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I Forge Iron

Steel coloring and finishes

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I going to go ahead and assume what you mean by browning is heating steel that has had a thin layer of oil applied to it. That's what I call browning, at least. For an even (and lighter) color, I generally sand/wirebrush off any rust or scale and then wipe down the piece with old cooking oil. To heat it, I either put it over a coke-downed fire or use a propane torch. I've tried heating the piece though the tempering range and then quenching it out in oil, but I can never really get the thing to stop feeling greasy that way. For a darker color, I apply old oil of pretty much any type and heat it until it just begins to smoke.

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Aftist got it right. Easiest way is probably to buy some Birchwood Casey Plum Brown, or another ready-made browning solution (yes, Brownell's is a great source, I'm a second generation customer), and follow the directions to the letter. You can also create instant rust many different ways. One way is by cold bluing a part (cold blue is available at most gun stores), then repeatedly dunking it in bleach and rinsing with hot water and a stiff plastic bristle brush between dunks. I've never tried that method for browning, though; I've only used it to get an antiqued/etched appearance. Experimentation on something expendable would be in order. I'll warn you right now that you'll be amazed at how aggressive the combination of cold blue and bleach is.

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