Home blackening of stainless steel 1911 parts? - Pistolsmith

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Old 09-07-2004, 02:39 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 46
Home blackening of stainless steel 1911 parts?

I have my Officer's model 1911 in two-tone stainless steel that needs a couple of parts replaced, and she really needs a few spots polished up for more reliable operation.

The problem is, these areas and parts are of blackened ("black oxide"?) stainless. I have no idea how to do this at home, nor do I know if it's even possible, let alone cost-effective. I'd like to be able to replicate the factory finish; not use a spray-can bake on type.

Many other metals can be blackened by a chemical process at home. Can stainless? If so, what are the options/products/sources?

This problem is made imperative to me by the grip safety. The factory used a blued steel one on my pistol (to save either time, costs, or both), and the bluing wasn't very well done in the first place. Whenever I carry it on a hot day & wind up sweating, the grip safety has a fine coat of rust on it within just a few hours. I would really like to replace this one with a similar part in stainless, and just blacken the sucker.

When I mentioned this problem to a friend, he suggested I try Birchwood Casey's "Aluminum Black", as he said it works on occasion on other metals, with varying degrees of success/darkness of the finish. Would this stuff work?

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Old 09-07-2004, 04:06 PM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 1,691
The only treatment I know of that could bed used at home is Brownell's new stainless steel "bluing" chemical.
http://www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/Store/ ... G+COMPOUND

This is NOT for occasional use, and it's apparently really hard to use, so this likely won't be usable for you.

The only thing I can suggest is sending in the parts to a professional re-finisher who does stainless blackening.

There is no "do-it-yourself" home treatment that will give anything like the results you want. What chemical treatments that do even a little coloring of stainless offer only a thin, grayish color that quickly wears off.
Old 09-07-2004, 05:34 PM   #3
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Alabama
Posts: 876
I never heard of Colt doing stainless steel blackening. Are you SURE the worn parts are stainless? Suggest daubing regular cold blue on a worn area and see if anything happens.

I know of no home remedy to blacken stainless like the replacement grip safety you want. Suggest you contact Robar and see what they would charge to do some individual pieces vs a whole gun.

Or just have a two-tone gun.
Old 09-12-2004, 10:34 AM   #4
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 46
OK. This IS a two-tone pistol; I wanna keep it that way! :-)

True, it's not a "Colt" - but it shoots like one, or better.

I looked through the Brownells catalog recently, looking for a finish like this. I didn't see anything like that described, but you did say it was new. Perhaps it's not in the catalog supplement I have, either, but a recent addition. I'll look into how difficult it is to use.

As for Robar or anything like that, that's not an option. I refuse to take my pistol apart and send parts off to someone (I don't care how good the reputation is). If they don't have the whole gun, there could be fitment problems when it's reassembled. Besides, having a primary carry pistol (one of my favourites, in fact) laying around in pieces just teasing me isn't fun! Sending the whole pistol off isn't a really good option in my view, especially when I could have it done as well or better locally (I have a couple of big-name 'smiths nearby).

I do have a fall-back: take it to Bob Cogan and have the new parts done there, maybe when he's already set-up to do another customers' pistol in the same finish, as I can have it there in minutes. I was just hoping that someone knew of a process I could use here at the house, as I'm very experienced working with firearms & metal.

Thanks, though
Old 09-14-2004, 01:25 PM   #5
Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 119
Re: Home blackening of stainless steel 1911 parts?

Originally Posted by multismith
Many other metals can be blackened by a chemical process at home. Can stainless? If so, what are the options/products/sources?
You can look at Brownell's Oxynate 84, which is a hot bluing system for stainless steel. Using it is still somewhat of a black art, and might require some experimentation.

Get one of their iron bluing tanks and use it with an outdoor propane cooker. This is a cheap way to do it; though the salts themselves are near $100.
Old 10-18-2004, 01:56 PM   #6
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 46
This is just an update to let others know about my findings:

Someone once mentioned to me that he thought that Birchwood Casey's Aluminum Black sometimes works for blackening other metals than aluminum. He said he thought it might work on stainless, but he wasn't sure.

Well, I just happened to have a fresh bottle here at the house. I originally bought it to do minor touch-ups to the aluminum frame of my Taurus PT-92 Compact (I LOVE this pistol!), as the AL floorplates often get small dings in them and scratch the underside of the frame... but I digress.

I decided to just give it a shot. After all, if it didn't work it's no big deal to remove it, right?

Well, let me tell you: It WORKS. Very well, in fact.

I had to grind the back of my disconnector, touch up a spot on my hammer that the factory missed somehow (hidden spot when it's cocked, but it bothered me), and I also wanted to blacken the face of my new trigger that I installed instead of the sloppily fitted factory one (man, that thing had so much play in every direction that it cut the hell out of my finger the last time I shot it).

The aluminum trigger pad was easy. It did a nice, deep black and flowed well into the trigger's serrations.

The stainless parts were just as easy, and the result was exactly the same as with the aluminum trigger pad: a deep black colour that didn't wear off once I hit it with a Q-Tip soaked with FP-10. I just followed the bottle's directions for cleaning the metal well with denatured alcohol beforehand, and I ran it under the tap to get the chemical off after a minute had passed.

The parts were a mixture of highly polished, medium polished, rough on the surface (file and stone marks), and straight-from-the-mold casting surface. All finished the same, with the same colour & durability, differing only with the finish of the underlying stainless steel.

Actually, this stuff works so much better than whatever the factory used to blacken these parts with. No splotchy areas unlike the factory finish! It seems just as durable, if not more so, than the factory finish so far.

Yes, I am 100% sure that these parts are indeed stainless steel. I had my father look at them, and he also took 'em to work with him to test them (he's one of the BEST welders in the world, and that's no exaggeration) as they have stuff like that there. 100% cast stainless steel (for the most part - some parts were MIM like the disconnector. That's getting replaced soon, anyway). I do not remember what the exact type of stainless it is, sorry.

I am amazed that this stuff worked as well as it has. On the other hand, I've tried using B/C's "Brass Black" recently, and it sucked. After three applications on some brass hardware (D-Rings, screws, grommets, chicago screws), it just turned everything into an amalgam of copper & flaky black and grey colours, and what black or grey finish there was wipes right off or flakes off. Oil applied makes no difference, nor does giving it a week or more to cure. I really wanted to just blacken this stuff without a dimensional change, but it looks like I'm gonna have to spray paint it instead.

Anyway, if you're looking for a solution for easy home blackening of stainless or many other metals, get a bottle or two of this stuff. It's not Black Chrome, or one of the Teflon or spray-on finishes, but if you just want it coloured black, it works like a charm if you prep the metal correctly & do your part. At $6.50 a bottle (what I paid; it can be found cheaper online), it's a hell of a lot cheaper than the Brownells stainless hot blue method.

NOTE: I only tested Aluminum Black on stainless that was either cast, machined, or MIM. I have NOT tried it on other types of stainless other than the type my particular pistol is made of, nor other parts forming processes. Use at your own risk, and don't blame me if you screw up your gun - test in a hidden spot first, if possible. AB does not restore the passivating of stainless (usually a 10-30%+ nitric acid dip that removes surface contamination, forms an "oxide" on the surface, and is what actually prevents rusting on most stainless steels. Passivating should be done on certain stainless types whenever it is abraded, ground, machined, etc. to restore stainless' rust resistant properties. Google the Web for more info, where to get chemicals, etc.).

Good Luck!
Old 10-19-2004, 11:58 AM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 119
Wow, good report.

I think I will pick up a bottle of that and try it myself.

Now I just have to decide which gun is going to be the guinea pig.

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