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Chemical Blacking of Saddle Hardware
With the adoption and initial manufacture of the M1904 McClellan saddle, a chemical black (or drab) finish was applied in place of the easily damaged japanning to all brass components. The steel components received a grey phosphate finish.
This gave the russet leather-covered saddle a ugly drab appearance that suited its intended purpose. Many saddles today have had their brass hardware buffed to an unnatural polished finish. Reproduction brass is usually finished as polished, or very infrequently with a non-regulation paint type finish.
Using the formula (a saturated solution of copper carbonate and ammonia water), you can see the results for yourself - a correct durable chemical brass finish, perfect for new hardware or restoring old worn originals. If possible, try to find a higher concentration solution of ammonia water from a chemical supplier. Brass should be "pickled" in a solution of thinner to remove any clear lacquer or other sealer, and well cleaned and polished with steel wool if restoring old brass.
The buckles shown are both reproduction stirrup buckles that came with a polished brass finish. The drab buckle on the right was submerged in the chemical bath for four hours, and is essentially identical to a mint condition original buckle.