Airguns of the American West Part 8
So, you hate the finish on the standard Schofield airgun?
Here are the finishing touches to an authentic looking antiqued version
By Dennis Adler
It’s later on the second day and I am starting with the gun as completely polished out as possible. You could stop here, but since I have an original photo of a nickel plated civilian model, I know there is more that can be done to make the Schofield airgun more authentic in appearance.
Polishing and more polishing
It is necessary to polish out the entire gun, even parts that are not supposed to be polished, because they will have the wrong finish if left in charcoal black. This includes the top latch, which is one of the trickiest parts to polish, as well as color caseharden. Did I say color caseharden? Well, not really. If you actually had the equipment to do it, it wouldn’t work; just like Parkerizing, it’s not applicable to aluminum alloy. (The temperatures necessary for bone charcoal color case hardening also exceed the melting point for the cast aluminum alloy used in airguns.) But one of the many little tricks I learned antiquing black powder guns was how to create a faux color casehardened look on steel, that also just happens to also work on aluminum alloy! And it doesn’t require anything other than cold blue and gun oil mixed in the correct proportions.
The parts on a Schofield that should be color casehardened include the barrel lock. This is the front part of the locking mechanism that the stud latch engages to close or open the gun. It also has the rear portion of the sight channel that runs down the center of the barrel to the front sight. After polishing this part to the white (no charcoal black finish), you have to tape it off so that your faux color casehardening only colors the latch and does not run into the back of the barrel. Use a good quality masking tape or Scotch Blue painter’s tape, and be sure all the edges are covered to prevent any bleeding through of the oil and cold blue mix. The entire latch, top and sides, have to be faux color cased.
In the first photo showing this step, you will also see some debris from polishing on the back of the cylinder and chambers. This is the stuff you want to be sure is continually wiped off when you are working (as you will see in the next photo of the oil and cold blue being applied).
The mixture is not scientific, put a little cold blue on the end of a Q Tip by dipping it in the bottle, and then put a small drop of gun oil on top of it. As soon as you begin to paint it onto the aluminum part the mixture of cold blue and oil will begin to swirl and discolor into shades of gray, blue and reddish tones that resemble color casehardened finishes on steel. As soon as you see a mixture of tones you like, stop. Don’t apply any more, let it set for a moment and then carefully dry it with a clean cotton patch. Wait a few minutes until it has set and then lightly wipe it with an oiled cotton patch. This stops the action and sets the finish. Again it is important to make sure the areas around your work are taped off to prevent any overrun of the faux case colors.
You need to do this process for the entire latch, top and sides. Then go over the stud latch (the part that you pull back to open the gun, which also has the rear sight notch) and the hammer. For the hammer, a little polishing off of the new finish with the Grade #0000 steel wool will give it a more worn, used look. You want to see some wear in the checkering of the hammer spur and along the edges of the hammer.
The last two steps are to carefully re-blue the trigger and the ejector lever under the frame just forward of the triggerguard. This piece needs to be taped off from the rest of the frame. Once you have applied the cold blue to these areas, wait until it has set a few minutes, and then apply a little gun oil on a cotton patch to stop the bluing action and set the color. Let the gun set for awhile and then begin to give it a final cleaning for all debris from the cylinder, hammer channel, and trigger opening in the bottom of the frame. Open the gun and make sure there is no debris in the ejector rod and frame housing (the round portion at the front of the frame where the barrel is attached), and then give the entire surface a blast of compressed air before wiping it down with a clean, cotton cloth. You are now ready for a final pass with the Gesswein polishing cloth to give all the bright parts their best shine, including the cylinder, which will still remain a little darker. Avoid going over the faux color cased parts with the Gesswein polishing cloth. Replace the grips and you are done!
In the final two photos you can see the finished antiqued airgun compared with the standard model’s charcoal black anodized finish. Which looks more like a real Schofield to you? In the last photo, the antiqued airgun is compared to a real civilian model Schofield for details. The differences are minor and the similarities remarkable. It is distinctively your very own .177 caliber No. 3 Schofield revolver.