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Thread: To steam or to boil. That is my question.

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  1. #1
    Member gonzogeezer's Avatar
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    To steam or to boil. That is my question.

    Hello All, I have managed to accumulate a bit of a pile of milsurp and other old pistols. I canít resist an old .32. I think some of them Willkie benefit from some
    conservation, specifically trying to restore what can be restored I f the original finish. Iíve read the threads up here, watched all of Mark Novakís Anvil YouTube videos on the subject. But I see here and from Mark that sometimes people steam the parts, sometimes they boil the parts, and sometimes they even do both.

    What is the rule? Is there a rule?

    Thanks.

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    Contributing Member mmppres's Avatar
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    I have restored alot of different firearms. Never really boiled them. Soaked the parts in a degreaser type liquid like purple power(very cheap) Then use your good thinner an finish.

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  5. #3
    Member gonzogeezer's Avatar
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    I donít see how that can convert rust.

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    Contributing Member ssgross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gonzogeezer View Post
    sometimes people steam the parts, sometimes they boil the parts, and sometimes they even do both.
    If conserving by getting rid of red iron oxide without damaging the underlying finish (black iron oxide), either steaming or boiling should work just fine.
    Steaming seems to convert faster. In my opinion, boiling is easier to get right every time...it's like the difference between smoking a pork butt vs. something delicate. I've done both boiling and steaming, but with rust blueing, both from scratch on bare metal as well as adding new rust bluing over top of existing finish to darken or fill in worn spots. My results with steaming were always blotchy - like a car you just washed but let it sit and air dry - even after a several dozen iterations. Some people say steam and report it works for them - the guy at rustblue.com even has a paragraph on his site about preferring steaming with some loose reasoning. I've tried steaming a dozen times now, on a full barrel as well as a receiver and small parts. I've tried preheating the metal to 220F or so before steaming. I've tried introducing the part after the steam is roaring. Nothing ever works. There is always some condensation on the metal from the steam, and that results in disturbing the fine layer of rust, and thus blotchy spots. Some say they fill in with subsequent iterations as the black oxide evens out. I say hogwash. Tried it with 30+ iterations. The spots and rings do subside, but wouldn't go away and were still very noticeable no matter what. Every time I tried to steam, I ended up sanding back to bare metal and doing it again with boiling. Maybe I just don't know what I'm doing. If it works for someone out there or they swear by it, good for them go give yourself a cookie.

    I've never had any blotchiness rust bluing with boiling. Also, guys will say steaming is the cheaper route to go...no tank to buy, just get your pvc tube and cheap pot with lid and hot plate or burner. I say hogwash to that too. My boil setup is a 4" cellular pvc pipe, with a short 1500w water heater element screwed in the bottom. Element is 7.99 at Lowes. black iron nipple and coupler are used as there are only 3 threads on the element and with so little you can't get it tight enough in the pvc without stripping the plastic threads. $10 for the iron fittings, and the male half from an old extension cord. I soldered the ground wire to the iron fitting, then wrapped all tight in vinyl tape just in case there was a leak.

    I used a scrap square of plywood with a hole cut, and some scrap 2x4 blocks to set it on. I then used a bungie cord to attach it to the rail of my back porch. The pvc softens after a while, and there is a mark from the bungie cord. But, after a hundred boils it still works just fine. In fact, I have it plugged in to a temp sensor so it stays at 210 while I apply the next coat solution of express blue. That way it's roaring boil in a couple seconds when I'm ready. Ran it like this for an entire weekend day and night...I had a lot of bluing to do...still using the same tube. No leaks. My first attempt was without the iron fittings. Got 2 boils before the threads started leaking.
    Last edited by ssgross; 09-15-2021 at 09:32 PM.

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    Contributing Member ssgross's Avatar
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    Well...I thought I might add one more point I just learned. My 1903a3 barreled action came back today from a parkerizing job. I had all my parts ready to go for assembly tonight, and I fit the stock before sending the action out. When I blued the parts a month ago, I boiled the cocking piece bolt collar, striker, and the little sleeve behind the striker. I don't like to have too many parts going all at once, so I did 8 iterations on these, and left them submerged in container of WD-40 while I did the safety lever, magazine cutoff, trigger, sear, and the floor plate from the milled bottom metal I was going to use. My water in the pot had gone down, so I put the steamer basket in and steamed this second round. They turned out fine, and I submerged them in the wd-40 and left it all there overnight. Next morning I wiped all the excess off the parts, and set them off to the side in a plastic container to wait on the action to come back.

    Well, there were noticeable blotches of surface rust on the floor plate, trigger, safety lever, and magazine cutoff, and none on any of the parts that were boiled. Lesson learned, steaming requires a final rinse or a boil to neutralize any residue left on the metal after the last iteration. The rust was very fine, and carded off with oil and steel wool without a trace left behind.



    I had forgotten I was still working on removing the pitting and sanding the trigger gaurd and so it is still in the white. When I blue it this weekend, I'll give all the parts a final boil in clean distilled water + baking soda to be safe.

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