America's Oldest Gun Maker Adds a New Line

Article From: Products Finishing, , from Products Finishing

Posted on: 8/1/1996

New black oxide line provides more than just a pretty finish...

When Eliphalet Remington built his first rifle in 1816, James and Dolley Madison occupied the White House, Indiana became the nineteenth state and the Second Bank of America was established. Little did Mr. Remington know that he was starting what was to become one of the largest firearms companies in the world.

The history of the Remington Arms Co. tells the history of the country. One example is General George Armstrong Custer's letter to the company. After an expedition to the Yellowstone area he wrote praising the accuracy of the gun. At 100 yards he claims to have killed 41 antelopes, four bison and many other wild animals.

Annie Oakley used Remington target guns, and the company's muzzle loaders were used in the Civil War. The company also manufactured knives, cash registers, typewriters and bicycles.

Although Remington is known for its high-quality firearms, it is also known for its high-quality finish on these rifles and shotguns. "We compare the finish on our parts to that of jewelry," stated Warren Hoffman, company chemist. "It must be perfect, with no blemishes or defects."

For this reason, the company recently installed two black oxide finishing lines. The previous line looked as though it had been around since the early days of the company. "It was massive. Utility costs were high and maintenance was a million dollars a year," noted Joe Murray.

Napco, Inc., Terryville, Connecticut, manufactured the two lines. The larger of the two lines is used to black oxide large parts, such as receivers and gun barrels. Small parts are finished on the smaller line, which has the capability to color heat-treated parts. The larger system is capable of running 7,000 parts in a 24-hr period. Presently it black oxides 5,500 to 6,000 parts per day.

Prior to receiving the black oxide finish, steel parts are polished in one of three ways. Most parts are polished in a vibratory finishing system from Almco using ceramic media and then shot blasted with steel shot to produce a matte finish. Higher degree work is hand polished and then polished with ceramic media in the vibratory finisher. Others are only hand polished. The type of polishing depends on the final finish desired.

After polishing, parts go through a two-stage alkaline cleaner, followed by a counterflow rinse. The first stage is a hot alkaline detergent cleaner running at 170F. Parts soak in each cleaner for approximately five min to remove buffing compounds, oils and shop oils

After cleaning, parts enter a special conditioning bath that is critical to achieving a perfectly uniform finish. This strongly oxidizing bath is operated at 235F. The conditioning step was added to handle a particular gun model. This model is polished using lard oil and kerosene, which is smeared into the metal. To remove this, the conditioning step was added. However, Remington found that the conditioning step helped with all parts; therefore, all parts are subject to the conditioning step. An ambient rinse follows conditioning.

Parts proceed directly into the 750 gal, 290F Pentrate Ultra black oxide bath, supplied by Heatbath Corporation, Springfield, Massachusetts, which also supplies the cleaners and conditioner. Time in tank averages 45 min. A wetting agent incorporated into the Pentrate Ultra minimizes dragout.

Remington uses the liquid form of black oxide. It found that using liquid rather than powder enhanced safety, since workers did not have to shovel powder into a 290F bath. Also, the liquid bath generates considerably less sludge.

The previous 2,000-gal black oxide tank was de-sludged every two weeks. Now it occurs monthly. This has saved on maintenance and chemical and hazardous waste disposal costs. Mr. Hoffman estimates that the new line has helped Remington decrease sludge by 80 pct, drop operating costs 70 pct, lower chemical costs 66 pct and decrease water use by 100 gpd.

Parts run through two ambient rinses after the black oxide tank. The next step is Pentrate EE 2, a blackening step for silver soldered assemblies. The process blackens the silver solder and blends it with the original black oxide finish. Parts proceed through an ambient rinse.

The final step is a soluble oil. Each morning this oil is heated to 150F for an hour to pasteurize it. This kills the bacteria that feed on the emulsifier system, splitting the oil from the emulsion and rendering the product useless. The oil provides corrosion protection and enhances the appearance of the blackened parts.

After black oxide finishing, the parts move to assembly and/or the Remington Custom Shop. The custom shop is a work of art in itself. The floors and work stations are hardwood. The room is open, with large windows that provide plenty of natural light. Each artisan has been with the company for 20 years or more and is highly skilled in engraving and/or custom-assembling firearms.

The new black oxide system earned Remington Arms an environmental award from the Mohawk Valley Engineering Executive Council. The award was for Outstanding Environmental Excellence for waste reduction and the company's elimination of solvent cleaning.

Remington maintains excellence in all facets of its business, just as Eliphalet Remington did when he meticulously constructed the first firearm. The new black oxide line provides the high-quality finish Remington is known for. It also provides the added benefits of cost savings and a clean environment now and for the future.

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