First (and second) time bluing hands

JeffG

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Jul 8, 2020
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Good day all!
Just wanted to show off my my first attempts at bluing a set of hands from a Sessions 8-day mantle clock.
After scrubbing off most of the rust there were traces of blue on the hands and some of the hardware on the movement is nicely blue, too, so I decided to give it a try. First I just rested the hands on a piece of steel and held a propane torch under to see what would happen. Lo and behold they turned gold/purple/blue/black/gray in no time!
The first picture attached is the result.
So I did more reading on these forums and gave it a second shot. I polished the hands reasonably well and placed them into a nest of brass filings (supplied by a friendly locksmith shop) in a crudely folded 28ga aluminum tray. After a few minutes over the torch, I'm feeling like some kind of alchemist!

Blue1.jpg Blue2.jpg Blue3.jpg Blue4.jpg
 

ToddT

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Jun 23, 2020
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My movements are likely to be more colorful from now on!
Not sure I want to know about anyone's colorful movements. ( :) Sorry. First thing I though of when I saw Jeff's comment!)

Seriously, nice job! I haven't taken this on yet myself but have a couple sets of clock hands that could be beautiful with this treatment.
 
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Allan Wolff

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Jeff,
Great job on those hands! Paint or chemical bluing found on the hands of so many clocks can never match the color and depth of heat blued steel. Although the oxidization coating formed by the heat bluing process will help protect the hands from rust, you might consider applying a coat of Renaissance wax or even car wax for additional protection.
Nicely done,
Allan
 

JeffG

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Seriously, nice job! I haven't taken this on yet myself but have a couple sets of clock hands that could be beautiful with this treatment.
Thank you!
It was much easier than I expected. As with most things I suspect preparation is the key. The better the polish, the better the resulting evenness of color.
And slow cookin' is better.
At first I held the tray about 6~8 inches above the torch and eventually the hands turned a golden brown "straw" color and stopped there. I lowered the tray down an inch or so and the blue started to appear. I tried to heat the bigger arbor ends a little faster so that the tips wouldn't get too hot too quick and overcook.
 

kinsler33

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I dearly want to try that. I've collected brass filings from a few key shops, but I haven't been able to gather my wits enough to blue hands. I've had some reasonable results with just a torch: it turns out that, once waxed, even a somewhat multicolored pair of hands generally pleases the customers. But boy: yours are glorious.

Mark Kinsler
 

RJSoftware

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I think I recall 500 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature goal. A thermostat controlled electric heat source is supposed to be more controlled method.
 

RJSoftware

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Heat the steel to temperatures from 400 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit, to produce oxidation colors. At 480 degrees F., the steel turns brown, at 520 degrees, it turns purple, at 575 degrees, it turns blue and at 800 degrees, it turns grey.

So it's 575
 

shutterbug

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I tend to turn blue at much colder temperatures :D
 
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JeffG

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A thermostat controlled electric heat source is supposed to be more controlled method.
Yes! I recall reading a bluing thread in which someone disassembled a toaster oven and was able to manipulate the thermostat to reach these higher temperatures- since most toaster ovens max out at about 500F. He also had to stuff fiberglass insulation into the air spaces due to radiant heat loss.
I've been keeping an eye out at the thrift store for an older model. All the new ones seem to be digital.
 

SuffolkM

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Great job on the heat blued hands! The amount of carbon in the steel will keep you on your toes. e.g. in these photos, a modern second hand made from mild steel versus the more 'aqua' look of the old longcase hands. It can be very hard to keep the colour on the dark blue with the old annealed steel, and the surfaces are often uneven from being hammered (in a nice way).

Heat blueing is quite an art, and very good fun ! The results also stun and delight customers, so it's great for them too!

Two thumbs up

Michael

IMG_6685.jpeg IMG_6640.jpeg
 
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