Author Topic: Ageing Techniques  (Read 12968 times)

Offline Micah

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Ageing Techniques
« on: May 20, 2011, 04:41:44 PM »
I just finished reading the entire thread from 2009 titled "Aging question" so I am not looking for opinions of to age or not to age.
 
I would like to represent a rifle with a couple of years of age that has been well taken care of. Just so it hasn't got the factory newness and shiney brass and steel look, if you get my drift.

I've even been trying to test how the ageing process happens with my daily shooter. I stopped polishing brass and wood just cleaning and oiling the rifle, but the ageing is so slow it's not telling me much, and the patina that is developing on the brass is somewhat ugly, and splotchie.

I guess part of my question would be to what degree of finish original rifles were brought to by the ancient makers? Were original stock finishes high gloss (like violins and furiniture, My guess) or the more matte glow that we seem to prefer in todays firearms? And what degree of finish was the brass brought to, was it a slight gloss as would be obtained with 400 sandpaper or 0000 steel wool, or a high polish as with a metal polish? And were the steel parts, browned, blued, left bright and again to what level of finish?

Now that those concerns are addressed, what techniques do some of you do to age or add patina to these parts in general, and specifically about adding patina to the stock finish itself. And how do you do these? Tryiing to keep in mind that I want to add a slight amount of age on a rifle that was well maintained.
Thanks Micah
Michael Markey

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2011, 04:50:46 PM »
Well I think I can safely call this topic "A Can of Worms". This should be interesting. I felt a huge number of Forum members take a deep breath and begin to compose their response. This should be interesting.

Offline Micah

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2011, 04:55:05 PM »
I'm hoping for a lot of responses, and some valuable insights.
Michael Markey

Offline Jose Gordo

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2011, 05:53:45 PM »
Quote
I guess part of my question would be to what degree of finish original rifles were brought to by the ancient makers? Were original stock finishes high gloss (like violins and furiniture, My guess) or the more matte glow that we seem to prefer in todays firearms? And what degree of finish was the brass brought to, was it a slight gloss as would be obtained with 400 sandpaper or 0000 steel wool, or a high polish as with a metal polish? And were the steel parts, browned, blued, left bright and again to what level of finish?

If you use the same techniques for finishing that the original builders used, you should get the same finish that they did.  That generally means scraping rather than sanding the wood, and using a historically correct varnish.  There are recipes for varnishes in the archives.  Scraping tends to give a duller finish than sanding, and the amount of gloss youíll get from the varnish depends to some extent on the components of the varnish, and also how it is applied.  You can get anything from a matte finish to a high gloss, and I would suppose all variations would have been found on original guns.  Sandpaper was certainly available in later years, but the grades available and the extent to which it was used is debated.

Metal can be scraped, or finished with pumice or sandpaper.  Iíve experimented with various grades of sandpaper and pumice, and I canít tell the difference between sandpaper and pumice finishes, as long as the particle sizes are about the same.  The old timers had very fine polishes available, so the degree of polish you want on your metal is probably strictly a matter of personal choice.  Coarser grades of polish leave duller surfaces, and the coarser the polish, the faster it will tarnish.  If I wanted metal to oxidize, whether naturally or by applied chemicals such as a browning solution, I wouldnít polish any finer than about 220 to 320 grit.

As to browning and bluing, I think the consensus is that browning became popular in the mid to late 1700ís, and chemical bluing in the early 1800ís.  Some folks here will probably give you more exact dates than this.  Fire or charcoal bluing is probably appropriate for any gun.  Many guns, both civilian and military, were left bright, at least up until about 1800.

Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2011, 06:15:39 PM »
You may have seen the term "in a workman like manner" used to describe period work. It is a period term and I have found it means that the standards of fit and finish on craft products, from furniture to silver tea pots, were flexible --- and varied not just for the period and the skill of the maker but also for different surfaces on the same object.

The inside of a trigger guard bow, even on a grand longrifle, will often show fairly course file marks under a superficial polish or burnish. The barrel channel is very rarely fit to the octagon on the barrel. The background in relief carving has been discussed to death on this board but many examples exist where chisel cut surfaces are the norm. The modern builderís passion for perfection inside and out is a part of the revival movement and does not represent period work.

The actual surface finish, on the exterior wood or metal, is virtually impossible to know with any certainty. Those rifles with a violin varnish type finish (where the color is in the varnish) were likely shiny when new. But a regular oil, alcohol or oil based varnish finish could have been rubbed out or left with brush marks!
Few period mentions of finish exist and those are often ambiguous at best. A 1751 ad in the VA Gazette says ď...stocks plain or neatly varnishedĒ. Did ďplainĒ refer to an oil finish, no finish, or just a lower standard of varnish? No way to tell!
Iíll leave comments on techniques for aging a new rifle to others.

Gary
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http://flintriflesmith.com

Offline Blacksmoke

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2011, 06:47:25 AM »
Micah:    Ageing techniques - one of my favorite subjects!    For me - I only age new work when doing a restoration and then I document it.   I believe that ageing on a new made rifle is a form of fakery. I know that many of the contemporary makers try to add aging to their work -  don't forget to rust and pit the bore of your barrel as well!!     I know that we all like see and handle old originals and these all have Mother Nature's patina on them.  However She will add the same patina to your new rifle if you let her.   Yes I now it will take 150, 200 or 300 hundred yrs. but it will happen!  To me fake ageing cheapens the  artisans new work.    Does an artist working with oils on canvas put fake dust, dirt and hairline cracks in his newly finished work?  The same goes for the sculptor - does he chip and crack his new work?  I think only if he is trying to create a "fake" will he resort to such measures.   That's how I see it.    Hugh Toenjes
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Offline Chuck Burrows

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2011, 08:57:33 AM »
A word from a moderator ----
Quote
I just finished reading the entire thread from 2009 titled "Aging question" so I am not looking for opinions of to age or not to age.
The quote is from the original post - so please let's keep to the how-to and NOT voice your opinions on whether one should or not - that's been discussed ad infinitum here or you can start you own thread on that if you want
« Last Edit: May 21, 2011, 09:00:07 AM by Chuck Burrows »
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Offline Blacksmoke

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2011, 06:16:03 PM »
SORRY - I should have read the original post with a little more care!
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Offline Blacksmoke

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2011, 07:03:01 PM »
Micah:  I guess I need to slow down and read things a little more clearly!   Anyway - ageing new work is an art-form in itself.   Esp. if you want it be somewhat close to what an antique looks like.  There in lies the key - study antiques from furniture to to hand tools and old guns.  Note how they were used and where the wear patterns are - in particular where most of the corrosion is located.  When it comes to non ferrous metals - these can present some real problems to get them to "age" properly.  Then they have to be "highlighted" depending on where the wear patterns are located.   When it comes to the stock - this presents more diligence in creating a suitable finish with aged dents and dings that have a worn look to them.   An old dent in wood has a "depth" to it such as:  the bottom is usually filled with dirt and grime which is very dark or black.  The edges of the dent are not sharp but rather rounded off due to handling and polishing wear.   These are but a few criteria to keep in mind when attempting to "age" a new piece work.   There is much more to this subject and I do not have the time or space to get into it here but I hope this will point you in the right direction.      Hugh Toenjes
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Offline Micah

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2011, 07:27:05 PM »
Thanks Hugh

Like I said I'm only trying to minimize the very newness of a new rifle so that it looks like it may have a few years of well cared for use. The key word here is minimal.

I'm not trying to create forgeries but I'm still interested in how it's done and what's used to create the effect of age.

Micah
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Offline okieboy

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2011, 07:34:38 PM »
 Blacksmoke, while I will not represent myself as an expert on ageing, I do like guns to look old and know a finish technique. You can carry part of the color in the finish itself. Lets say that you dyed the wood a moderate reddish brown. You then tint your finish with a darker brown. You build up the final darker color coat by coat with the finish, and it may take several coats. Then as you handle and use the gun the high use areas and sharper edges will wear to cause highlights of lighter color. Obviously this can be hastened with the carefull use of fine Scotchbrite, and I mean graded Scotchbrite from a woodworking supply or industrial supply house, not the grocery store.
 I also like the soft glow that an occasional coat of dark woodworkers wax gives the surface of the wood.
Okieboy

Offline Jose Gordo

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2011, 10:30:17 PM »
Micah Ė It seems youíre not getting much help from people who actually know how to age metal and wood, so Iíll give you what help I can.  Keep in mind my experience here is limited.

As far as the original finishes go, as Gary pointed out, we donít really know for sure.  I would imagine that they ran the gamut from none to very fine, just as they do now.  If you go to your local gun store, youíll see low end rifles with tool marks on wood and metal, and a crummy finish.  On the other end of the spectrum are the high end custom guns with mirror polishes on all surfaces.  The old guns would have been the same.  So, what are you building?  If itís a rough and ready barn gun, maybe you want to finish it with tallow or beeswax, and leave tool marks on the gun.  The other extreme would be French polish on the wood, and mirror finishes on the metal.  The best advice I can give you is to start with the original tools and finishes.  Once you have a finish, you can age it.

In ageing, you are trying to replicate a natural process, only accelerated.  The most popular way to age steel around here is to apply Clorox and cold blue.  You can find instructions in the archives.  When youíre done, you will have metal that looks just exactly like it has been treated with cold blue and Clorox.  But if you want a natural looking finish, you need to age it with natural processes.

The only metal and wood Iíve aged was a hash knife, which was done for friend of mine wanted me to replicate a 100 year old hand forged hash knife for him.  Hereís the original, and a couple of copies:





I started by hand forging the metal, and rasping out the handle from a block of wood.  The wood was supplied to me by my friend, so it doesnít show age cracks like the original does.  If I were really trying to replicate the original, I would have used cracked wood to start with.  I tried several techniques for aging the metal, and the only one I liked is very close to what would happened naturally.  Now thereís a big surprise! 

To age the wood, I applied a couple of coats of Brown Varnish and let them dry.  Then I applied a final varnish coat and rubbed the surface with some very fine dirt.  The best source of dirt is the fine dirt in a vacuum cleaner bag.  A word of caution Ė do this in some secret place, and destroy the evidence.  You do not want to discuss with your wife why you are getting dirt out of a vacuum cleaner bag. 

When the varnish was dried to a tacky stage, I suspended the knife in a bucket with a little salt water in it, put the lid on the bucket and put it in the green house.  As a rule of thumb, chemical reaction rates double with every 10 degree increase in temperature, so warmer is better.  I donít know what the temperature in the bucket was, but Iíd guess in the 100 degree range.

Ageing under these conditions is rapid.  You can let it go as far as you like, but from what you are describing I think a couple of days would be plenty.  You may want to card the metal once or twice, just like you would do with browning.  You may also want to rub back the stock finish a little in the high wear areas, and apply a little dirt there.  Experiment, and see what you like.  Think about what happens to the gun during use, and replicate that exactly.

It took me a considerable amount of time and experimentation to come up with this process, but I was satisfied with the results.  These arenít great photographs, but in hand it is difficult to tell the original metal patina from the artificial patina.  This is because they were produced by the same process.   And, except for the cracks, I was able to reproduce the dirt and wear on the wood handles.




Offline heinz

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2011, 11:39:44 PM »
Micah, here is one method of aging.  It uses 5% sal ammoniac solution and the fact that this ancient solution does not take well over heat blue.
The first photo is the patch box heat blued.  Not very carefully heat blued because we are after an effect
The second photo is the patch box after being wiped with the sal ammoniac and allowed to rust.  It was actually rusted a bit too much by applying multiple coats because I wanted to encourage some mild pitting
The third photo is the box after boiling which turns the rust black
This process was repeated 4 times and then carded off with steel wool.  The final photos show the result.





« Last Edit: May 21, 2011, 11:40:46 PM by heinz »
kind regards, heinz

Offline Pete G.

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2011, 06:20:57 PM »
I have always thought that if you want a gun to look used, then use it..........but use it like it was used originally. Guns were not kept in a humidity controlled environment and transported only in a padded case, and they certainly weren't cleaned and polished to the extent that some do today. Carry the piece and shoot it and clean it on the spot. A longhunter certainly didn't wait until he got home to clean his rifle, he maintained his equipment as required to remain reliable, nothing more, nothing less. Brass was used because it was easily fabricated, which involves a certain amount of polishing, but I certainly can't see a rifleman keeping it in a high state of polish, since that could easily lead to an early demise in a frontier environment. The first cleaning patch out of the bore can be used to wipe the brass and will kill the shine and jumpstart the aging process. You might also experiment with scrubbing some of the iron parts with a green kitchen scrubber and some WD 40 to hit the high spots. These two processes can help remove the new (greenhorn) look. 
If you will carry and use a rifle the way they were used in days past (a trailwalk for instance) it will invariably pick up a few dents and scratches, and begin aquire the used, but not abused look. I carry a rifle on long walks and usually shoot and clean before I leave for home. This is done with water from a canteen, or windshield washer fluid and a wipedown with a good oil. I will however,  remove the lock for a thorough cleaning every few months or so, and given the whole piece a wipedown with "Kramer's Antique Improver". Doing this will give the rifle the mellowed look that you are trying to obtain.

.......Or you could send the rifle, along with an ample supply of powder and lead to any one of several members on this forum and they could probably return it looking used, just in time for hunting season.

Offline marcusb

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2011, 10:38:39 PM »
I have a very simple techinque for aging my guns, I shoot them and then clean them! Between the powder grime, dents a dings from swinging a 5 ft pole around in the house and water stains, they take on a very honest and in my opinion lovely patina.

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Re: Ageing Techniques
« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2011, 11:00:12 PM »
im finding a good way to age steel is let it rust and then hit it with some oil and steel wool to remove the rust but leave the aged look dont let it start pitting though