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black finish for a rapier hilt

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I am making a rapier hilt and want it to have a black finish like this: http://www.sword-buyers-guide.com/rapier-sword.html
My question is: can i make the finish similar to the picture, with relatively low color deviation by heating the whole hilt in a coke forge to black heat (note that the hilt is roughly 6 inch long made of 1/4 inch round stock of mild steel) and dipping into motor oil? Hilt is all one piece. Never done this type of finish before.
And what about rust, should i use a wax finish atop of it?
Thank you.

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I am a big fan of rust bluing -- which, by the way, I believe to be a very old technique. It it's done well, it looks beautiful. It's also very durable -- vastly more so than heat colors or baked-on carbon (which is what you described). Essentially you cause the piece to rust lightly, then card off the loose rust with steel wool or some other very light abrasive. Repeat the process until you have a good, solid coating of tightly bound rust over the entire piece, then you boil it until it turns black. What you end up with is essentially the same as the "black oxide" coating you find on a lot of drill bits, etc. There are many ways to cause the rust. Probably the simplest is to get a rust browning solution. Rust browning is basically rust bluing without the final step. For example, Laurel Mountain Forge sells a browning solution: http://laurelmountainforge.com/ Birchwood Casey Plum Brown is another example: http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=24772/Product/PLUM-BROWN

This process is time consuming, but it works very well.

The key to any kind of bluing is that the piece must be absolutely clean before you start, and througout the process. Any sort of oil on the surface -- even if it's just from your fingers -- will screw up the bluing.

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Final addition: my instructions for rust bluing are crude at best. If you really want to get into this, Google "rust bluing" and start reading. You can spend a lifetime on the subject if you feel so inclined. :) There are lots of old books out there with in-depth info on this subject, and probably hundreds of formulas for the rust solution. (Some of them involve chemicals you're not likely to be able to get anymore, and wouldn't want to play with even if you could.)

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Thanks all of you. Rust bluing sounds like just what i need. I will definitely test the idea. Only problem might be the rust solution. I am not very keen on purchasing a 10 dollar item over the ocean and here in Slovakia surely it will be hard to find as well. But i am sure i will find some recipe on the internet to make something on my own if i cannot buy one.

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Acids are good at rusting steel. HCl (hydrochloric acid) and HNO3 (nitric acid) are both traditional for this. (Nitric acid is hard to get in the U.S. these days, because it's so useful in making explosives. But maybe things are more relaxed in Slovakia.) You can just seal your part up in a warm cabinet with a water source and open containers of nitric and hydrochloric acids. Leave it overnight and it'll have a layer of rust on it the next day.) A tent made of a plastic tarp would probably do. Obviously, you want to be very careful handling the acids, and avoid breathing the fumes. And I suggest you do this outside. If the fumes get loose in your shop, you're going to have rust everywhere.

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There are a variety of "Cold Bluing" products, that are commonly used to "touch up" wear spots on rust blued guns.

I'm sure this would be the simplest way to color your hilt.

In using those products, it's important to thoroughly degrease the surfaces to be blued.

A brand that I've used successfully, ... and would recommend to anyone, ... is "Birchwood Casey".


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I picked up a copy of "Firearm Bluing and Browning" by R. H. Angier that is full of recipes for patination of steel; might be hard to find over there but as you can see most people are advising you to try firearm bluing techniques so you might find a local gunsmith that could give you pointers.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok guys, here are the results. I basically did exactly what you have told me.

1-polish the thing with files and sandpaper
2-boil for some 30 min in water with dishwashing detergent to degrease
3-let sit overnight in plastig bag tent with opened bottles of water, nitric acid and hidrochlorid acid
4-boil for 5 minutes
5-brush with soft brass wire brush
6-repeat steps 3,4 and 5

Customer is pleased with its look and i am pleased because i learned a new finish and pleased a customer. You have been most helpfull. Thank you all very much, especially to MattBower for instructions.
Here are some pictures. I am still bad at capturing metal on photography.



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