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Author Topic: Finish on original Hawken rifles  (Read 6004 times)
Dave C
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« on: December 13, 2009, 05:19:03 AM »

I have been away for awhile and it appears my account expired. I had to re-register.
I have a question regarding what type of finish was applied to original Hawken rifles.
I am on my second Hawken build and am getting ready to do final wood and metal finishing.
SOMEWHERE I read that on original Hawken halfstocks the steel nosecap and barrel tenon plates were left in the white while the rest of the hardware was blued or browned.
I don't remember where I read that but I was considering leaving those parts in the white on this rifle.
Can anyone verify that or does anyone have info as to how they were originally finished?
I have also considered aging all the metal parts with bleach and cold blue but I'm not sure I'm brave enough to try that yet.
Thanks.
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stoneke
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« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2009, 07:24:49 AM »

Dave: I have handled only three original Hawken rifles. One was in excellent shape and all of the hardware was charcoal blued. Others had well worn hardware, that showed evidence of being browned or blued. In R.L. Wilson's book, The Peacemakers, there are good color pictures of several Hawken rifles. Some distinctly show the nose cap and escutcheons as being dark in color, whether originally browned or from oxidation over the years. Other pictures show these metal parts to appear to have been "in the white", or the finish worn off.
In studying Hawken rifles over the years, I have found it prudent to never say either "never" or "always", as it seems as you will find exceptions in many of the features on originals. Some originals had a pewter nose cap, which could appear to be an unfinished steel piece. Most of the replica rifles observed from builders, better versed than I in the Hawken lore, have all of the hardware browned.
Bottom line from my perspective, you could do what you want and make a case for originality.
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Dave C
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« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2009, 08:27:02 AM »

Thanks stoneke.
I shoot primarily flintlocks but I built this on a whim.
I built another Hawken and sold it and swore I wouldn't build another one the whole time I was building it.
They aren't as easy as the Tennessee rifles I usually build.
By the time I got the last one finished though I had become somewhat fond of it and since I was over the learning curve I decided to build one for myself.
I like the looks of the grey aged metal and may go through the archive here and see what I can find regarding that finish.
I'm keeping this one and it will be a meat gun.
Since I'm not selling it I can make it any way I want as I only have to please myself.
I kind of want it different than an all browned rifle though and may mix it up or just do an antique metal finish on the whole thing.
I'm at the final finishing point and am suddenly really confused about how I want to do the final finish.
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Dphariss
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« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2009, 11:15:16 AM »

I would high polish and color case the lock and breech (or rather have Keith Kilby at Wyoming Armory do it). Maybe the trigger plate too.
I would perhaps put a weak rust blue (kinda greay blue) or brown on the barrel and then do about a 320 polish on the rest of the steel and heat blue them. If done right this will give a pleasing pale blue that is not very shiny at all.
This will give a good hunting rifle finish.
Then after some use you can determine where to enhance the wear a little if you just gotta have a gun that looks used. Grey all over is not a used gun, its a gun with grey finish. While popular it is generally grossly incorrect for someone thinking he wants a "used gun" look.

Looking at the rifle below it is hard to say how it was finished except I am confidant the lock was hardened.
Considering the remaining finish it could have had heat blue on everything else, or nothing.
Then again we don't know how its been treated in its prior life it could have been "fixed" at sometime and all finish removed from the metal to cure surface rust. The barrel looks too clean, no finish in protected areas. It would require detailed disassembly to get a good handle on this and maybe not then but this is not going to happen. The rifle having links to Jim Bridger.. I doubt it was mirror polished and really doubt it went out in the white. Shiny guns were not popular in the west they can literally be seen for miles if they reflect like too well. I over polished the patch box on the English style sporting rifle and its like a mirror and makes dancing reflected spots on the ground when the sun hits it right. Need to rust blue it after engraving, if I ever get around to it.



Will be back in Helena in January and will try to get by and eyeball it again.
Dan


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Dave C
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« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2009, 01:16:14 PM »



Looking at the rifle below it is hard to say how it was finished except I am confidant the lock was hardened.
Considering the remaining finish it could have had heat blue on everything else, or nothing.

Will be back in Helena in January and will try to get by and eyeball it again.
Dan




I may just go with my original plan and brown the barrel and some of the hardware and leave the nosecap and  little wedge plates in the white and let it age naturally.
Almost all of my guns tend to look almost like originals after I use them for a couple of years.
I'm not hard on them but I don't exactly baby them either.
Where in Helena is that gun Dan?
I'm not too far from there and it's possible I could pass through there sometime.
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stoneke
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« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2009, 03:36:18 PM »

Dave: Here are a couple of pictures that I took of an original fullstock Hawken. Most of the hardware was well worn, however, some of the protected areas, as pictured on the trigger guard, showed evidence of a blued finish. As stated earlier, I believe that you could find examples of most any finish. Wood finishes, that I've seen, have been a varnish type that was built up on the wood surface.
Good luck on your build.

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Dphariss
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« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2009, 07:48:52 PM »



Looking at the rifle below it is hard to say how it was finished except I am confidant the lock was hardened.
Considering the remaining finish it could have had heat blue on everything else, or nothing.

Will be back in Helena in January and will try to get by and eyeball it again.
Dan



I may just go with my original plan and brown the barrel and some of the hardware and leave the nosecap and  little wedge plates in the white and let it age naturally.
Almost all of my guns tend to look almost like originals after I use them for a couple of years.
I'm not hard on them but I don't exactly baby them either.
Where in Helena is that gun Dan?
I'm not too far from there and it's possible I could pass through there sometime.

Montana Historical Society Museum Up by the the capital. They have some trade guns and an 1803 HF.

I asked about the J&S they have which is a neater gun IMO but its, hopefully, at some Museum father down on the Missouri. "Maybe its on loan somewhere?" Roll Eyes or some such was the reponse I got. Along with a blank stare.

I will see if I can find someone with a better idea of where its at.

Dan
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"American Girls and American Guys
Will always stand up and salute  Will always recognize
When we see Old Glory Flying   There's a lot of men dead   So we can sleep in peace at night   When we lay down our head"
Toby Keith "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue"
Ben I. Voss
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« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2009, 08:41:20 PM »

I have the opinion that since Hawkens were based on English sporting rifles to a  certain extent (at least the later "classic" ones) that they were often finished like them with a mixture of color-cased  fittings and perhaps rust blued barrels. My opinion is based on both photos and guns that I've seen in person. Look at British rifles of the same period to see what I mean. My two cents- for what it's worth!
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Greg Field
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« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2009, 11:57:53 AM »

Stoneke:

Do you have any more pix or info about that gun? I think it's the only fullstock Hawken I've seen with a hooked patent breech. Thanks for showing it!
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Dave C
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« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2009, 12:02:58 PM »

Stoneke:

Do you have any more pix or info about that gun? I think it's the only fullstock Hawken I've seen with a hooked patent breech. Thanks for showing it!
 I'm interested in more pics of that gun as well. That single trigger and squared cheek piece are interesting as well.
Neat gun.
It looks like it has tool marks left in the barrel.
I'd like to see more of it.
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stoneke
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« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2009, 12:28:31 AM »

I will down load a series of the fullstock on Tuesday and post for your review.
Keith
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Chuck Burrows
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« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2009, 01:30:25 AM »

per Don Stith:
The few Hawkens in good enough condition to see original barrel finish are blued. I like the color I get by slow rust brown, followed by boiling the barrel in water. The blue is fairly dark and is probably slow rust blue rather than charcoal. When doing the rust blue, don't over polish or you get too bright a color. It is not the deep translucent blue seen on European guns. I usually just do a satin brown followed by boiling in water to duplicate the color.

The proper finish for the other iron parts: trigger guard, buttplate, lock, trigger bar, entry thimble, and nose cap is case hardened. Not the highly colored case of modern firearms, but rather a mottled grey case that some of the early makers called forge casing. On half-stocks the barrel, rib, and thimbles were blue rather than cased.

FWIW - my own examination of about a dozen original Hawkens agrees with Don's......
note re: rust blue vs charcoal - rust blue makes sense since it would have been by far the more common method of bluing for the period during which the Hawken shop was in business rather than charcoal blue which had begun to become passe by around 1800.

Wood finish appears to be soem verions of the typical linseed oil based varnish commonly used.
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Dave B
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« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2009, 02:00:22 AM »

Greg,
The breach is not a hooked style. It is a solid patent breach found on the early Hawken rifles and local squirrel rifles they made. You can copy the photo of the picture and enlarge it and will clearly see there is no seam between the fence and the bolster.  I have seen some original barrels with bolsters forged as apart of the barrel and the breach plug and tang is installed just like we regularly do it.  I too am interested in seeing some additional photos of the full stock rifle.
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Dave Blaisdell
Greg Field
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« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2009, 08:27:25 AM »

Dave: Thanks for the correction.
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stoneke
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« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2009, 12:09:45 PM »

Here are the pictures of Don Stith's fullstock Hawken that was displayed at Dixon's. I have also included some pictures of a flint fullstock that I built several years ago that has blued furniture and a case hardened lock.
Keith







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Dave C
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« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2009, 09:41:12 PM »

Thank You for those pics Keith.
Just as I tell myself I wont build another Hawken you post those pics LOL!
I see a possible fullstock Hawken in my future.
You do super work.
Beautiful guns!
Thanks again.
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J.D.
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Retired in the MO Ozarks


« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2009, 01:34:35 PM »

Thanks for posting the photos of the fullstock Hawken. I haven't seen that one, but there are a lot of others I haven't seen either. Real nice gun, though.

I have to agree with Dan and Keith, that Hawken barrels appear to have, commonly, been blued. I have seen a coupla very well preserved Hawkens, still residing in Missouri, that show traces of blue on the low wear areas.

Hawkens are not my cup of tea,  but I like 'em enough to pay close attention when the opportunity to see one presents itself.  Wink

God bless

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California Kid
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« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2009, 12:40:27 AM »

Building a Christian Hawkenesque rifle right now,but this thread has the wheels turning towards a plains rifle. Last one I built had a Bill Large barrel, hate to think how long ago that was! Probably just thinking too much. Jeremiah Johnson was on the TV the other night as well.
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