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Back from the Brink: The Gunstar Renovation Challenge, S2 Ep.2

Here we are at episode 2. Episode 1 - things went worryingly well - today the hard work starts. You know, we've got to start prepping and sanding and finishing the metalwork and the wood and actually getting this gun into a working-ish condition, before we start refining it later on.

I don't know which I'm going to start with, but either way the work does start now.


[Music] Back From the Brink 2


So to start, wood or metal? Well I can't decide so let's leave it up to fate: heads for wood, tails for metal...


...Tails it is.


Right well I was honestly hoping for wood first to be honest because as much as it's a bigger job, at least it’s one bit! This, there’s a lot. First things first let's try and remove some of the bluing, some of the patina and some of the crap from the outside of this gun and for that this is a proper long-form job, just a bit of sandpaper. 

Right so look at this! Well that goes to show just how much crap was on the outside of this gun. Unfortunately at this point what you’ll start to see is how much rust is truly there and how bad these barrels truly were when they were made. Don't do this at home, that's a certain sort of thing, not unless you’ve got a set of wall thickness gauges and internal bore gauges to see whether this actually has enough for me to take off. The answer is it’s probably got just about, however we're gonna get it aesthetically nice then test it and then see if it was all worth it, if were allowed to shoot it or not or whether it's just going to blow our heads off!


Shiny new barrel




You know they say about familiarity with tools and the more you use a tool the better you will be with it? There seems to be something very familiar about this movement, it just comes very naturally to me…

I feel like a four bore would be a lot more appropriate to be honest Sash. So now we're starting to see the actual quality of this barrel being what it really is, and the answer is less so. You know if you put a bit of thousand grit over a Beretta or Browning barrel what you'll get is beautiful shiny metal, but what you get here is all of the lack of finish, but you know we’re not here to complain - oh wait yes we are it’s Back from the Brink! 


Alright it really doesn't take a lot of time to actually get it to this sort of miserable stage. By miserable stage I mean it’s miserable because you can suddenly see all of the dents, all of the large amount of pitting that's on there and at this point we're going to move to a block and carry on. The olden concern always when working with guns like this is that they are just crap, you know it's nice in its own way, but the barrel is hugely bored inside, the externals are just a bit crap. As much as it’s gonna look nice when finished - I suppose it was on the brink wasn’t it, the clue’s in the name! Thanks Gunstar... 




So I've come to a bit of a conclusion that actually what we're gonna do with this barrel is we're going to leave it silver. We're gonna keep some of the patina in the background and actually that's going to be the mixture of shiny new, because you know if we make it completely shiny that's going to be almost impossible - we're gonna have no barrel left, and then if we make it really blue it's never going to be that nice because you've still got all of the scars in the background. But if we kind of do a hybrid, I like a hybrid! 

Actually I retract that, I'm going to brown it.


Jonny working hard


Well we're getting near there. Black hands, black clothes, pretty standard for any of this kind of thing, but you can see the quality of the finish on this gun really is tip-top, you know... 


[Sarcastic Laugh]


What I’m going to do is go down to the vice; once it's in the vice I'm going to get on it a little bit harder with some slightly higher grit to see if we can put a bit more polish on, then stick it over the mop. More importantly, with these flat surfaces it's almost impossible to do down here, it's alright taking the thick crud off but to do a nice job we’re going to need to lock it in a vice - so to the workshop! Vice, polish, assess, brown, next... 


Whoever re-finished it before had already taken quite a bit of the original engraving and proof stamping off of it when they polished it, so we're trying not to do that again. That’s going to be the problem with refurbish anything too much, so essentially trying to avoid, filing it flat and then just rolling over the top ever so slightly there to try and avoid that, because it'd be a real shame to lose much more of the originality that we're going to ruin. All right so the shoeshine method is a little bit heathen, but it's also a good way of showing up any high spots, so as long as it’s not too high-grade I don't really care and like I said the gun’s valueless and probably scrapped after we're done anyway, so let's enjoy it! 

What we're gonna do at this point is we're just going to chuck this in the lay and where that front has a little bit of contouring if you like, we're just going to make that flat.



Yeah I cheated! All right, polishing wheel and let's move on to the next bit! 






After a bit of polish


That's one large bit polished, let's move on and do these trigger guards. So far so good - fingers crossed!

So we did a quick number on this floor plate, but actually we're going to finish that in the gun so we can smeld it into it the wood nicely and this is about the only place where we can start to get creative, this is a non structural or non integral piece of metal - unlike just about everything else to do with that gun because it’s so goddamn basic! So we're going to take this bit to a high polish and then play with it! But I wish it was as easy as that really, obviously not. 

It’s my opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and perhaps add a touch of refinement to this - just a touch. We’ll hoop that out and take out that big divot in there and slowly working my way around this inside edge and then probably on the outside to just close up that bevel. Again I don't want us to invest too much time turning it into something it's not, but at the same time it's nice to spend a little bit of time on something that as I said, isn't structurally integral. 


I rarely ever use 60 grit, but in these instances I just need to speed things along! So we've given this a light polish. Now I was here chatting to Sash going you know “how could we really make this exciting, wouldn't it be lovely if we could send it to an engraver?”. Err we don't really have time to send it to an engraver, err it's not really worth the investment to send it to an engraver. “Why don't you just engrave it yourself?” - well the answer is I've never engraved anything in my life apart from screw heads... so you know when we make a new screw and you put the star in the head to make it blend in with the gun? 

This might be a bit different. Potential for success? Really, really minimal. Potential for catastrophe? High... welcome to Back from the Brink! 


the floor plate - artistic shot




We probably should’ve thought of a pattern first shouldn't we? Right so far, pretty awful - probably should’ve just gone for a TGS - might just go for a TGS I reckon we can just file that out, let's file that out. 

All remnants of that horror story have pretty much gone now, that’s good isn't it?


Sasha: “I thought that whole segment was pretty inspirational!


Jonny: Well I'm glad that you felt like that was inspirational, we are at a beautiful point where we can go back and we don't have to do this and we can just chalk this up to experience.

I want to carry on with the tossing of the coin theme; we're going to toss a coin whether we do a TGS or whether we just leave it plain, and remember that it was a bad damn idea in the first place! One thing that does upset me before I flip this, is that my son will never know what this (£1 coin) is - he'll think this is old money. To be fair this is a 1983 pound coin. Let's go heads his ago, tails is not a go. 

[Lands on heads]

No let's change that: best out of three, that was a heads. 


[Second coin flip] 

Tails, all right and now the decider okay... 




[Third coin flip]



Sasha: “I believe in you” 

Jonny: This is going to be crap isn’t it? I know my limitations I'm not an engraver. Obviously I reckon give me three years as a pneumatic graver and I might be alright, but honestly…

Sasha: “My biggest concern is you’re gonna do such a good job that you're gonna get offered millions elsewhere to do this full-time”

Jonny: Well my problem is as much as I’ve really done a bit of a farcical job to this gun, at least everything we're doing is of a decent quality standard, you know. I don't like this idea, sorry! 

Sasha: “That's probably what the first man before he climbed Everest said and now look at the world!”

Jonny: I’m not sure if that's in any way linked to this... 

Sasha: It’s looking a bit boring! 

Jonny: Alright fine! I'm gonna flip one last time, heads is engraving, tails is not…


[Lands on heads, Jonny swears…]


Flipping a coin


I'll tell you what: a gambling man would’ve had that down, let's go alright. We're not TGS’ing, I’m going to come up with a vague idea before we go - let's get some inspiration. How's that for inspiration you know? I'm just gonna knock that out with the single engraver in five minutes! 

My idea currently is that we put a fleur-de-lis on there because it's a French gun - logical! A fleur-de-lis, should be, simple and it might look a little lopsided - but that's part of the fun! We're gonna go big, we're gonna go bold and it's probably gonna be pretty crap, but that's part of the joy isn't it? 

This is a mistake in every way, even more of a mistake than the last one you know! Not only does this now have to be vaguely symmetrical, oh my god just scratching it in nicely. This really is an insult to all engravers everywhere and I am sorry. I'm an alright pencil sketch artist, but as we’re about to see I have zero engraving capabilities…




I'm just going to bring up some music for the occasion, hold on just one second…




Sasha: “I honestly feel like your whole life has led up to this one moment.

Jonny: Do you? You could say that about every moment - your whole life does lead up to every moment... some better than others! Some you would repeat, some you most definitely would not.


So I'm in two minds here. I had a little pray halfway through this and I said look, please let this go well because I spend my life slating other people’s engraving work. But I mean there's got to be caveat that the people who engrave guns generally are pretty professional engravers, or lasers and machines. This? well let’s say it's not inspiring me into a career change. Using a chisel as a graver is not correct but it's speeding certain aspects up and well it's not making much of a worse job of it! But to be honest we’ve got some silver steel I might knock up a couple of gravers quick just to finish this off. 

Right final touches, we're gonna try for a bit of a silver penny finish or at least an antique finish. Actually that looks real nice just with that. So this Philips cold blue - if you rub it onto dirty steel you end up with this weird color hardening effect and if you get it on your skin it itches like a mother ------, so we don't do that we wear protective gloves and glasses. Um yeah but actually I mean (don't look!) but then what I'm gonna do is to create what we call a silver penny finish. Sort of apart from i’m using engraving black and I'm just going to run my paper back over the top of it. Maybe we’ll do another layer. 


Fleur de Lis


I don't think is quite at the Boss and Co. level yet, but I feel like Baikal might be calling me for a job... 




Well it's been a bit of a polishing episode you know, we’ve spent a lot of time prepping metal and getting stuff ready, and you know with a slight deviation into art and it's kind of got me thinking I think I'm gonna take this gun down a slightly different route. Obviously we were never going to stick to what we thought originally; it’s Back from the Brink, but for now take care - I'm going to get all of this metal prepped and I'll see you next time! 



The Gun Shop Botley
Professional Gunsmiths and RFD
Published on 24-09-2019
Located inside Botley Mills, Hampshire, The Gun Shop has a fantastic selection of items on display; including air pistols, air rifles, shotguns, slingshots, rifle ammunition, shotgun cartridges, pellets, clothing, optics, and knives - as well as all the accessories you may need.