How early? If you're talking pre WWII, it was a rust bluing, and the solution hasn't changed in eons! Pilkington's rust blue is available from Brownells. If you've never rust blued a firearm, it's not the way you want to go. Rust bluing requires a lot of experience, and some equipment you may not own. A humidity cabinet, carding wheels, or (ugh!) hand carding! It also requires a separate work area, as rust bluing will ruin anything in the same room that is metal.
It is, as you mentioned beautiful, but should be left to an expert. A lot of decent gunsmiths wont mess with rust bluing. Too time and labor consuming for what most people want to pay. I paid $60 to have my Ballard barrel rust blued, and the same smith said he would hot blue it for $20, since it was polished already. 3 times as much, but well worth it!
Thanks MM93, I am in the process of building a damp box as I brown a lot of muzzleloading barrels and want to switch methods. I don't mind the carding. I have been doing them in the summer and hanging them up in the base ment but it takes weeks. I want accelerate the process with a damp box. Thanks, moodyholler
On the Pilkington's. IIRC the write-up at Brownell's says no cabinet. Just what tools will I need? I just polished all the pitting on a .336 receiver and am seriously thinking about Pilkington's. I have all sorts of air tools and accessories along with a good collection of the Dremel stuff and have worked with my hands most of my life. If I need to take it to a Smith, I will.
This would be great for an expert to write up and put if Reference . with many many warnings that it's for reference and not for armatures to try without proper professional guidance.. ;D ( Hint , Hint, Hint )
Hi, I would suggest that you get the book "Gunsmithing" by Roy F. Dunlap...I think this book came out in 1950, its in its 2nd print now....any way, this guy was a famous gunsmith in the 50's, and in this book has a few formulas for bluing, browning and blackening....I don't know about rust....Most libraries have this book.....it has the Neidner cold blue formula in it...and a wealth of info on old time gunsmithing, checkering patterns, stockmaking ,wood....ect. interesting reading for any one who messes around with guns...
The 336's weren't rust blued. They were hot blued. I know Brownells says you don't need a hot box for Pilkingtons, but there's two problems with NOT using a hot box. 1.-It takes longer to do the process outside a box where you can't control heat and humidity. 2.-The acid base of rust bluing will contaminate everything in the vicinity of the process.
Jim D. over at Marlin Collectors forum has begun using charcoal bluing to do the high luster deep black on Marlin receivers. (he doesn't do this for a living, so don't ask him what he charges) He just sent my 1891 receiver back to me, and it's the closest thing to original Marlins I've ever seen.
Here's a couple pictures. (those are smudges on the left side, not bluing issues):
I sure like the looks of that finish. You fellas are scaring me now. Maybe I just need defer to experience and send the thing in to Marlin and let them do it. That sounds like the safest thing to me. I have been in over my head before and it sure can get uncomfortable eh?