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a-treating-msg - 9/8/97


Surface treatments for armor. Blackening.


NOTE: See also the files: armor-msg, p-armor-msg, metal-etching-msg, metals-msg, repousee-msg, metalworking-FAQ, metalworking-msg, blacksmithing-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: "Michael Squires" <mikes at cs.indiana.edu>

Subject: Re: How build plastic armour?

Summary: how about case-hardened steel

Organization: Computer Science, Indiana University

Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1993 11:44:57 -0500


In large metropolitan areas it is possible to get steel case-hardened by

a heat-treating shop.  Using case-hardened steel I expect to be able to

make a brigandine using 20 ga mild steel which is not much heavier than

the equivalent plastic.  Whether this is "equivalent" to "hard-over-soft"

I don't know.


Mike Squires (mikes at cs.indiana.edu)     812 855 3974 (w) 812 333 6564 (h)

mikes at cs.indiana.edu         546 N Park Ridge Rd., Bloomington, IN 47408



Date: 3/26/94 9:55 PM

To: Mark Harris

From: DHUMBERSON at delphi.com




G96 is a brand of cold blueing compound, a liquid which allows

gun owners to repair damaged areas on the blued finish of guns.

True blueing is a hot-bath process, requiring full disassembly

of the gun, use of dangerous fume-producing chemical salts, and

no little skill.  The end product is that deep, gorgeous blue

seen on premium guns, that seems to recede into the steel forever.


Cold blue is a liquid which is painted onto steel, then wiped off.

The finish it makes is not as rich, nor as durable as the hot

process, but it looks just fine for a working helm.  I contrast

mild steel with stainless steel, which doesn't take to this

process at all.


You can find G96, or Hoppe's, at Uncle Mike's products at your

nearest gun shop.  There is a product called "Plum Brown",

if you prefer a browned iron look.


I hope this helps.


Yours for the Dream

Ragnar Ketilsson, his mark<RK>



From: Charly.The.Bastard at f1077.n147.z1.fidonet.org (Charly The Bastard)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: To Enamel or Not to Enamel...

Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1993 16:31:30 -0500


re: blacking armor

If you're looking for a durable darkener for steel, hie thee down to the local

gun shop and look into a parkerize kit.  Parkerizing is a brown/black surface

treatment used on military rifles and hardware.  If properly applied, it is

scratch and scuff resistant, antioxidant, and impervious to most solvents such

as petrochems and mild

acid/alkali solutions.



From: kopp0614 at nova.gmi.EDU (Adam Hill Koppy)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: black armour (was enamel or not)

Date: 26 Sep 1993 15:13:00 -0400


enameling armour is an insane thing to do for several reasons

1 ITS GLASS! you are putting a thin coat of glass over steal even if the

glass sticks perfit the steal will flex and bend the glass wont.

broken thin chips of glass will be every where

2 to enemal steal is dangerous. the process encludes the use of several

deadly chemicals.

3 where do you have access to an enameling kiln to put your armour in (you

need to melt the glass over top the armour).


Painting armour is an option but period paints do not stick well and will

chip off only a little slower then enameling. modern paints- use the

toughest stuff you can find.  


what the black color was form on the black knight was an oxidation of the

steal and oil.  there are two ways to do this

1 forge blackening. heat the metal to just under glowing red. drop this in

to a oil bath. linseed oil works well or if you are cheep (i am) use old

motor oil

2 buy blacken or blueing agent blackpowder gun shops or industeral supply

might have it, call around. then coat it with oil and buff off.


good luck and remeber black gets real hot real quick




From: habura at rebecca.its.rpi.edu (Andrea Marie Habura)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: armor blacking

Date: 8 Mar 1994 01:08:27 GMT

Organization: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy NY

Keywords: armor, blacking, rust proofing,


Alison here...


Sir Jon asks how best to blacken metal. My lord husband, who is sitting

right beside me even as I type, says "heat it until dull cherry red and

then quench in used motor oil at room temperature" (WARNING: Have fire

extinguisher handy.)


Alison MacDermot

*Ex Ungue Leonem*




Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: rac at nauvax.ucc.nau.edu

Subject: RE: armor blacking

Organization: Northern Arizona University

Date: Fri, 11 Mar 1994 15:19:44 GMT


Something I have tried in blacking armor which works, is the following:

I mix nitric acid with iron filings until the acid can take no more and

use this solution to paint on the surface of the metal. I usually make

three coats before I let it sit for a few days. Then I hand rub the surface

with steel wool and I usually obtain a dark brown shiny finish which I

can darken by oiling over.



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: Wynn

Subject: Re: armor blacking

Date: Tue, 8 Mar 1994 19:26:56 GMT

Keywords: armor, blacking, rust proofing,


In article <2lgj6b$qdk at usenet.rpi.edu> habura at rebecca.its.rpi.edu (Andrea Marie Habura) writes:

>Alison here...


>Sir Jon asks how best to blacken metal. My lord husband, who is sitting

>right beside me even as I type, says "heat it until dull cherry red and

>then quench in used motor oil at room temperature" (WARNING: Have fire

>extinguisher handy.)


>Alison MacDermot

>*Ex Ungue Leonem*


Another method to rust-treat is to use a propane torch to heat the metal

until the colour of the metal just turns, and then spray it down with WD-40 (oh, and don't breathe... :) This is the bluing method my lord taught me & is used on all our metal armour; after 7 years for my spagenhelm, about 8 for the legs, and 9 for his helm and legs, none of these have rusted, even after living in Houston for three years. For evening out the colour over the years, you can use stove blacking/polish.  You do not need a forge or case of old motor oil, but you do need open, ventilated space in which to do the spraying on of the WD-40 as it steams noxiously.


wklosky at nitro.mines.colorado.edu



From: PAULB at saturn.uark.EDU (Paul A. Byers)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: armor blacking

Date: 10 Mar 1994 11:38:33 -0500

Organization: University of Arkansas


John, R., Edgerton <sirjon at waffle.sns.com> writes:

>        Perhaps someone could provide the information I need on

>blacking or rusting proofing armor?  I understand that it can be

>done by heating the metal and diping it in or coating it with oil.

>But, what I need to know is

>: How hot and what kind of oil is best?


I 'brown' my steel armor parts.

I take a mixture of urine and salt water and rub it on the steel with a cloth.

I do this for 1or 2 days so that the steel is very rusty. (leave a damp

cloth on the steel to keep it wet. Not to thick of a cloth or it will block

the air (O2) from the steel.


After the piece is very rusty, I take steel wool and oil (QS10w30) and

'polish' the rust away. This leaves a hard 'brown' layer of oxides and oil on

the piece. It will protect it from further rusting and is kinda period.

(least, thats what a armor Larel told me.) A oil/rust piece of steel wool kept

in a cloth bag is good for touch ups.






From: Donald Humberson <dhumberson at delphi.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: RE: armor blacking

Date: Fri, 18 Mar 94 00:34:39 -0500


If the above methods are too involved, may I suggest G96 cold blue?

It does the job, takes about 2 hours, uses no dangerous heat, and

on my mild steel helm looks rather decent!

Yours for the Dream,

Ragnar Ketilsson, his mark <RK>



From: tamela at cs.unr.edu (Dino V. Germano)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Is blueing period?

Date: Mon, 25 Nov 1996 10:54:10 -0800

Organization: Great Basin Internet Services, Reno, NV


Erik Blackwood asks:

> Well, the subject about says it all.  I am wondering when the practice of

> blueing metal first started.


> Jason Mohler    

> Work: j_mohler at wmc34b.wmc.edu  

> Play: j_mohler1 at bulldog.wmc.edu


   I know that heat-blueing is in period, as is the art of "pickeling"

sword blades in mild acid baths to both show lamanar or Wootz (sp?)

patterns, and to change the color of the iron and steel. I would think

that rust blueing would be possible, but hot tank blueing as used with

firearms is O.O.P.


Dino Germano, Reno Nevada

A.K.A. Sir Vincenzo di Calabria, West  (or as YO! Vinnie)



From: "WebSerfs at ladydra.com" <sdpoe at cyberramp.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Is blueing period?

Date: Mon, 25 Nov 1996 23:15:09 -0600

Organization: CyberRamp.net, Dallas, TX (214) 340-2020/(817) 226-2020 for info

j_mohler at wmc34b.wmc.edu wrote:

> Well, the subject about says it all.  I am wondering when the practice of

> blueing metal first started.


Depends on what you mean by "blueing". If you mean the modern practice of a chemical bath (usually called 'cold blueing'), the answer is no.


If you mean the changing of a sword's (or other steel weapon's) surface color (usually for reasons other than appearance); yes, it has a very old history.


A few sources, going from general to specific:


"Blueing: A form of artificial rusting, which is applied to the steel parts of a firearm to produce a coloured finish of varying hues from blue to black. It protects the metal against rust and prevents the reflection of light on the barrel in use."

--- Douglas J. Fryer, Antique Weapons A-Z, G. Bell & Sons, London, 1969, p. 3.  


"Bluing: Until the ninteenth century, this process involved applying enough heat to metal to turn it colors ranging from pale blue to nearly black, depending on the extent of the heating and how quickly the metal was cooled. In the ninteenth century, chemical, or "cold", bluing was adopted."

--- Walter J. Karcheski, Jr., Arms and Armor in The Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1995, p. 116.


In regards to the Malaysian Kris, Stone comments: "It is then etched with a mixture of arsenious acid and lime juice which brings out the watering...In a well finished blade the result appears like a polished black metal inlaid with silver.", and notes the Kris was "first shown in the sculptures of the 15th century." He does not comment how far back etched Kris are documented.

--- George Cameron Stone, A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and Use of Arms and Armour..., The Southworth Press 1934, reprint, 1961, pp. 382-384.


For the Middle East, I reference Allan's comment of: "...but the colours mentioned by medieval authors were in the main probably due to etching.". He further quotes Islamic scholars of the period regarding the colors and the etching compounds used to produce them. He doesn't quote dates but refer to the title of the book...    

--- James W. Allen, Persian Metal Technology 700-1300 AD, Oxford Oriental Monograph No. 2, Ithaca Press, London, 1979, p. 81.


Figiel discusses more in depth the materials used to etch and (briefly) the process; he suggests that 'watered' steel, and etching, was in use as early as the First-Fourth century BC.

--- Leo S. Figiel, On Damascus Steel, Atlantis Arts Press, 1991, pp 8-9, 21-22.    


Hope these provide the beginnings of an answer. Did you have a specific reason for asking (i.e., you already own a blued blade and want to know if you can pass it off as period), or just curious? I know of a few current-day bladesmiths who can do flame-blueing if you need it done.




WebSerfs                     "Creator of wonderous magical garments...  

The House of Dra              costumes, speciality clothing,

Custom Clothing and Costumes  Renaissance Faire garb, everyday wear...

http://www.ladydra.com        for the adventurous spirit."            

webserfs at ladydra.com                        




From: Edwin Hewitt <brogoose at pe.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Is blueing period?

Date: Mon, 25 Nov 1996 22:52:22 -0800


Jason wrote:

> Well, the subject about says it all.  I am wondering when the practice > of blueing metal first started.  Anybody have any idea?


> Erik Blackwood


First started?  My guess would be the first iron ever heat forged was

heat blued.  It makes for a remarkably effective rust preventative.


Blueing can be easily documented by looking at manuscripts and

paintings. Freelancing Mercenaries seemed to especially like the

technique (they were into black mail (no, not a pun - believe it or



I have no ready, period formula for COLD or chemical blueing, however.

The medievals had so many metal techniques, that it would not surpise me

if they did have a cold blueing.


Theophilus (c. 1100 c.e.) suggests the following blacking technique in

his book, "On Divers Arts" (available through Dover):


When you have made iron locks and hinges for small chests and for doors,

finally heat them and smear them with pitch.  The nails, however, should

be tinned.  When you have made spurs, bits and saddle furniture for

humble clerics and monks, and have filed them smooth, heat them a little

and rub them with ox horn or with goose feathers.  For when these are

slightly melted by the heat and stick to the iron, they will provide a

black color which is somehow appropriate to it.





From: pcrandal at flash.net (P. Crandall Polk)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: How to blue steel

Date: Sun, 29 Dec 1996 03:04:09 GMT


> I want to blue it


Four types of blueing.

Degrease it completely. Absolutely clean. No anything on it.

Cleanliness cannot be stressed enough.




1. Boil in a cleaning solution designed to clean and accelerate

surface oxidation.

2. Boil in a black iron  container (must) to 350 degrees F. for at

least 30 minutes with caustic blueing salts.

Warning: If you touch the salts when hot you will lose the limb. It

will be cooked and eaten off by the chemistry.

The fumes will kill you.

3. Boil in a black iron container with a neutralizer agent.

4. Boil in water to remove neutralizer.

5. Dip in hot "water displacing oil" and scrub.



1. Boil in a cleaning solution designed to clean and accelerate

surface oxidation.

2. Coat metal with rust blue solution. Metal must be HOT.

3. Boil clean.

4. Allow to dry and rust overnight.

5. Card (brush with iron brush) off ALL rust. Good luck with chain


6. Repeat until blue is deep enough.



1. Insure that metal is clean.

2. Warm metal. and dip or coat with commercial "cold blue" solution.

3. When color is right. clean and degrease and oil.

Warning: This method is not rust. This chemically coats the metal with

a copper salt and them turns the salt dark with a mercury compound.

It will wear off and poison you if not careful.

The fumes from the warm metal and solution will kill you.



1. Find a good gunsmith and pay him to do A.





From: rsrchins <rsrchins at cts.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: How to blue steel

Date: Mon, 30 Dec 1996 11:19:36 -0800


P. Crandall Polk gave excellent instructions for a professional quality

bluing job, but his methods require a lot of dangerous and difficult

techniques that most of us are not equipped or trained to do. Here is

how I blue helms, etc., well enough to look good for several years of

fighting (if kept well oiled.)


1. Clean and polish the steel item until every surface to be blued is

bright and shiny. The shinier it is the better it will look.


2. Remove all grease, wax, and polishing compounds. I use carburetor

cleaner. Do it outside and observe all safety warnings on the


Use a succession of disposable towels so that the oil lifted up by one

wipe is not redeposited on the item by the next wipe. If you would like

the finished item to be decorated with your finger prints, just touch it

after it has been cleaned.


3. Put the shiny item into a kitchen stove oven at 550+ degrees F

(preferably electric; I have had trouble getting this to work with gas

stoves). After about 45 minutes it will start to darken, and in another

half hour it will be as dark as it is going to get.


4. Let the item cool until you can handle it safely, then take it

outside and coat it with lots of oil. I use WD40, but there are probably

better oils.


        If you would prefer to "brown" the item instead of "blueing" it, put

the oil on before you heat it. It may stink up your oven and kitchen,

though. Good luck.


Tryggvi Halftrollsson



From: "Morgan E. Smith" <mesmith at freenet.calgary.ab.ca>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: How to blue steel

Date: Mon, 30 Dec 1996 18:51:06 -0700

Organization: Calgary Free-Net


My lord, Conmor Gallowglass, who is a mundane goldsmith/metalwork artist,

says that you should put the helmet in the oven (yeah, he said oven) at

400 degrees F., for about half an hour or so. He also says this works

better in gas ovens than electric, but electric should work, though not

quite as fast or as well.

Morgan the Unknown

Reply to me - I am his email mouthpiece as he cannot spell, and yes, I am

a Grammar-bitch.



From: Edwin Hewitt <brogoose at pe.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: How to blue steel

Date: Thu, 02 Jan 1997 00:21:56 -0800


Matthew Saroff wrote:

> Hi, I am putting together some armor, and I want to blue it for both

> appearance and rust resistance.  

>  When I talk to people, the response is generally, "Oh, it's

> simple, just use a torch."


The torch method will work, but will seldom be as even as you might

want. If you prefer an even effect, use an oven and heat above 200 - 300

degrees.  Heat bluing relies on the chemical reaction of the oxygen and

iron to create an iron oxide coating which will inhibit the formation of

rust.  Rust happens to also be iron oxide.


First, completely clean your metal.  This usually means to "pickle" it

in acid to remove any oxidation or oil.  Then neutralize and buff dry.

Take care not to introduce surface impurities (ie skin oil).


Isolate the helmet from anything flammable.  I rest my helmet on an

anvil stake in the same way you would wear it.  You could also suspend

it on a wire.  Start the long process of heating the metal with the

torch.  I work in small circles and watch the metal turn color to just

past blue.  I use oxy-acetyline.  When done the metal is HOT.


Allow the metal to regularize temperature (experience) but not get cool.

Apply oil with a rag (WD-40 spray can be used too).  If the temp is

still too hot, the oil will burn right off.  You want to add the oil

when it just goes below that temp.  The metal will darken substancially.


When you are done and the helmet has cooled, the effect can be quite

beautiful.  There is often a very "unique" patina pattern on the

metal when this technique is used.  I happen to like it.


One caveat, this is only a surface treatment, and although it will

inhibit rust, it will not stop it.  Keep the metal clean and dry between

battles, and oil it before storing.  Some people prefer several layers

of wax.    


Edwin of Runedun



Date: Wed, 16 Jul 1997 19:07:26 -0500

From: roger boulet <boulet.roger at mcleod.net>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Armor in Black and White


I went to a very nice exhibit at the local Czech and Slovak Museum

located here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The exhibit is called "A Thousand

Years of Czech Culture" and is on loan from The National Museum in

Prague. While the exhibit is not large, there are many artifacts of

interest to people in the SCA and other students of history and was

certainly worth the $6.00 admission fee.


Four pieces of armor are displayed.

1. A very nice shrit of rivited mail.

2. A gilded "black" Morion.

3. A black and white Morion.

4. A black and white back and breast with the Gorget and shoulder

harness attached.


After having followed the discussion on black and white armor with some

interest you can imagine my delight at being able to get within six

inches (as close as I could get to the glass without breaking my nose)of

three examples of "black" armor.


The glided Morion definatly had the look of heat blued  steel.


The black and white Morion has the same appearence as the black and

white armor in the Landeszeughaus of Graz picture catalogue. The

polished steel or white areas are in fact raised and the black areas are

covered with a material that looks painted on. It strongly reminds me of

the coating that used to be put on tools to protect them from rust

called "jappaning". I could not find my book on antique tools, but as I

recall the main part of this compound was pitch.


The back and breast showed yet a thrid possible method to achieve the

black and white effect. In this case the black areas were raised above

the polished areas. It was mentioned in an earlier sending that steel

that has been hot worked has a dark surface. The hammer marks were still

visible on the black areas so it appears to me that this piece was hot

worked and then the white areas were polished smooth. The contrast

between the the polished and unpolished areas is quite striking and at a

distance appears black and white.


It appears that some confusion has been caused by the word enamel. So

far we have hot enamel, cold enamel, and enamal paint. If armor was hot

enamaled my guess would be that it would be for parade. Hot enamal is

brittle and the tempurature at which it is applied would ruin any

attempt at heat treatment.


I like the idea of enamel paint to achieve this effect for SCA armor. It

would be tough and relitivly easy to apply.


The exhibit runs until the end of December 1997.




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org