Restore, Renovate, Ruin

Sometimes, the hardest part of a job is dealing with your conscience. What do you do when a customer wants a valuable antique refinished?
by Paul Mazan

One of the most difficult decisions faced by gunsmiths is the question of firearms refinishing. It is usually not a problem as most of your customers will bring in a battered modern gun and want it refinished and/or reblued to erase several years of hard use. The situation changes dramatically when the customer presents you with a long out of production, very collectable firearm and asks for the same service. What do you do when your customer wants his grandpa’s first generation Colt, original Henry, or some other collectable firearm refinished?

Normally I will try to talk them out of devaluing a collectable piece of history by explaining that the gun is worth far more in its rough, worn condition than it will be if it is refinished. Sometimes I’ll pull out the Blue Book and show them what refinishing will do to the value. In other words, I make every effort to dissuade them from doing anything other than the minimum necessary to preserve the piece. The problem comes when the customer just doesn’t care.

I faced this very issue recently and, because I work with a lot of old guns, I face it quite often.


Read more in our December 2012 issue. Back issues are available.

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