Why should you steam rather than boil?

PVC Barrel Steamer

PVC Barrel Steamer

Did you know that nearly all commercial and military arms production during the day employed steaming rather than boiling for rust bluing? It’s true. We’ve always been told in the majority of gunsmithing books that we should boil.  That is what has kept most people away from rust bluing.

Pros and Cons of  boiling vs steaming:


  •  Long water tanks require high capital investment. A welded steel tank and pipe burner to fire it can cost over $250.
  • Tanks require the use of high volumes of distilled water or rainwater. Water with impurities and/or chemicals can ruin the blue job.
  • High volumes of water require long fire times to reach boil which consume more gas or electricity. It can take 20 minutes to boil a tank of water.
  • Equipment takes up a lot of space.
  • Boiling often increases the number of “passes” needed to achieve results. Black oxide tends to be softer and doesn’t adhere well.
  • Each pass with boiling takes roughly twice as long vs steaming. Usually a 20 minute boil.



  • Steaming requires a total investment of about $30 with a steam pipe apparatus if everything is purchased new.
  • Turkey fryer heat source can be used for cooking as well as bluing.
  • Process requires only a half gallon of tap water that can be boiled in 4 minutes.
  • Equipment takes up space of a 6 quart pot.
  • Steaming takes only 10 minutes per pass.
  • Black oxide is more adherent and fewer passes are needed to achieve results.

The bottom line is that steaming is way less expensive or time consuming than boiling. It takes a several week  job and condenses it into a day or weekend. For less than $70, you can purchase my bluing solution and build a steam apparatus vs paying $400+ to a gunsmith to rust blue your gun. Then have enough product left over to blue twenty more guns. You decide. If you need detailed pics of the steam pipe apparatus drop me an email.


Bob Veasey



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