Twist barrel finish


January 30, 2013, 01:35 PM
In another thread I said wished to faux finish a barrel with a twist pattern
Years ago I saw a barrel that had been finished thus
The guy told me it had been achieved by binding the barrel with hairy string then rusted with a browning solution made from ferric oxide and copper sulphate.
I've tried with a sample bit of steel tubing but the pattern formed is very faint Does anyone know how to do this for sure
Any advice will be helpful
Kind regards Bob

Ps to see the reasons behind this look at my other thread

Indian guns (again) and gun smithing, in black power thread

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Jim K
January 30, 2013, 06:38 PM
I thought they used an acid solution to actually rust/etch the pattern into the barrel, then browned it.


January 30, 2013, 09:08 PM
most of the 'faux damascus' barrels made in the latter days of the welded barrel era were actually the result of the application of a decal, which was then varnished-over, and sooner or later would simply wear off.
It is possible to acid-etch a pattern into a homogenous steel barrel, but it would not give the contrast in colors which resulted from browning a true welded barrel, and a realistic pattern would be rather difficult to achieve.
PRD1 - mhb - Mike

January 30, 2013, 10:00 PM
Are you looking to duplicate the appearance of a hammer-forged barrel, a damascus barrel or just radial twists for the sake of design?

January 31, 2013, 12:50 PM
There is a difference between a Damascus steel or pattern welded barrel and a twist steel barrel.
The twist steel barrel was much cheaper to make than a true Damascus steel barrel
Damascus steel is a welded mix of iron and steel welded and re-welded to form a intricate mass of forged welded iron and steel.
A twist welded barrel consisted of strips of steel and iron forge welded around a mandrel and when rusted to give a brown finish gave a twisted pattern round the circumference of the barrel, because the iron and steel rusted at different rates.
It is this pattern I am trying to reproduce I think the wrapping and rusting method was used through out the 19th century to make a plain steel barrel look as if is was a more expensive twist steel tube
The highly figured pattern of a true Damascus barrel was replicated as you say either by an applied pattern or acid etch
The barrel I referred to at the top was a plain steel tube that had been patterned by controlled rusting and string rapped around the barrel to simulate the pattern
I might well have the rusting agent wrong and this is why I'm only getting a faint pattern I guess I will have to keep trying but thanks for the advise I am sure I will get there somehow
Kind regards Bob

January 31, 2013, 02:02 PM
You can try one of the old-timers method for etched engraving - degrease, dump the barrel fully in hot beeswax, after it's cooled and formed a thin wax film on the surface draw your desired pattern with something sharp (a nail) reaching fully to the steel and dump it in ferric chloride solution for about 30 minutes. I believe that this was one of the methods for producing fake damascus barrels, but I have never tried it - only read about it.


Jim K
January 31, 2013, 09:56 PM
I am not sure you fully understand how those barrels were made. Strips of iron and steel were not just wrapped around the mandrel and welded. The strips or bars were first twisted separately, forming an effect like the modern hammer forged rifle barrels. Then they were heated and hammered into strips. Those strips (usually three, one iron two steel or vice versa) were heated and twisted together, and again hammered into strips. It was those strips that were heated, wrapped around a mandrel and while white hot were welded by hammering. The breech was formed by using several layers. The iron and steel of the original bars took on different colors from the heating and that gave the barrel its figure. The best that can be done with cord and chemicals is a striped look that has no real figure.


February 1, 2013, 09:53 AM
Yep I agree my explanation was not as detailed as yours, but I think we both have a good knowledge of the way they were produced.
My quest is,
I wish to replicate the look of a contract military rifled barrel from the 1800s if you study these barrels they do not carry as much pattern detailed as a true Damascus barrel and with the age of them now, they look somewhat striped in appearance "British military arms 1790 to 1840ish" possibly after this plain steel tubes were easer to make safe for rifles!!! I don't know because all Brown Bess'es I've ever seen have plain barrels and rifles of the period are a mixture of plain steel and twist steel? I've often thought the difference was "twist barrels were rifled because of the added strength required" and plain steel smooth bored" for musket use, but I could be wrong on that score for sure.
Anyway I've have seen reference in old books "to plain steel barrels being rusted to give a twist barrel appearance" described as made in Birmingham and marketed as a London barrel.
But no details are given as to how this was achieved.

Many years ago in my youth I belonged to a muzzle loading club (long gone)
and it was there that I first saw a barrel which was plain steel given the treatment and the finished result was a very good lookalike "in fact if I didn't know it at the time I would have thought it was a real twist barrel".

So the conclusion is

1. ref in old books to this being done
2. one done in relatively modern times (30 years ago)

The only way I can see of making this work is by binding the barrel with a very course string and rusting with a chemical solution. which was the way the guy at the club (long ago) described it being done.
So far my attempts have failed to reproduce the depth of pattern required although the pattern is very convincing
I have tried to photograph this but its to faint to show up so I cannot put a photo up to show the forum
Many thanks for your views and observations so far, please feel free to continue with them as they all make a good read.

keep your powder dry

Rgds Bob

Jim K
February 2, 2013, 11:10 PM
Have you tried cotton cord (hat cord about 1/16" or 3/32" diameter. Plain string is too thin)?

The reason most musket barrels don't show a twist pattern is because they weren't made that way, the twist construction being used for sporting guns, but deemed too slow for mass production.

Very early musket barrels were twist construction. But later musket barrels were made by heating a plate of iron, then wrapping it around a mandrel (a bit like placing a hot dog in a roll), welding the seam, then heating and hammering it out to lengthen and shape the tube until it was the right length and taper. Then it was filed or ground smooth and given a preliminary proof; that weeded out a defective barrel before any more work was wasted on it.

Later, as water-powered machinery came into use, the hammering was replaced by rollers. At first the preliminary work was done as before, but using rollers to shape the metal first into a V, then a U and finally an O. At that point, the seam was welded.

Then the barrel went to the barrel rollers. These were large "wheels", several sizes to a shaft. They were paired, with one on top and a matching one on the bottom. Each wheel had its rim shaped in a half circle, so the two rollers combined to form a circular opening. The thick tube, with the mandrel inside, was passed through the series of rollers, being heated again before each pass. When the barrel reached the correct thickness, it could either be tapered with another set of rollers or ground/filed to the final shape. Then it was given a preliminary proof
Still later, when drills had improved but it was still not possible to drill the full length of a barrel, the practice was to begin with a short, thick, round bar, drill a hole in it for the mandrel, then heat and roll it as with the other methods. Since the work began with a bar that had no seams, this was the strongest method yet devised.

But the sporting gun industry was very conservative and so were their customers. They stuck to twist barrels for decades, even after deep hole drills became commonplace and military and "common" rifle barrels were made of fluid steel. The English nobleman who shelled out 80 guineas or more (a guinea was one pound and one shilling - about $220 dollars in today's American money) for a shotgun wanted a sign of careful, custom handwork; a mass produced gun, no matter how safe, was an object of scorn.


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