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#6404 - 05/04/06 05:06 PM Re: Damascus Etching
PeteM Offline

Registered: 11/29/05
Posts: 4591
Loc: IL

Give Dale Edmonds a call at (816)444-2040. I spoke to him earlier this week, as I am sending him a set of barrels to do for me. His prices are very reasonable. He has done a lot of Parkers.

We had a rather long conversation about the process. He started doing it after he read Oscar's articles in the DGJ. He spoke on the phone to Oscar several times.

He has worked out his own unique set of methods. He is very willing to share the knowledge he has. A couple of things he told me. He plugs the barrels with rubber stoppers. The type used by chemists. They have holes in them. He runs a tube up and out of the bath to allow the barrels to breathe. He also said that if he didn't do that, they act like a pressure cooker and the stoppers eventually pop out.

He feels that the blackening process is not an exact science. That as, Jim mentions in his post, there are a lot of factors that come into play. One of the things that he mentioned, was that he feels alot has to do with the type of steel used in the barrels. He feels it may have something to do with the carbon content and perhaps the trace elements that were present when the steel was forged. It takes him about 2 weeks to do a set of barrels.

Like I said, give him a call. He has much to share.


#6405 - 05/04/06 09:25 PM Re: Damascus Etching
Doug Mann Offline

Registered: 01/07/02
Posts: 649
Loc: St. Anne, Il
Jim, It wasn't me that brushed the etchant on. I don't remember who suggested that method. I do remember seeing Oscars dipping tanks (made from PVC tubing) that was the method that he used. I should have paid A LOT MORE attention.

Doug Mann

#6406 - 05/05/06 04:35 AM Re: Damascus Etching
JimfromTrafalgar Offline

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 482
Loc: Trafalgar,IN
Sorry Doug, you must have been part of the same conversation, or name was similar. At any rate, never too late. The articles are still around, and Oscar derived a lot of info from Angier's book.
I may give Dale a call. I'm currently searching for a rusting agent that yeilds a lighter than normal color of rust for browning. I've got a couple of Angier's recipes in mind to try, but he may save me some leg work. I'm also curious about plugging the barrels. There isn't a process in refinishing damascus that would require vent holes in the plugs he uses. Boiling water won't harm the bores, and the etchant isn't hot, hence no expansion of air trapped in the bores during that part.

#6407 - 05/05/06 07:14 AM Re: Damascus Etching
Grampajack Offline

Registered: 05/26/04
Posts: 269
Loc: N. E. Ohio
I got my copies of Oscar's articles directly from DGJ a few years ago. At that time they had one article copied and the other came in a back copy of the magazine. You might try emailing them to see if they still have them. Seems like I paid about 15 bucks for the copies and well worth it. Jack

#6408 - 05/06/06 09:28 AM Re: Damascus Etching
PeteM Offline

Registered: 11/29/05
Posts: 4591
Loc: IL
Originally posted by JimfromTrafalgar:
I may give Dale a call. I'm currently searching for a rusting agent that yeilds a lighter than normal color of rust for browning. I've got a couple of Angier's recipes in mind to try, but he may save me some leg work. I'm also curious about plugging the barrels. There isn't a process in refinishing damascus that would require vent holes in the plugs he uses. Boiling water won't harm the bores, and the etchant isn't hot, hence no expansion of air trapped in the bores during that part.

I am sorry.

When he told me that, we were talking about blackening. Whether it is necessary to plug the barrels or not I would not know. I am just an interested consumer.

I know he has used several recipes for blackening. So for the rust process, that may be true as well.


#6409 - 05/06/06 10:34 AM Re: Damascus Etching
Fred Offline

Registered: 01/01/02
Posts: 707
Loc: San Diego Area
I and others were involved with Oscar as he evolved from 15% ferric chloride to 11%, then to 7.5% for some cases (mostly depending on ambient temp -- less concentrated in warmer climes).

Coating bores to protect is fine but he relied on solid rubber stoppers when dip etching. For boiling, each bbl tube got one solid stopper and one with one hole at the other end, with a 90 degree bent stainless tube to vent the bbl interior to air above the water line.
Here are my notes on his process, made with his help:

A Rust Blue Primer
From: Oscar Gaddy

A Slow Rust Blue Primer
With regard to polishing, this should all be done by hand and never with a buffing wheel. The finest that I usually polish is 320 grit. Any finer than this is wasted effort in my opinion as the etching of the steel surface by the acidic rusting agents creates a matte finish with more surface variation than is obtained by polishing with the finer grit papers.

After polishing is completed, the barrel surfaces must be completely degreased before rusting. There are several ways that this can be done including organic solvents and the lime slurry or whiting method. I prefer to boil the barrels in a mild solution of potassium hydroxide which saponifies and removes all greases and oils. The important thing is to use a method that works for you.

After degreasing, the barrels must be handled only when wearing gloves--either rubber or cotton depending upon whether the barrels are wet or dry. The rusting solution is applied to the barrel surfaces. I use a 1 inch wide foam paint brush for this. The rusting solution should be applied as uniformly as possible but it is not extremely critical. The barrels should then be allowed to rust from 12 to 24 hours. Some people use humidity controlled chambers, but I just hang them for rusting in my unheated and un-air conditioned garage. I live in central Illinois and the humidity of the outdoor air is seldom below 30 to 40 % year round which is quite adequate for rusting. Do not try to rust indoors as the indoor humidity is usually too low especially in the winter.

After rusting, the barrels are then boiled in water to convert the brown ferric oxide to the black ferro-ferric oxide. It is always safest to use rainwater or distilled or deionized water if your water supply is very hard. Water with large amounts of some minerals have been known to convert the brown oxide to reddish colored carbonates. After boiling, the excess black oxide is then carded off. I use one of Brownells wire wheels with .005 in steel wires rotating at about 600 rpm. You can also just use steel wool and it is much easier to do this with the barrels wet under running water if you do it this way.

After carding, the rusting, boiling and carding process is repeated until the desired black finish is obtained. The exact number of passes depends upon the rusting solution and the humidity during rusting. Finally, the barrels are placed in a chemically basic solution such as potassium hydroxide or sodium bicarbonate to neutralize any acids that remain on the barrel surface or in pores in the metal in order to prevent any after-rusting. The barrels are then oiled and the bores are polished and the process is complete.
These are the basics of the process. I will be happy to try to answer any questions.

Rust Bluing Formula per Oscar Gaddy Stock Solution; dilute 1:1 … and up to 1:8 for final rustings. To make 125 ml Stock Solution:

Conc. HNO3 ..... 3.22 ml

Hg2Cl2 (Mercuric chloride -- DEADLY poison) .... 6.25 gms

C2H5OH ..... 3.25 ml

Fe2Cl3 ..... 5 ml

H2O ..... to make 125 ml

Parker Factory Process Adapted by Oscar Gaddy: (DGJ 1997 #2, #3 & 2003 #1)

1. Prep as in Oscar’s original process [next page], Steps 1 – 7

2. “Light” Etch in “mild” Fe2Cl3 solution [I used 15%, it was hard to maintain even results in hi ambient temps of FL – Oscar later moved down to ~ 10%, some report using 7.5%]

3. Rust and card once daily, for 7 to 10 days, as in Oscar’s original process, but no boiling (wet card?) [I dry carded with 0.006 wire wheel, need to check speed, 0.005 or .004 better]

4. Only after 7 to 10 passes, plug bores with rubber stoppers (one in each bore with stainless, ¼,” 90 o degree-bent tube for pressure relief), then boil 5 minutes, in solution of 3.5 ltrs water with 60 cc logwood powder + 30 cc FeSO4 . 7 H2O powder (copperas)

5. Rinse well in cold water

6. Soak ~ 5 minutes in solution of ~ 3.5 ltrs water with 15 cc FeSO4 powder (concentration not critical) – a finger should be able to rub to show light metal with contrast

7. Scrub with CaCO3 powder picked up on wet towel (paper or cloth)

8. Job should look good, but can be improved if desired by rusting and carding 2 or 3 more times; if that is done repeat final steps 4 thru 7. [Parker factory on notes 2nd following page]

The First Process Oscar Gaddy Published [which I used on Parker D bbls with good results]:

1. Metal repairs as required: Raise dents & peen upset metal

2. Strike damaged areas

3. Hand polish to 320 (up to 400 grit) finish (but more is wasted effort, matted by rusting)

4. Drill 2nd hole in bottom rib

5. Degrease (boil in mild KOH, 0.1 - 0.2 N)

6. Remove remaining finish with Naval Jelly [or Brownell’s version for max polish]

7. Scrub with Ajax, rinse thoroughly and dry

8. Rubber stopper and rust with 1:1 dilution of rusting formula listed above; apply with 1 inch foam paintbrush with excess squeezed out; [make & use rib hole plugs next time]

9. Let stand and rust for 24 hours [but check progress, perhaps shorter time]

10. Boil in distilled H2O for several minutes; dry thoroughly

11. Dry card with 6” diameter wire wheel, 600 RPM, wires 0.006” – minimum pressure against wheel, (consider 0.005” for less aggressive removal or try hand carding next time)

12. Plug with rubber stoppers; immerse in Fe2Cl3 – commercial solution (Radio Shack) diluted to15% strength with H2O at room temperature for “a few seconds” – dilute even more, to 10%, 7.5% or perhaps even 5% at higher ambient temperatures -- [ I later learned that one, longer etch only, before bluing, is OK – see Parker factory process – still ambiguous on this]

13. Quickly rinse in H2O and wet card vigorously with grade 0 steel wool until no more finish can be removed – if not diluting to or below 10% consider dipping into a PVC pipe water tank rinse [rather than hose down] to even out etch time breech to muzzle

14. Repeat steps above as indicated, 10 to 15 times, diluting rusting solution after 2 to 3 passes – typically finishing up with 1:8 dilution for the final rustings – perhaps even lower

15. Immerse in dilute KOH (0.1 - 0.2N) for ~ 1 hour [I repeatedly injected KOH solution into inter-barrel region and sloshed it around], then …

16. Rinse thoroughly, then …

17. Dry, oil, RIG or wax thoroughly, and …

18. Polish bores, muzzle, lump and breech faces

Parker Factory Process (Unmodified, Verbatim from Parker notes – Oscar, 2003)

1. Clean with brush, heat “on steam pipes” until “fairly hot”

2. Wash with H2SO4, diluted 1:2, for 4 or 5 minutes to bring out the figure

3. Wash with water to kill the acid

4. Clean with pumice and water

5. Apply 1st rusting acid: ½ oz HCl + ½ oz CuSO4 in 1 qt water

6. Apply 2nd rusting acid while first is still wet; formula varied for weather:

Dry weather: ½ oz HCl + ½ oz HgCl + ¼ oz Fe2Cl3 in 1 qt water

Damp weather: ¼ oz HCl + ½ oz HgCl in 1 qt water

7. Place in steam dry[er?] for ~ 5 minutes

8. Put over to the side of the room after drying [to rust?]

9. Turn off “wet steam” after rusted and turn on “dry steam” to avoid too much rust

10. Let stand over night

11. Card with wire brush

12. When cold [implies prior step used power] repeat rusting exactly as before, 4 to 6 times

13. Cook in logwood bath 4 to 5 minutes; bath = 2 qts logwood [probably chips] + 4 to 6 ozs copperas 1.5 ozs CuSO4 in “tank” of water

14. Cool off and place in copperas bath; bath = ½ oz copperas in “tank” of water until finger can rub off black coating to show white, usually ~ 5 minutes

15. “Wash [implies rub] with whiting [CaSO4 fine powder] until figure shows even”

16. Wash under running water

17. Put into tank of hot water, wash well

18. Dry in sawdust

19. Rust again in two acids as before (Steps 5 & 6)

20. Cook in steam room [one time]

21. Cook in logwood + copperas bath 1 to 3 minutes

22. Put into copperas bath, finish as before

#6410 - 05/06/06 12:44 PM Re: Damascus Etching
JimfromTrafalgar Offline

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 482
Loc: Trafalgar,IN
It's the boiling that requires no plugs, or coating of the bores. Not being argumentative, and you can't hurt anything in doing so, but it's a waste of time and effort. Boiling water can't hurt anything, this according to Angier and personal experience.
When it comes to the etching tank, something must be done to protect the bores. I had considered using plugs, but got to thinking "what if one leaks a bit?" At that point, I decided I would rather go through the trouble of coating. Done in this fashion, I'm certain the etchant never meets the bores.
My shop is in the basement, approximately 70 deg. year 'round. 15% does quite well, or has so far, but I do keep in mind that with some metals, immersion time or bath strength may need to be altered.
I use a rusting cabinet. Actually, you might call mine an environmental chamber. My day job involves HVAC and refrigeration work. I can control heat and humidity fairly precisely in the contraption I've built. On a Saturday or Sunday,[when I'm there all day], I can get in 4 or so good rustings.
Once again, the premise is the same, but slightly different approaches to skinning the same cat.

#6411 - 05/06/06 04:12 PM Re: Damascus Etching
Tinker Offline

Registered: 01/09/05
Posts: 802
Loc: Palomino Valley, NV

Can you detail the protols you've found to work in respect to changing the time in the etchant or the molarity of the solution verses the observed effect on the steel?

Is the above noted set of procedures and recipes essentially the same for browning instead of blacking with the only exception being the logwood powder?


#6412 - 05/07/06 07:48 AM Re: Damascus Etching
JimfromTrafalgar Offline

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 482
Loc: Trafalgar,IN
From what I've read, again not experienced, because I work with metal and solution at a constant near 70deg.F, with an increase of 10deg. you can as much as double the effect of the reaction. This in mind, I can understand Fred's need to dilute solution if working in a garage in Florida.
The only changes I've required seem to be related to the make up of the actual metals involved. So far, it's been a difference that is fairly subtle and can be seen after the first immersion and wet carding. I've installed a flourescent light directly over the sink and etchant tank set up. This allows a good view of whether the result is little color left, decent contrast starting to show, etc. From this, I've been able to adjust bath time or rusting solution strength slightly to get better results on the next application. This can cost the time involved in an application or two, if the first result is too little color, but so far, that's about it. I have had one case where you could only push the metals involved to a certain point, or things started getting very blotchy and uneven. On those barrels, I had to remove the finish, repolish, and start over. I then cut back rust time and rusting agent strength, went through more applications to get all the color I could, and stopped the process as soon as subtle signs told me I'd pushed them to the limit. That set taught me that lighting and close attention to what the barrels are telling you is crucial. I might also add, here, that thoroughness in the wet carding is also critical. Anything not done well will show up more strongly on the next application.
Concerning logwood, I've found no need to use it on the black finish. I've tried, and found that, in my opinion, the benefits of gaining color a little more quickly are outweighed by it's potential to take away some contrast. I may try it again, but so far I've just gotten what I needed through more applications.
I've used logwood, in the past, on simple browning, to decent effect, but haven't attempted it yet on brown damascus. The main reason is that I'm looking for an agent that produces a lighter color rust than the one I currently use, first. My Zischang solution tends to render a chocolate brown, and I'm afraid the logwood would turn that to black. When I find the right stuff, I'll shoot for a plum color with the logwood.
When working on the brown finish, Gaddy, Angier, or both, mentioned that at times one would need to rust and card two or three times between etchings. I haven't done many damascus browns, but so far have found this to hold true. Basing the need to etch on the amount of color you retain after carding seems to work. Yes, I'm sure better judgement on this will come with experience.
I hope this answered your questions. I'd like to add that my thoughts on this process seem to run long, and in the end give no black and white answers. This, I believe, is the nature of the process. I might also add that the length of my responses should in no way suggest that I'm an expert on the subject. I'm simply relating what I've managed to learn so far. I'm confident in getting the results I'm looking for, but fully realize that my procedures may change as I run across more potential problems.

#6413 - 05/07/06 08:08 AM Re: Damascus Etching
JimfromTrafalgar Offline

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 482
Loc: Trafalgar,IN
After responding here, I was checking new posts and ran across Mark Larson's on some barrels I did for him. Those are the barrels mentioned above that gave me trouble concerning uneven finish. As you can see, they could be a bit darker,[to my mind], but I'd rather a more even finish, than uneven and dark. This was as far as I could push them.

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