Sunday, February 05, 2012

Honest aging.

In comments at a post over at Joe Huffman's joint, Bubblehead Les remarked:
"If it's less than 50 years old, it's "Rusty." If it's more than that, then it's "Patina"..."
Heh. Since all bluing is is just pre-oxidizing the surface layer to protect the metal beneath, there's nothing wrong with an honest, even brown patina. (Hint: The nickname of the British Land Pattern Musket was "_____ Bess". Ready? Go!)

As a poor person who likes old guns and, more importantly, likes to shoot old guns, I'll take the $300 mechanically-sound gun with the browned patina over the $800 LNIB piece that I'm afraid to touch, every single time. (That's why I bought the second Colt 1903; the first one was too pretty to shoot the snot out of it.)

On the other hand, rebluing an old piece, unless it was clearly ruined, makes me sad. I'd rather see honest aging.


Carteach0 said...

Speaking for myself, that old Colt is so pretty it's scary to hold, let alone shoot.

Yes, patina can be a beautiful artifact of aging. It's a window into the character of the weapon.

Keads said...

I have many here that the bluing is gone. I cherish them more than the safe queens. So I'm going to shoot a Colt Police Positive revolver in .32-20 soon. I bought Black Hills ammo for this, do you have any recommendations for ammo?

Cemetery's Gun Blob said...

Rebluing?? 'shudder'

That's like the old man who lives down the street from we who has a pencil thin mustache and a toupee both colored with a shade of black that exists nowhere in nature.

Anonymous said...

"I'd rather see honest aging."

Odd .... the first thing that popped into my head was "paging Nancy Pelosi...." but then I think I'd rather not....

Lewis said...

Any excuse for some Kipling!

IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise –
An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes –
At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

Though her sight was not long and her weight was not small,
Yet her actions were winning, her language was clear;
And everyone bowed as she opened the ball
On the arm of some high-gaitered, grim grenadier.
Half Europe admitted the striking success
Of the dances and routs that were given by Brown Bess.

When ruffles were turned into stiff leather stocks,
And people wore pigtails instead of perukes,
Brown Bess never altered her iron-grey locks.
She knew she was valued for more than her looks.
"Oh, powder and patches was always my dress,
And I think am killing enough," said Brown Bess.

So she followed her red-coats, whatever they did,
From the heights of Quebec to the plains of Assaye,
From Gibraltar to Acre, Cape Town and Madrid,
And nothing about her was changed on the way;
(But most of the Empire which now we possess
Was won through those years by old-fashioned Brown Bess.)

In stubborn retreat or in stately advance,
From the Portugal coast to the cork-woods of Spain,
She had puzzled some excellent Marshals of France
Till none of them wanted to meet her again:
But later, near Brussels, Napoleon - no less –
Arranged for a Waterloo ball with Brown Bess.

She had danced till the dawn of that terrible day –
She danced till the dusk of more terrible night,
And before her linked squares his battalions gave way,
And her long fierce quadrilles put his lancers to flight:
And when his gilt carriage drove off in the press,
"I have danced my last dance for the world!" said Brown Bess.

If you go to Museums – there's one in Whitehall –
Where old weapons are shown with their names writ beneath,
You will find her, upstanding, her back to the wall,
As stiff as a ramrod, the flint in her teeth.
And if ever we English had reason to bless
Any arm save our mothers', that arm is Brown Bess!

Rob Reed said...

From what I've read it seems that antique arms collectors in Britian seem a bit mystified by our preference for "honest aging" as they tend to like their weapons "cleaned up" a bit and don't grok our prefering a slighty rusted example over a nicely refinshed example.

At least thats my understanding from reading some UK based antique arms publications. Granted, the emphasis over there is generally on blades, but I believe the same holds true for their (often deactived) gun collectors as well.

Lewis said...

"honest aging" has accounted for two of my most favoritest sixguns ever, a 1964 vintage 6" Colt Python, and a 5" Smith and Wesson 27, picked up for $500 for the pair.

Brigid said...

But at least it was not that sweet Winchester 94 that was rather inexpertly reblued by a kitchen table gunsmith who apparently didn't know that the receiver is a different alloy from the barrel. The receiver is now, not kidding, Barney purple.

Brigid said...

I love you, you love me. . BLAM!

Ritchie said...

My own 1908 came with a big patch of etching on the left side, probably from contact with some's since been tweaked into a "pocket protector". Once upon a time, I saw a 1903/08 in a store, that had been refinished to a "grained" finish and nickel or matte chrome plated. The only marking I could see in the case was the SN, and the piece looked like it was made new that way. When I went back it was gone.

Anonymous said...

Re-bluing a Winchester 94 requires the metal finisher know quite a bit of Winchester history. The metal of the receiver changed several times over the 100+ years of production, as did the factory bluing techniques.

The purple appearance is often an indication of higher nickel content. It can even happen with hot caustic soda bluing.

Pakkinpoppa said...

There's things to restore and things to not.
The "police confiscation" Hi Power I had (and should have kept) was a candidate for restoration, but I stupidly sold it.
A barn kept musclecar that is a rolling chassis with an engine that is only in name and not function, same with brakes and whatnot, is also a candidate for restoration.

Something with "patina" is different than something that has "rust" and "pitting". Patina means something has been cared for and wore the bluing off.

Rust and pitting means said item likely was left in the soft case in a leaky trunk (like the Mark I Ruger I bought for 50 bucks and again, stupidly, sold...)

Tam said...

Gosh, Pakkinpoppa, thanks for clearing that up for me. ;)

A brown patina, however, is rust... (And can serve to protect the metal beneath in much the same was as many other surface treatments.)

Craig said...

It is my understanding that the 'Brown' in 'Brown Bess' is taken from the color of the wood not the barrel. (The dark color of the wood was produced with aqua-fortis stain) Barrels back then were kept 'bright' in order to keep the rust from pitting holes in the barrels and to make them easier to inspect. They were actually scrubbed with 'rotten stone' and leather (kind of an early sandpaper) Even when they weren't used in a war the Bess usually only had a life-span of about 20 years before it had to be replaced due to the constant scrubbing to keep the metal bright, if kept in constant service and not held in an armory or other storage that is.

Bubblehead Les. said...

My Snark is not that "Patina" is Good, nor that "Rust" is bad, but the strange thing that happens when, crossing some "Mystical Date Line" that only they seem to know, Antique Dealers, (such as seen regularly on the "Antiques Road Show") will Oh and Ah over a 200 year old chair that's falling apart, but remains untouched. But they have a Hissy when, someone back in 1895, took its matching piece and restored it long before all of us where born.

I wish I knew where that line was, because I want to take my 1930's Spanish Baby Browning Clone that I paid $100 two years ago, so that I can add a Zero and take $800 for it at the Gun Show, "Patina" and all.

Tam said...

Bubblehead Les,

I got you, I was just riffing. Thread drift. :)

FWIW, in reference to Rob's comment above, in the U.S., a collectable firearm's value is, in large part, usually determined by the percentage of its original finish left intact, and a re-finished firearm has, by definition, 0% original finish remaining.

With some craftsmen like Doug Turnbull, that paradigm is being challenged, but it's very much a case-by-case thing.

Panamared said...

I've often thought of building a new rifle with a case hardened falling block action, with all other furniture done in a deep plumb brown. Keep the bore clean and lightly oil the furniture, almost maintenance free. Needles to say I don't mind patina, but deep pitting is a sign of neglect, never a good thing.

Angus McThag said...

Another school of thought about refinishing is if you don't give a BLEEP about the value and just want a shiny new looking gun.

That's my 1903 Pocket Hammerless. It was a whopping $150 at the gun shop and $100 in refinishing and I have the gun I wanted. How much is a pristine 1903 running for?

The patina on grampa's old .22 is never being refinished though.

It all depends on what you want, I guess.

Tam said...


Yup. I'd always tell customers that if they weren't planning on selling the gun, they probably shouldn't worry about the value and just do what made them happy.

Still, just like your shiny Colt makes you happy, it makes me happy to know that I am just the temporary custodian of these guns, some of which were almost a hundred years old when I was born, and which will be owned by someone else again after I'm gone. It makes me happy to leave them like they are. :)

Firehand said...

First time I looked at the Colt Autos site and read the 'How to care for the Collectible Colt' instructions... damn. "Wipe it gently and don't handle it otherwise, don't work the action, don't ANYTHING" it seems. Would definitely prefer one that I can actually shoot to one that must be treated solely as an investment.

That K22 masterpiece I picked up a few years back has a very worn finish, and some light pitting in a couple of places; but oh, how it shoots...

DirtCrashr said...

I like the brown on my old Krag. My wife's old Model 90 Winchester .22WRF appears to be re-blued, but very well done and not too recently so it had aged into some level of grace.

Angus McThag said...

If there's any consolation in it, the 1908 is aging naturally.