Friday, November 12, 2010

Jeweled Bolt & Custom Follower for a Marlin 336 Cowboy by OldNo7

A "right of passage" in my family was when you turned 16 years old, you got to go with Dad to drill the bank vaults. Sure, we could have made much more money by doing it at night in really big vaults! But we only did it during the day on small safe deposit vault doors -- always under the watchful gaze of an armed guard -- so we only made a decent living doing it. Funny thing is, our Dad always did the drilling, we were just the "lumpers". But we did get to learn some useful skills once the doors went back to the shop to be re-keyed and finished. Dad taught us how to do engine-turning, aka "jewelling", which is how we would disguise where the door had been drilled and pinned. I've done maybe 5 or 6 bolts for my guns over the years, so I decided it was time to tackle the plain-Jane bolt of my 38-55 Marlin Cowboy.

Here you see the bolt mounted in a homemade (but effective) jig, and it's been highly polished with NEVR-DULL to prep the surface. I think that results in a better/more even finish later.
Marlin 336 CB - Bolt 00 (Small).jpg

Here you see the Brownell's engine-turning brush has been wrapped with light wire and secured with black tape. Sometimes I don't do that, but for this bolt I wanted nice tight swirls -- almost like fishscales -- and I didn't want the brush to open up too much under the pressure of the drill press' quill. You can see the 600-grit valve lapping compound that I paint on the bolt, along with the straight-edge clamped to the table and the graph paper aligned to that, so I'd have a grid to follow. You do NOT want to do this job by eye, as it's very tedious doing dozens & dozens of "move, quill down, count to 3, quill up, move..."  repetitions. You do have to align the bolt with the brush and paper too. Having a solid setup, a good jig to hold the bolt level and with enough tension to prevent it from turning on you, and consistency on the quill pressure are the keys to this job.

Marlin 336 CB - Bolt 01 (Small).jpg

Here's the finished bolt still covered with the compound, along with the Brownell's brushes used. On every other bolt, I would always rub off some compound to "see how she looked" but this time, I was feeling pretty good about the pattern in the "goop" so I wanted to see if I could do it all without wiping. (That sounds wrong, but just go with it...)

Marlin 336 CB - Bolt 02 (Small).jpg

So without further adieu, here she is... I like it!  And I'm really happy with the smaller pattern that I was trying to achieve, although some of my other work does look good with a larger pattern of swirls.

Marlin 336 CB - Bolt 03 (Small).jpg
Here's the bolt installed in the receiver:

Marlin 336 CB - Bolt 04 (Small).jpg

And finally, with the bolt open too:

Marlin 336 CB - Bolt 05 (Small).jpg

Just in case you're curious, this is not just done "for looks", although that's a big part of it for sure. I've been told the swirls "hold lube" better. Whether that's true or not, I'm not sure, but maybe a trained machinist/gunsmith can weigh in on that.

Lastly, I've also got to give some credit to Nate Kiowa Jones (aka Steve Young) and Joe Miller for their recent info about replacing plastic followers with nicer metal ones. Joe started off and did all the plastic followers in Hoppe's tests, and Steve mentioned the nice stainless steel followers he makes for the Rossi's. He said they also work on the Marlin 1894s but guess what -- Steve and I did some measurements and found out the Rossi 44/45 that he makes works great for my 336 Cowboy too! Here's the old one versus Steve's new one:

Marlin Follower - Steves Gunz 44-45 (Small).jpg

It seems a shame to "hide" that piece inside the Marlin... I was actually thinking about jewelling just the end of it, but I really can't see enough of it once it's installed. It is a very well done part, that's for sure. I call it "custom" because it's meant for a Rossi, and I'm using it in my Marlin. But it's so shiny and of such high quality, heck yeah, it sure is a custom part!

I may have left out a few details of the setup of the press/brush and how to make a jewelling jig, but to be honest, I'd rather not be responsible for somebody trying this on their levergun without having some prior experience doing it. I'll bet I did over 300 vault doors in just one summer alone, so I got pretty darn good at it -- not rich, like if we had drilled "after hours"  -- but very experienced with the jewelling process.

I hope you like Steve's and my handiwork. Thanks for lookin'!

Tight groups!

Old No7

No comments: