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Thread: Ithaca 37 Restoration Project

  1. #1
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    Ithaca 37 Restoration Project

    I inherited my grandfather's Ithaca 37 featherweight when he passed. This shotgun has been in the family for many years; my grandmother bought it for him when he was a young man the year my father was born. My grandfather spent countless hours with that shotgun hunting and my father did years later as well. This shotgun is the first shotgun I ever shot and one of the first firearms I ever shot. Sadly my grandfather passed about 20 years ago when I was 14 years old and other than memories, his old Ithaca was the only thing I inherited from him. Out of all of the firearms in my collection, this one is my prized possession. It has tremendous sentimental value to me and I wouldn't consider selling it at any price.

    As of today, the shotgun is in fairly poor condition and doesn't get shot much; I am not sure if I have shot in the last 10 years. Sometime in the '70's my father attempted to refinish the shotgun with a cold blue product and the shotgun has taken on a "browned" appearance. The buttstock has a crack in it and is well worn. Otherwise, mechanically it is in excellent working condition.
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    My goal is to restore the shotgun to its former glory and bring it as close to as-new condition as when my grandfather received it from my grandmother. My intention is to hand the shotgun down to my son, who is named after my grandfather by the way, when he is of age. I also would like my father to see it after it is done.

    I am going to rust blue it even though it is not correct for the time period. Rust bluing is a finish that I should be able to do at home with minimal equipment. Any type of spray on finish would not be right for this old gun. I am going to clean it up but I don't want to completely remove all of the dings and blemishes that gibe it it's character, they are family history. Before you say anything, I don't care what this does to the value of the shotgun, it is not for sale. I hope that by refreshing this old girl that I'm more inclined to shoot it occasionally.

    I've written Ithaca to see if I can buy a stock that matches the origional. I am probably also going to replace the screws as they are a little buggered up and some of the springs due to their age.
    Last edited by NAPOTS; 11-21-2016 at 10:59 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    Step 1. Metal Prep.

    I started with the barrel. I sanded with 180 gr parallel to the bore, 220 perpendicular to the bore and 320 parallel to the bore. There are signs of minor pitting probably from before my dad re-finished it. The metal is in good shape, it was tricky to sand around the lug that the barrel attaches to the magazine tube nut with. I didn't sand the rear face of the lug, there is a spring loaded ball that is swaged into the metal, I don't want to screw it up. The bluing solution causes rusting and I don't want to destroy the spring or seize up the ball, I may carefully sand around it and then paint the ball and a little area around it with lacquer and then carefully apply the bluing solution with a q-tip.
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    I'll probably hit it again with the 320 grit as it is not perfect.

  3. #3
    Team Gunsnet Platinum 06/2016 ltorlo64's Avatar

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    That barrel looks a ton better! Very cool project. What/how do you intend to redo the bluing?
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    Team Guns Network Silver 04/2013 alismith's Avatar

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    My father left me his Ithaca and it looks just like yours. I'll have to dig it out and check to be sure. Is yours a 12 gauge? I'm not sure what gauges they came in, but when dad was younger, all he used were 12 gauges. As he got older, he ended up using a .410 (less kick).
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  5. #5
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    I am going to do a rust blue using this product; http://www.rustblue.com/

    From what I have been reading rust bluing was the traditional method up until the mid 1930's when hot bath bluing took over. It is labor intensive but it supposed to be more durable.

    It is a 12 gauge.

  6. #6
    Team Guns Network Silver 04/2015 mrkalashnikov's Avatar

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    What a great heirloom to have inherited. Ithaca made great shotguns, I always liked the way they feed & eject through the bottom of the receiver.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    A little update for you guys. I'm typing this on my phone so we'll see how is goes. Here are some more pics of the condition it was in.
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    I got it all stripped down. It was pretty dirty and gummy inside. Some of that may be my fault, I used to use 3-in-1 as gun oil until I discovered that it turned into varnish. Everything mechanically looked good. I noticed the John browning design touches on it. Most noticeable was the similarity between the hammer spring setup and that on the 1911.

  8. #8
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    I cleaned up and polished the trigger guard. I only polished the visible outside surfaces. I didn't want to remove material from any on the fit areas even though most of them wouldn't be critical dimensions. I think it came out really well. I feel like I did a good job maintaining the original lines. I did notice some factory tool marks which I think is kinda cool.
    20161125_165035_zpsbsm5nbbn.jpg
    I did some of the other small parts such as the trigger slide release etc
    20161125_165026_zps5jmefnem.jpg
    I cleaned up the screws, most of the screw heads were buggered up. The capture screws were the worst off. the slot was too narrow so I widened it with a jewelers file. I squared the other ones up too then cleaned up the heads. they should look nice when blued to match.
    20161125_165042_zpsmyq6kktl.jpg
    I was careful with what surfaces I polished, I will clean the rest up with steel wool.
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    I got started on the receiver, I need to put some more work into it but it is cleaning up nicely. I am going to try to remove the magazine tube. I don't think it is totally necessary in this case though. I need to be very careful not to crush it; i have it soaking in Kroil and am going to carefully use a strap wrench to see if it breaks loose.

    from what I understand the polish doesnt have to be perfect because the bluing solution etches the steel and will hide or blend small imperfections.
    Last edited by NAPOTS; 11-25-2016 at 08:50 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    No one likes old shotguns, should I put a rail on it, lol? I got the bluing solution. I still need to build the steamer setup. I am going to try it out on a piece of scrap steel I polished to see how long I have before I risk getting pitting in this weather or if I need to put the parts in a damp cabinet

  10. #10
    Guns Network Contributor 04/2013 El Laton Caliente's Avatar

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    The Ithaca 37 Featherweight is my all time favorite hunting shotgun. I too used my Grandfather's, but a cousin ended up with it. I managed to pick one up at a small gun show a while back for $250 in better than average shape for a 50+ year old gun.
    We found out what "dealing" with progressive lefties is all about. Our side gives up something, they give up nothing and the progressives come back in a month or a year and want us to give up more... rinse and repeat...

  11. #11
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    alright so I was a little busy today. I got the bluing solution in the mail. I built this today out of a cheap pot from walmart $6, a piece of 5" metal duct $9, and a duct adapter $4. No, those of you in the midwest, it's not a meth lab. It's a barrel steamer.




    I also built a rack to hold the parts while I work with them out of some cheap pine.


  12. #12
    Forum Administrator Schuetzenman's Avatar

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    Nice project. Rust bluing is some very durable stuff. I've done it in the past, but I boiled my barrels and other parts to get the red rust to kick over to black in color.

  13. #13
    **Team GunsNet SILVER 12/2014** skorpion's Avatar

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    Awesome project - looking forward to seeing the finished product, as I'm sure you are.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    I'm going to post what I learn in the hopes that it helps someone else with their project. I would love to see someone do a rust blue AK on this forum, I have seen a few examples and they look amazing, a lot deeper and darker than the Chinese bluing used which I am sure was hot bath. Definitely didn't have that purple tint to them.

    I am practicing on a piece of steel scrap that I polished up the same way as the Ithaca to make my mistakes on. I am purposefully being a little sloppy with this piece to get an idea how sensitive the process is. my biggest concern is not gauging the time right and getting pitting. It is my understanding that anything else can be correctly easily by degreasing and doing a few more coats.


    lesson for today, I don't think it is humid enough right now because of the weather to encourage good oxidation. I applied the solution to the sample yesterday per the instructions.
    1. Apply a thin coat to thoroughly degreased steel with a cotton wipe (I used a cleaning patch). try not to get overlaps. It immediately started to change the color of the steel so it was easy to see where you got it. I wasn't so great about the overlaps.
    2. after 2 hours apply another thin coat without doing anything else. Again it wetted the steel so it was easy to see where I got the second coat.
    3. allow to rust for 3 hours. The instructions recommended a damp cabinet, I wanted to see how my garage fared. I let it for for around 4 hours. It looked like this;


    4. I steamed it for about 15-20 minutes it was good and hot. I don't have an after picture but it was definately darker and the rust looked crustier than before it went into the steamer.
    5. I carded off the rust wtih 0000 steel wool. The rust was a little tougher than I expected, I assume this is why people use carding wheels. The rust is supposed to come off a little easier when steamed instead of boiled.
    6. The steel underneath was definitely darker. like a dark gray, you could tell that it had changed.
    7. I applied another coat of the bluing solution. The steel was hot from the steaming so it evaporated very quickly which I guess you want.
    8. I let it sit in the garage over night. It didn't have any rust on it this morning I assume because of the cold dry weather.
    9. I then hung it in the steamer (off) that still had some water in the bottom. After a few hours it began to turn. I think for the shotgun I will bring the parts indoors and put them in the bathroom with the humidifier running.

  15. #15
    Forum Administrator Schuetzenman's Avatar

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    So how did this project come out? Got any photos of the finished work?

  16. #16
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    It didn't turn out.I'm pretty dissapointed. There were spots that didn't take color well. I degreased the shit out of it including between passes. I'm going to send it out to get done right one of these days.

  17. #17
    Forum Administrator Schuetzenman's Avatar

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    What brand of rust blue did you use?

    http://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-to...-prod9815.aspx

    or

    http://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-to...-prod8795.aspx

    I've used both of these.

    Also this one, though not Rust Bluing, it is a very easy to do, and produces tough jet black finish. It is called Oxpho Blue Creme. Heat the part up until warm and then just rub it on with a rag. The more you rub on it the darker it gets. http://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-to...-prod1108.aspx

  18. #18
    Senior Member NAPOTS's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schuetzenman View Post
    What brand of rust blue did you use?

    http://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-to...-prod9815.aspx

    or

    http://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-to...-prod8795.aspx

    I've used both of these.

    Also this one, though not Rust Bluing, it is a very easy to do, and produces tough jet black finish. It is called Oxpho Blue Creme. Heat the part up until warm and then just rub it on with a rag. The more you rub on it the darker it gets. http://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-to...-prod1108.aspx


    I used http://www.rustblue.com/

  19. #19
    Forum Administrator Schuetzenman's Avatar

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    Any final project photos?

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