Fifty Shades of Brown
It is good to be on the same page as the people with whom you work.. A huge part of building a team and shaping professional relationships involves communicating and cultivating those with whom you can work in an almost telepathic manner. When you have a PA who knows exactly who you will want to talk to and who you will avoid at all costs or see immediately, keep her. Same goes for a girlfriend who puts a cold beer in your hand as soon as you walk through the door after a tough afternoon in the heat or a barrel browner who can look at a pair of worn barrels and know exactly what you will want them to look like when re-finished.
Sympathetic restoration is the key to so much of the challenge we face when tackling old guns hat need some help to get back to good health but will not benefit from some parts looking brand new and others tired and tarted up.
The browning of damascus barrels is a very good example of they. Get it wrong and the barrels look as if they do not belong with the gun. Get tit right and the new finish blends in beautifully with the old features of the gun, protective, attractive and appropriate.
Getting the colour to look in-keeping with the style and age of the gun is tricky, especially if the original finish is very worn or has been replaced one or twice in the past. The chemical process involved in re-browning a pair of barrels is rather like cooking – a good cook with the right ingredients will often produce a cake like no other – it comes down to a feel for the baking process, experience and expertise.
Browning is a rising process, albeit controlled. It is sensitive to temperature, humidity and time.Different chemicals will affect the iron and steel parts of a damascus barrel in different ways and a skilled browner will be able to offer a wide variety of colours and degrees of contrast. No two barrels are the same and not two browning processes can be exactly replicated on every barrel type.
We shall now look at some examples of browning on the barrels of some guns from the archive and see what observations can be made regarding their appropriacy for the guns they adorn.
There is, of course, room for variation. When new, some gunmakers chose silver and black as the finish, others chocolate brown and yet others a very dark or very light finish without much contrast. However, when restoring a gun, I think subtle but classy is the way to go, as with every other aspect of the job.
I like to see contrast and colour but I don’t want the barrels to shout at me – they need to complement the overall aesthetic. I want my ‘Brown’ to be a team player, not a dominating superstar. Fortunately, the craftsmen who provide my browning solutions know exactly what I want and they manage to deliver every time. Below are some images of gun barrels before and after we re-browned them. Click on any image to get a bigger one.