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Parts Bluing Opportunity

Discussion in 'Maintenance & Gunsmithing' started by RVTECH, Jul 28, 2013.

  1. RVTECH

    RVTECH LaPine Well-Known Member

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    I have been kicking around the idea of setting up a small parts bluing operation for several years. I have been studying it off and on all along and still thinking about it. The up side is I can fab all my own equipment, including building my own burners for the tanks. I just don't know if there is that much of call for bluing. One guy I spoke to said there is - and mostly for NON gun items but for other metal parts and thought that would be a better direction to go - with gun parts as an 'on the side' activity. Anyone have experience with this? Waste of time? Plausible idea? Please advise.
     
  2. ZA_Survivalist

    ZA_Survivalist Oregon AK's all day.

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    I think its a good idea. A lot of folks around my neck of the woods ask me if I do any bluing or know of anyone that does. I do "garage gunsmith" bluing but not factory quality.

    As an "on the side" its a terrific idea.
     
  3. jbett98

    jbett98 NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Disposing of the used chemicals might be a problem.
     
  4. RVTECH

    RVTECH LaPine Well-Known Member

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    What system do you use? IE meaning what chemical system do you use?
     
  5. coop44

    coop44 Tacoma ,WA Well-Known Member

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    try "fume bluing" first, it's not too messy, not a lot of chemicals required, move on to "rust" bluing. Hot bluing is extremely messy, dangerous, and as mentioned the waste is a pita. Rust and Fume bluing require a lot of time and patience, but not a lot of equipment. The biggest reason modern production uses hot blue is speed, many consider rust & fume to be richer deeper bluing methods. Very high dollar makers like Holland & Holland still use rust bluing.
     
  6. MountainBear

    MountainBear Sweet Home, OR Well-Known Member

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    I would suggest that unless you are set up to do whole guns (which means an FFL), then it's a waste of time. Small parts looking new while the receiver looks worn doesn't accomplish much, and I'm afraid you'd have a limited return on your investment.

    If you were so inclined to get an FFL and do bluing and possibly other coatings (see cerakote), then it would certainly be a worthy
    endeavor.

    Disposing of chemicals can be accomplished with neutralizing agents.
     
  7. Straight Shooter

    Straight Shooter North Bend OR Active Member

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    My problem with it is the corrosive fog it puts out. It will rust the nails out of the walls and trash anything made of metal anywhere the wind blows it. It needs it's own well ventilated area far away from any machinery.

    I farm bluing out.
     
  8. coop44

    coop44 Tacoma ,WA Well-Known Member

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    Actually as simple and paperless as transfers are up here, ("who's gun is that?" "eh, mine" "where did you get it?" "uh, don't 'member") you could get your feet wet without an FFL just do business FTF and don't ship. Just be ready to get one. Don't quote me on this, but what are they going to do? Most likely make you cease activity until you get a license.
     
  9. MountainBear

    MountainBear Sweet Home, OR Well-Known Member

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    Are you advocating gunsmithing without a license? That's what it would be. I know you wouldn't be actually advocating this, so I'm going to claim your ignorance for you...

    Directly quoting from my handy ATF book:

    (I1) Is a license needed to engage in the business of engraving, customizing, refinishing, or repairing firearms?

    Yes. A person conducting such activities as a business is considered to be a gunsmith within the definition of a dealer. See Item 16, "Federal Excise Tax" in the General Information section of this publication.

    [27 CFR 478.11]

    Honestly, I don't know exactly what the punishment would be, but do you really have an overwhelming desire to find out?
     
  10. Velzey

    Velzey Estacada, Oregon Gunsmith Gunsmith Bronze Vendor Bronze Supporter

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    RVTECH I will send you a pm on this topic.
     
  11. coop44

    coop44 Tacoma ,WA Well-Known Member

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    the key point is "as a business", this thought may actually require a call to the batf rather than speculation.

    this same point came up with my C&R license, I bought 6 rifles, sorted out the best ones and sold off the ones I didn't want. As long as I wasn't doing it "as a business" it was fine.

    basically I'm talking about "getting your feet wet", possibly bluing a few for friends and family. A good way to acquire some positive mention to others, and discover how difficult it is.
     
  12. MountainBear

    MountainBear Sweet Home, OR Well-Known Member

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    If you take possesion of a firearm, whether it be from a friend, family member, or stranger, then you need a license. Just saying. I understand and even tend to agree that it should be legal, but I just don't want anyone to end up getting busted. The government can overreact to certain things on occasion, gun issues tending to be one of those things...
     
  13. RVTECH

    RVTECH LaPine Well-Known Member

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    This is sort of where I was 'going' with my inquiry. I never intended for it to 'morph' into a debate over the legalities of gunsmithing without the proper license.
     
  14. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Ok, so just to be clear on a few things and put them to bed. A Type 07 FFL is $50/yr if your gross is less than $1m so suck it up and get the FFL, it's cheap insurance. Jail is expensive, licenses are cheap. Also, since you're getting the FFL, why don't you file the SOT for $500/yr and make 2.5 suppressors and your SOT has paid for itself.

    Anyways, there are a variety of metal finishing companies out there that use many different processes. Your question really crosses over quite heavily with "how to run a business", and that's something you have to answer for yourself. If you want to stick with firearms stuff, as others have said, you would do well to offer multiple processes as you're going to be doing a lot more gunsmith onesie-twosie type stuff rather than heavy hardcore production. In my opinion, you would do well offering bluing (fume and acid minimum) and parkerizing and possibly cerra-kote or any of the other proprietary processes that are becoming popular.

    I think my suggestions on the matter are:

    1) Determine market need - Does your area need someone who does... Hot dip, parkerizing, cerakote, rust or fume bluing?
    2) Competition - Is there someone in the area who already does this? can you do it cheaper?
    3) Regulation - What regulations and requirements do you have to comply with?
    4) Drive - Is this the business you want to be in? Being a business owner will eat all of your free time, if you arn't enjoying it, don't do it
    5) How long can you run the business without clients on the money you have? (start up time)
    6) Insurance - manufacturing is a big F'ing deal. people spend tens of thousands of dollars to have product made, finishing is the last step. What happens if a "batch comes out wrong", find insurance whether it's written into the contract or whether you're paying someone to back you up, this is VERY VERY VERY IMPORTANT!!!

    A few further suggestions:

    Being in business for yourself can be very rewarding, it can also be a tremendous PITA. Customers will call and want to talk to you just as you sit down for lunch. The production lot you thought came out "perfect" just got rejected, etc etc. Failure happens, the most important trait you can have is resilience, learn from your mistakes, I actually write them down on post-it notes and tack them to the side of my computer monitor.

    Use science to control your product, keep logs, write down everything while you're doing something, and then write down what happens afterwards. If you found increasing heat by 5 degrees makes your output better, consider using that in the future. The important thing here is you will get into less trouble if you know how something can go wrong, and possibly fix it than you will by being lucky every time.

    Finally, some suggestions for actually Bluing:

    First, you can make some of your equipment, however don't bother making burners, use electric heating elements, you get better heat control, and will have better lot-to-lot consistency. Also, electricity comes out of the wall, unless your burners are natural gas, it's not worth it.

    Make sure whatever you're doing all of your equipment has lids, this gives you a way of controlling evaporation, better heat control, and it's safer. If you're having excessive boil-off of the process water, have a sight-glass and be able to add water without opening the lids. Also, make sure all of your tanks use some kind of drain system so you don't have to pick them up and move them, or try to bail them out or some other silliness.
     
  15. coop44

    coop44 Tacoma ,WA Well-Known Member

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    excellent post above. Personally I would go with rust bluing, not many folks do it any more, and if you travel in the right circles it can be rewarding. You will probably want to find out where trap and skeet shooters go in your area to compete. Mostly they will want barrels reblued, you might want to get an over under, refinish it and show up for a shoot or two. These guys love talking about their guns, even more than guys here. The gunsmith I used to work for got started this way, putting on pads and adjusting stock length at competitions. He eventually competed on a pro level for a short time.

    I haven't checked recently, but the last time I did rust bluing a set of O/U barrels ran in the $500 range
     
  16. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Rust bluing is very much a "craftsman" type finish, it's quite labor intensive. However, if you can get your process down and get things turned around quickly it might be worth it.

    Also, after researching this topic last night, I decided to start doing hot dip bluing for a lot of my industrial parts, I think it might be more consistent than parkerizing, and would probably be a better process for my needs.

    I ordered three 2000W cartridge heaters from mcmaster-carr (part no 3618K486) which I'm going to put in 316 Stainless tubes at the bottom of a 316SS tank. The Tank will be covered on the outside by 3" of rock wool and a sheet metal casing. The temp controller is mcmaster-carr part 33215K76, I think it should drive these without too much issue. I was going to use the 240V cartridges (4A@240V) each driven from an AC relay.

    Tank size, I was going to use a 36x24x16" tank made of 16ga 316SS, this should be big enough for me to dip even my largest parts in the tank, and then I'll use a chain hoist to move parts in and out of the tank. This tank should have a volume (with 12" fill level) to take about 6 cu-ft of solution, which is about 44gal of solution. On the low point of the tank there will be a dump valve (for draining) using 1" pipe. Mcmaster-carr part: 46325K31

    Another thing I have found rather frightening is the ease with which I could have a 35gal drum full of sodium hydroxide delivered to my door that arrived today, and the sodium nitrate should be here tomorrow. I apparently got lucky and there's a chemical supply place across the street from my shop, so I drove the forklift over and picked it up.

    Now I just need to get the tanks done.
     
  17. Swedish K

    Swedish K SW Washington Moderator Staff Member

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    AMP - from what I recall you should avoid stainless tanks for the actual bluing tank as it often caused streaking or discoloration from a galvanic reaction - maybe it depends on the bluing solution used? The old school guys I know always used steel tanks or one guy used a section of 10" iron pipe with end caps and the top cut off. I do like your idea of having a drain in the tanks though :thumbup: much easier to drain the tanks!
     
  18. Straight Shooter

    Straight Shooter North Bend OR Active Member

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    This is far and away the largest most powerful bluing setup I have ever hear of.

    The tricky part of bluing is consistent polishing without smearing or losing the details and the degreasing before the actual bluing.

    We will need some pictures when you get them going.