Refinishing a Peacemaker Part 2
The pursuit of imperfection
By Dennis Adler
Removing the finish from the gun is a delicate process, not only because you do not want to distress the white metal (rub a flat spot or depression in the surface), but also not scratch it beyond the capability of polishing out with the 0000 steel wool and Gesswein polishing cloth. It is also delicate because you want to take every precaution to keep debris from the finish, 3M pad and steel wood, from getting into the internal systems of the CO2 and action. With that in mind, it is time to add another tool to the process; either masking tape or 3M blue painter’s tape.
Today, we are going to polish out the backstrap, hammer, and the cylinder. This is in the order of difficulty and you don’t have to do it all in a day. For the backstrap it is necessary to remove the grips. The left side just pops off for loading CO2, but the right grip is held in place by two small Phillips head screws. The replacement grips use different screws, so save these with the old grips.
Next, you want to use the tape to seal off the CO2 chamber and prevent any debris from getting inside. You want to work with the surface being polished facing down to lessen the chance.
Using the 3M pad I removed the finish and wording and then using a small edge went over the shoulders of the backstrap where they meet the frame. I did not get into the frame area just yet. I repeated the steps using the 0000 steel wool and Gesswein polishing cloth. I used the Dust Off to blow the surfaces clean, removed the blue tape, and checked for any debris inside the grip frame. Then I blew everything off again with the air.
The hammer has to be completely polished, so here it is very important to seal off all openings into the frame. The hammer needs a good polish because it will be the first part of the gun where I try the color case finishing. The hammer needs to be worked on in two stages, at half cock and then at full cock, as this exposes different parts of the hammer.
After working the hammer at half cock, remove tape around the cylinder so it can easily rotate, fully cock the hammer and tape over the recoil shield so the hammer is isolated again. One of the things you want to keep in mind is not putting too much pressure on the hammer as you are polishing it. As tough as it may seem, it is a more fragile part of the gun. You will note in the photos that the checkering on the hammer spur is darker and this is just fine, leave it a little dark. There are also a few areas lower on the hammer that are darker, and that, too, is fine; the important part is to have as much of the hammer flats polished as possible. The color case mix of bluing and oil will fill in these areas in the last steps of the project. In the hammer polishing, the same steps are followed as other parts of the gun, concluding with the polishing cloth to get the finest surface.
Once I had cleaned everything up and removed the tape, I decided to run a function check and load CO2 to make sure everything is still working properly. It all checked out good with the gun sending lead wadcutters downrange at over 400 fps. I stuck the grips back on the gun (less the screws for the right panel) to seal off the CO2 chamber as I progress to the next step.
The cylinder is a tough job because of the flutes and bolt stops. You also need to seal off as much of the action as possible to prevent debris from entering the firing system. The cylinder is where your arms and fingers are going to get the most abuse and about half way around the cylinder it might not be a bad idea to take a break. Sore finger tips are not going to make this any easier (voice of experience here).
I sealed off the left side of the gun as much as possible and worked on the cylinder from that side only, rotating it as I went. After the initial rub off of surface finish with the 3M pad, I used the steel wool on the cylinder as I went one section at a time. This gave me the outer surface as bright as possible, and I always worked with the gun tilted so all debris fell away from it. You have to be conscious of this because it is easier to rest the gun in one hand and work on a flat surface, but that will also deposit considerably more debris on the surface of the gun, so keep working surfaces angled so debris fall away from it.
The cylinder flutes are another step. I went back and worked harder on the inside of each to get as much of the weathered finish off as possible. I also used the Dust Off as often as possible to blow away any debris on the gun as I worked around the cylinder, and getting the nozzle in the inside of the frame, recoil shield and base of the cylinder.
I gave the cylinder a final polish with the Gesswein polishing cloth and that leaves me with the frame to do next. We’ll pick that up Saturday in Part 3. Then it gets really interesting with the refinishing of the barrel, cylinder, grip strap and frame!