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Drum Restoration Project


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#1 gijive

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 10:25 PM

I am currently beginning a project to restore two early Colt drums that I rescued from being discarded. The two drums were unfortunately stored in an unheated garage for approximately the last thirty years and were rusted pretty badly. I was shocked to find that they were first production Colt drums with matching serial numbers on the covers. When first told about the drums, prior to seeing them, I had optimistically hoped that they might be, at the very least, WWII Bridgeport, CT marked drums. Aside from some severe rusting and light pitting on the outside, the interior rotors and bullet tracks are in very good to excellent shape. They have been dropped over the years and the edge of the covers need to be straightened in a couple of spots, but they should be perfectly functional after being sent off to our resident Thompson fix-it guy, Paul Krogh.

My only dilemma is whether or not to have them refinished to remove the flaking rust and prevent further deterioration. The back covers retain about 80% of their original finish, but the front covers are discolored pretty badly and the rust has ruined the original finish. Oh well, I'll decide as I proceed with the process.

Regular readers will remember the past discussion regarding the presence or lack of spot welds on the slide plates on the front and back covers of early Colt drums vs. Worcester contracted Colt drums. I own two Worcester Press, New York address Colt drums and was aware that they have the visible spot welds. Having never examined early serial numbered Colt drums up close, let alone clean decades of rust of them, I was interested to notice they also have visible spot welds in addition to the rivets. The welds are clearly visible in the following pictures and should dispel any doubt about whether the early Colt drums had these welds. If the first production serial numbered drums had them, it would stand to reason that the second and third production Colt drums would also. Granted, the welds are not quite as visible as they are on the Worcester drums and there aren't as many, but they are definitely there.

The following pictures clearly show the welds as well as the early Colt drum markings. The other drum, a three digit serial number, is in approximately the same condition. Enjoy the photos!

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#2 deerslayer

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 10:49 PM

Very cool, thanks for sharing lets see a before and after picture once you get them cleaned up.
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#3 leid

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 11:16 PM

I was just reading yesterday where the original drums did not have those welds. That is a very high quality spot weld and it could easily be overlooked. Beautiful rotor!
THANKS
leid
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#4 Chopper28

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 12:02 AM

You are unbelievably lucky! Like finding a 57 corvette thats been out in the barn since 1958. Great find.
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#5 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 12:08 AM

G.I.,
Don't need to remind collectors this fact was self-evident, but when that drum thread started again a few months ago, I said the Colt drums had "faint" spot welds. When one only relies on photographs from Doug's, and others, books, inconclusive evidence prevails. I don't know why first hand accounts would be dissmised in favor of non hands-on opinion.

That is way cool that you have uncovered these drums!!!

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#6 gijive

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 07:10 AM

Arthur,

I was under the impression that the early Colt drums did not have visible spot welds based on photographs from the aforementioned publications on Thompsons and accessories. I hadn't physically examined a Colt drum in over twenty years and wasn't aware of the various nuances in the production models as I am presently.

I didn't mean to imply that any list members were incorrect in their previous posts regarding the spot weld issue. I was guilty of quoting the popular literature in attempting to give advice to another list member when he was looking for a drum. It just goes to show that the subtelties of the Thompson and it's related accessories are fascinating and, as you point out, should be examined first hand before specific conclusions are drawn only from photographic evidence.
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#7 hawksnest

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 10:39 AM

Outstanding find!
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#8 rkr

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 11:37 AM

I would not do anything other than clean these drums throughly. They do not look to be in that bad a shape but photos can be decieving. As a collector of Colt and Winchester firearms as well as Thompsons, finish and condition are of critical importance to my interest in the gun. Items which have been refinished no matter how good a job may diminish from the collectability and value of the item. Enjoy your beautiful find as you found them. Also you should run straight down and buy a lottery ticket if your state has them before this steak of luck runs out. Rob
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#9 gijive

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 11:52 AM

Hi Rob,

Thanks for the thoughtful response on the finish issue. I agree that if refinishing is not required it is not a wise thing to do. The finish, however, is really worse than it appears in the pictures. Depnding on the angle of the flash, the rust looks better than in person. I even tried Flitz polish and it won't remove the deap-seated rust that has bubbled the finish in places. I'm afarid that time will deteriorate the finish even more. I am leaning towards not refinishing, but we'll see. Whatever I do, refinishing will be a last resort.

By the way, I like your lottery ticket analogy. I usually don't play it, but maybe I'll buy one at lunch time today. What the heck!
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#10 LIONHART

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 12:44 PM

If they were mine, I'd have them refinished.
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#11 colt21a

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 02:40 PM

refinish them they will only keep getting worse,i do know a well versed person in metal's.once it starts it don't stop...........................rust then... pit's then hole's.......all you can do is try to preserve w/o refinish.....they will keep getting worse..........i knew a guy who had a nice 21 colt put in a safe.lightly oiled,five years later with temp changes,patina in barrel,and on surface blue.........he went nuts,and so did i when he showed it to me,and "asked what to do??}he never checked it in five year's........

on a 95% cond.thompson.

even the one's in chicago fed.reserve,get checked and wiped down every six months or so...........if nobody does not think so...............put away the colt and don't look at it in five year's....things happen.........unless its in cosmo...and wrap.............and little humidity bags or rod's in the safe.............

anyhow just a op.they are your's do what you want.........take care,ron colt21a

p.s. sidenote.just bought a new drum,blued somebody must have had fingerprints on the inside of it and never wiped it down or looked or oiled it,guess what a fingerprint of rust...............and nope it ain't dillinger!!!!

wink!
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#12 gijive

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 03:13 PM

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the information. That is what I was afraid of, that they would continue to deteriorate. I have been told the same from others. I hate to do it, but it would also be a shame if these drums weren't preserved. They have seen enough abuse already.

I appreciate the input.

Chuck
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#13 hawksnest

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 06:42 PM

gujive: Suggestion - coat them inside and out with a liberal application of Clenzoil. Saturate them. Then put them in a platic bag and let them set for about one month. The Clenzoil will penetrate the rust and I think you will be amazed. Worth trying. My .02.
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#14 gijive

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 06:44 PM

Larry,

Thanks for the tip. They are presently saturated with Clenzoil but it didn't occur to me to put them in a plastic bag. I'll give it a try.
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#15 Walter63a

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 06:46 PM

Hi gijive! As much as I don't like to see these old things refinished, in this case, it is probably the best thing you can do. I like to think of old 'classic' cars found in rusting condition in someone's garage. If you value that old car and want it around as long as possible, you will not think twice about refinishing that rusting body, if no replacement parts (body) are available. Clearly, these old drums are not replaceable. So, the choice is simply, how to best preserve what is left, while it is left. ohmy.gif blink.gif Well, that's my two cents. Good luck! cool.gif biggrin.gif Regards, Walter
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#16 JustMe

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 06:52 PM

Wait a second... Refinish as last resort! What do you think bluing is? It is rust or oxidation.... You need to take fine steel wool and WD40 and take off what surface rust you can, the steel wool will not harm the bluing left on the drum, and then just keep it siliconed/oiled,the continued deterioration will be unoticeable to the human eye... In fact back in the good old days, one of the common things done on new rifles in the white was to leave it out side in the grass or whatever to get the dew on it so it would rust after which the rifle would be wiped down and well oiled creating the browned finish that many old rifles still retain to this day...
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#17 gijive

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 06:59 PM

PhilOhio,

Yes, I see the spot welds on the inside of the front cover and they are pretty smooth. The ones on the back cover aren't as finished. Good observation.

Walter,

I like your analogy about the rusting car. I agree with your logic about them being irreplaceable. I appreciate your response
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#18 full auto 45

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 03:02 PM

Thanks for the heads up Chuck. I missed this one when you posted it. thanks for making us all want to start rummaging through old folks garages and attics! Great find. I have a Crosby in bad shape and I oiled the hell out of it and rubbed it with a course rag. Soaked it in Cleanzoil and let it sit. I think you saw it at the last TCA show. It still looks funky but it shoots like a dream. I would say try that at first and if your happy, let it be. If not have if cleaned by blasting it with talcom powder and have it polished out as good as can be and hot blue it. You could try it with the worst one and see how it turns out. Anywho, great find. Can't wait to see in person.
p.s.
I cannot make the March 18 show opening. Take lots of pictures for the web site for me!
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