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Thread: What do you use to refinish stocks

  1. #1
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    Default What do you use to refinish stocks

    I have a couple of stocks I am working on. The first appears to me to be walnut. The wood is fairly dark. I did quite a bit of sanding to get rid of the scratches and gouges. Right now it is pretty close to applying finish.
    Do you use water to raise the grain before finishing? Do you stain walnut stocks, or do you just seal them? What product do you like for both?
    I also have an old shotgun that looked bad. Not that it is worth anything, but thought it would be good to play with and practice on. I sanded it down as there were a lot of scratches and gouges. Some of the wood had to go. The wood is very blond. I am guessing it is not a hardwood, so plan on staining it. For non walnut stocks, what do you like to use to darken them up and bring out the stain? Do you use something different to seal softer wood stocks?
    The shotgun I could really care less about. I just want to practice, but I don't want to work for the next month on it either. The rifle stock is nicer, and I'd like it to look pretty good when done.
    I am also thinking about refinishing the stock on a Ruger Mini 30. Just not sure yet. It is pretty ugly though. There is quite a bit of damage to it. The dents I'll try steaming, but the gouges and scratches will need to be sanded. Do you steam the dents before or after sanding out scratches? For stocks like the Ruger, do you use any type of wood fillers for deep gouges? If so, how well do they accept stain, assuming of course that this stock is not hardwood either and will be light when stripped.
    Thanks folks,
    ARR

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    After over 40 years of using various forms of boiled linseed oil including TruOil, I found something I like lots better. Tung oil finish. You can get it at the hardware store plain or with stain. Go with real thin rubbed in coats after the first heavier coat, and be sure to let it dry thoroughly between coats. No matter how "dry" it feels within an hour or two, let it sit 24 hours in a warm place before adding another coat.

    In my experience it's bunches tougher and more waterproof than TruOil.

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Birchwood Casey products. Wet the grain during your sanding process to smooth things out quickly. Stain is all a matter of personal preferrence, but I aways use BC's walnut stain on light woods. Don't need anything on dark wood. Then finish with linseed oil. Coat, dry, sand, repeat at least a dozen (or two) times until the grain is filled and disappears.
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    You might try MINWAX dark walnut stain/sealer on your blond shotgun stock, and then once you've reached an acceptable color, after a couple applications and steel wooling in between, use a couple coats of varathane for the final finish. Tough stuff and dulls up nicely after its dry with 4/0 steel wool. The varathane should work well for your rifle stock as well. Try some different stains and finishes on some scrap wood or non exposed areas of your stocks and see what works best for you. Tung oil as previously mentioned works well also.

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    Default Whisker, sand, and bone

    For hard surface esp. on walnut use the old tick of "boning". After finish sanding before you apply an finish rub over the entire surface with a hard smooth object to uniformly smooth out and depress the top layer of wood somewhat like burnishing metal. This will give you a harder less porous surface that is harder to dent and scratch as opposed to plain walnut.

    The term came from the military finishing of rifle stocks - I guess they used real bones at one time. You see the effect on the older '03 Springfield stocks - it appears that they boned them and then used beeswax or similar to give a smooth water resistant finish.

    I liked the old Herter's stock finish - I believe someone has dulicated it and now marketing it as well as some other Herter's formulas.
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    Default walnut stock first

    BBear, on the walnut stock, would you stain it before using the Tung Oil? I assume the Tung oil is clear?

    Joat, sounds like on a walnut stock you don't use anything except the BC products. The Tru Oil is a Linseed product. Are you saying use both the Tru Oil and Linseed oil, or use Linseed oil in lieu of Tru Oil if you use stain?

    Gunbug, you talk about a stain/sealer. Several places sell gunstock sealers. Does anybody use those product prior to staining or finishing?

    I have almost a full gallon of Linseed Oil. I also have Watco waterbased stains. Yep, I'm cheap enough to try to use what I have. If I used the Watco stain on the light/blonde stock (ash? birch?) then used the linseed oil, what would you mix the linseed oil with if anything?

    I've heard a couple of things on raising the "hair" on wood. Some guys say use water and sand while wet. Some say get the wood damp/wet, hit it with a heat gun to quickly dry it, then sand. Repeat. Pros and cons?

    I'll go back to the garage to look in my goodies. Really, I don't mind buying new stuff, but if I can use what I have I'll be happy.

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    Member The Kid's Avatar
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    I like to sand to a fine grit, depending on how shiny you want the finish. Then I will stand the grain by holding the stock over the coffee maker with the lid up while its brewing using the steam to raise the whiskers. When the whiskers stand up sand in the opposite direction they come from to break them off, I usually repeat this step at least twice. When I have done this and have it smoothed to my liking I use Arrow wood finish. Arrow is relatively cheap and when ordering keep in mind the small bottle will last a long time. The end result is a nice smooth finsh that, with practice can reseamble an old fashioned hand rubbed oil, only much quicker and with less headache, the smell even reminds me a little of good whiskey.

    One more thing I like about the Arrow is that it will bond to old finishes, so if you are refinishing a stock that isn't too bad to begin with, there is no need to completely strip the fill out of the grain.

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    Most of the "gunstock" sealers are simply commercial sealers sold at much higher prices in smaller bottles by Birchwood Casey and the like. The Watco stain you have should work well. Follow that up with a good final finish and you'll be OTAY! Avoid sandpaper when you can, although I know in some cases it isn't possible. It's easy to round edges and have the metal overhang the wood instead of the other way around or make a stock look like a bar of soap with no sharp edges. Go gently. Steel wool is your friend, just be sure the finish is dead dry before using it or it can imbed in the coat you're working on.

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    Tung oil and sand to fill the pores then oil and sand. Do this till the pores are full. Then oil and let dry a day and continue till happy,a good finish is not fast. Warthog finish is good for period shotgun stocks. I raise the grain with alcohol as it dries fast. Use a damp rag and the brides iron to raise dents.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Kid View Post
    I. Then I will stand the grain by holding the stock over the coffee maker with the lid up while its brewing using the steam to raise the whiskers.
    Then I laugh hysterically when Ken whines about sawdust in his coffee.

  11. #11

    Default I had a sideline

    refinishing and repairing stocks. The best finish and toughest I ever used was 50% UNboiled linseed oil and 50% marine spar varnish. The catch is that you have to shake the bejeezus out of it before using and often while rubbing it in with your fingers. It requires quite a bit of drying time between coats, but when finished, after 5-6 coats and dry, it is ****ably tough stuff and looks good. To determine what stain if any to use, just wet a portion of the stock and check how dark it gets. If it gets pretty dark, unless you like it darker, no stain is necessary. For very white wood, meaning cheap, I settled on Cherry wood stain. If the wood has very little grain, you could try moving the stock over an open flame like a gas range. If there is any grain, that will bring it out.

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    Tung oil and much rubbing for me also. I use linseed oil under all the mettle and but plate on factory finished stocks but if the finish comes off Tung oil goes on.
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  13. #13
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    After decades of stock finishing, following years in labs studying gunstock wood finishes specifically I have some pretty strong opinions developed about what works and does not work. I will take far more care than normal about toe-stepping, but because I am not guessing about what I am saying it may be a bit direct... My apologies up-front...

    Prep...
    Sandpaper is trouble... It should only be used on a block and it should be exceptional stuff or you are wasting a lot more than time. Norton A275 and A280 (280 is the blue Norzon and the absolute best for sanding finish) are my favorites, but some others are pretty good.

    Steel wool should never be used on gunstock wood, period. It was the only thing available Until about 25 years ago, but Bear-Tex pads are lightyears faster and better in every way. Also, steel wool always leaves little specks of steel in the finish. These rust and produce freckles easily seen with a little magnification. They interfere with what the wood should look like. Not really a huge thing, but I have seen some examples where they were huge things.

    Boning was something bored GIs did in foxholes while waiting. It does not in any way improve a finish and cerainly impedes finish penetration and uniformity. It also creates an uneven surface. Under close scrutiny it is a loser.

    Whiskering is best done with water in limited quantity as steam or mist from a spray bottle. It is then heated with either a flame or a heat gun... not just a blow drier... to dry the whiskers and "case-harden" them. Blowing gently with warm air does not rapidly dry the whisker surface setting up the embrittlement created by rapid, intense heat. It is easily seen under magnification. A properly whiskered stock swept with a hand will lose most of the whiskers instantly.

    Stain...
    Why? It takes me too long to build a stock to consider starting with a piece of wood that will not please me. I have built quite a few maple and myrtle stocks. I like the way they look without color. But if you have to color something, make a sample board. It is too easy not to and it should give you a really good idea what you will get.

    Sealing...
    For generations stockmakers used oil for finish and wet sanded the surface with oil to make a slurry they worked into the pores to fill them. Please don't! Make a sample board and look at what it will look like... It sucks! The mud kills luster and really does nothing because a slurry filled pore is going to start waving its hand and hollering "Here I am" in a year or two anyway.

    The reason the old time guns look so good with those old oil finishes is the simple fact they started with outstanding wood. With the lower demand and greater relative supply they did not use kiln-dried trash with pores large enough to hold a trout pond. They used dense, tight-grained wood that could be inletted to exacting tolerances and withstand recoil. With epoxy we get to use all sorts of junk woods these days for stocks that was not possible 50 years ago.

    Silica-based wood fillers are about the only crap worse than sanded slurry. They have some sparkley stuff in there and the "apparent" luster is not too bad, but it is just dirt in the pores and lacks the quality of depth.

    For years I studied various finishes and combinations of finishes looking for the perfect stock finish. At this point, many decades later, I do not think it exists. But the best I have found starts as an epoxy base layer.

    It should be a slow-curing epoxy of at least 24-hour cure. The old Industrial Formulators from Canada made my favorites, G-1 and G-2, but they have been bought by System Three and those lines have been dropped. The T-88 System Three is supposed ot be equal to G-1.

    They are adhesives, not billed as finishes, but they are not being used as finish when they are at the bottom of the pile so to speak. Flow-out and viscosity work against you when using them as base coats that you want to penetrate.

    If you thoroughly heat your stock in an oven and then apply well-mixed epoxy (fingers work, loan the middle one to the industrial hygienist ) it will be sucked into the wood as it cools by the shrinking/cooling air in the wood.

    In lab tests only two finishes are truly waterproof, epoxy and superglue. Friends in the Guild tell me the superglue finish is pretty easy to work with except it shrinks the wood a few thousandths, so leave your wood a little proud of the metal. I have spent considerable time testing superglue as finish, but have never used it for a stock. It is waterproof.

    Finish...
    There is simply NO difference between tung oil and linseed oil as finish. Any preceived differences are strictly the result of the way the sample was prepared. In waterproof tests both fail completely, totally, miserably. Both actually absorb water vapor faster than bare wood.

    Thinning finish is always a bad idea. It is very thin to start and thickens as it polymerizes. If it is too thick to use easily it is too old and should be tossed or used to paint garden furniture. Please make a test board with unthinned finish, 20%, and 50% thinned finish some time and then rip it and look at the difference in penetration the thinner made... There won't be any...

    The other important aspect of thining is the fact it creates pores in the finish as it leaves. Solvent molecules are a fair bit bigger than a water molecule and any pore a solvent molecule can leave through allows a water molecule to run through skipping and dancing, without need to duck its little molecule head.

    Finishes are generally an oil matrix with plastic resins for waterproofing; waxes for ease of application, waterproofing, and looks; driers in the form of catalysts to make the oil molecules link up; solvents to make the stuff easier to put on and "increase shelf life"; and non-hardening oils for shine and looks. Different ingrediants are added in different proportions to make the particular finish as easy to work with as possible.

    No finish using oil as a vehicle is close to waterproof. SOme are worse than bare wood. Be VERY careful of finishes claiming "flexibility" for gunstocks. Also, do not use "semi-gloss or matte" finishes as they add flatting agents which are usually silica. They are not there to improve the finish, just change the appearance... Under the microscope the little crystals in the finish are usually easy to see. If you want a matte finish use fine abrasives (rottenstone on felt with mineral oil lubricant is standard).

    Top coating...
    After a solid base layer is established with either epoxy or superglue any finish may be applied over top... Or the epoxy or superglue may be used to make a complete finish. Tru-Oil works extremely well as a top coat and with some woods, notably myrtle it looks very good. Some woods may not look as good, but that is what your test board will tell you.
    art

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    Quote Originally Posted by hap View Post
    There is simply NO difference between tung oil and linseed oil as finish. Any preceived differences are strictly the result of the way the sample was prepared. In waterproof tests both fail completely, totally, miserably. Both actually absorb water vapor faster than bare wood.
    The BP arms I've built have nothing but linseed oil finishes and I've even stripped down cheap modern gunstocks and put linseed on them (using sandpaper and steel wool, they work just fine if you use correct technique and follow up with high pressure air and cheesecloth to remove all the particles). A properly applied linseed finish is great. Since I don't shoot any of these guns underwater, a "waterproof" finish is irrelevant. However, the fact that water drops bead up on the surface and run off seems to counter your claim that linseed absorbs water. I don't think I mentioned in my first post, but you always finalize your linseed finish with a couple coats of wax and reapply every so often (same as oiling the steel). After buffing it out (like polishing a boot) you can comb your hair in the mirror-like finish.
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    hap
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    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    The BP arms I've built have nothing but linseed oil finishes and I've even stripped down cheap modern gunstocks and put linseed on them (using sandpaper and steel wool, they work just fine if you use correct technique and follow up with high pressure air and cheesecloth to remove all the particles). A properly applied linseed finish is great. Since I don't shoot any of these guns underwater, a "waterproof" finish is irrelevant. However, the fact that water drops bead up on the surface and run off seems to counter your claim that linseed absorbs water. I don't think I mentioned in my first post, but you always finalize your linseed finish with a couple coats of wax and reapply every so often (same as oiling the steel). After buffing it out (like polishing a boot) you can comb your hair in the mirror-like finish.
    I did not expect everyone to understand or accept what I wrote out of the blue... Please take a magnified look sometime at a steel-wooled stock that has been around for a while. There is a difference, it can be huge and adding rust to a finish never improved it.

    I shoot lots under water. It is called rain and it falls from above me.

    When wood gets wet it absorbs the water and changes size. When it does so it will be uneven and cause stresses in the wood to metal union. That can be decidedly problematic to accuracy.

    Water molecules in liquid form have different characteristics from water molecules in vapor form. That bead you see is not a function of the surface it is sitting on, but rather the surface tension of the water itself. Even on a very absorbant surface the beads will take a bit of time to get wicked away into the wood from the bottom side.

    In vapor form water molecules are tiny, holding hands as liquid they are bigger because there are more of them hanging on to each other. It is exactly the prinicple that allows Gore-Tex to sorta work. It sheds the big drops and allows the vaporized water on the inside to force its way out through tiny pores.

    Wax is a great top-coat for wood finishes and does help shed water, but it is far from perfect because it is too soft and gets scratched off.

    Feel free to disbelieve, but I spent too much time proving and disproving this stuff under strenuous conditions to believe my guesses anymore. I have also spent a great deal of time arguing with guild members over all sorts of traditional things... Like sanded slurry finishes...

    I have yet to see anyone make a test board in open-pored wood like claro and decide sanded slurry is a good idea... but you can find lots of folks advocating it because that is the way it was done for a very long time...
    art

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    Wow, great posts hap, nice to hear from someone who has facts. Thanks!

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Art helped me finish my first wood stock, and I can attest that epoxy sealing the stock before applying the finish of your choice results in a very stable stock. The rifle I had would consistantly shoot 3 shot 3/4" 100 yd groups, whether hot, cold, wet or wetter. I used linspeed on top of the epoxy for aesthetics.

    There is a reason modern wooden boats are finished with epoxy to protect the wood and not oil. Epoxy provides a barrier to water absorbtion, oil does not.

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    You might look into conversion varnish for a topcoat; it's a step above regular poly but not quite as radical as an epoxy. Dewaxed shellac makes a good sealer/basecoat.

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    All the old timers have their way of doing stocks,rotten stone,french thinners and tack cloth etc. Some keep with the old way and some move ahead with newer products. As long as the customer is happy and the end product is equal or better than the factory I have no problem with how it done. I will say the makers of the best are not using spray on tru-oil

  20. #20
    hap
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    gunbugs
    Thanks... Been at it a while...
    art

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