Color Casehardening: A photo and video tutorial

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Kent Shootwell,
That is an excellent job! Did you block the thin sections ? You have a very nice colour range on this, and that is somewhat of a lottery as you never know what colours will come out from the steel type and of course the way the quench water flows, what bone/wood charcoal ratio did you use for this?Is this an original Sharps action, or one you have made ? It looks very nice! Congratulations.
Thanks Chris, This Sharps shows all the blocking I use. Warpage has been very minor and easily dealt with. The mix is 1 bone to 4 wood charcoal. This one was done with fresh mix. Both are new made actions of 8620 and lock and trigger plates of 1117 steel.
That looks very nice, I notice you get the light coloured rings around the holes, that sets the blued screws off nicely, the colour you have achieved on both actions is a really nice balance, so many turn out to be very patchy in colour, but you have a very nice spread of colour, just like an old Sharps, did you use rainwater for quench or was there an additive in the water? Chris.
I use city tap water with nothing but air bubbles from an aquarium aerator. The edges generally are lighter due to the quicker cooling I believe. This is a replica pistol I completely refinished with added fancy wood for the grip. And yes I know I miss labeled it.
Your colors came out very nice, I particularly like the first Sharps shown, who did the engraving?

I do feel as the one who started this thread several years ago that has now received close to 70,000 hits, that a word of caution is in order. I have studied this process for several years and done many non-firearms related applications with it at the University of North Dakota, and while I have done firearms related projects with it in my home workshop the process of color case hardening any type of firearm action is something that should only be done by someone who completely understands the process. The least of your worries is that you will destroy an expensive action as warping and cracks can occur, but at the extreme it is possible to create something that is dangerous to operate and there is a huge liability that exists at that point. With the last posts I have no doubt about the competency of Kent who does very nice work by the way, but over the years I have received a number of requests from people that want to start out CCH'ing firearms of various types that I do not have that same level of confidence in.
44 Henry,
You are spot on here with your words of caution, I did read in your enquiries within this section, of a person wanting to CC harden the barrels of a shotgun!!!! I can only think that would end in one of the major disasters of which you speak. The problem is that outside of Europe there seems to be no restriction on what you can do on a firearm, in UK and most of Europe, any alteration to the pressure bearing components of a firearm require it to go through re proof, most people tend to accept that and not work on those areas, so there is a very low "blow up" of firearms due to inexperienced tinkerers , but your words of caution are very wise.
Chris, France.
44Henrys warning are valid! I'm a retired machinist with a number of years of experience as a custom gunsmith. Even with the training I restrict my self to double shotguns and black powder fire arms. My samples are to show the results of my color case work not to encourage the untrained to apply this treatment at random. We can share our knowledge but we each should not attemp to work outside of our skill sets.
Nitro, Hearing how it is in the extreme east makes me happy I'm in the Wild West! ;)
As a machinist you well understand the strength of materials, not everyone that I see posting on the Internet seems to be aware of these limits, you are very wise to restrict your hardening work to relatively low pressure calibers, I think that as we enter the 21st Century there are less people that have a first hand knowledge of these old trades, it is essential that we keep the knowledge going, too many old skills have been lost because of "trade secrets" but we also have to be mindful of the fact that there are less than intelligent people out there that will try anything.
The situation here is not as bad as the media portray it, at least in the rural areas, I have not seen a dusky face since I have lived here, (7 years).I think the journalist write these things after a lunchtime session in the bar!
The finished Sharps after the color was polished off to show the engraving.

I have had some people request that the broken Photobucket links be fixed on this old thread, seems like everything is now working. Hope it helps someone.


Alex Johnson