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BSA Cadet Major Restoration

18 Aug 2018
BSA Cadet Major Restoration This is a lovely little BSA Cadet Major I took pity on and at my own expense (crazy I know!) I completely restored for a customer.
It was purchased at auction and had a 'problem with the sights'. The wood stock had swelled and cracked due to an incorrect water based grease being used (far too much of it)

Gun was in because the rear sight was broken, but the damage way far more extensive than that. Visual inspection of the stock showed extensive damage to the pistol grip, with the hard wood inlay displaced by oil absorbed into the pistol grip. The stock had cracked right across the pistol grip and could be flexed open. The right fore end screw had been a problem at some time and incorrect, larger washers had been used and the stock ’dug’ out crudely to accommodate them.

Upon separation of the action from the stock thick grease had been used at sometime inefficiently to try and stop the active rust between the action and the stock, without success I might add. This was contributing nothing at all except damage to the stock.

 I decided to strip the gun completely to assess the extent of the damage. At this point I found the stock screws heavily corroded, the stock bolt was actively rusting in the stock. All washers and star washers corroded to dust. Both barrel joint axis pin and trigger axis pins snapped. Leather breech seal damaged. Pistol seal worn. Rear sight spring damaged and sight leaf snapped. Repaired the broken sight leaf with silver braze.

Upon advice to the customer the following parts were to be replaced:

2x 16-717 Stock Screws, 1x 16-429 Spring , 1x 16-438 Leather breech seal, 1x DP141 Trigger axis pin, 1x DP142 Barrel axis pin, 1x 16-808 Leather piston head, 1x 16-568 rear sight spring.

 The gun was cleaned up and put back together and tested, power was extremely low at around 490fps producing around 4.7fpe. These old guns shoot between 5-7fpe so it was decided to replace the piston head.

 At this point, whilst waiting for parts I discovered that the rust between the action and the stock was still very much active. It’s a great old gun so I decided to repair the damaged stock and rusting action.

 The breach in the stock was serious, so I removed the finish, soaked the stock in acetone and scrubbed and cleaned for days to leach oil from the stock, using heat at times to sweat it out. I got out as much as possible. I then drilled two 6mm holes down through the pistol grip and glued in two hard wood dowels. I used an expanding Gorilla wood glue to get the glue into the narrow cracks. The right hand fore stock was filled with Araldite, oil at this point was so extensive I was concerned any filler would hold. Once set it was drilled to accept the replacement screw.Over the next month or so the stock was stained and refinished with Birchwood Casey True Oil. A dark stain was used to cover the staining on the stock as much as possible. The fore stock damage had to be painted to hide it as best possible. After a dozen coats rubbed in by hand daily, the stock was left to harden for three weeks and then Rubbed down with Stock sheen & Conditioner.

Meanwhile the action was in a really bad way and after degreasing and soaking it in Biox to remove, kill the rust and stabilise the metal, the true damage was evident. Deep areas of pitting were exposed, some areas were near a centimetre across and had rusted through the action completely. It needed a new cylinder and was beyond economic repair so I pressed ahead to see if it could be fixed.

I brazed the larger holes using a map gas torch and silver solder, but there was so much pitting to restore ‘as new’ would have taken months. Luckily the worse of the damage was below the stock line. Silver braze will not blacken, I needed something more durable than paint and filler.

After an extensive cleanup I decided to plate the part. I added several coats of copper plate to help fill the pitting, using lead free solder on the copper to fill as much as possible,sanding down between coats then re-plating. Next the parts were Zinc Nickel plated, with some light sanding between coats and polishing. With patience and a lot of spare time this technique could restore parts as new, I went as far as practical. The thickness of plating was increasing the thickness of the threads making assembly difficult. The Zinc Nickel finish with protect the parts from further corrosion.

The final phase dip in Black Passivate didn’t quite go as planned. Using plating as a repair technique was experimental for me and not something I had done before. Passivation is supposed to be the simplest part of the process. The part comes out of the Zinc Nickel plating tank and is simply dipped into the Passivate for a minute or two. Five times I tried this and could not achieve any other colour than the BSA Green. I spoke to the supplier who supplies the chemicals to discuss the problem. I wondered if I had been sent the Green Passivate in error as the colour is so perfect. Anyway, I am still working with the supplier to solve this problem. It requires the mixing of chemicals and addition of Sulphuric Acid or Sodium Hydroxide to adjust the pH to 1.5, however this is extremely hard to measure using litmus papers, so I have ordered an electronic tester and will be carrying out further tests.

Passivate of some sort is required to stabilise the Zinc coating and I thought the BSA Racing green looked pretty good anyway!