Fans of shows on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel know there’s some serious money in antique firearms. The appetite for authentic vintage weapons has exploded in recent years, and the number of collectors is increasing all the time. However, without the skills of restoration experts, many of these fine weapons would be lost to the ravages of time. If you’re looking for an interesting and rewarding way to apply the skills you’ll acquire in gunsmithing schools, why not consider a career as an antique firearms restoration specialist?
Tools of the trade
One of the most important tools in an antique weapon restoration expert’s toolbox is care and attention to detail. Although many vintage guns were built to last, especially those dating to the Civil War, great care must be taken when working on these fine weapons.
A common procedure in antique weapon restoration is bluing. This process involves the use of special chemicals that oxidize the steel surfaces of metals, improving their appearance and making them more resistant to rust. In some instances, the existing blue can be buffed and improved, while sometimes you may need to strip the steel first and then re-blue the metal components. There are several different bluing techniques, including charcoal, hot or salt bluing, nitre and rust.
Other techniques you’ll need to master to become an antique weapons restoration specialist is the use of chemical agents for cleaning purposes. These compounds include liquid soap concentrates such as potassium methyl cyclohexyl oleate, which are used to remove dirt, wax, hydrocarbons, and fatty and mineral oils from the surfaces of antique firearms.
As an antique weapon restorer, steel wool will be one of your best friends. To avoid accidental damage to the firearm, be sure to use a fine grade like 0000 when working on antique finishes.
Art and craftsmanship
Of course, some weapons need more extensive repairs and restoration before they can be displayed or sold. This is where the true skill of a gunsmith comes into play.
Many antique weapons are constructed from solid wood, especially rifles and shotguns. In some cases, the stocks of these types of firearms may be extensively damaged, requiring great care and skill to restore. Some weapons may need their stocks to be refinished, whereas others may have to be replaced entirely. Strong woodworking skills are a must for any serious gunsmith, and there are a variety of things to consider when working on antique stocks, such as the grade of the wood, checkering and finish.
The times, they are a-changin’
Sometimes, corrosion or damage to the firing mechanism of old weapons may be so extensive that the weapon will no longer fire. In these cases, it might be necessary to replace certain parts altogether, such as the lock. Some antique weapon restoration experts specialize in converting old rifles from percussion firing mechanisms to their original flintlock state. This technique is especially common for Civil War-era weapons.
What sparked your interest in antique guns? Let us know in the comment space below.