Bluing Hands

Discussion in 'Reverse Glass and Dial Painting' started by Jay Fortner, Feb 18, 2011.

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  1. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    Hey folks, Is using gun bluing(cold blue) to restore hands an acceptable method or is there a better method?
     
  2. laprade

    laprade Registered User

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    Welcome to the board: I have always used it, since 1975. If you have the knack to do it by heat, then fine. I can't see the problem, but some go wild at the suggestion: "cheating" in their book.
     
  3. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    #3 harold bain, Feb 18, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2018
    Jewels, this thread may help:
    Bluing Steel
    Whether to use heat and do it properly or use gun bluing might depend on the clock, and the metal used on the hands.
    The process isn't that difficult, and worth mastering.
     
  4. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    Thanks Harold, That was interesting. That astro skeleton clock is, WHOA!!!!!
    I think because the minute hand has a brass hub already staked in place that heat bluing my not be such a good idea on this clock but I,m gonna practice on some hands using the heat method and develope some knack.
    I used a torch a couple years ago to create blued flames on a set of chrome pipes for a custom chopper that I built but I thought hands may be to thin for this process. Reckon it's time to buy a jewelers torch.
    When I heat treated the verge that I made for my waterbury it turned a beutiful dark blue most of it stayed on there after polishing.
     
  5. Jeremy Woodoff

    Jeremy Woodoff Registered User
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    I don't think a torch, no matter how small, will give a very good result. You need a source of heat that will affect the entire hand in an even manner, and you must be able to control it so that the source of heat can be removed when the shade of blue is exactly right. It may work for a chunky item such as a screw, but not for a long, thin clock hand. I use bluing salts, obtained from suppliers in England.
     
  6. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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  7. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    I use heat to blue hands.
    No. 1 key is preparation - that hands are polished to a mirror brilliance and handled surgically that nothing is on the hand that will retard or reject the process.
    Most recommend a sand or bed of brass filings. I simply use a piece of 1/8" scrap brass with holes drilled to accept hubs, collets, etc. Hand must rest perfectly flat on surface.
    I use a bernz-O-matic torch with mapp gas on low flame, directing it beneath the brass and watching the color changes. A straw color appears first, then becomes purplish and finally blue. If you go past blue, they will return to steel color and you'll need to re-polish and start anew. Keep the flame moving paying attention to areas that are reacting faster than others. I keep a piece of wood handy for moving hand if necessary and a mechanic's magnet handy to remove hand from plate. When finished, whisk it away and plunge into water. Beautiful. Done.
     
  8. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    I used an acetylene torch with a very small soldering tip in it to harden the verge. That tip doesn't use oxygen but draws ambient air and doesn't get near as hot as a oxy-acetylene tip making it easier to control. But after reading some of the other techniques I think I'm gonna use the sand method to try and get the best uniformaty. My wife has got(had) a small cast iron frying pan 'bout 3" in diameter, I figure on putting 'bout a 1/2" layer of clean white sand in it over the stove burner and having my magnet and cool oil at the ready for that perfect instant. I figure cooling with oil will deter rust later on. As far as prep I'm well supplied with abrasives and skill in using them. This whole engine and drivetrain is polished aluminum. Thanks Y'all, J. 84826.jpg 84827.jpg
     
  9. Sooth

    Sooth Registered User
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    Heat bluing is always preferable, since it gives an unmatched look to old clock hands, however, if properly used, gun blue an give some quite nice effects, or save you a bunch of trouble. I have an example to share. I made a custom hand cut and filed hour hand for my single hand hooded clock, and when I blued it, I used a brass plate to get even heat distribution, along with an alcohol lamp for slow and even heat. When the hand turned blue, it was a beautiful azure blue but I wanted a navy blue (since the clock is from about 1750). The blue never darkened, and then turned silver again. I was NOT happy. So, instead, I used gun blue to get a nice (blotchy) dark blue. I didn't mind the blotchyness because it created the appearance of age.

    View attachment 4823

    View attachment 4824
     
  10. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    Wow! Sooth, That turned out nice. Fine craftsmanship. Now I've heard that cold blue rubs off over time. What is your experience with this?
     
  11. Sooth

    Sooth Registered User
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    Well, gun blue is actually a chemical reaction with the steel, and I believe it's fairly permanent. At least no more permanent than regular heat bluing, since both only create a thin film that can be buffed off (steel wool) or filed off with abrasives.
     
  12. Jeremy Woodoff

    Jeremy Woodoff Registered User
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    I've tried bluing on flat brass and also in a bed of brass filings, but neither method worked well for me. For one thing, old hands are never perfectly flat (even if they are without collets), so I could not get them to lie in complete and perfect contact with a flat pan. The bed of filings didn't work much better. The hand seems to draw the heat at different rates at different parts of the hand, and because it is surrounded by filings on one side and air on the other, the heat is unable to maintain itself evenly. That's why I settled on the bluing salts. The hands are suspended in the liquid salts, which are kept constantly in motion by convection. The heat absorbed by thicker parts of the hands is constantly replenished by the convective currents. Also, the change in color is quite slow and can be controlled by how much heat is being applied to the salts.

    The down sides to this method are that it takes a while to initially heat and melt the salts (maybe 15-20 minutes for a pan large enough to do a 6" hand, and you have a pot of superheated liquid that could do tremendous damage in event of a spill.
     
  13. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    Hey Jeremy, That's definately a very good point, burnt myself one time turning a lead ladel over on my leg(lots of four letter words). I was scratchin' my head and looking at a small toaster oven laying in the back of my shop this morning and got to wonering if I could tweak the thermostat or maybe even bypass it. According to the color chart Harold turned me on to, I need to be in the 600f range to get the color I'm looking for. I'm thinking of suspending the hands loosely on small SS wires so I can pluck them out with a magnet and quench them when ready.
    Let y'all know how it turns out. J.
     
  14. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    #14 Jay Fortner, Feb 23, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2011
    Well I spent 'bout 3 hours this afternoon working on this toaster oven idea and it WORKS(yeah!). First thing I did was open it up and found that the thermostat was adjustable And I was able to add 300f to the reading on the dial. At first it struggled to make 600f so I pulled the back off of it and packed it full of fiberglass insulation, That got the heat up. I bored a hole through the outer casing and into the oven midway up and installed a thermometer off a BBQ grill, it only reads 550f but I can guesstimate where 600f is. Grabbed up a piece of steel,preheated my oven,threw the steel in it and watched the thermometer. When it hit 600 I turned the oven off and removed the piece of steel. It came out beautiful. There were some rust pits on the steel that didn't come out as well, but the parts that I was able to polish,perfect. Good thing about this oven is you can do quite a few pieces at once. 85155.jpg 85156.jpg 85157.jpg 85158.jpg
     
  15. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    Pretty awsum! Yer cheatin' tho - goin' hi-tek on us. Naw; Others do th' oven deal. Nice work!
     
  16. Jay Fortner

    Jay Fortner Registered User

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    Hey Scottie, I figured you'd be the one to pipe up with that one.
    You mean I'm not the Inventor? Oh well I like to share info any way.
    What I like is the consistancy of the bluing and not having to babysit.
    Plus you can do a lot of pieces at once.
     
  17. Chris

    Chris Registered User
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    Can you PM me and let me know what type toaster oven you used, how you did the fiberglass, etc.? I'd like to try this for two different things; one for bluing hands and another for creating the Tucker Bronze effect on some clock cases.

    Thanks!
     
  18. Allan Wolff

    Allan Wolff Moderator
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    I have been struggling with bluing the hands for the pinwheel skeleton clock (see the Clock Construction forum) and finally developed a technique that seems to work well with consistent results.

    These are spade hands with slender arms and very fine points. On previous projects I used the method Jeremy describes of heating the hands on a bed of brass filings with good results, but these hands just would not cooperate. About the time the spade reached the blue color, the point and arms had already become too hot and turned gray. I tried a heat gun and a torch too, but could not regulate the heat evenly enough to avoid overheating the thin areas. I was reading the instructions for the bluing salts from Brownells which said to heat the salts to the temperature corresponding to the color desired by monitoring the temperature of the salts with a thermometer. (i):eek:(i) Hey, maybe I can apply the same technique with the materials at hand! Here is the method:

    Place a pile of brass filings in the center of a cast iron skillet. The pile should be at least 1/2" deep and large enough to easily hold the hand. Some people have reported using sand, but I have not tried that. The first photo shows this set up with the hands. The hands are shown only for scale. Don't put them on the filings just yet. (Note: this is my clockmaking skillet; we don't eat out of that rusty thing! )

    Heat the filings to 575 to 590 degrees F on the stove. This corresponds to a dark blue color. I monitor the temperature with a deep fryer thermometer. The probe is inserted into the middle of the pile. I put a lid on the skillet to regulate the temperature better. Hold this temperature for 10-15 minutes to make sure the temperature holds steady. It will have quite a bit of lag due to the mass of the skillet. See the second photo. Yes, I am overranging the thermometer, but it did not seem to suffer from the abuse.

    Remove the lid and thermometer and place the hand on the brass filings with a large tweezer or pliers. Use care not to scratch the hand. Move the hand in very small circles while pushing down until the hand is completely buried in the filings. Don't go all the way to the bottom of the pile, shoot for the center. Leave a very small portion of the hand visible (probably where the tweezer was) to monitor the color change. The color should change in just a few minutes.

    When it is close to the desired color, remove the hand with the tweezer and inspect it. If it is not done, bury it back in the filings for a little bit longer. Move it to a different spot in the pile if it looks like one end is progressing faster than the other; there may be a hot spot.

    The finished hour hand is shown in the third photo. It is tough to photograph heat blued steel, but you get the idea. It looks much better in person. This hand may need to be redone. Note there is a light spot where the arm meets the loop. I suspect I did not fully remove the old blued surface from the previous failed attempt.

    Since the filings were at the desired color temperature, the possibility of overheating the thin areas of the hand are greatly reduced. 88144.jpg 88145.jpg 88147.jpg
     
  19. Old newbie

    Old newbie Registered User

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    Greetings all, I have the situation where the hands of my E. Howard slave clock need to be reblued BUT both have brass swedged bushings and a counterweight (??) on the hour hand. The hands have several very nicely blued areas broken up by total rust spots.

    I am open to trying any repair process that will not involve separating the brass parts as that process would involve the remanufacture of the bushings and I do not have the capability to do so.

    Here is one of my engines at work showing off its blue nature after its initial run. CFM 56-5B powering an Airbus A-321

    21519156806_6106b19b0c_o.jpg
     

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