Restoring an old sword

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Grumpy
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Restoring an old sword

Post by Grumpy » Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:12 am

Hi John!

Let me tell you the condition of my sword in a nutshell -

1. There is a considerable amount of pitting, and stains (blackish) on the blade.

2. I'm told that someone had tried to clean/remove the rust with a chemical of some sort. This chemical has formed a whitish hand layer of its own.

3. The handle is made of iron. Almost the entire handle is covered in gold (floral patters), but where the iron is exposed, its heavily rusted.

4. The handle of the dagger and the sharpening tool are made of bone. I think the chemical that was used had come in contact with the bone and stained it. Can something be done about this too...?

Please excuse the hassle, but I dearly want to restore this sword.

Thanks and regards,

Roshan
Hi Roshan,

I've been waiting to hear from you - I wondered if perhaps you'd gone away for a few days.

The problem with using a chemical rust remover near gold is that the acid will react with the impurities in the cold and change the colour. This can vary considerably depending on what else there is in the gold but it will be black or dark greenish black. This colour is permanent so DO NOT use chemical rust removers on gold ( or silver ) or anywhere near a precious metal. Another problem with rust removers is that because of the acid content when applied to rust they will also etch the metal around the rusted area. I try to avoid using chemical rust removers as much as possible but when I do need to use one I use Birchwood Casey Gun Blue Remover and clean it off very quickly.

For the rust on the handle of handle of the sword cover the whole hilt with a light machine oil such as WD-40, 3 in 1 or Singer Sewing machine oil. Allow the oil to soak in to all the rust until it is uniformly dark. It`s best to reapply the oil a few times over three or four hours. Then soak a clean absorbant cloth in the same oil - old fashioned yellow cotton dusters are ideal - and gently wipe the handle taking off the rusty brown oil. You`ll need several cloths as this makes a hell of a mess. When no more rusty oil comes off the hilt, wipe off the rest of the film of oil so that the hilt is dry. Then with some dry 400 ( or higher ) grade emery cloth, LIGHTLY rub the dark scale that is left. ALWAYS work straight up and down, from top to bottom. This light abrading will take the top off the remaining scale and you`ll probably see brown rust again. If you do, soak with oil again and repeat the process. Keep doing this until no brown rust appears.

You`ll then have a lightly polished hilt but with black marks in the pits. Now take some fine steel wool or 400 grade emery cloth and apply a little light oil on it - NOT WD-40 ( WD-40 is too thin to lubricate adequately - and start rubbing at all the black pits but remember only to work straight up and down. Keep working until most of the black has gone. You`ll have to decide at some stage just how black you are prepared to tolerate as you probably wont be able to remove all of it. Remember that as you are abrading the iron you are also abrading the gold inlay which is much softer and much thinner than the iron. Then polish with 800 grade emery cloth (and oil) and then 1200 grade.

For the blade you will have to use much the same procedure. If the pitting is very bad you will have to start with 320 grade or even 240 grade. The only way that you can completely remove deep pits is to grind the blade down......which is probably not a good idea. For final polishing after using the 1200 grade emery cloth you will have to use jewellers rouge and a clean cloth. This is bloody hard work ! You should be able to source jewellers rouge quite easily - I know that there are plenty of jewellers in India. If you have a problem sourcing it try toothpaste - but be careful as some toothpastes are actually quite coarsely abrasive. When the sword
is as good as you can get it you`ll need to apply a protective film over the whole sword. Linseed oil is quite good but like all oil it will be removed by handling. A better idea is to use a wax-oil. You can make this very easily by heating a pint/half litre of light petroleum based motor oil (not a synthetic or semi-synthetic) (Plain 10 or 15 grade is best) and melting half an ordinary paraffin wax candle into it - just drop it into the pan with the oil. Allow to cool - it should be the thickness of emulsion paint. If too thick you`ll have to re-heat and add more oil. Hang the sword by the hilt outside in the sun and thinly wipe on with a clean brush and then let it drip dry. The coating should be extremely thin - barely visible. If the wax-oil is too thick you`ll see lumps form. Then you`ll have to clean it off and thin the wax-oil a little more.

You should never touch an untreated blade with your bare fingers as the acids in sweat will mark the blade eventually. To clean off a bone or horn handle you`ll need to abrade the surface with 800 grade emery cloth - 1200 is even better if you have the patience - but don`t touch the bone with your fingers - it needs to be grease free. This will remove some of the staining. You then need to apply peroxide to the stain using a cotton bud. Treat a very small area - less than the size of your little finger nail - at a time. When the staining has disappeared - or as much as it is going to - wipe off the bone with a clean damp cloth. When it has dried wipe it again - with a different part of the cloth or another cloth. Do this four or five times. You then need to wipe the bone with the clearest, lightest VEGETABLE oil that you can find. You can use clean, white animal fat if you prefer. The darker the oil you use, the darker the bone will colour.

If you have any questions, just ask. As you can see, none of this is complicated, just slow and hard work.
John

P.S. Something that I forgot to say is that instead of jewellers rouge ( or toothpaste ! ) you can use `T Cut` which is a proprietary product used to `cut` the bloom on automobile paint. A good product and one that costs little but goes a long way.

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Post by penpusher » Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:48 am

A good automobile rubbing compound without wax might also work. Did use colgate as a finishing touch to cleaning a really filthy pistol barrel once. It probably had not been cleaned ever and at first glance I thought I had got a pistol with a corroded barrel. An hour with a bronze brush and WD40 and some gun oil and the barrel looked presentable. Finally, used colgate toothpaste with a nylon brush and then rinsed it with water. The barrel looked like it was chrome lined.

Take care,
penpusher

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Post by Grumpy » Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:50 am

`T-Cut` is a rubbing compound - and wax free. The name is so ubiquitous in the UK now that nobody asks for `rubbing compound` any more, they ask for `T-Cut`. The use of toothpaste is an old trick but you do have to be careful as some cheap brands are surprisingly abrasive. The minty smell is a bit peculiar when used on a gun as well....

Roshan / Mack The Knife, emery cloth is getting harder to find all the time. It must be available in India
though as the only types I can now get are made in India or China. It's advantage is that is doesn't tear like emery/abrasive paper and wraps around curves much more easily. You can use abrasive paper in the same grades if necessary though. If you prepare the blade/barrel/whatever in the way that I've detailed you don't need to use a rust/blue remover. I avoid using chemical rust removers as far as possible as they harden rust scale so much it just makes for much more work. Mack The Knife, the Birchwood Casey gun blue remover makes rebluing a far easier job. As you will have discovered, `touch-up` cold blues are different in both colour and texture to the original bluing and - as often as not - look worse than bare metal. I don't bother with hot bluing any more as there are `cold` blues available now that give a lovely deep black and only require moderate heating of the metal. They`re not as tough as hot bluing though.

If you want to colour metal a true blue colour there is an easy and very old way of doing it. It's only suitable for parts that aren't handled - like recessed screws or pistols that live in a cabinet - as it is not at all tough. Just heat the metal to be coloured in an oven up to about 100 degrees c and then take it out of the oven and drop it into a container of old, black, very used motor oil. You might have to experiment with the temperatures a little but I've never had to heat above 100 degrees c. Be very careful when removing the item from the oil and leave it to drain on a cloth. When it has `dried` as much as it will, gently dab it dried with a very soft cloth. The blue colour is gorgeous - a true bright blue. Only works on carbon steels. I once blued the slide on a 1911A1 .45ACP PP pistol using that technique and it looked stunning....wore off VERY quickly though. There are much more durable blues/purples that can be achieved but they require very precise temperature control.....and very high temperatures.

For colour case hardening you can do what I did and use an old electric pottery Kiln.....but don't expect the range of colours that you get on English shotguns. The basic recipe calls for charcoal and bone-meal/bone fragments but that gives a limited palette. For the full range of colours you need to add some very nasty compounds - arsenides. If you have any sense, you`ll stick to the basic colours.......too easy to deprive your children of their father otherwise! Turnbull Restorations used to have examples on their website of some of the guns that they had recoloured and the colours they achieved were remarkable - pale and dark blues, pale and dark greens, pale and dark browns, pink, gold - amazing.
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Post by Mack The Knife » Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:53 am

Excellent stuff again and promptly saved to the original Word document. Thank you!

John, which cold blue do you recommend?

I have used Hoppes, BC's Perma Blue tubes, Brownell's Oxpho Blue, Brownells 44/40, G96 and an unbranded one in a miniature booze bottle (as served on flights) from Hyderabad. Also managed to
scrounge a bottle of Outers but am yet to use it. Amongst all these, the G96 and Hyderabadi cold blues worked best.

My brother will be in the U.K. shortly and I'll ask him to pick up the stuff you recommend.

Thanks.

Mack The Knife

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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by Grumpy » Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:59 am

The most durable cold blue is Brownells Oxpho-Blue - it really is tough! Unfortunately, as you've probably found, the colour it produces is very strange - a sort of metallic, shiney, grey/black.

The best blue that I've found for all round purposes is Blue Wonder. It does require heat however - although not a great amount. I've found that on a hot, still, summers day when working outside all that is necessary is a hair drier but a gas blow torch ( low pressure - the type you screw a gas canister on ) does the job otherwise.

I know there is a distributor in the UK but can't for the life of me remember who it is - I bought mine in the USA and brought 20 packs back a couple of years ago. It's not cheap, by the way, but produces a durable and deep black - far better than any cold blue. It's intended for covering whole barrels - not touch-ups - and a lot of gunsmiths are now using the product. Frankly it's hard to tell the difference from a traditional hot blue - but far, far, easier to do !

Blue Wonders` contact details can be found at:

http://www.bluewonder.us/

Use the online form to ask them who their UK distributors are. You'll also find details of the product and instructions on the website. If you have any problems just ask.

If you use Birchwood Casey gun blue remover to remove the old blue and then polish to 400 grit specs you'll get a finish similar to factory blue. If you polish to 800 grit specs you`ll get a superior - very deluxe - finish. If you finish to 800 grit and then polish using a rubbing compound the result is stunning.

The secret to any bluing job is in the preparation. The better the polish, the better the finish - deeper colour and more lustrous. Any trace of grease - even a finger mark - will ruin a bluing job. You have to thoroughly degrease after polishing - use detergent and hot water, then clean hot water to rinse, then neat alcohol - meths will do. You can use a proprietary rust remover to remove the old blue but they will etch the metal which means that you'll have more finishing to do.

NEVER use anything coarser than 240 grit on a barrel - I always start with 400 grit. Mount shotgun barrels on a pair of wooden dowels through the barrels on a secure frame to heat and apply blue. A rifle barrel presents more problems but you'll figure out a way of mounting them.
Make a man a fire and he`ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.
( Terry Pratchett )

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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by shooter » Sat Jan 19, 2008 10:10 pm

thanks a lot for the info grumpy/mundaire.
i really needed info about restoring swords.
also, If anyone knows someone in india who can restore swords, plz lemme know.
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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by Yudhvijay Singh » Sun Mar 13, 2011 9:13 am

Dear Mr John,
I have two family swords may be 250 years old and one long pointed Dagger with Elephant Tusk handle, which I saw in Windsor Castle museum in UK. I used to wonder how to do the through cleaning of thm. After reading your reply to Mr Roshan, I am very impressed and would try the same.
Yudhvijay Singh

-- Sun Mar 13, 2011 9:23 am --

Dear Mr John,
Can you suggest, if I can find a good Gun Smith who can carry out repair on my Diana Air Gun by replacing its springs and carry out Browening on the gun. I live Mumbai but as I have a Farm House in Greater Noida, I keep going there often and as such keep visiting Delhi.
Also I have a DBBL gun. I want to get the Browening done on its Barrel and polishing on the Butt. It is a weapon for which I have lot of sentimental value.
Yudhvijay Singh

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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by marksman » Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:16 am

Sorry for deviating a bit from the actual topic of sword restoration but I totally agree with Grumpy concerning Blue Wonder. I too have tried a whole lot of cold blue compounds in last twenty years of gun tinkering and was never ever satisfied with the results. I even tried blending two different compounds like Van's blue and a coat of Birchwood Casey on top with fairly good results, but never got near as I would want it to look till Blue Wonder arrived. A friend got me several sets of Blue Wonder in blue and black as well. I tried it on the slide of my Walther PPK/S and was blown with the result. I highly recommend this product for excellent results at home provided one follows the instructions carefully. Besides, the Wonder Blue gel that accompanies the bluing set is one of the best bore/metal cleaner I have come across. It wipes clean the stubbornest of rust and fouling including leading from the bore without much elbow grease and makes it look factory new. It has properties that removes the rust from any metal surface without harming the sheen,color case hardening or bluing, smells good and is bio degradable too..
Marksman
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pandian1948
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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by pandian1948 » Sat Apr 09, 2011 6:51 pm

please bring the sword to me to recondition it !

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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by tranter » Thu Jul 19, 2012 1:47 am

Hi, I know this has been on here for a while, but I am new to this forum and I have a suggestion to make, soak the rusty steel in parafin [cheaper than machine oil]] for several days till it has soaked into the rust and then use a piece of bone to scrape away the softened rust,you will probably have to repeat this many times over, but with patience you should remove the rust without scratching the metal at all [the bone being softer than the metal, but harder than the soaked rust], this is a safe way to remove rust from a valuable item. Emery paper and similar scratch the metal and then you have to polish out the scratches losing the patina [colour] of the old steel, this can also be used on all steel and iron items from swords to guns etc, once cleaned wipe over with an oily cloth to keep the rust away.
I hope this helps and I hope you like the finish.

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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by Ruari » Sun Oct 21, 2012 6:34 am

I would like to add to Tranter's excellent advice that an ordinary sewing needle (ask wife for one !) is an excellent tool for removing rust from pits, especially deep ones, but must be used carefully.
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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by dhaij » Fri Jun 06, 2014 12:23 pm

I think reverse electrolysis is the best & safe way to remove rust from old weapons . Acids are not used in that & heating is also not there . I have experience of removing almost 90 - 98 % rust from old swords . It looks totally fantastic and antique also .

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tranter
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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by tranter » Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:23 am

The reverse electrolysis sounds interesting , tell us more ?
The trouble is a lot of people just rush out with something coarse and scratch away, I think people need something simple, with tools that anyone can find and is not too technical

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Re: Restoring an old sword

Post by MichaelZWilliamson » Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:51 am

Yes, reverse electrolysis. You can do it with an old computer power supply.

http://www.treasureexpeditions.com/reve ... iamson.htm

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