Bluing Hands

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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby mars-red » Sat Jan 11, 2014 11:14 pm

Marty, I've found the same thing, that a good bright plum color is difficult to achieve. Did you ever see the pics of the little heart locket I made? I made both the locket and the key from O1 tool steel, and all the conditions were the same when I heat colored them. The key came out a beautiful, bright, slap-you-in-the-face purple, but the locket itself came out more of a wine color. One difference is that I had hot worked the key while making it - I heated it bright red and hammered it to shape. That compressed the metal, work hardening it. I think the reason it affected the color was increased carbon density. Carburizing the already high-carbon content steel would have had the same effect, I think. Marty, my guess is that if you took some good hands that already blued nicely, and carburized them once or twice, that they might "plum" better. Your choice of carbon packing while carburizing could make a difference too - I think that a nitrogen source mixed in with the carbon source might help for brighter colors. Back in the day, shops would use charred leather and hoof clippings, then have the workmen pee into the mixture (a nitrogen-rich source). It was apparently an excellent case hardening/carburization formula.
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Marty101 » Sun Jan 12, 2014 12:25 pm

I guess I need a horse. :lol:
Max,I have thought on this-the plumming part-and will experiment with the packing and materials. Your tube is really essential now; it's not just a convenience. Experimenting is fun but doing the same experiment over and over is NOT. :) I've been using lighter gauge wire and thicker flour/oil mixtures to make bundles but trying to wrap hands,even when held together with "glue" is tough. You can do it but I don't suggest it. I'll be wang-hoed if I'll do one at a time,it would kill me.
This is "production line" experimentation and has to be easy and systematic. It's time consuming enough prepping for each and then bluing later, all the time only expecting the results to,hopefully, point at what mistakes you made. That I enjoy is is beside the point. ;)
Keep winding things,
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Marty101 » Sun Jan 12, 2014 12:36 pm

Just thinking here.
I don't have a horse,but as my friends know,I do have a cat. We clip his nails and sometimes I even clip mine-that should be a good substitute. I have a rawhide apron for welding and cutting that I never use anymore except to cut thin strips off and etc. for work purposes. It gets narrower as I get wider over the years. :) I can char some and use some that;maybe even pre-cook it in your tube when it arrives. The last ingredient is easy. Sound OK?
Keep winding things,
Marty Bell
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Re: Bluing Hands and Carburization Methods

New postby Marty101 » Sun Feb 23, 2014 3:55 pm

I've been experimenting with different "bundles" of carbon sources and tweeking other areas to improve my success rate,quality,etc. of my carburization method. I'm trying different ways to hold the bundle together,even though I still believe my best hope lies in Max's Tube...maybe just the "Tube" for short. Yes-!!- It shall be ever known from this day forward as the "Tube".
- My Blog has written,so shall it be. :)

I am also trying other approaches of "constructing" a bundle other than the traditional wire wrap to compare with the results of the Tube,like steel spring mesh "cages" to hold the oil,hair,bone meal,etc. mix with the hands. I recently read that the process might be most effective in a sealed container,so the Tube might be essential to getting the highest achievable quality.
After all the methods I went through learning to blue I am keeping an open mind. :roll:

So far I have had improvement but also problems. The best results have come from hands heated hot enough (cherry red) and long enough (90 sec's after red) with immediate quenching. The more delicate hands sometimes warp or bend due to the heat or quenching-?-not sure which. If the hands are hardened properly they will snap at least half the time with necessary handling. I find that a hair pulling experience;however that does provide a carbon source for the next bundle. :) As a compromise I've allowed a slight cooling before quenching and had success with less breakage. That enables restoration of the hands' shape;however I'm not sure if I lose quality. :?
I do not like compromise. :)

I have also decided to add more ingredients,perhaps powdered charcoal and others as well. Max suggested bone meal which helped. I found most needs to be ground to a powder and it is resistant to this. He also suggested blood meal,thinking the nitrogen source would improve things. It probably will smell better than the urine old timers used. My wife agrees, and I will get some of that also. :D

I'm trying to be as methodological as possible, like with my bluing experiments. These should not be as time consuming,hopefully, progressing in increments a snail would sniff at- :lol:
I expect with all the help I have had and a good 50% head start that my chances of getting a 90% success rate (soon) is excellent.
Keep winding things,
Marty Bell
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Marty101 » Wed Dec 23, 2015 3:09 pm

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Friends, I bought my first 18s Ball Hamilton from Fred last November and am very pleased. I've been looking forward to showing it off,but wanted to doll it up a little first.
The hands needed some help,which is always my first concern (ahem). I replaced the second hand with one more appropriate and set the hour/minute aside for bluing. The Xmas season came on,we all got busy eating cookies,untying strings of lights and etc. and now over a month later have just mounted the newly blued hour and minutes hands.

Note the weird damage to the hour hand stem right before the spade-end. It's like a bend with a half twist;I did my best but she'll never be perfect again. That's OK,it still does a great job keeping time. :)
Keep winding things,
Marty Bell
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby 4brokenow » Wed Dec 23, 2015 4:40 pm

Marty,

I'm sure someone snagged the hand at the end and of course it bent it at the weakest point. Then because of how work hardened the metal becomes at the bend it bent further down when they straightened it.

Looks great! I can't tell you how many hands I have broken trying to straighten them, but its a lot! Its always Jusst-aa-wee-bit-mooore.. SNAP. And then that little bit of regret sets in. Your experience guides you well! :)

I often wonder if there would be a way to relax or anneal the metal right at the bend to allow it to be straightened. I have tried that using a warmer and indirect flame, but again unsuccessful.
Last edited by 4brokenow on Wed Dec 23, 2015 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Neilywatch » Wed Dec 23, 2015 4:41 pm

Nice watch, Marty. I am looking for the 23j version. :D
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Marty101 » Wed Dec 23, 2015 7:02 pm

Really Neil? That would be something just to see-please show it off if you do. :D
I have a couple 16s and got a 998 last year,but the 18s have always attracted me more. Let me know if you need any hands blued. 8-)
Keep winding things,
Marty Bell
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Marty101 » Sat Dec 26, 2015 12:15 pm

Phil-somehow I missed your post...and being as it concerns hands and bending them, I am back. As you can imagine,in my formative years I spent many happy hours gnashing my teeth and straightening hands nobody would take a second look at. Even double bends caused by poor repair attempts can almost always be straightened. Just practice on a junker hand first,because it does go against logical thinking-at least my kind of logic. ;)

Bends at either stem end,spade or post,are the weakest points. Looking straight down on a hand face up,a sideways bend is always worse than up or down damage. Those can often be untouchable if the hand is too hardened. Up or down bends can often be tapped out easily. You have to get a feel for how hardened the metal is and how far you can push,and I can't share that experience well. :(

Earlier Ball hands are harder and stiff;sideways bends are very shaky with them. But this hour hand had the worst kind of bend on any hand,even the most repairable-a twist. In my experience that can only happen when using tools (possibly a repair attempt horribly gone wrong)and not by "accident" if you understand me here. I could easily be wrong here but haven't seen otherwise yet.
Anyway,the best way to repair a twist is a compromise. If you dare,bend the hand back and "untwist" it using equal force on either side. If you try to completely untwist the bend it will snap always. I go by feel,which I can't share with anyone. 25% untwisting a hand like this is shaky. But while restoring, the damage (especially lighter damage) can be softened with a bit of extra sanding/polishing and pressure. Pressure is key. You have to remember it is a compromise, and quit while you are still unhappy. :) If you don't,you be otherwise. :cry:
Keep winding things,
Marty Bell
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Marty101 » Mon Jan 18, 2016 12:57 pm

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Friends,I am back to intrigue you with more and deeper mysteries in the World of Bluing Pocket Watch Hands. :lol:
Let me explain:
I usually polish up a bunch of hands to blue these days and get into an assembly line type of production. I blue a couple dozen at a sitting,and that means one at a time of course. Anyway,I had something new happen to 5-6 hands out of a batch of 35 or so. These are Elgin,Hamilton etc. hands,nothing unusual,and hands I have blued hundreds of times before. They blued up just fine-looked perfect. But when tossed into the water with the rest lost half their color,like dipped into phosphoric acid.
Have a peek. Any guesses at all would be appreciated. I have never seen this before and can't get over it. I will re-blue these and see how another try goes.
Keep winding things,
Marty Bell
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Glyn Meredith » Mon Jan 18, 2016 3:35 pm

Polish residue? ... Not seen, but still there?
Posted on GH recently? Your posts keep us going.

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"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Neilywatch » Mon Jan 18, 2016 6:23 pm

Marty -

I am assuming you are throwing these into the water to stop the bluing process?

You may have dissolved minerals in the water that is reacting with the bluing surface - you must use only deionized water if you want to have a clean surface.

As far as making purple hands - the trick with that is heating them very slowwwlllllly. The hands turn purple before turning blue, as soon as you see them turning, then whip them out - they change quickly!
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Marty101 » Mon Jan 18, 2016 9:04 pm

Glynn,I don't use anything with a residue to speak of;I dry polish most things....Neil,the water might be heavier than normal due to evaporation(and we do have heavy water here). Hard to say why most were OK- but still,that's a good guess. Good enough to change the water.
And as for "plumming"...fast or slow,some turn color evenly and some don't. I haven't noticed the temperature or speed I work at a likely variable in this. I have noticed that some factory styles in some makes will be more amenable to plumming. Ball hands are more so than most. But all in all I can't get consistent results. Yet.
I have noticed factory plummed hands are often light or even tannish colored,mismatched,and unattractive. I find that oddly comforting. 8-)
Keep winding things,
Marty Bell
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby Marty101 » Mon Oct 24, 2016 11:53 am

Max,I hope you are well and out there somewhere. I am still kicking and moaning,but also thinking of trying some foil for recarburizing. And who else would I come to for advise? :) I've done some research and made attempts to educate myself on the basics. I'm convinced the foil itself is nothing special,and what really matters is thickness. From what I understand,thicker foil is used for higher temps and rougher duty too. For a wrench,say,I'd probably go .002 mils.

But for hands I'm thinking of going thinner-very thin,and using the store bought brands. The thicknesses go from about .0007 (which I think I'll try first) and higher. The "extra duty" stuff which gets up to .001 to .0015 mils or so might be better. I do suspect the lighter stuff might "harden" or "dry up" (forgive me here) and fall apart even at my low temp of 1500 degrees-?
Now,the sites I've explored are only concerned with decarbing during hardening. They suggest a fairly tight wrap to,I think, simulate a vacuum type of condition (which I assume would be ideal). My thing is a bit different,and I imagine making a packet of foil with hands and carbon sources tightly packed,no air and airtight.

Is my thinking correct on this? Any tips before I experiment my hands and myself into La-La-Land? :lol:
Hope to talk soon-thank you again for all you've done. Don't think I'll ever forget it.
Keep winding things,
Marty Bell
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Re: Bluing Hands

New postby mars-red » Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:45 pm

Marty101 wrote:Max,I hope you are well and out there somewhere. I am still kicking and moaning,but also thinking of trying some foil for recarburizing. And who else would I come to for advise? :) I've done some research and made attempts to educate myself on the basics. I'm convinced the foil itself is nothing special,and what really matters is thickness. From what I understand,thicker foil is used for higher temps and rougher duty too. For a wrench,say,I'd probably go .002 mils.

But for hands I'm thinking of going thinner-very thin,and using the store bought brands. The thicknesses go from about .0007 (which I think I'll try first) and higher. The "extra duty" stuff which gets up to .001 to .0015 mils or so might be better. I do suspect the lighter stuff might "harden" or "dry up" (forgive me here) and fall apart even at my low temp of 1500 degrees-?
Now,the sites I've explored are only concerned with decarbing during hardening. They suggest a fairly tight wrap to,I think, simulate a vacuum type of condition (which I assume would be ideal). My thing is a bit different,and I imagine making a packet of foil with hands and carbon sources tightly packed,no air and airtight.

Is my thinking correct on this? Any tips before I experiment my hands and myself into La-La-Land? :lol:
Hope to talk soon-thank you again for all you've done. Don't think I'll ever forget it.


Hi Marty! Glad you're still kicking! :) It's great to hear from you, I did receive your message while I was at work today.

The best to use is really stainless steel foil, because it holds up to the heat. Aluminum foil can be used, and I've used it myself, you just need to be aware that it will melt into a blob at the temperatures involved. If you are packing with carbon to carburize, then as long as none of the bare steel part will be exposed once the aluminum melts away, no harm done. I've gotten away with aluminum foil because I bury the packet in coals in my woodstove, so even if the aluminum completely leaves the part, it still has carbon all over it. Some stainless foil, used carefully, should be reusable a good number of times, so it really probably makes sense to get some of it. For what you're doing, I'd use good thin stuff so that it doesn't act as too much of a heat sink. The bigger and badder your heat source is, the less that will matter I guess.

Decarb during hardening shouldn't be a problem when carburizing, because the part should be packed into a carbon source. But for what it's worth, the best way I've heard of to prevent decarb when using a foil wrap is to put a slip of paper in with the part. When the paper ignites, at much lower than the temperature where decarb would occur, it consumes any oxygen present in the wrap, and thus prevents decarburization of the part.

You may not be aware, but I started a YouTube channel recently and have a handful of videos up there... I'm trying to get at least one a week up, and lately that's been achievable. Your questions here have got me thinking I should do a video soon on carburizing. :)

-Max
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