Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ruger Old Model Blackhawk Project part 4

Restoring the finish

I decided to start with the aluminum ejector rod housing. When it comes to aluminum, you only have a few options:

1. Anodize, this is the way the factory originally finished the grip frames and ejector rod housings. The process involves stripping the metal, etching the metal with acid and low voltage DC electricity, applying the color dye, then sealing the surface. I have yet to try this process out, so I decided to look at other options.

2. Paint, this is tricky, not so much the color, there are plenty of satin black paints on the market, but getting the texture smooth and free of "orange peel" is difficult. Plus many paints do not hold up very well on gun parts

3. Use Birchwood-Casey's Aluminum Black. I have tried this product before with limited success, but after seeing it used by a DIY gunsmith, I decided to give it another go. I also heard that using heat before applying the solution produces better looking and better lasting results.
This ejector rod housing was removed from a New Model Single Six, it didn't quite fit and has considerable wear at the muzzle end.

The B-C instructions call for cleaning, swabbing, rinsing and then buffing, no mention of heat.

I decided to try using heat anyway, after cleaning the part with rubbing alcohol I set it on top of my wood stove (around 300 degrees) for 30 minutes to get nice and warm.

Well that didn't work out so well, the solution just fizzled and only stuck to the bare metal, I guess I will need to strip the housing and start from scratch
On the the steel parts. I will be rust bluing the frame/barrel assembly, the cylinder and the loading gate. The remaining parts will be hot slats blued. I used some Birchwood-Casey bluing and rust remover to remove the old stuff....this solution is not as strong as the naval jelly I normally use.
 After a rinse in hot water and drying with a towel, we get to see how bad the pitting is
 The top strap doesn't look so good, but I have dealt with much worse
 The cylinder also has some freckles and pits

I lucked out and won another parts auction on ebay, I got myself this NOS steel, blued ejector rod housing and screw in mint condition! So I can set the aluminum housing aside for now, another project for another day.
 Unfortunately when I tried to install it on the gun it doesn't fit either. I must have a unique gun or a really tight fit. At this point I think I will open up the hole on the frame.
Time to start the filing, this is what the pits on the top strap looked like before
As soon as I started with the file I could see the top was a bit concave
 I filed until it was smooth, then wrapped the file with 100 grit emory cloth and sanded in a cross hatch pattern
I then stepped up to 220 grit and sanded in line with the bore
This is the way it will stay for bluing, we don't want the top too shiny
 I did the same with the sides of the frame, lots of small pits, not too deep though

 The front of the frame needed some work
Then I worked over the barrel, I started with 220 grit and sanded both parallel and perpendicular to the bore, using a shoe shine technique. I stayed away from the roll marks with the 220, I then stepped up to 400 then 600 grit.
The gun is now at a 600 grit finish, next I'll step it up to 1000 grit

The frame and barrel are almost ready, time to move to the cylinder.
I borrowed this idea from another gunsmith, I built a spindle mount for the cylinder to fit in the chuck on my drill press. I used a copper washer on the gear end and spacers on the barrel end.
 I started with 100 grit using the spindle, sanding latitudinally, then removed it from the drill and sanded longitudinally, then I did the same with the 220 grit emory cloth
Then 400 grit, then 600 grit
Then I finished it off with some crocus cloth

I cleaned up the mating surfaces on the pawl, hammer strut and the cylinder stop. I also polished the ejector button, the cylinder base pin 
All that is left is the finish polishing on the frame & barrel and fit the new ejector rod shroud.
Before I could blue the parts I needed to fit the ejector rod shroud. I used a couple of different files to open up the hole on the frame, no chance of slimming down the ERH, not much material there

Now it fits with just a little bit of resistance
Prepping the parts for the rust bluing

This is my 1st time using an off the shelf rust blue formula (see my attempts with a homemade formula here). The Mark Lee Express rust bluing is a slow rust process, that uses heat to speed things up, instead of waiting hours for the rust to develop, you wait minutes. The solution has a bright orange/yellow color
Heat up the parts with a torch or heat gun
Apply the solution with a cotton swab, and wait a few minutes, this is the only time you want gun parts to be rusty....
Then boil the parts in distilled water for 5 minutes
Card Off the loose oxide with de-greased 0000 steel wool
After six cycles, the barrel and small parts looked great, the frame, gate and cylinder showed the dreaded shade of plum
Very disappointing.....I was hoping to avoid the plum color by using this method vs. the Hot Salts method...

The instructions say to neutralize the acid by soaking the parts in water & baking soda at room temp for an hour or two
I then rinsed them with hot water, dried them and put them in a bath of WD40 overnight

 The frame almost looks like color case hardening
 The cylinder is a disasterpiece
 The ejector rod and base pin turned out very nice
I wanted to have this project wrapped up by now.....looks like I will be stripping the metal again, re-polishing it and bluing it in the hot salts tank....In addition Lance from Michigan Center Outdoors/ sent me some trigger & hammer shims for this project, so I'll need to install those

stay tuned for part 5