Cleaning up a M1866 French Chassepot Bayonet

Cleaning up a M1866 French Chassepot Bayonet

I recently ordered a French M1866 Chassepot rifle bayonet from 1873 off ebay. The rifle was an early modern style breechloader, and the bayonet was slid over the barrel and a slot on the grip locked it into place. I love the curved yataghan style blade, and in fact I’ve decided to write the character Linet in my second book to carry a short sword of this style.

These are not rare or expensive, so I thought it would be a fun little thing to try to clean up. It actually wasn’t in bad shape when I got it, with mostly surface oxidation on the blade and typical tarnish on the brass grip. The tough part was the guard/barrel lug attachment, which I guess was iron and quite rusted. I only took one “before” picture because I’m impatient like that, but there were several on the listing:

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After working on it with 800 grit sandpaper (and occasionally 250 with extreme care) and oil, a mini-dremel tool with polishing compound and polishing bits made of hard and soft rubber and wire brushes I cleaned it up considerably. There are still some pits of rust that I don’t think I can get out without grinding deep into the metal. I didn’t have any brass polish, so I read that you can make your own using vinegar, salt, water and flour to make it into a paste. Well I didn’t have any flour either. I did have mustard, however! It’s similarly acidic and is already a paste, and I’ve used mustard in the past to do quick and dirty etches onto steel. So I slathered some horseradish mustard and salt onto the grip, let it sit for an hour, then scrubbed it off. Rinse and repeat a few times, and it’s shiny.

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Final results:

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chassepot bayonet french rifle sword antique antiques brass restoration cleaning eric lewis the heron kings

chassepot bayonet french rifle sword antique antiques brass restoration cleaning eric lewis the heron kings  chassepot bayonet french rifle sword antique antiques brass restoration cleaning eric lewis the heron kings  chassepot bayonet french rifle sword antique antiques brass restoration cleaning eric lewis the heron kings

 

You can also clearly read the stamp of the manufacturer Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne and date of July 1873:

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I haven’t done anything with the scabbard, but it’s in very good condition as well, just a bit rusty near the tip. This was an easy and enjoyable project, and it shows how with a little effort these bayonets can be brought to serviceable condition. I don’t think I would want to try this with anything more expensive for fear of damaging an antique, at least not without a lot more patience and gentler techniques.

 

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The Heron Kings earns a Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Congratulations, you found the hidden text! This was just to repeat the keyphrase & improve the SEO score. No secret knowledge or prize to be gained here. Sorry.


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