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Webley MKVI finish formula?


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Hello, I have a 1915 stamped Webley MKVI the finish of which was stripped of its finish before it came in to my possession.  There is no rust pitting and the edges of the components are still relatively crisp.  Mechanicals tight.  I was hoping some of the members might be able to offer their expertise regarding the formula Webley originally used to finish these revolvers.  I'm not looking to produce a 'showroom' finish but rather to create the look of a naturally patina'd revolver.  All ideas would be most appreciated.  Cheers, Bill

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I've had a look through the LoCs for the various Webleys, and gone (quickly) through Bruce and Reinhardt's Webley book looking for information on finish, and found nothing in either place.

I also looked through the Handbook of Small Arms and whilst there are some details on metal finishes for SMLEs (Blueing, Browning, Oil Quenching/Blazing off etc) I found nothing in the section on revolvers and pistols beyond a mention of water hardening of a particular component to make it more wear resistant. I will continue looking but my most obvious references have drawn a blank. I suspect the processes described for the rifle components are similar to those used on revolvers but I haven't found anything specific yet. I'll keep looking.

Chris

 

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DutchB,

 

The "Instructions for Armourers" (1912) gives the following details regarding the browning of pistols.

I believe that their "browning" is our "blueing", but 4th Gordons will know better than I.

The method is quite involved, which is why I have not attempted a straight transcription.

 

Tincture of steel = alcoholic (ethanolic) solution of ferric chloride, FeCl3

Spirits of wine = alcohol (ethanol)

 

I think before/after photos would be interesting to all of us, so good luck!

 

Regards,

JMB

Small Arms browning.pdf

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I believe BROWNING is a chemical process whereas BLUEING is a heat based process....

Here is the relevant section from the TEXTBOOK OF SMALL ARMS (1929)

P1010487.JPG.717a20b16922f3c2bdde10b16dd0ce2e.JPG

 

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Liberon used to do a patination fluid called "Tourmaline" but I think it turns the steel black rather than brown, as it was designed for non-ferrous materials.

They have a website with contact details - might be able to help you.

In De Carle's Watch and Clock Encyclopedia there's a DIY formula for browning steel, and I quote:

Make a solution of 1 oz copper sulphate, 1 oz sweet spirits of nitre, 1 pint distilled water.

Apply 4 coats of the solution allowing it to dry for several hours between successive coats.  Brush over after each coating.  After the final coating rub hard and allow to dry for 24 hours.

This gives a reddish-brown colour without gloss.  If desired the hue may be deepened by adding arsenic to the solution for the final coating.

To polish, use a wax polish of boiled oil beeswax and turpentine.  Rub well with a soft cloth as with furniture.

I give no recommendation regarding safety or effectiveness, just passing on the information - make of it what you will.

Good luck.

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Chris,

 

I take your point about Browning vs Blueing, and the detail given in Textbook of Small Arms.

My confusion dates back to when I first became interested in the Patt. 1907 bayonet, and details of its manufacture.

Although the pre-Great War blades were highly-polished to the appearance of stainless steel, the pommel (wrought iron) and tang and cross-guard (wrought iron) were given a rust-resisting finish by immersion (inverted) up to 7/8 inch above the cross-guard in a tank of a solution which "blued" the ricasso.

That colour of the ricasso in P. '07 bayonet discussions is always referred to as the "blueing". 

Also, don't people on the Gunboards.com forum talk about "cold blueing" solutions for fire-arms?

I have never done either browning or blueing, so don't have any personal experience to offer to the OP.

 

Regards,

JMB

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reese williams

Chemical bluing comes in many flavors, the big separation being hot and cold bluing. In cold bluing, also called rust bluing or fume bluing an acid solution is either applied directly to the steel or it is placed in a closed area like a cabinet with both a moisture source and an open container of acid, usually nitric or hydrochloric or both.  When a uniform coat of red rust is formed the item is then immersed in boiling distilled water, dried and the rust removed with a very soft wire wheel in a process called carding.  The entire process is repeated multiple times until the depth of color desired is achieved. Commercial cold bluing solutions sold for home use or touchup use different chemicals but are a similar process but skip the boiling for a simple rinse.

 

Hot bluing uses an alkaline solution heated to about 300F. Parts are dipped into the solution for a time then dried and carded.

 

There are other methods including charcoal bluing where the part is packed in burning charcoal. 

 

There is also flame bluing which was used on armor and gilt and blue swords. It produces a high luster blue and is produced by heating a blade until it turns blue. It is also one of the color guides for tempering a piece of metal.

 

Browning is very similar to bluing but omits the boiling in water, which changes the rust from red oxide to black oxide. 

 

Oil blacking or burning off is just like seasoning a piece of cast iron cookware.

 

This is a super simple look at finishing so don't take me to task too severely .

 

 

Edited by reese williams
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Reese,

 

Your description of cold blueing with HCl or HNO3 is just what is called "browning" in the Instrns to Armourers.

I think that my confusion is amply justified.

 

Regards,

JMB

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reese williams

My understanding of the difference between bluing and browning is that in bluing the part is immersed in boiling water. That changes red iron oxide FE2O3 to black oxide FE2O4 which imparts the blue/black color. In browning the water step is skipped leaving the red oxide which when carded is a brown color. Both are essentially the practice of putting a coat of rust over the surface of the metal which both resists future rust and helps hold oil on the surface.   Depending on the process used, bluing a black or dark blue finish, browning is a decidedly brown color. 

 

Flame blue can be a brilliant blue which makes it very suitable for showy pieces, like this blue and gilt sword.

 

 

 

blue and gilt.jpg

Edited by reese williams
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IMO the best of the firearms cold bluing products is G96 cream. Back in pistol days I restored the finish on a holster-worn 1917 Luger and a 1929 Walther PP with this so that the restored area was very inconspicuous next to areas of good original finish. It helped to degrease and wash the parts in near-boiling water to provide a surface readily accepting the chemical action. The preparation was applied with a broad, soft paintbrush, hot-washed again afterwards and then oiled-up.

 

Whether that would produce a satisfactory finish on a Webly Mk.VI is probably a matter of personal taste - but it's likely to be at least very difficult to reproduce Webley's own without industrial facilities.

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I think it might be possible that Webley employed more than one method of producing a surface finish on pistols at the time; trying my best not to use the words blueing or blacking let alone hint at parkerizing or 'war finish'. I think in 1915 it was possible to buy  a Webley revolver for service use with a 'commercial' finish as a private purchase. The actual chemical treatment being different to the finish used on war contract pistols together with a higher degree of external finish when in the white.  I hope to post more information, but can't  find it at the moment......

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Going OT slightly, I have a 1944 Webley MkIV .38/200 revolver that is marked ‘War Finish’. I’d be interested to know what this is compared to their usual commercial finish.

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55 minutes ago, peregrinvs said:

Going OT slightly, I have a 1944 Webley MkIV .38/200 revolver that is marked ‘War Finish’. I’d be interested to know what this is compared to their usual commercial finish.

 

War Finish was (I believe) a form of baked on enamel (maybe called Suncorite)

I have a .380 Enfield No2 Revolver and a S&W "Victory" model in .38/200 which both have this finish.

 

OK so I just checked references - apparently "War Finish" was a general relaxation of the finish to allow for greater production numbers to be met and could included matt sandblasted, parkerised, or phosphate type finish.  The enameled finish to which I referred above was mostly a result of FTR Programs (Stamps and Skennerton 1993 ".380 Enfield Revolver No2" pp77-88)

Chris

 

 

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56 minutes ago, peregrinvs said:

Going OT slightly, I have a 1944 Webley MkIV .38/200 revolver that is marked ‘War Finish’. I’d be interested to know what this is compared to their usual commercial finish.

Will try to send you a pm. As you say little out of the time frame for GWF. Regards

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7 hours ago, peregrinvs said:

Going OT slightly, I have a 1944 Webley MkIV .38/200 revolver that is marked ‘War Finish’. I’d be interested to know what this is compared to their usual commercial finish.

Have seen prewar finish and it is a lovely blued finish with gloss. Recall reading Webley did not want warfinish to be assoc. with their firm that they left off the flying bullet logo on those. 

 

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onesearch

Some of the pistols were extremely  well finished, if you haven't  already seen examples of a Webley Green or a Webley Wilkinson it might be worth having a look at one if you ever get a chance.

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dutchbarge

Thank you, Foru Members, for all of your suggestions and information.  I am reviewing the various options (including doing nothing other than performing a good cleaning and lubrication) and hope to soon post photos of the revolver as I received it, followed some days later with photos of how I have proceeded.  Once again, thank you for all your kind help.  Cheers, Bill

 

 

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reese williams

Remember less is more. Any small bottle user applied cold blue is going to look exactly like what it is, an amateur applied (actually mis-applied) finish. Those cold blues like Birchwood Casey or the stuff Brownells sells (which I use) are made for small touch ups, not a complete gun refinish. They will always look wrong if used as an overall finish and collectors will spot them from across the room. If someone did indeed strip the original blue chemically as opposed to buffing then your best bet would be either leave it as is or talk to someone who does professional bluing and understands old guns. They can apply a correct finish without buffing and messing up the various stamps. It will always be obvious that it has been refinished and value will suffer accordingly.  Best of luck, look forward to pictures.

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This was done with G96 in 2005 on plain mild steel and still looks the same now. May not be perfect but looks a good deal better than stripped bare steel.

CIMG0026.JPG

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reese williams

Mik,  I agree your cannon looks great, a nicely done job. However, as it is a model cannon we have no expectation of what the finish should look like. The fact that it is a model that you hand crafted means we don't expect it to look like another one just like it that was made in a factory. If you collect Webleys you know what the factory finish or finishes (since there were commercial and military differences) should look like. A hand applied touch up bluing applied to the entire gun won't look like a factory finish of any kind. It might not look bad, it just won't look like a factory finish and therefore the value of the piece will suffer. Will it suffer more than one left in the white? Maybe not.  Will it be worth less than one reblued by a professional? Depends on the person doing the job.  I haven't used your product and don't know if it's available in the states. If so I might give it a try. If the original poster grabs a bottle of Birchwood Casey Gunblue  I can guarantee it will hurt the value. 

 

However, I don't have the pistol in hand, in fact haven't even seen pictures of it so I'll leave it here.

 

Cheers,

Reese

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Old War Skule

The Webley revolvers I've seen appear to have a dull, dead black/gray color.  A few seem to be more to the black side of the spectrum.  If I were to choose a finish, I'd pick black oxide.  Imagine the finish on an Allen wrench, or hex key.  It will not have the patina the OP is looking for, but it will be probably as near as can be had without cooking up a witch's brew that's probably unsafe to breathe the fumes of.

Edited by Old War Skule
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  • 2 weeks later...
dutchbarge

I'd like to thank the Forum members for their imput........many interesting ideas and much useful information.  After much reflection I've reached the conclusion that the revolver's original finish  was not stripped, chemically or mechanically.  The crispness of the stampings and patina to the metal seems to indicate that the original finish has, like many Webleys of this vintage, evaporated thru use and age.  Thus, apart from a good cleaning and oiling,  I'm going to leave it in the condition in which I received it.  I've attached a few close-up photos that approach capturing the MKVI's patina......the pinkish tint to some of them are the result of using my wife's pink idiot camera (about all I can handle) which has reflected on the revolver and not any coloring of the metal.  Unfortunately, distance photos of the entire revolver do not not convey the richness of the metal's patina, nor capture the remaining finish and present a rather shiny looking pistol.  I'll post better photos when available.  Again, thank you, all, for your help.  Cheers, Bill

 

 

IMG_4042.JPG

IMG_4043.JPG

IMG_4032.JPG

IMG_4031.JPG

Edited by dutchbarge
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Old War Skule

A wise choice.  If you plan to shoot it, there is some .455 ammunition available on Gun Broker.

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Fiocchi is the only maker now or are there more?

 

I must say DutchBarge that is a fine looking piece. 

 

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I believe Starline still makes brass in the US, and reloading shouldn't be too challenging if that's what's necessary. It's fair enough to leave it as is. You can still see much of the original surface texture, so I'd say it's pretty much owner's choice. Me, I'd blue it with G96, but I'm a barbarian... :D

Edited by MikB
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