Cleaning up old guns


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Stolly
April 25, 2005, 10:33 AM
I've been spending a majority of my free time the past few weeks browsing through all the threads regarding how to clean, what to use, etc., etc. The reason for this was that I've inherited a few long guns from my grandfather and would like to get them cleaned up prior to storing them. A few of them are pretty old and weren't taken care of well. Most have rust on the barrels and it looks like the last time they were shot, the shooter failed to clean the barrel. This could be due to the fact that he died before getting the chance. One gun is a Burns Carbine, Model 5. Another is a Parker Brothers Side by Side, and the last one is a Bay State Arms single shot shotgun. All three pre-date 1890. I also received two M1's, one in standard and and one in carbine length as well as an M-14 still in the cosmolene. I'm not concerned with the M-14 because of the cosmolene, but the other's are in poor shape regarding rust and barrell fouling. I went to one of my regular gun shops this weekend and the guy told me that the best thing to do to them was nothing. Is this truly the case? He said that I would remove the patina. Again, is this true and if so, what exactly is patina? I know a lot of you are focused mostly on 1911's, which is my fascination currently as well, I was just hoping that I could get some help here. I know the guns aren't as valuable as they could be with the condition they are in, but I don't want to drop the value any further with my inexperience and lack of knowledge. Thanks for your assistance.

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mete
April 25, 2005, 02:54 PM
It depends on what you are going to do with them and what the value is. To refinish an old gun may in fact seriously reduce the collectors value. If you intend to shoot the gun it won't matter much .It's hard to say without seeing them. Do some research and find out if those guns have any collectors value....Check the Harley Nolden section of this forum.

brickeyee
April 25, 2005, 03:04 PM
Preventing further rust will not change the value. Cleaning off exisitng rust (if done gently) should not have any effect either. Wholesale polishing of wood and metal will degrade any collector value.
I would at least apply some gun oil to prevent furher damage.

Stolly
April 25, 2005, 03:06 PM
what would be your suggestion for "gently" removing existing rust? What kind of oil should be used to prevent further damage? Once I do get them into a condition for storing, what's the best way to store them? Inside a safe?

Tinkerer
April 25, 2005, 03:23 PM
Stolly, I've had great success removing rust with electrolysis. This method won't remove any bluing (I haven't tried this with any other finish other than bluing, so be aware.)
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You can remove rust from metal using electrolysis, and it will not harm the bluing. The main advantage to this method is it gets all the rust in hard to reach places. You will need:

· A plastic container that will hold the part and electrolysis solution.
· Steel rod. DO NOT USE STAINLESS STEEL AS THIS WILL PRODUCE HARMFUL BYPRODUCTS.
· Water
· Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda. Washing soda can be found in your local grocery store with the laundry detergents. If you cannot find washing soda, pour some baking soda {sodium bicarbonate} into a pan and heat it over low-medium heat. Water and carbon-dioxide will cook-off leaving washing soda {sodium carbonate}.)
· Battery charger or other high amperage power supply.

Cautions:
· Please wear eye protection and rubber gloves when working with this solution as it is very alkaline and can cause irritation.
· Do NOT use stainless steel for the electrode as this will produce harmful byproducts.
· The electrolysis process breaks down water into its component parts, Hydrogen and Oxygen, which can be explosive. Work outside or in a very well ventilated area.
· Be sure your battery charger/power supply is unplugged before attaching or touching the leads.

In the container, mix 1 tablespoon of washing soda for each gallon of water to make up your solution. Be sure the washing soda is thoroughly dissolved. Place a steel rod (do NOT use stainless steel) either through the part to be cleaned (use o-rings to prevent the part from touching the rod), or place numerous rods around the inside of your container. Connect these rods with wire; these will be the anode. You must be sure that the part to be cleaned is not touching the rod(s). Suspend the part in the solution with steel cable or wire so that it makes a good electrical contact with the part; this will become the cathode. Connect the negative lead (black) to the part being cleaned (either to the part itself, or to the suspending cable or wire), and connect the positive (red) lead to the rod(s), then plug in the charger. You will immediately begin to see bubbles; this is Hydrogen and Oxygen as the water breaks down. Allow the part to "cook" for 3-4 hours. The time is dependent on the size of the part, amount of rust, and the current of the power supply. After you remove the part, immediately clean and dry it off, then coat it with a good quality gun oil or rust preventative oil.

I tried this process on a 1911 frame that had a lot of surface rust all throughout the inside. I set the frame upside down on wooden blocks in the electrolysis solution and placed a rod with o-rings through the magazine well. I connected a 1.5 amp trickle charger and left it for about 4 hours. When finished, the frame was completely free of rust, and the bluing was intact.

HankB
April 25, 2005, 03:49 PM
. . . an M-14 still in the cosmolene . . . Is this a USGI M-14 or a semi-auto reproduction, like a Springfield Armory Inc. M1A?

This is important, because under current law, ALL USGI M-14s are considered to be machine guns even if modified to fire ONLY in semi-automatic mode.

If it's a genuine M-14 ("still in the cosmoline" makes it sound like it may be) I'd strongly suggest you don't get caught with it.

Bill Z
April 25, 2005, 05:41 PM
I've seen some details of Tinkerer's process. He has the entire system well thought out and I am going to try it myself one day. You may want to really give his method some thought.

OzarkExpedition
April 25, 2005, 06:12 PM
Just curious about the finish on these old guns. Could something that old be browned instead having of the old time blueing? I only ask because I have a reprint of an old book has tons of different old blueing and browning recipes in it... I know the end result is the same, controlled rust; but the chemicals used to get there are different. Would that make a difference in using the electrolysis method?

Stolly
April 25, 2005, 07:24 PM
I'm guessing that on most of these guns, the finish is a brown as opposed to blue. I can't be certain, but that is what it appears to be. As for the M-14, it's a Polytech. The 5-shot magazine and sling haven't been removed from the plastic but the gun has been wiped down so that I could have a good look at it. It's now back in the plastic with a bunch of the cosmolene still on it. It's got similarities to the M1A but the box says M-14. I can't give you much more info than that being that I'm still a newbie on a majority of this stuff. Your comment about it being classified a machine gun has me worried. If I read it correctly though, I should be okay since it's a repro. from Poly-tech, right?

As for Tinkerer's suggestion, I do appreciate the detail. I'd probably feel more comfortable using something like that as opposed to a cleaner that could prove to be too abrasive.

HankB
April 25, 2005, 09:53 PM
Poly-Tech "M14" rifles are OK from a legal sense. IIRC there were some issues about heat treatment on some of the parts (bolts in particular) of Chinese M14 copies.

Clark
April 25, 2005, 10:42 PM
Tinkerer,
Where did you learn that process?

Your instructions are so inspiring, I may try it.
Clark

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