What gun finishes can be color case hardened?

Discussion in 'Gun Project Questions & Gunsmithing' started by Poseidon17, Sep 22, 2018.

  1. Poseidon17

    Poseidon17

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    I'm planning on getting a Henry Big Boy in 357 magnum, and I would have liked to get the color case hardened model, but they seem to be the most rare and where they do pop up are about $200 more than the standard blued finish. I was wondering if it was possible to color case harden one of the other finishes, there is a polished brass, nickel, and blued finish options for that rifle. The blued finish would be ideal, as it has checkering. I would not do it myself, I'd want to take it to somebody. Is this possible? What kind of finishes do gun parts have before they are put through the color case hardening process?
     
  2. alinwa

    alinwa

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    short answer, "no."

    The color case hardened ones are rare, worth more and held as 'more desireable' because they ARE......and they cost a lot more to make.

    Color case hardening is a carbon steel coloring process, not a "paint" or something that gets applied over brass, nickeled or blued firearms.

    Brass firearms are...... brass. They cannot be color case hardened the same way a fish can't be sheared for it's wool..... it ain't got none :)

    Nickeled firearms are carbon steel which has had nickel electrolytically deposited upon it, you cannot recolor this process, it's permanent.

    Blued firearms are again carbon steel but this time degreased and dipped into a high-temperature salt bath to achieve a colored surface.

    So, to answer your specific question, 'none.' The firearm parts are prep'd bare steel before the color case hardening process is effected.


    hth


    al
     
  3. shortgrass

    shortgrass

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    If the case colored version of the rifle you want is only $200 more than the other versions, you'd better jump on it as only $200 more is cheap!
     
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  4. shortgrass

    shortgrass

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    Color case hardening is an ancient process used to make low carbon steel harder and more wear resistant. The colors are just a by product of the process. Using the traditional process, only low carbon steel can be color case hardened. Medium and high carbon steels do not react well to the process. And, modern made rifle receivers are made of a high carbon alloy steel as are most of the parts that make up the action. Turnbull might case color that Henry action as he evidently has a different process where he can color medium and high carbon steel, but he'll charge more then $200, that's for sure!
     
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  5. butchlambert

    butchlambert Site $$ Sponsor

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    I've had Turnbull color case several receivers. I would contact them first. The factory case hardening may be "only $200 extra", I'd rather have a Turnbull job for the same approx price. A couple examples below.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    My 45-70 that was just completed.


    This is a Stevens Favorite that belonged to my best friend of 60yrs Grandfather. I surprised him and built it so he could give it to his Grandson.
    [​IMG]

    Turnbull does excellent work, reasonable, and prompt.
     
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  6. Knotwild

    Knotwild Silver $$ Contributor

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    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  7. msinc

    msinc

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    I have color case hardened a lot of guns in my time...if it were not for the cost, a lot of this info so far is not really correct. Factor in what it would cost to accomplish the end result and everything posted so far becomes true, but also confusing.
    Nickel plating, electroless or other, can be removed....but you have to remove all of it. Steel, as long as it is not stainless or some other off the wall alloy, can be colored. But, if it has been hardened then it needs to be annealed first.
    As long as you have a piece of steel that falls into the above categories it can be colored, but it also first has to be polished to a high luster. The higher or finer the polish the brighter or "better" maybe "prettier" the colors. The effect can be varied by adjusting the mix or ratio of bone charcoal {the active ingredient} to wood charcoal and also the heat and time.
    Blued steel can of course be colored, but it first should be polished bare metal. Brass cannot be colored this way.
    There are basically two methods, bone charcoal is one, cyanide is another. What Mr. Lambert was kind enough to post is bone charcoal colored. A good familiar example of cyanide most will recognize is the receivers on H&R single shot shotguns.
    Bone charcoal requires more heat for longer and so it can result in warped or cracked parts and this is why many manufacturers went to the cyanide method. It is more predictable and as long as you have proper protective gear and good ventilation there is no risks to the parts being colored. Annealing is very similar except you just use wood charcoal, heat it a little higher and you do not quench it in water. The parts are simply left to cool off in the crucible.
    One thing that hasn't been discussed yet is the fact that color case hardening does not hold up very well. It is not durable at all and quickly wears right off with normal use. It is pretty, but don't expect it to last. It's about as durable as cold bluing. I played around with coating the parts I did with clear lacquer or clear spray epoxy and that helped, but again, don't expect it to last much if you are going to use the gun. I have often heard and read that sunlight will cause it to fade, but I have not experienced this.

    Edit: I guess I should add that the bone charcoal method is a little more durable than cyanide....either way, a case colored gun is probably best left to hang on the wall and be admired, or it wont stay case colored for long.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
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  8. JRS

    JRS Gold $$ Contributor

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    Hamilton Bowen does it, but you can bet it is going to cost you: Matched_Pair_of_Flat_tops.jpg
     

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