angle to match the new hammer), extractor pin, a handful of screws, forearm cap, forearm, butt and buttplate, and the springs for the lifter and lever.  There might be others I’m forgetting.

The good – I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.  Yes, bummed a bit about the forearm gap, but maybe that’s a project for another day.  Bluing is gorgeous and even (to me – I know it’s not “corrrect”), gun runs very slick, locks up nice and tight.

This is the first rifle I’ve ever complete blued and despite being time consuming because of number of small parts that needed refinishing/rebluing, I enjoyed it.  I considered a browning solution, and have a couple on hand, but I just wasn’t as confident in the color I would get.  I’m familiar with the Mark Lee product from various pistols.

At any rate, here are the pictures.  Hope you all enjoy, and thank you to all that offered help.

1873 32-20

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September 12, 2022 - 2:47 am
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Nicely done! You’ll always see more flaws than most casual observers. I agree that the wood needs a bit more fill and finish. Blue looks good to me and I’m tickled that it runs as it should. Take it to the range and educate a few black gun fans! I like it!

 

Mike

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September 12, 2022 - 3:51 am
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TXGunNut said
Nicely done! You’ll always see more flaws than most casual observers. I agree that the wood needs a bit more fill and finish. Blue looks good to me and I’m tickled that it runs as it should. Take it to the range and educate a few black gun fans! I like it!

 

Mike

  

Thanks Mike!  Yes, dies at on the way, and I’ve got a VERY small amount of brass on hand.  Can’t wait to send some down the pipe.  I think I’ll just keep adding a coat of Tung every few days for a couple weeks and see where it’s at.

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