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Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it! (Read 12925 times)
Century2
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Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it!
Oct 13th, 2009 at 12:44pm
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This should be interesting: What was the original receiver finish? I have done some research and now understand the following:

1)      Not-Standardized: US Krag finishes never really were standardized due to the short period of manufacture and the differences of opinions of all those involved in the order/manufacturing/delivery process. It makes sense to me that different branches of service and the intended type/location of service likely had influences on the particular specs for any one batch of Krags.
2)      The Service Factor: After over 100 years of existence, the Krag finishes we have today are different because of any one of the following: A) Item 1 above, B) they were refinished through WWI by an armory for sustained use in the service, or C) they were refinished by an armory for use in schools, national guard, foreign service.
3)      The Bubba Factor: The Krag finishes of old are now largely gone because of any one of the following: A) they were sold by the US wholesale to resellers who had any number of creative ways of reworking the Krag, B) well-intended maintenance/refinishing  during normal private use, C) Bubba-ization or D) they were long forgotten in some unforgiving place.

Several of my receivers have the remains of silver-toned plating which is never on the barrel (it is usually on the side plate and the loading gate, often on the 1901 rear sights also) I see many on GB that have the same issue too.  A few of the items I have have finishes that have been completely mangled by the Bubba Factor and I need to so some damage-abatement. The areas with the plating are much slower than raw steel to touch-up the blue on which makes my attempts at revival quite miserable. Plating is not required prior to modern-day bluing – any thoughts?

The Challenge: Load pictures of your receivers if you feel that you have one that is ‘original’ and let the KCA forum critique them! Huh
  

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Dick Hosmer
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Re: Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it!
Reply #1 - Oct 13th, 2009 at 1:35pm
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To begin with, have you read any ordnance literature of the period, in its' original form? O.M. 22 is excellent, even though it dates from the trapdoor period. Same workplace, methods and people. Failing that, have you read any/all of the work(s) on the Krag, by Mallory, Brophy, or Poyer?

(1) I respectfully disagree, strongly. The "short perod of manufacture" had absolutely NOTHING to do with it. There WAS a lot of flip-flopping on SOME things - particularly sights, but, AFAIK, the ORIGINAL receiver finish was case-hardened in oil, period. This was not a durable finish, at all, and many, if not most, were ultimately re-browned - some possibly more than once. The silvery "plating" to which you refer is, IMHO, simply the remains of those processes, and NOT any sort of "added" material (as in real plating).

The reason that the finish is not unifrom from part to part (such as receiver to barrel) is that some parts were hardened, and some were not - it has nothing to do with indecision by the makers. 

It (the silvery look) is quite common and well-understood by the Krag collecting community. Your touch-up bluing is not recommended, it will never "look right", and will lower the value. To do a "modern" reblue, would be, in my eyes, TOTALLY wrong, unless the arm has already been "sporterized".  Remember, you do not "own" your guns - you are simply a caretaker for generations to follow.

(2) I agree, 100%

(3) A bit redundant, but again I agree.

Well, that's MY two cents, from the vantage point of 40 years of collecting. I may post some specific pictures, I may not - but you can always check out my website. 70210, a Boxer Rebellion carbine, illustrates the silvery look. 200722, an 1898 rifle, IS nearly new, but there is no receiver close-up. A "new" 1899 carbine - 357288 - is not (yet) shown - its' receiver has about 95% original black-oil finish. Perhaps I'll add a closeup, when I add the arm to the album. A photo session is not an easy undertaking for me.
  
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Century2
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Re: Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it!
Reply #2 - Oct 13th, 2009 at 9:12pm
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Thanks, Dick. I have worked on three ‘junk’ Krags this summer:  Subject one was rigorously sanded from end to end with what would appear to be plumber’s cloth (rough emery) and was then let to rust to a uniform brown patina. Subject two met with strong acid (the stock may have been stripped without taking the rifle apart) and was mostly largely naked steel or remnants of non-original blue applied previously. Subject three was severely rusted and pitted, ground smooth, sandblasted and then let to rust again. So there will be no apologies from me for damaging ‘historic stock’. Remarkably, all three of these rifles have beautiful bores and shoot true which make them worth some extra effort to resurrect. I have dedicated much time into reapplying an antique finish by hand (no blueing tanks) – each a rifle is little different so as to match the stocks with which they are mated to.  For the most part, a coat or two of naval jelly would leave them pretty much as they were previously sans rust and sanding marks. I’ll upload pictures someday soon. My next project Krags are not junks however and be assured I am proceeding with extra caution…
  

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Century2
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Re: Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it!
Reply #3 - Oct 15th, 2009 at 12:17pm
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The receiver I am studying currently remains about 35% blued. The barrel matches perfectly. This blue is closer to a average denim color. Upon disassembly, there were many signs that it had not been disassembled for very long time (like 75 years or so IMHO) – which is a first for any rifle of mine. The Krag I inherited from dad has barrel blue that is much more of a black tone and has not been altered in the 50+ years it has been in the family. FYI: Both rifles show the expected wear and rust suitable for a vintage piece. As far as the silvery finish on the receiver I am studying, it has not been broken through (if it there) – I cannot tell by looks alone. I have had receivers where it was quite apparent however. The side plate and gates are another story. Nearly all of my side plates and gates show the silvery ‘coating’, some of these have ample amounts of silver with varying amounts of satin black finish (mostly on the interior). If the side plates and gates were a translucent satin black when new, it seems logical that the bluing would have been intended to be more of a black (to match the sides) tone than denim blue? Quite possibly, neither of these rifles made it through the 20’s or 30’s without being redone but I would like to know which one looks more ‘original’.

I looked in Poyer’s book once again however I do not see where he explains the finish for the receiver or magazine assembly (except for the follower). It is the only resource I have besides the internet. If anyone has the other resources I mentioned by Dick and cares to quote what they say about finish I would be interested.
« Last Edit: Oct 16th, 2009 at 12:17pm by Century2 »  

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Century2
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Re: Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it!
Reply #4 - Oct 16th, 2009 at 12:30pm
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Well then, from the internet I deduce that these items were case hardened and most likely given additional black oxide coating. I suspect many may have been redone in the 1920's because of improvements to the silvery coating during that era. Hence, the silvery Krag items we have today were not likely ever blued in appearance like we see today. All I know is that I sure in heck would not want a sparkly rifle on the battlefield! Mostly from Wikipedia:

A possible explanation of the silvery finish: Case hardening is the process of hardening the surface of a metal, often a low carbon steel, by infusing elements into the material's surface, forming a thin layer of a harder alloy. Firearms were a common item case hardened in the past, as they required precision machining best done on low carbon alloys, yet needed the hardness and wear resistance of a higher carbon alloy. Parts that are subject to high pressures and sharp impacts are still commonly case hardened. Case hardening involves packing the low-carbon iron within a substance high in carbon, then heating this pack to encourage carbon migration into the surface of the iron. This forms a thin surface layer of higher carbon steel, with the carbon content gradually decreasing deeper from the surface. The resulting product combines much of the toughness of a low-carbon steel core, with the hardness and wear resistance of the outer high-carbon steel. The resulting case hardened part may show distinct surface discoloration.

A possible explanation of the satin black color: Certain case hardening compounds also left a residual oxide surface. This oxide surface works similar to bluing, providing a degree of corrosion resistance, as well as an attractive finish. Additionally, a second finishing step may have added a black oxide coating similar to what is often seen on drill bits which would have worn off fairly quickly however the metal would be more protected until the piece was put into service with regular oiling.
  

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Dick Hosmer
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Re: Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it!
Reply #5 - Oct 16th, 2009 at 2:14pm
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Am very glad to hear that you are/were working on rifles which had seen better days - did not mean to preach. And, the Wikipedia explanation of case-hardening certainly seems correct to me. But, as to Krag receivers, AFAIK, when the original black-oil "finish" (which was basically the result of a manufacturing process, as opposed to an applied finish per se) wore off, that part was re-blued along with the barrel, as a unit, when needed.

To the best of my knowledge, NO other coating was ever applied by the government - NO "silvery plating", NO "additonal black oxide". What we see today (unless some civilian work was performed) are the remains of either the original case-hardening, or one or more trips through the re-blue process.

To further confound things, I will tell you that 70210, which clearly has the "silvery" & brown appearance WAS "officially" refinished at least once (St. Louis Ordnance Depot in 1900) and probably again at Benicia Arsenal when it came back from Peking.

Another point, especially on carbines - the balance point comes right at the receiver/magazine. Surely perspiration affected the finish of some specimens as well.

You have raised an interesting point, and arms with a high percentage of original hardening are not often seen - but, there was no application of "silvery plating" or black oxide.

  
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Century2
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Re: Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it!
Reply #6 - Oct 16th, 2009 at 5:59pm
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Dick, what is your web page address?
  

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Dick Hosmer
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Re: Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it!
Reply #7 - Oct 16th, 2009 at 8:57pm
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It is:  (You need to Login or Register to view media files and links)
  
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Mark_Daiute
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Re: Original Krag Receiver Finish? Prove it!
Reply #8 - Dec 11th, 2018 at 1:13am
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great thread bump to top
  
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