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De-Farbing And "Remodelling" Pietta 1860 Army

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by tpelle, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. tpelle

    tpelle Well-Known Member

    I have three Pietta 1860 Army .44 revolvers. The oldest one, about 10 years old or so, has a few issues, mainly a too short arbor. The last two, however, bought over the last couple of years, are quite well made, with correctly-fitting arbors, and good timing.

    I am willing to "sacrifice" my oldest one to Gods of De-Farbing. I would like to use it as a practice piece so that I can develop my technique, which may then be applied to the newer pair. Mainly I would like to remove the "Blackpowder Only" roll mark on the left side of the barrel, and the Pietta roll marks on the right. The Italian proofs don't really bother me, and let me make it clear that I'm not trying to pass the pistols off as originals. I would just like them to look a little more original.

    So, does anyone have any tips or instructions as to the best way to do this - keeping in mind that I don't have access to any more sophisticated tools than a ball pein hammer and a flat file?

    Also, there is one other seriously non-authentic feature to Pietta 1860 revolvers, which I will illustrate with the following pictures that I snagged off of the web.

    First, an original Colt 1860. Note the shape of the barrel lug in the area between the wedge and the cylinder.


    Now, here's a Pietta 1860. Notice how the barrel lug in the same area does not display the smooth curve, but is abruptly cut at more of an angle.


    I wonder how difficult it would be, since I have to re-finish the revolvers anyway (and may do an antique finish while I'm at it), to re-profile this area using only a set of files?

    Any advice, warnings, or suggestions will be appreciated.
  2. StrawHat

    StrawHat Well-Known Member

    Forget the file. The ball peen is intriguing but will take a long time and the result will resemble a golf ball. I suggest you burnish the areas where you want the lettering to dissappear. Burnish does not remove metal, it relocates it. The stampings have already moved the metal out of the way to form letters. When you burnish it, you will push the metal back into the void left by the stamping. I have an injection pin from a comercial plastic molding operation I use. Realistically, any smooth steel rod can be used. It works better if you can get it hardened, perhaps you know someone in a machine shop. Clamp the work piece solidly and push down on the rod while drawing it over the lettering. Don't push extremely hard, you want to move the metal slowly and with control. Keep changing the area where you are burnishing, like peeling an apple. A little bit at a time. The bluing will probably go away but so will the lettering. You can also burnish flat surfaces but it takes a bit more control. Start on the round barrel. Good luck!
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013
  3. tpelle

    tpelle Well-Known Member


    Thanks for the reply.

    I've read somewhere that an extension from a socket set can be used as a burnishing bar. It so happens I have an old incomplete socket set out in the garage. What do you think?
  4. StrawHat

    StrawHat Well-Known Member

    The important thing is the rod is smooth. What does the extension look like? Try it and see is the other way to find out. Having the smooth rod, I have never sourced anything else.
  5. tpelle

    tpelle Well-Known Member

    IIRC (I'm at work now) it's a 1/4" drive extension, so it's fairly thin, and is about 6" long, and is smooth and hard-chromed as is usual for socket sets.
  6. Mictlanero

    Mictlanero Well-Known Member

    interesting project - i have been thinking about doing something like that myself
  7. Russ Jackson

    Russ Jackson member

    You could bead blast it then try to distress it by using a dry ice blast or baking soda. I think this one was soda blasted. http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=327292894

    Then add some bluing. I bet you could leave some case hardening. It will take trial and error. Distressing is an art. If you pull it off many will pay you to do it.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013
  8. Malachi Leviticus Blue

    Malachi Leviticus Blue Well-Known Member

    I'd be interested to see pics of your results. success or failure
  9. BCRider

    BCRider Well-Known Member

    For the heel of the barrel around the arbor area some fine file work and then smoothen with some emery or WetorDry silicon carbide sandpaper will do nicely to soften that rather abrupt edge. Use fine cut files and a little care and you'll only really need the sandpaper to even the surface texture.

    Burnishing the lettering down with the socket extension SOULD work just fine. The key to burnishing the metal is that the tool used MUST be (it's not optional) harder than the metal being burnished. The burnisher should also be smooth and polished so as not to act like a file and abrade away any metal. A little oil can't hurt either. The last thing you want is for the pressure to cause the barrel metal to gall and stick to the burnisher. A thin wipe of oil will prevent that.
  10. tpelle

    tpelle Well-Known Member

    Well, it looks like I've got my work cut out for me. Might get a start this weekend.

    I'll be sure to post pics.
  11. Foto Joe

    Foto Joe Well-Known Member

    I'm going to disagree with StrawHat on the ball peen hammer. I use a small (4oz) cheap ball peen hammer for burnishing. The ball is of course hardened so there's no issue with that. The trick is to hold the hammer head in your hand and just patiently tap, tap, tap, tap ad infinum, ad nauseum at an angle to what you're burnishing. Use the side of the ball to minimize dimpling, true you will wind up with some dimples but wet/dry emory paper fixes that almost within seconds if you don't get carried away. The process is simple but time consuming and the results are fantastic, the whole key to the project is patience.

    A year or so ago I did the same thing you are planning on a cheap '51 Fake Navy (Confederate sic). I figured that if I screwed it up I was only out $129 bucks. In the end I wound up with my favorite shooter. Once you've got the gun burnished out the polishing is what is going to make or break you. Emory paper in varying grades for the rough stuff and I personally finish out with a Dremel and a polishing wheel. Be VERY careful with the Dremel, I believe it was mykeal who told me that there's no limits to the amount of damage you can do with one and he was right. I think you're going to be very pleased with the results of your efforts. Although we tend to think of metal as a solid, if done correctly it is reasonably malable. If you go at it slowly even moderate mistakes are fixable, just remember you can move the metal around but you can't put it back so files are probably best left in the tool box.

    Currently I've got an 1860 Sheriff model that I've stripped the bluing off of and eventually going to find the time to burnish/defarb then engrave it in either a Texas Ranger or Wyoming Territorial commerative. Unfortunately earning a living is getting in my way.
  12. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Well-Known Member

    The notion of burnishing rather than filing fascinates me. I take it that a pneumatic body hammer, even on a low setting, is overkill?
  13. tpelle

    tpelle Well-Known Member

    I don't think that's burnishing. That's industrial strength peening!

    Burnishing is simply rubbing across the steel with a smooth bar that's harder than the piece you're working on. You're actually pushing the steel around until it's the shape you want.
  14. Foto Joe

    Foto Joe Well-Known Member

    Yeah a body hammer would be a little over the top.

    When I started my first defarb using that 4oz ball peen hammer I was pretty sure that I was going to wind up with a gun that resembled a golf ball, I was happily very wrong. I will say that I found that cheap little ball peen does not have a perfectly round ball on it, there is actually a small point at the end. By using the side of the ball and tapping across the markings I found that they filled quite easily. I too started out with the idea that I just wanted to eliminate "Black Powder Only" and quickly figured out that I could do a total defarb quite easily.

    I will add that this was a brass framed gun and I didn't touch the brass at all. The proof marks on the frame still exist. The '60 that is next on my project list has a steel frame and I don't plan on playing with the case hardened frame on this one either. Given what case hardening is "supposed" to be I don't think that using my handy ball peen to burnish that would be a good idea.

    The key is to go slow and take your time, start on an area like under the barrel that if you mess it up it's not the end of the world.
  15. StrawHat

    StrawHat Well-Known Member

    The case hardening on modern C&B replicas is merely case coloring, not unlike bluing or browning. Easily removed and easily damaged. It doesn't harden the frame at all. I burnished a deep dent out of a cased frame. Also removed much of the coloring on that side. Ended up stripping all the finish for the guy and he used it long enough to develop a lot of color on it from firing and cleaning.
  16. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Well-Known Member

    I'm working up the nerve to defarb my Pietta nickel-plated Sheriff's Model, so I'm sniffing around a bit. I came across Lodgewood Manufacturing Company, who specializes in Civil War weapons, and the offer defarbing:
    ( http://www.lodgewood.com/Defarbing_c_94.html )
    So I'm curious: Any idea why they drawfile the Italian marks off their barrels instead of burnishing? I'm thinking it's because a rifle affords the luxury of "feathering" the divot, that a revolver does not because of limited space.
  17. BCRider

    BCRider Well-Known Member

    I would not use the burnishing techniques mentioned on any sort of plated surface. The nickel WILL flake and peel off from this sort of pressure. The burnishing tricks to remove the unwanted lettering ONLY work on bare steel. The blueing or case like colouring are not considered as a "finish" for these purposes.

    The ONLY way to defarb a plated surface such as your nickeled gun is to remove the nickel plating, do the defarbing by whatever means then replate the gun. So it's going to get pricey. And it's no longer the sort of thing you can do at home.

    Mind you, if you can locate a local nickel and chrome plating service close by they can remove the nickel and any copper plating down to bare steel. You can then defarb using the tricks with hardened bar or ball peen hammer to push the metal of the lettering back together and burnish the surface smooth. Once smooth and fair of surface take the parts back to the plater. Along the way talk to him about suitable masking for the areas you don't want plated. This is important because if the old threads were left bare then plating them will prevent a good fit. Or if you find that the threads are a bit wobbly once the barrel is broken loose from the frame then perhaps plating them out to some amount would not be a bad thing. Either way the gun has to be stripped down to it's component parts. You can't and do not want to plate it while parts are connected. Even if they are parts that don't normally come apart.
  18. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Well-Known Member

    Thank you for that, BC Rider. If I defarb the gun I'd want to get rid of the nickel plating altogether. It's a bit garrish for my tastes, especially with the danged laminated grips, which are downright ugly. Too bad it's the slickest and most accurate shooter I own. Kind of reminds me of a homely girl who knows how to cook and dance---it's a keeper!
  19. scrat

    scrat Well-Known Member

    i used a push rod from a Chevy 350. those things are hardened steel and smooth as ever.
  20. tpelle

    tpelle Well-Known Member

    Just an update on my progress so far:

    I'm experimenting with my oldest 1860 Army (Pietta) to work out the techniques. I'm using a short extension bar from a socket set, and just hand-holding the barrel, I've been rubbing over the lettering rolled onto the sides of the barrel. As the burnisher passes over the lettering one can feel the roughness of the lettering. In fairly short order, however, one can feel the operation getting smoother and smoother, and notice that the lettering is getting blurred and less distinct. So far I've doint this "dry" - that is, not using any sort of lubricant. Also the blued finish does not seem to be degraded much at all. I probably only have about 1/2 hour into the burnishing so far, and have been surprised at how much progress has been made.

    I believe that eventually I will have to resort to the draw file and polishing paper. I think I will continue with the burnishing for now and see how smooth I can get it first.

    Sorry. No pictures. I've only been working on this during odd moments here and there as we are in the midst of a bathroom remodel project at the same time, and SWMBO has set the bathroom project at a higher priority.

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