Colour Case Hardening

Where do you start with this?

Very much a traditional Gunmakers Finish I am not sure I know of any other application. I have seen one or two old tools finished this way but I am certain they were done because the toolmakers found themselves in a Gunsmith’s workshop. It is a particularly striking finish and in my opinion more of an Artisan technique than a scientific one, no two pieces turn out the same.

I have been asked on a number of occasions to produce such a finish but it is not a trivial task to set up to produce this however with the availability of cheap microprocessor controllers I converted one of the furnaces to be a dedicated colour case hardening furnace. I experimented for a while with time/temperature/medium combinations and having reached some conclusions regarding the various permutations I decided to “have a go” with the action from a Poachers Gun.

The folding .410 shotgun itself bears a little explanation, I was first introduced to this style of gun in the mid seventies by my late, great friend David Brooks. We went “up to the Farm” one day to do a bit of Shotgunning and from beneath his coat David produced one of the Belgian made folding .410 “Poacher’s Guns”. I just had to have one! For the uninitiated a four ten shotgun is equally as powerful as a twelve gauge shotgun, you just have to point it that bit more carefully that is all. Because there are not as many pellets but gram for gram there is equally as much powder. I have always had a soft spot for the four ten and in many instances they are much more practical than the bigger gauges, but I digress.

This restoration began with the aforesaid Poacher’s piece bought for this exercise for a modest sum. Please bear in mind that you could buy these from the pages of Exchange and Mart in the sixties by post and they were not exactly Exhibition Quality! These are the “before” pictures:

Fourten action

Fourten action

Four Ten Action

Four Ten Action

Four Ten hammer

Four Ten hammer and locking lever

The process is not a trivial one and the preparation is critical. The quality of the finish itelf is reflected in the preparation. Colin Molloy polished the components to a 400 grit uniform finish and I then prepared them for the furnace. Packing the pieces firmly in a blend of bone and wood charcoal enclosed in a steel container with a tight fitting lid the furnace temperature was raised to 700 degrees Centigrade and held there as the container was placed inside.

The “firing” then began and after predetermined cycle the container was quenched. As expected the results are good and the action was reassembled:

410 Action

Colour Case Hardened 410

Four Ten Action

Colour Case Hardened 410

Four Ten Action

Colour Case Hardened 410 action

Four Ten Breech underside

Colour Case Hardened 410

The stock from this particular gun was pretty poorly made. The chequering is pressed into the stock and fore-stock and of course time and use has faded it’s effectiveness so this is being re-cut and the stock refinished. The barrel has been re-blued and the next installment will show the gun in it’s entirety and hopefully successfully fired.