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Winchester Blue

dodge69dodge69 Member Posts: 1,190
edited March 2016 in Ask the Experts
I have a little problem trying to determine what the real color should be on the old Winchesters. I have a couple that have a real blue tint and some that look more black than blue. Did Winchester have a different process at different times that would give a more blue color or does the blue just go black or darker after a period of time?
I have taken the forearm off and found a more blue tint there but no real break point where the barrel changes color it just gets darker.

Comments

  • dodge69dodge69 Member Posts: 1,190
    edited November -1
    I have one more question on the bluing process and I will leave it alone. Since it was nearly impossible to blue the receiver on the model 94 from 64 to 79 how in the world would it be possible to rust blue a receiver. The engraved model 94 that I had questions on a I couple days ago according to the seller, was rust blued. I thought any bluing process involved a rusting process. Actually if I magnify the picture on the back of the receiver it looks more a kind of paint or powder coat or something.
  • DokeyDokey Member Posts: 870 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    When Winchester went to hot blue process they used the Dulite process. The color is a little more black than blue
  • kimikimi Member Posts: 44,219 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    This can certainly be a puzzling topic on old Winchesters as some do look mostly black and some have a lighter blue color. I'm thinking, because I don't know for certain, that since, for example, on the model 1890s the receivers and guards were "fastened together so as to absorb the same amount of blue. Sometimes the metal finishers had difficulty getting the color to match." (Re: Ned Schwing's book on the 1890, page 71.) This statement seems to account for the problem that you have noted and that has puzzled me as well. Maybe Bert can shed greater insight on this issue.
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  • Bert H.Bert H. Member, Moderator Posts: 11,274 ******
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by kimi
    This can certainly be a puzzling topic on old Winchesters as some do look mostly black and some have a lighter blue color. I'm thinking, because I don't know for certain, that since, for example, on the model 1890s the receivers and guards were "fastened together so as to absorb the same amount of blue. Sometimes the metal finishers had difficulty getting the color to match." (Re: Ned Schwing's book on the 1890, page 71.) This statement seems to account for the problem that you have noted and that has puzzled me as well. Maybe Bert can shed greater insight on this issue.


    Not without writing a very lengthy novel (which I am currently not inclined or fully qualified to do). As I mentioned to dodge69 in a private email, Winchester used a substantial number of different bluing formulas, processes, and combinations of both from the early 1870s through the early 1940s. It takes many years of careful study, looking at and handling a few thousand specimens to develop a reasonably accurate ability to identify what is, and is not, factory original finish on the many and various different models and time periods. Trying to identify factory original work versus refinished/restored is complicated at best when all you have to look at is pictures posted on the internet... anyone can be fooled by a dishonest seller who knows how to avoid the camera angles and lighting techniques needed to reveal the truth. My advice... only buy from people you know & trust, and whenever possible, examine the gun in hand before exchanging cash for the gun
  • kimikimi Member Posts: 44,219 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by Bert H.
    quote:Originally posted by kimi
    This can certainly be a puzzling topic on old Winchesters as some do look mostly black and some have a lighter blue color. I'm thinking, because I don't know for certain, that since, for example, on the model 1890s the receivers and guards were "fastened together so as to absorb the same amount of blue. Sometimes the metal finishers had difficulty getting the color to match." (Re: Ned Schwing's book on the 1890, page 71.) This statement seems to account for the problem that you have noted and that has puzzled me as well. Maybe Bert can shed greater insight on this issue.


    Not without writing a very lengthy novel (which I am currently not inclined or fully qualified to do). As I mentioned to dodge69 in a private email, Winchester used a substantial number of different bluing formulas, processes, and combinations of both from the early 1870s through the early 1940s. It takes many years of careful study, looking at and handling a few thousand specimens to develop a reasonably accurate ability to identify what is, and is not, factory original finish on the many and various different models and time periods. Trying to identify factory original work versus refinished/restored is complicated at best when all you have to look at is pictures posted on the internet... anyone can be fooled by a dishonest seller who knows how to avoid the camera angles and lighting techniques needed to reveal the truth. My advice... only buy from people you know & trust, and whenever possible, examine the gun in hand before exchanging cash for the gun


    Bert,

    The primary focus of my answer to dodge69 had to do with the bluing process used on the Model 1890 receivers and guards from the beginning of production until 1938, and little else. As you would know that would have been the machine bluing as Schwing defined it. Aside from machine bluing and rust bluing was there another commonly known bluing process that Winchester used on early Winchesters?

    Also, it stands to reason from the Schwing quote that I made to dodge69 that there would have probably been different shades of bluing achieved by the machine bluing technique used on the receivers and guards, right?

    James
    What's next?
  • Bert H.Bert H. Member, Moderator Posts: 11,274 ******
    edited November -1
    James,

    My previous response was intended to answer the original question (which did not specify a single model). I quoted your reply because you mentioned my name. Truth be told, dodge69's query originated from a question he had about the finish on a Model 1892 (in his personal email to me).

    In answer to your separate question about the Model 1890 finish, "early" specimens were solid frames and were case color finished. None of the true "early" production Model 1890s (all of the First models, and a substantial number of the Second models) were machine blued. Late in the year 1901 (what I consider "mid" production), Winchester ceased case color finishing and began charcoal bluing the entire receiver group assembly and assundry parts as separate pieces. Sometime very near 1920, they switched to carbonia (machine) bluing. From late 1901 through early 1939, the bluing formula was changed (tweaked) at least several times.
  • kimikimi Member Posts: 44,219 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Bert, I have heard that, or read that as well, i.e. that at first there was charcoal bluing and then about, as you note, 1920 they switched to carbonia (machine) bluing...closer to 1917 as I recall. anyway, if that is correct, it should be noted that Schwing got it wrong, in that he stated, "When Winchester decided to change from the more expensive and time consuming case coloring process, it went to a bluing process the company referred to as machine bluing, also known as charcoal or carbonum bluing. This process was used from the beginning of blued Model 90 receivers and guards through about 1938."

    Schwing simply did not address a circa 1920 change in Winchester's bluing process that you have done as he was obviously, or else it would appear so, of the opinion that charcoal and carbonia (machine) bluing were one and the same.

    When you get the chance, would you please provide a reference to support the change from charcoal to carbonium (machine) bluing, because I don't recall where I came across it either.

    Thanks,
    James
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  • Bert H.Bert H. Member, Moderator Posts: 11,274 ******
    edited November -1
    James,

    I do not have a specific reference... it is simply something that I have learned through observation and lots of discussions with the fellows who are in that business.

    That stated, if Ned truly believes that charcoal bluing and carbonia (machine) bluing are the same thing, then he did indeed get it wrong. The carbonia bluing process was the source of the notorious "flaking" Winchesters, and it started after WW I. I suspect that Ned did not spend much (if any) time researching that aspect of the Model 1890 production. While his books are superb reference documents (and I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to collect the slide-action .22 rifles), he does have some missing information, and a few minor mistakes.
  • kimikimi Member Posts: 44,219 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Thanks for the answer, Bert. While I used the Model 1890 with my initial focus in my answer to dodge69, I have been of the opinion that the factory bluing processes was basically the same for different makes of Winchester firearms dependent upon their introduction dates.

    Looking at Bob's book on the 94, he also indicates that there were three different bluing processes used as well with each one being applied to different parts.

    One being the rust bluing. He further clarifies this point stating that it was normally used on barrels, but then he specifies that it was used on some receivers as well, usually for "high grade" guns... which would account for some completed rifles having a different shade of "overall" bluing than the typical rifles of the same period would have, be they early or late productions. Add this to his comments regarding the early production of the Model 94 in reference to outside contractors doing the bluing and the subject picture in reference to "shades/tints of bluing" is amplified.

    As Bob states, "A second method was variously known as machine bluing, charcoal bluing, carbon bluing, or heat bluing." Now, if I am understanding Bob correctly, this is the same process that Schwing defined as a second method of bluing as well in that, "...machine bluing, also known as charcoal or carbonum bluing." meaning that both process are one and the same and can be simplified by referring to it as the machine bluing process. I fully realize how knowledge is subject to change due to time and research, etc., but is this correct in your judgement or not?

    Also according to Bob, the third process had three variations and they were of the immersion method, i.e. nitre, Dulite, and "black oxide" which "was employed with marginal success on the 'mystery metal' receivers of the late 1970s to early 1980s." Schwing simply indicates that machine bluing used until about 1938, which would have been about the time of introduction of the DuLite process.

    Also, in reference to your note about the notorious "flaking" Winchesters after WW I and carbonia bluing being its source, your friend Bob notes that it was due to the high nickel content and that this is witnessed in guns as early a 500,000 (1911)...and I admit to seeing this in guns earlier than the WW I period as well. So, again, realizing technical knowledge is fluid given time, later conclusions, and new found evidence, but is this flaking problem now attributed to carbonia bluing or the high nickel content, or a bit of both, and has the time period changed, or is there currently more than one school of thought, so to speak, where these bluing and flaking issues or concerned among recognized Winchester experts like you and Bob?

    James
    What's next?
  • Bert H.Bert H. Member, Moderator Posts: 11,274 ******
    edited November -1
    James,

    In answer to your questions;

    quote:As Bob states, "A second method was variously known as machine bluing, charcoal bluing, carbon bluing, or heat bluing." Now, if I am understanding Bob correctly, this is the same process that Schwing defined as a second method of bluing as well in that, "...machine bluing, also known as charcoal or carbonum bluing." meaning that both process are one and the same and can be simplified by referring to it as the machine bluing process. I fully realize how knowledge is subject to change due to time and research, etc., but is this correct in your judgement or not?

    No, it is not correct. My understanding is that they were different processes, but with near identical results.

    This statement is also not correct;

    quote:Also according to Bob, the third process had three variations and they were of the immersion method, i.e. nitre, Dulite, and "black oxide" which "was employed with marginal success on the 'mystery metal' receivers of the late 1970s to early 1980s."

    All three were different processes, with the only commonality being immersion. The black oxide was for the post-1963 "sintered steel" receiver frames on the Model 94 only. Winchester went back to using forged steel in the late 1970s.

    In regards to the following statement;

    quote:Also, in reference to your note about the notorious "flaking" Winchesters after WW I and carbonia bluing being its source, your friend Bob notes that it was due to the high nickel content and that this is witnessed in guns as early a 500,000 (1911)...and I admit to seeing this in guns earlier than the WW I period as well. So, again, realizing technical knowledge is fluid given time, later conclusions, and new found evidence, but is this flaking problem now attributed to carbonia bluing or the high nickel content, or a bit of both, and has the time period changed, or is there currently more than one school of thought, so to speak, where these bluing and flaking issues or concerned among recognized Winchester experts like you and Bob?

    I personally can not remember ever seeing a pre-WW I Winchester that exhibited the same "flaking" issue that the post-WW I Winchesters routinely have. I would like to see such an example (if it exists). In regards to the "high nickel content", that has been proven (by a well known Winchester restoration expert) to not be the actual case. He had several poor condition receiver frames sent out and tested for alloy content, and found that there was no appreciable difference in the alloy over a 30-year span (1900 - 1930). The only thing that changed during that timeframe was the type of bluing formula that Winchester used. I can not speak with authority on when exactly Winchester began using the Carbonia bluing on all of the various models. However, and based on persoanl observation, for the models that I personally collect and survey, the flaking issue did not begin until WW I was nearly over. For the Model 1894, I have surveyed several thousand pre-WW I specimens, and none of them had the flaking issue that the post-WW I through 1938 Model 94s have.

    So, and in summary, there are a number of instances were I do not agree with Ned or Bob.
  • kimikimi Member Posts: 44,219 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Thank you for you opinion on these issues as you have noted, Bert. It's good to be on record where you might disagree with other experts regardless of who they are, and in the event that such opinions are supported when stated with the actual information to the contrary as you have done in reference to the flaking and high nickel content...to some extent, it makes for an enjoyable learning experience.

    I thought I was quite clear about the immersion process being of three different types, but maybe not.

    I do recall seeing some pre-WWI Model 94s with some flaking on the receiver, which concurs with Bob's statements, but since I do not research this issue I did not take notes. No doubt about it though, it was much worse on Winchesters during the post WWI years.

    James
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