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Bastien Rousselot




Location: Rouen, Normandy, France
Joined: 25 Feb 2018

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sun 14 Jun, 2020 5:51 pm    Post subject: On shining armors         Reply with quote

Hi everyone,

Today a question/discussion on shining your armor
We've all dreamed about knights in shining armor as kids, and now that some of us are we know it's not always easy to maintain those steel parts as shiny as ever !
Feel free to share your techniques, what finish you like the most, what materials you use and so on.

Now onto my question
We've all seen the gorgeous Tobias Capwell black harness made by Robert MacPherson, but something seems weird to me, the degree to which this armor shines. Most of the black armors I saw had somewhat of a matte finish, or at least less reflective than their "white" counterparts, so why is this one different ? Chemical blackening is very unlikely, so what exactly was used to make it so shiny and polished ? I have asked Toby and Mac themselves, but I'm still waiting for an answer.

Anyways, have a great day y'all !

Here's a link to a high res picture of the armor

https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/430797520600994478/



 Attachment: 205.87 KB
Aforementioned armor [ Download ]

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Edward Lee




Location: New York
Joined: 05 Jul 2013

Posts: 336

PostPosted: Sun 14 Jun, 2020 6:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The shiny bluing is probably done through heating. Jeff Wasson and Tobias Capwell did an episode on these high end blued/gilded armor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKlUy9NOl_U

Also mirror polished armor discussion

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.20995.html
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Bastien Rousselot




Location: Rouen, Normandy, France
Joined: 25 Feb 2018

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sun 14 Jun, 2020 7:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edward Lee wrote:
The shiny bluing is probably done through heating. Jeff Wasson and Tobias Capwell did an episode on these high end blued/gilded armor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKlUy9NOl_U

Also mirror polished armor discussion

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.20995.html


I'll be sure to watch that, thanks you

Wow, I didn't know there was one !

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Bastien Rousselot




Location: Rouen, Normandy, France
Joined: 25 Feb 2018

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sun 14 Jun, 2020 8:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edward Lee wrote:
The shiny bluing is probably done through heating. Jeff Wasson and Tobias Capwell did an episode on these high end blued/gilded armor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKlUy9NOl_U

Also mirror polished armor discussion

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.20995.html


I watched it and it does look alike but Toby's armor looks darker than any blue armor I've seen before. Maybe it's oil blackened ?

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Bastien Rousselot




Location: Rouen, Normandy, France
Joined: 25 Feb 2018

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sun 14 Jun, 2020 8:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looking at pictures of the armor I have come to believe it is indeed an oil blackened one, because lighting changes don't particularly reveal any blue coloration on a wide surface. Also small flaws in the armor seem to point that way, for instance a small blue-er spot at the back of the greaves where it's surrounded by black and doesn't seem to blend well, also grey-ish spots on the skirt were maybe the oil blackening didn't work too well, or maybe there were other traces of material.

Picture attached is a picture of the helmet with a different lighting, revealing a grey tone to the metal, not a blue one



 Attachment: 29.09 KB
capwell black armor 3.jpg


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Edward Lee




Location: New York
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Posts: 336

PostPosted: Sun 14 Jun, 2020 11:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The helmet looks polished before the blackening is applied, it does look like there are rust and some hammer mark. I am unsure how this suit of armor is blackened, but I am certain that the shine level varied depending on how polished the metal is before blackening process is applied.

I could be wrong, but I have a heat blued breastplate and when I applied a 2000 grit sandpaper it wiped away the blue leaving bare metal behind. I am not sure if that's the case for oil blackend armor, but there are chemical solutions used to blue armor(color varied), and with those you cannot wipe it clean with sandpaper, a solution remover must be applied. I say this because the forehead of the helmet looks polished revealing hammer marks and the blue is not so much removed after polishing.
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Bastien Rousselot




Location: Rouen, Normandy, France
Joined: 25 Feb 2018

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon 15 Jun, 2020 4:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edward Lee wrote:
The helmet looks polished before the blackening is applied, it does look like there are rust and some hammer mark. I am unsure how this suit of armor is blackened, but I am certain that the shine level varied depending on how polished the metal is before blackening process is applied.

I could be wrong, but I have a heat blued breastplate and when I applied a 2000 grit sandpaper it wiped away the blue leaving bare metal behind. I am not sure if that's the case for oil blackend armor, but there are chemical solutions used to blue armor(color varied), and with those you cannot wipe it clean with sandpaper, a solution remover must be applied. I say this because the forehead of the helmet looks polished revealing hammer marks and the blue is not so much removed after polishing.


Toby answered me and turns out we were all wrong, his armor was chemically blackened. I assumed it wasn't because of the general high degree of historic authenticity that comes with Toby's work.

Anyways, chemical blackening is obtained by plunging the armor into a bath of sodium nitrate, sodium hydroxyde and water, then heating up the solution, turning the surface of the steel into black magnetite. I am not sure if the polishing of the armor comes before or after the chemical treatment, but the additional shine can be attributed to the addition of a sealing material at the end, wax, oil etc, that was then polished or buffed.

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Edward Lee




Location: New York
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Posts: 336

PostPosted: Mon 15 Jun, 2020 6:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is good to know. This is the chemical solution I was thinking of. It doesn't require much just apply them to metal, rinse and repeat a few times.

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=birchwood+perma+blue&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

It sounds like the chemical blue process for that armor is much more complicated than I though.
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Jonathan Blair




Location: Hanover, PA
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PostPosted: Mon 15 Jun, 2020 6:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bastien Rousselot wrote:
Anyways, chemical blackening is obtained by plunging the armor into a bath of sodium nitrate, sodium hydroxyde and water, then heating up the solution, turning the surface of the steel into black magnetite. I am not sure if the polishing of the armor comes before or after the chemical treatment, but the additional shine can be attributed to the addition of a sealing material at the end, wax, oil etc, that was then polished or buffed.

It would have to be done before the bluing/blackening. As you mentioned, the surface of the steel is converted. Polishing afterwards would remove that surface layer to the bare steel below.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." - The Lord Jesus Christ, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter x, verse 34, Authorized Version of 1611
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Bastien Rousselot




Location: Rouen, Normandy, France
Joined: 25 Feb 2018

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon 15 Jun, 2020 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Blair wrote:
Bastien Rousselot wrote:
Anyways, chemical blackening is obtained by plunging the armor into a bath of sodium nitrate, sodium hydroxyde and water, then heating up the solution, turning the surface of the steel into black magnetite. I am not sure if the polishing of the armor comes before or after the chemical treatment, but the additional shine can be attributed to the addition of a sealing material at the end, wax, oil etc, that was then polished or buffed.

It would have to be done before the bluing/blackening. As you mentioned, the surface of the steel is converted. Polishing afterwards would remove that surface layer to the bare steel below.


It could very well be that, though my armorer tells me this shine is obtained by wiping the solution with oil, then it's a question of coats of oil and/or wax I guess with the right buffing

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Michael Beeching





Joined: 22 Jan 2014
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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jun, 2020 3:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I will chime in, as I recently refinished a few parts on a Mauser 98 with chemical blue. In my case, I used Brownells Oxpho-Blue:

https://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-tools-supplies/metal-prep-coloring/metal-bluing/liquid-cold-bluing-chemicals/32-oz-oxpho-blue-cold-bluing-sku082024032-1072-111988.aspx

...In general, the more finely finished a surface is, the better the results of bluing. Deep, abrasive polishing after the fact will remove the surface oxidization, and thus the color. Changing the color with heat is a tricky operation, and how deep the color can go is beyond my pay grade. However, one can still "polish" a surface without removing the color, as long as you are in fact NOT gouging the surface. As someone noted before, oiling can do this, and oil in fact is what adds most of the color to a surface treatment after a surface has been oxidized!

For instance, both chemical bluing and Parkerizing do not necessarily produce an initially deep color by themselves. The initial oiling is what will color the parts and fill in the voids of the oxide layer, or whatever type of surface layer is created by the chemical process. So, as long as this surface is maintained rather than ablated, you can in fact polish it by oiling and waxing. I don't think maintainers back in the day would have been offended to wax the surface to both shine and protect metal!

Another thing to note about bluing is that, while a more finely finished surface is preferable, it's not always essential for a respectable finish. A few of the said Mauser's barrel bands had some old rust spots on them. I didn't want to damage any actual heat bluing, so I simply maintained the parts by first cleaning them with acetone, hot soapy water (with drying), and a second acetone wash. Bluing was done per the instructions for my chemical - apply, steel wool the surface, and repeat. After several cycles of this on the various parts I treated, the surface of the barrel band was not super dark, and some areas, especially the red rust spots, were still notable. However, after applying a penetrating oil (WD40), the surface effectively turned to a uniform glossy black. After a few more passes with various oils, I finished up with Gunstock Wax (sorry if you're in California with that one...) to seal the surface (I probably made another pass with oil just for good measure as well). Needless to say, flaws might still be detectable on a blued surface, but they're a lot harder to identify.

I imagine bluing was very popular for several reasons. The initial chemical process will provide a small measure of chemical resistance, but not a huge amount. Instead, it is the oils the surface layer holds that do most of the work. If you can maintain that surface treatment, you now have a very respectably corrosion-resistant armor that can hide a fairly broad range of cosmetic flaws, while also looking all the better for having color or contrast. In comparison, an armor in the white has none of these advantages, aside from appearance preferences. Or, perhaps as another recent thread suggests, a polished armor in the white on a sunny day would make one hard to look at...
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Michael Beeching





Joined: 22 Jan 2014
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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jun, 2020 4:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

...Adding to my previous musings, I imagine a rust-bluing process, similar to what is seen in the linked video, would have been known to armorers back then:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuP4m6L95K4

I do not know what would have been preferable for starting a uniform surface oxidation, but, as I noted in my own bluing example, and as suggested by the presentation, several passes are often necessary to get a surface layer to form. And so, this would have been done as much as was necessary to get the desired surface effect and depth (important for holding oil, etc.).

...I would anticipate that a lot of old blued items look grungy because of the oil used. Modern mineral oils do not tend to "rot" like many organic oils do. Olive oils, while usable, can decay and cause their own problems if not kept up. They can leave a nasty surface layer as well. Oils can also attract particulate in the air and allow things to stick to the surface. So, an old blued suit of armor might just look the way it does because of this (don't quote me on that, however).

Alternately, the matte finish may have been the result of not needing to finish a suit of armor as finely when blued as an armor left in the white. In fact, it may have been preferable to leave them "tastefully rough," as this gives a greater surface area to the armor for the rusting process. When the oil or wax is not maintained, this rougher surface then becomes apparent, etc.

...Just some thoughts!
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Kai Lawson




Location: Madison, WI
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PostPosted: Wed 17 Jun, 2020 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fernando Q. has done a good amount of work with classifying Iron Age weapons, and he has documentation and photos of finds from Iberia that show falcata blades with a smooth, clean magnetite finish. I am reluctant to quote date ranges from memory, but I believe these falcatas date prior to the Roman Republicís conversion to the Roman Empire. My understanding based on my reading is that the finish was deliberate and original. Unfortunately, I cannot access my computer at the moment, and so I cannot share the photo I have, nor can I remember where I found the image. Iíd suggest googling...
"And they crossed swords."
--William Goldman, alias S. Morgenstern
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Wed 17 Jun, 2020 2:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In Indonesia, they use citric acid and arsenic (realgar) for blackening the iron bits and bringing out the nickel bits in their Keris. These materials have been available in Europe as well.
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Kai Lawson




Location: Madison, WI
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PostPosted: Wed 17 Jun, 2020 2:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Found some of the links:

http://armasconmagnetita.blogspot.com

https://armasmagnetita.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/conservacion-e-identificacion-de-recubrimientos-de-magnetita-artificial-en-armas-ferricas-prerromanas/

Both are listed in this thread:

[url]http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.18398.html

I am no metallurgist or ferrochemist, and cannot comment on durability, but it sure looks cool, and would likely work for developing a decent surface coating that would help resist rust, look good and be easy-ish to clean. [/url][/url]

"And they crossed swords."
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 380

PostPosted: Wed 17 Jun, 2020 9:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Folks,

Lest anyone be confused, the chemical blackening process used on Topy Capwell's harness is wholly plausible as a period technique. Sodium nitrate is a form of saltpeter (substituting sodium for potassium; it's most easily found in caliche ore from Chile and Peru, but it can be synthesized using processes and materials available to fourteenth-and-fifteenth-century alchemists) and sodium hydroxyde is lye. It's also entirely possible that the same patination process works with potassium nitrate (ordinary saltpeter) but that sodium nitrate was for some reason more readily available when the armor was being made.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Chris Gilman




Location: California
Joined: 07 Dec 2007

Posts: 79

PostPosted: Mon 22 Jun, 2020 3:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Toby's armour was black Oxided after polishing, which I do not believe is a period process. Mac said it was done by a commercial company, like this one :
https://www.aftfasteners.com/black-oxide-coating-process/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMImbvi1biW6gIV0yCtBh3xYg7DEAAYASAAEgLX7_D_BwE

Another common finish was heat bluing. Colors from yellow, through red, purple and blue can be achieved depending on the temperature used. An electric deep blue is created at 290-305C
In different lighting conditions, this can look Black or blue.



Same gauntlet, different angle to the sun.



These are the pieces for the arms above just after they had been blued.


Chris
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