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1920’s Winchester blueing process
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March 7, 2024 - 4:16 am
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What processes did Winchester use in the 20’s for blueing lever action barrels, receivers, butt plates and levers?  I have had a few of the era with the flaking receivers but have not seen that with the other parts.  The receivers from this era really looked “flaked” \with sharp edges between blueing and bare patina metal vs smooth transitions due to wear.

I’m assuming the barrels were rust blued but what about the other parts like butt plates, levers and bolts?

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March 7, 2024 - 4:45 am
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JC said I’m assuming the barrels were rust blued but what about the other parts like butt plates, levers and bolts?
  

You’re right about brls, but by the ’20s, rcvrs were suspended in a heated chamber & exposed to powdered charcoal blown in, or otherwise made to circulate around them; “machine bluing” was the name used to differentiate this process from the much older one of packing the parts in charcoal in sealed iron containers, but maybe this older method continued in use for smaller parts.

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March 8, 2024 - 12:55 am
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I always figured the frames were finished with a different process, “charcoal” I think I’ve heard, probably a misnomer of the machine blueing Clarence mentioned.  I thought this was the case because only the receivers/frames flaked vs the rust blued barrels and other parts.

That still leaves the question of how the other parts were blued—butt plates, levers, forend caps and screws.  Does anyone know the answer about the other parts?  Hard to believe they were rust blued because of how labor intensive that is.  If they were machine/charcoal blued why don’t those parts show flaking?

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March 8, 2024 - 2:24 am
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JC said
 If they were machine/charcoal blued why don’t those parts show flaking? 

It was the high nickel content of the rcvrs that caused flaking; presumably the smaller parts were made of a diff alloy with lower nickel content. 

I’ve never heard of any detailed description of factory metal finishing methods having been found in existing factory records.  The procedures (which of course changed over time) were probably too complicated to be reduced to a written formula, & had to be passed on from one worker to another, which is the craft tradition.

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March 8, 2024 - 5:52 pm
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Folks,  The best guidelines on finishing metal was published in our “Collector” years ago by our ex-President and restoration practitioner, Mike Hunter.  I currently don’t have my keys to access my strong room but will circle back with the year and so on of the article.   WELL, CRAP!  I’ll go get them and respond now before I forget!  OK,  Look up the Fall 2014 issue, pages 28-30.  Will everyone accept his descriptions as to how exactly Winchester REALLY DID IT?  Its up to you but I doubt you will find anything better in describing the processes for metal finishing.  My take at least.  Tim

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March 8, 2024 - 8:44 pm
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I wanted to read the article on bluing in the 2014 magazine but it was awfully small for 84 year old eyes. I thought well i will blow it up to 200%. No luck, I will print it, again no luck. I am in need of advice from someone smarter than me!!! Don

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March 8, 2024 - 8:50 pm
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tim tomlinson said
Folks,  The best guidelines on finishing metal was published in our “Collector” years ago by our ex-President and restoration practitioner, Mike Hunter.  I currently don’t have my keys to access my strong room but will circle back with the year and so on of the article.   WELL, CRAP!  I’ll go get them and respond now before I forget!  OK,  Look up the Fall 2014 issue, pages 28-30.  Will everyone accept his descriptions as to how exactly Winchester REALLY DID IT?  Its up to you but I doubt you will find anything better in describing the processes for metal finishing.  My take at least.  Tim

  

Thanks for finding this, Tim.  I understand “retort” to mean the rotating furnace, so its rotation would disperse the charcoal particles evenly, but I wonder how “placed loosely in the retort” should be interpreted.  Were the parts, for ex, suspended from hooks or placed on racks? 

Here’s the article for anyone else interested in reading it:

https://winchestercollector.org/magazines/201409/31/#zoom=z

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March 8, 2024 - 8:56 pm
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86Win said
I wanted to read the article on bluing in the 2014 magazine but it was awfully small for 84 year old eyes. I thought well i will blow it up to 200%. No luck, I will print it, again no luck. I am in need of advice from someone smarter than me!!! Don

  

Don, 

See my attached screenshot…hit that little “+” sign (it’s a “-” in the pic because I already pressed it) and then use the slider to adjust the zoom level. See if that helps?

 

Screenshot-2024-03-08-145154.pngImage Enlarger

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March 8, 2024 - 8:58 pm
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86Win said
I wanted to read the article on bluing in the 2014 magazine but it was awfully small for 84 year old eyes. I thought well i will blow it up to 200%. No luck, I will print it, again no luck. I am in need of advice from someone smarter than me!!! Don

My 80 yr old eyes couldn’t read it either, but did you notice the 4 small arrows in a square at the bottom of the page, opposite the “loudspeaker” image?  Touching them will enlarge the page, then move up & down, or sideways, with the directional arrows of your keyboard.

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March 9, 2024 - 12:00 am
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Folks,  Sorry about the readability issues.  Initially of course I just read my magazine using reading glasses.  So–after reading of problems on screen, I called it up on my desktop.  Again, if its within arms length, I have to use readers, so did and it worked for me.  Clarence I guess has the next best solution.  Being I had to wear glasses or contacts my entire life to see anything beyond my nose up to two years ago and cataract surgery, I do empathize!  In very short, he says the “machine” or carbonia blue process was much easier and produced greater throughput per machine.  But it was the version of blue that the receivers would ‘flake’ with.  As to Clarence asking about the retort, his guess is as good as mine on what really constitutes a retort.  IF I recall correctly from chemistry in high school a retort excludes incoming oxygen.  About the best I can do now!  PM me if you need further info or help with the article.  Tim

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March 9, 2024 - 1:24 am
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tim tomlinson said IF I recall correctly from chemistry in high school a retort excludes incoming oxygen.
  

My understanding also, so Mike’s description of “open hearth trough” used in the traditional charcoal method is surprising; most other references to the process use terms like “sealed vessel” or “airtight box.”  Here’s a report of charcoal bluing in an open vessel that refers to “blotches” caused my exposure to air:  https://www.americanhunter.org/content/home-charcoal-bluing-test/

Many discussions of process can be found on-line, but none I’ve seen explain exactly the chemical reaction caused by exposure to heated charcoal; obviously the steel isn’t being rusted, so what is happening? 

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March 9, 2024 - 1:26 am
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Jeremy, I found the little + sign and it did the trick.

Thanks to all of you who helped this old guy. Don

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March 9, 2024 - 4:00 am
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86Win said
Jeremy, I found the little + sign and it did the trick.

Thanks to all of you who helped this old guy. Don

  

Perfect! Good, because my next tech tip was to throw it out the window 😀

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March 13, 2024 - 5:50 am
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Thanks for the replies, all!  I read the 2014 article and it sure seems all parts were machine or charcoal blued in the 20’s era except the barrels and mag tubes.

So it seems flaking receivers were due to the alloy, not a different process on the receiver plus smaller parts like levers and butt plates.  
This era era frames in nice shape really show a nice blueing.  The blue still looks different to me than the small parts, though.  The receiver blue is shiny yet “blue” vs the 1900s Colts and Smiths which showed a shiny black.  
My favorite blue besides 20’s Winchesters is pre-war Colt’s guns, a soft lustrous finish which really looks bluish not black.  I am not a fan of Winchester sandblasted receivers like the M54 or M70, they look dull gray.  To my mind, strangely enough, the 1970s M9422 receivers have a similar looking finish to the 1920s Winchesters, actual shiny bluish vs wet black licorice like the late 94’s or the Colt Python Royal Blue.

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March 22, 2024 - 1:58 pm
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Hey guys… It’s been a while since I’ve been on the forum.

I’ll try and provide some feedback on the questions & comments posted so far, keep in mind that I’m away from my research information, so this will be off the top of my head.

To the best of my determination Winchester did not change the steel composition, they were made from low carbon steel about equivalent to today’s SAE 1018/1020. Winchester referred to this steel as “Gun Steel” I have had receivers tested if that helps.  I do not believe that the flaking is due to the composition of the steel, no nickel in the receiver steels.  Winchester’s Nickel barrel steel contained approximately 3 ½ % nickel.

Charcoal Bluing:  When wood/bone charr is heated, it starts off gassing Carbon Monoxide & Carbon Dioxide, since CO2 is heavier than air it provides a protective envelope over the steel thus reducing exposure to air.

Machine Bluing: This was a way to automate the charcoal bluing process and remove much of the hand labor. The parts were placed in a purpose built rack,  the rack was placed in a drum (think something like a washing machine drum) and all of this was placed in a container that would contain the heat and smoke. A mixture of charcoal and a proprietary oil was put in the drum, the container was sealed, and heated.  The drum containing the charr/oil mixture rotated around the fixtured parts constantly dropping the charr/oil mixture over the parts, this eliminated the need of the hand burnishing for charcoal bluing.

The oil mixture, I have the original brand name, but the true ingredient has been lost to time, to the best of my research  it was a upper cylinder lubricant for steam engines.

Respectfully

 

Mike Hunter

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March 22, 2024 - 3:13 pm
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Mike Hunter said
To the best of my determination Winchester did not change the steel composition, they were made from low carbon steel about equivalent to today’s SAE 1018/1020. Winchester referred to this steel as “Gun Steel” I have had receivers tested if that helps.  I do not believe that the flaking is due to the composition of the steel, no nickel in the receiver steels.  Winchester’s Nickel barrel steel contained approximately 3 ½ % nickel. 

Mike, if nickel isn’t the culprit as so often claimed, what other factor could account for the flaking problem, leading eventually to adoption of the Du-Lite process?  Flaking hadn’t “always” been a problem, so there must have been some change in the manufacturing process.  For ex, could there have been a change in heat-treating the steel?

And what is the chemical reaction, if you know, that charcoal & heat produce to blue the steel?

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March 22, 2024 - 5:21 pm
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Bottom line is that I don’t know what causes the flaking, but I’m very doubtful  that it’s steel composition.

As to heat treatment with charcoal and machine bluing, I suspect that there is none.

First off… lets take a look at Case Hardening, which is a heat treatment for steel.  As stated earlier, when heated bone and wood char off gas carbon monoxide & carbon dioxide, above 1000 deg F, steel is able to absorb this gaseous carbon, thus case hardened steel has a higher level of carbon on its exterior and a softer lower carbon in its interior.

Neither Charcoal bluing nor Machine bluing get hot enough for the steel to absorb carbon, so little to no heat treatment.

“And what is the chemical reaction, if you know, that charcoal & heat produce to blue the steel?”

The phenomenon of heat changing the color of steel has been known for hundreds of years, these are called “Temper” Colors. As steel heats, it will change color from a pale straw to a purple, to a “Peacock Blue” to a dark blue and eventually to a blue black at around 740 deg F.  It’s the heat in charcoal bluing that causes the colors, the charcoal is just the medium, as I stated before when charcoal is heated it off gasses CO2 and CO, which displaces the oxygen.

We have all heard of the bluing process call Nitre Bluing,  steel parts are immersed in potassium nitrate and heated producing these Tember Colors, Nitre blue salts will displace the oxygen and also maintain a uniform heat, to ensue a uniform color.

I strongly suspect that Machine Bluing (aka Carbonia bluing) is basically a temper blue.

As to the flaking…I don’t know.  Many other companies during the period used this process: Colt, S&W, Remington, Schwinn Bicycles, Royal Typewriter etc. You can see the same flaking phenomenon on some of these products, but not all.  I suspect that instead of paying AG&O for their proprietary oil, they may have substituted their own formulas, I have seen pine tar mentioned as well as sperm whale oil.

Winchester used the Carbonia bluing process for about 20 years, before switching to Du-Lite. The Hot Salts (Du-Lite) process has been the standard black oxide used by industry for nearly 100 years because it is cheaper, easier, quicker to use while giving reliable and repeatable results.

Carbonia Blue/ Machine Blue, as far as I know is not used in any industry today, and really fell out of use prior to WWII.  I have an ideas on why they flake, but getting absolute answers may be impossible.

Respectfully

 

Mike

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March 23, 2024 - 12:10 am
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Hey, Mike!  Great to hear from you once again.  Its been a while.  I do greatly appreciate your answers.  Thank you.  Tim

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March 25, 2024 - 1:02 pm
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Tim

 

Thank You  Sir.

 

Respectfully

 

Mike

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March 29, 2024 - 11:04 pm
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This has been an interesting thread.  For over a half century I’ve believed that the flaking found on later M92’s and 94’s was the result of switching to a receiver steel with a higher nickel content…

…. next, I’ll be reading that the earth isn’t flat Embarassed

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