Jump to content
  • 1

Bluing hands


Question

I’m learning how to blue hands and I’m failing miserably.
I’m using a very small brass ashtray, brass shavings and micro torch and I also tried alcohol lamp.
I polish the hands and clean them in methylated spirit (I also tried cleaning them in IPA).
On the odd occasion, they would go through the colour changes as you’d expect, Fairly quickly form yellow to brown to purple to blue. However, 99% of the time I cannot get past the yellow. The brass shavings turn dark, the hand turns yellow, almost brown and it goes no further. From the bottom the hand is touching the shavings is blue (not every time) but not on the top. I keep it just above the flame where it is hottest.
When it works, it happens quickly, it doesn’t take long for the hand to start turning yellow and the other colours but most of the time I can sit there for ages and nothing is happening.
Any ideas what I’m doing wrong?

 

P5031865.JPG

P5021863.JPG

P5021811.JPG

P5021859.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites

Recommended Posts

  • 0

Successful Blueing hands requires that they are spotlessly clean and absolutely free of grease. Looking at your results that is the issue.using brass shavings is good and has given me the best results. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

Blotching is a sign of grease which clockboy has said. I always preferred an old English penny to brass shavings. It takes a few practises to get it right. When blued quench the hand in oil it gives a nice shine. That is how I would blue clock screws, getting them all the same colour takes practise.   

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

They should be clean. I used methylated spirit. When leaving them in for several minutes and moving them around in the spirit didn’t work I used a brand new artist brush to help with the cleaning. When that didn’t work I tried IPA. If some go blue from the bottom they must be clean I presume.
I also have some Horosolv which I’ve not tried yet, that may be another option to try. What do you clean them in before bluing?
I’m thinking I’m not getting enough heat but I’ve watched clock hands being blued in some very thick bluing pan so the small thin ashtray should be OK but I considered making it smaller. Although when it worked it only took a minute or so before they started changing colours all the way to blue so I’m somewhat doubtful that the size matters in this case.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

You're showing two different hands there, is the yellow one blue on the bottom? Some stainless steel will get a little yellow but not blue. If the hand is plated then it shouldn't change much or at all. But you say you polished it, so any plating should be gone.

 

As others have said, cleanliness is the most important thing. I frequently blue hands, I've found that clean benzine works best for me but 99% isopropyl alcohol is good too. A final step I do is lay the hand on clean paper, then give it a stroke across with freshly cut pithwood dipped in clean benzine (or alcohol), then puff with a blower to remove any pith bits. The mechanical cleaning as a last step just before blueing really seems to help. The hand goes in a tray with fine brass filings a few mm deep (I make them by filing brass with a 0 or 2 cut file), over the alcohol lamp, then heat up slowly to get the blue as gradually as possible. Several minutes.

 

When I make new filings I will heat them in the tray for quite a while before using them to blue, this is to burn off any residue or contaminants. They tend to smoke a bit when new, and that would mess up the blue.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

When cleanliness is paramount, any handling tools (tweezers etc) also need to scrupulously clean to avoid cross contamination.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

I'm not sure whether the yellow one was blue at the bottom. I spent all day doing it yesterday and that would have been re-polished. I’m quite positive that some hands were yellow on top and blue from the bottom. I cleaned the tweezers too, several times throughout the process.
I do not have any benzine here to try that out. I have methylated spirit, IPA and Horosolv. I’m not so sure about the methylated spirit, it’s purple and it marked my orange rubber mat.
I’ve just polished couple of hands, the middle one has not been polished, that’s straight out of the assortment pack. They are shiny, very shiny. Under the macro lens, depending on the angle and light you can see that they are not perfect, they actually look awful. However, nothing ever looks perfect under the macro lens. As bad as they look, they are very smooth and shiny, I worked my way from 1200 grit to 100000.

 

P5031866.JPG

P5031868.JPG

P5031876.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

This time I heated the shavings to burn off any residue or contaminants. I used Horosolv to clean the hand. I’m still getting the same result, I won’t go past yellow. I don’t know how to capture the colour correctly, in the pictures it doesn’t look right, it’s a very beautiful rich yellow colour, very shiny. It’s not blue from the bottom.
I find that when I post quite a few pictures they are not in the order I uploaded them so avoid any confusion below this post are three pictures before bluing and I’ll make second post how it looks after bluing. In the second post you will see that some brass shavings would start turning almost black.

Before bluing:

 

P5031880.JPG

P5031886.JPG

P5031890.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

I don’t think your flame source is hot enough to get the heat through all those shavings. You said the shavings are turning the colors you want though.

the spectrum of tempering colors are caused by a heat range and your shavings are getting hot enough but are absorbing too much heat. The shavings are there to help even out the temp and make the hands oxidize in a slower more controllable manner. They aren’t even necessary if you have a thick plate but it look  sad if you are using an ashtray.

remove half your shavings and try again.

if it’s not going passed yellow still, remove another half of the remaining shavings and try again and repeat the process until it works.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
5 hours ago, nickelsilver said:

Some stainless steel will get a little yellow but not blue. If the hand is plated then it shouldn't change much or at all. But you say you polished it, so any plating should be gone.

Yes I polished them but only from the top. The hands I’m using are from an assorted pack of 100 hands that were very cheap, around £3 for the pack so I’m thinking the steel may be cheap too and it could be the steel you mentioned that doesn’t go past yellow?
They turn yellow, look absolutely beautiful and that’s that. No more colour change. It’s almost as if they were going light steel colour again. You may notice it from the second post after bluing, the picture where the hand is shiny, you will see that the edges are richer in colour than the centre. The hand was rich in the colour like that all over but started going pale in the middle.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

Quite sure these hands are (nickel-)plated. A bit polishing will not remove the plating. You need pure unplated steel (not stainless steel) or iron for blueing. If cheap or not doesn't matter. 

Frank

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
17 minutes ago, Sjk4x4 said:

I don’t think your flame source is hot enough to get the heat through all those shavings. You said the shavings are turning the colors you want though.

I thought that too that I may not have enough of heat and I spent all day yesterday trying all sorts, including a very thin layer of shavings but no joy. On the odd occasion some hands would turn blue and it would happen fairly quickly when using the micro torch. That makes me think I have enough of heat. I watched several videos and one guy was bluing clock hands in a rather thick bluing tray. The tray must have been at least a quarter of an inch thick and he had a thick layer of shavings there too, he was using micro torch. I was using quite thick brass spoon last weekend and results were same so I picked up on ebay the small ashtray that’s considerably thinner than the spoon but I get same results.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
11 minutes ago, praezis said:

Quite sure these hands are (nickel-)plated. A bit polishing will not remove the plating. You need pure unplated steel (not stainless steel) or iron for blueing. If cheap or not doesn't matter. 

Frank

Looking at the pack, they all look plated, some are painted, some look like they are made of brass. Perhaps I should pick up a pair of different hands.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

I’m 99% sure that I have enough of heat. I almost forgot, last weekend when I couldn’t get past the yellow I tried it on some spare screws. I didn’t do anything with them, no polishing or cleaning. The one on the left was stood upright in the shavings and the other was on its side. I must be achieving the right temperatures with this set up.

 

P5031910.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
4 hours ago, Sjk4x4 said:

I don’t think your flame source is hot enough to get the heat through all those shavings. You said the shavings are turning the colors you want though.

I have a link to an interesting video below he's making a pen for bluing. Notice that it's not exactly a lightweight pen it's super heavy and he has a lot of brass and he's basically using the same torch. The only real differences are his is going to hold a heck of a lot a heat it looks like he pre-heat set before putting the hand and. In the above example it doesn't look like enough brass and with the brass pan projecting outward almost like a heat sink it may be waking the heat away?

https://youtu.be/uST7iJgC_gs

then there is the other problem with those hands if those are not steel hands find a magnet make sure and if there plated in other words you cannot blue typically other metals to pretend their steel it has to be steel on the surface.

Then looking at the color spectrum yellow is at the bottom of the scale. Is it a lot a hands to practice just hold onto a hand with something disposable and gently pass it near the flame and see if you can turn up blue don't put it in the flame the probably turn a pretty red color that won't last. So don't worry this could be splotchy just hold the high above the flame is slowly bring it down and see if it will blue it should turn blue at least for a little bit it should go through all the colors before it washes out just make sure you can't blue them.

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

ah, thanks for responding.

 

I agree with the above posters. If its cheapo metal that is an unknown source, they may not have the correct metallurgical content to blue. 

I am a pro patineur and if the metal isnt silicon bronze, I cant guarantee the color, let alone achieve it by typical means. Spelter, white metal, pot metal, brass, copper, etc., all have different results(if any) under the same circumstances.

The best I can think of in your circumstance is to purchase a blue marker and be finished with it if you dont want to purchase new hands from a known metal.  You can run the permanent marker over them and be done or after the marker dries, seal with a little wax

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

I don’t want to use a marker, I’d like to do it the proper way.

I tested the hands above a flame, no shavings, no pan. The first time I did it, they turned blue, not pretty but I wasn’t polishing them properly, it was just a test. I polished them again, only quickly to remove the oxidation, cleaned them and tried it again, they were not turning blue, not dark blue, the colours were very pale and after some washed out blue it even started turning green.
Screws, no problem, I’ve repolished the head several times and I was getting nice blue every time.
I suspect the plating, the material and whatever else these hands I bought for practising are not suitable for it.
I also tried the magnet. They get on the magnet but they hesitate. The screws jump on the magnet and so do the pocket watch hands.

I’m looking at Cousins site (I’m in the UK) for some different hands I could practice on. They don’t say what the hands are made of. I’m looking at pocket watch hands because the hands I need to blue are pocket watch hands but I don’t want to practice on them. I’m not concerned about the paint on the hands, it will be good practice taking it off anyway, I’m more concerned about the material they are made of.
What do you think, I’m looking the Horotec, ETA and Miyota. I don’t mind getting all three just don’t want to waste time and money if these are no good for bluing.
https://www.cousinsuk.com/category/hands-pocket-watch

The hands below, that’s after the first test when they were turning blue, the two on the left didn't. There was no point taking a picture after the second try.
The picture of the screw, that was repolished several times, it looks good to me.

 

P5041942.JPG.9675d2b3431d084ed181227db83fea50.JPG

P5051995.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

It was the steel. I got different test hands and the colour changes work like they should do. The bluing is not perfect on these, I gave them a quick wash in methylated spirit, no ultrasonic, I only wanted to see whether it will finally work.
The ‘magnet test’ works very well. If the hands hesitate to stick on the magnet it is not the right steel for bluing, if they ‘jump’ on the magnet the steel is good.
Having the right steel, I can now carry on and keep testing until I get it perfect.

 

P5152269.JPG

P5152272.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

It's not perfect but not far off- keep practicing, get all the previous blue off before retrying- it has to be impeccable, then try again!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
21 hours ago, nickelsilver said:

It's not perfect but not far off- keep practicing, get all the previous blue off before retrying- it has to be impeccable, then try again!

I'm getting there.

The hand didn’t show in the photo as it looked. There was no purple or light spots. I blame it on mixture of overexposure, lighting and white balance. When I turn the hand 180 degrees it looks completely different. The last two pictures (it's been re-blued, it's not the same as my previous post) will show what a difference different exposure makes. Same hand, different exposures.

I had several goes today and I’m happy except I keep getting blemishes on the spade. I’ll keep trying until it’s perfect.

It’s quite forgiving. I also polished the sides but only as much as I thought was sensible because they are quite rough from the factory and I’d make them too thin. The sides look just fine even though they are not perfectly smooth.
 

P5162296.JPG

P5162436.JPG

P5162452.JPG

P5162453.JPG

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

Bluing is going rather well, it's all about the preparation more than anything.
I should now be able to do the hour and minute hand.

I’m not quite sure how the seconds hand is going to work out. There is a brass tube that goes on the pivot and I don’t know whether it will keep the brass colour after heating. I don’t have a test seconds hand to try it on. Has anyone blued a seconds hand with the brass tube attached?

 

P5202668.JPG

P5202716.JPG

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

Been following this one and your path mirrors mine when I wanted to do the  bluing the traditional way. Kinda cool to see and you've gotten some outstanding advice from here. 

Second hands-when I've run into them I am careful with the heat so as to keep it to the hand and not the tube. A little discoloration might happen but I usually cured that with a dab from a Sharpie. Good luck! Nice work on the hands BTW

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
12 hours ago, MechanicMike said:

I am careful with the heat so as to keep it to the hand and not the tube.

It's very enjoyable to turn old rusty hands into beautiful blued hands.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by keeping the heat to the hand and not the tube. The seconds hand will be on brass shavings with the tube attached.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0
On 5/30/2021 at 3:49 AM, PeterS said:

It's very enjoyable to turn old rusty hands into beautiful blued hands.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by keeping the heat to the hand and not the tube. The seconds hand will be on brass shavings with the tube attached.

Sorry about that. I mean I keep the flame away from the tube as much as I can, and concentrate it on either side of it. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

I get you now. Put the hand in the middle of the tray and go with the flame in circles around the sides avoiding the centre, get the heat to work its way from the sides rather than going lengthways heating it up.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites


  • Recently Browsing

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Topics

  • Posts

    • Nucejoe has made some good points about the calendar mechanism. If the watch physically stops at least the hands stop and the secondhand keeps going that means the watch train is running it means that it's a disconnect between the gear train and our minute hand in calendar mechanism. The Canon opinion which I'm going but I guess is the type that snaps into a drive wheel. The drive wheel is driven by the gear train the Canon pinion goes on the post there is no friction there. If the friction between the drive wheel in the Canon pinion disintegrates which he can then with the least amount of friction like a calendar mechanism it just quit striving. The hands come to a stop the watch keeps running the secondhand keeps moving because it's independence of all of this. It should have been obvious when the watch was going to gather and you check the setting mechanism before you put the calendar on you would have noticed zero friction as a guess. Even now when you go into hands setting you'll feel like there's no friction at all. Then the reason why the calendar mechanism works when you manually rotate the hands is because the setting wheel is driving the Canon pinion directly which is driving the calendar mechanism and that our wheel and all of that so all of that will run from that we just will not run from the gear train running the drive wheel that's connected to the Canon pinion. But that's just my wild guess and then we throw in Nucejoe's possible calendar mechanism increased friction than we need to really isolate all of this or we can continue to guess.  
    • I am not sure if I correctly understand you here. Only the seconds hand keeps running or minute and hour hands do move too, in case minute and hour hands move and show time right, then the fault is in date change train including date jumper mech, but if it doesn't show time correctly ( appear to loose time) then its loose canon pinion. You can tighten a loose canon pinion, use grease to lube it, not oil.
    • Thank you for your introduction and welcome to this friendly forum.
    • always confusing when it's two separate watches but I'm going to assume they're basically identical. What was their condition before you service them in other words did have a problem before and the problem came after you've serviced or was the problems there before? Then timing machine results you do have a timing machine don't you? In other words what's the running condition of the watch like of the watches barely running that would be an issue for a calendar change   then you fix the problem? so I'm guessing we only have to worry about the 2778 then? Yes this is what happens when you have multiple watches with too much going on it becomes confusing. then it would be helpful to have a picture of the dial side components because we didn't memorize every single calendar change mechanism. one of the places to look is the Canon pinion assembly in other words to visit have enough force to drive the calendar mechanism? I'm having to guess because I'm not finding a good tech sheet that shows the parts. If it's a kinda Canon pinion I think which is the Canon pinion that slips into her presses into with friction with the wheel if it no longer has and the friction then a cannot drive the calendar but if you manually set the watch that drives the Canon pinion directly and everything should function. then if you two of the parts list it would be listed as canon pinion with drive wheel. .But it would be helpful in the picture just to make sure http://www.ranfft.de/cgi-bin/bidfun-db.cgi?10&ranfft&0&2uswk&ETA_2778  
    • I think what the problem here is you're asking the wrong question. The question is what part number do I need so that I can end up with the correct balance? Or the correct balance staff for that matter? If you look at the second link it lists the parts for your watch. This is always where things get interesting? you'll notice for balance staff they list seven different ones. For balance complete they do show three but if you look at the part numbers there's only two. then I attached some images from bestfit online and of course additional problems perhaps. Notice you have lots of choices and probably only one that's right. then the physical bestfit book becomes interesting because is an indication that there are variations which is of course why there so many listed in the images. but fortunately it looks like you want the basic simple one which should be 100/66.  unfortunately for the third link it's out of stock. then providing this is the right staff number I snipped out a couple of more images of the bestfit book which is what the dimensions mean and the dimensions. One of the irritating things of the physical book is on the dimension chart if you're trying to find a particular staff you just have to be lucky to go through the list and find it it be really nice if they list of the sizes by the numeric staff also. http://www.ranfft.de/cgi-bin/bidfun-db.cgi?10&ranfft&0&2uswk&AS_1287 http://cgi.julesborel.com/cgi-bin/matcgi2?ref=AS_1287 http://cgi.julesborel.com/cgi-bin/matcgi2?ref=U\ZD]J http://www.julesborel.com/s.nl/it.A/id.151223/.f  
×
×
  • Create New...