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Thread: The how to's of gunstock work

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Gunfreak25's Avatar
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    The how to's of gunstock work

    There are many, MANY ways to refinish and repair a gunstock. Everyone will have their own opinion on it, there is no right or wrong way. But some methods do work better than others, and finding those methods is always the toughest part. It's simply trial and error. So I thought I'd write a post on the how to's of stock repair, and refinishing.

    Cosmoline
    The battle of cosmoline has been raging on for many years, be it a Turkish Mauser with a bolt crammed full of dried cosmo, or a Garand stock that is leaking oil every time you shoot it. There are many ways people go about removing this oil, some of them have made me cringe, some have made me cry. The method I have used, is what I feel is the most proper and appropriate way to go about oil removal. The trick, is slow and gentle heat. Heat is what was used to put the oil into these guns, and heat is what can be used to remove it. It took more than 60 years for many of our guns to get that oil to soak deep into the stock, however if you do it right you can get nearly all the oil out in a period of just several weeks. The key here is patience! For stocks, I like to wrap them tightly with paper towels and rubber bands, then put the thing inside of a very large 50 gallon black trash bag which I tie up real good to keep it hot inside. Then I sit this on the dashboard of the car in the hot Yuma sun. The temperature will reach as much as 180 degree's in cars here, and I've seen eggs fried on dashboards in Yuma. Let the stock sit for about an hour, then unwrap the stock, and change out the paper towels. At the end of the day, you can remove the stock from the bag, and give it an alcohol scrub to remove any surface oil that's left on it. Use 0000 steel wool soaked in denatured alcohol to scrub the stock in small area's at a time, and wipe each area clean with a paper towel before moving onto the next area. The alcohol will pull and remove nearly all the oil from the surface of the stock. The next day, repeat the dashboard method and alcohol scrub method until you notice it has stopped leaking oil on the paper towels in the car. Chances are there is still oil deep down into the stock, it's amazing how much they can hold, I mean it. What you can do is wait a week to let the oil reach the surface again, then bake it in the car again and repeat the alcohol scrubs. At this point you should be able to tell if your done deoiling your stock, or if you want to wait another week to let it sit before baking in the car again. It just depends on how soaked your stock is. The worst stock I've seen was on my Ishapore 2A, which is dressed in Indian redwood, which LOVES to hold oil. I probably pulled a full cup of oil or more from the entire stock set. Removing the oil from a stock is an important step in preserving your rifle. Depending on how bad it's soaked, over time the oil will begin go deteriorate the wood fibers, making them soft. It's what I call oil rot, and can make stocks (especially Enfield stocks) prone to cracking and breaking in the heel area.

    Chemicals
    What makes me cringe and cry the most is when I see someone using a heavy duty kitchen or industrial degreasers to remove what they believe is all the oil from their gunstock, in preparation for refinishing. First off. These harsh chemicals were never designed to be used on wood. Many of them contain ingredients that literally degrade and dissolve the glue that's found naturally in the fibers of wood.
    With this glue gone, the fibers begin to break apart and separate, creating soft spots in your stock or area's that will splinter or chip much too easily. Secondly, these cleaners only get the surface oil off and do not get deep down into the stock to remove the oil. Thirdly, many of these products contain chemicals that if left in the wood, will continue to attack the wood and even the metal below the woodline, causing corrosion. So use your oven cleaner and 409 what they were used for, to clean your oven made of steel. Not 60 year old wood. To properly strip a stock, you need to get yourself some wood stripper called StripX by Kleanstrip. It's at Walmart in the red can. The Gold can stuff works good too but is much stronger and I only use it when I need to dissolve epoxies off badly repaired stocks in preparation for re-repair work. Strip X is very easy to use, and will remove paints, light glues, oils, varnishes and the toughest polyurethanes. Best of all you don't have to water log the stock in the bathtub to remove what stripper is left in the stock. Once StripX has evaporated, it is no longer chemically active and will not continue to work on whatever it's applied to. Rule of thumb with StripX, if it's wet it's working. You may run across a stock that has that super glossy oily gunky buildup on it's surface. Like an old SMLE stock. This is years worth of oil, dirt and dust that has collected on the surface. Handling the rifle has only smoothed out the surface of the wood, compressing this gunk into the fibers giving it a shiny oily look. If value is not of concern on a stock like this, and I want to start removing the oil from it, I first give it a coat of StripX. This removes the hard oily crud on the surface, making leeching out the oil in my car bake much easier and faster. To use StripX you use a brush to heavily apply the stripper to the stock, dab it on don't brush it on. If it's too thin and your working in a hot environment it will evaporate almost immediately. Once applied, you will see it start to bubble up, the crud will just drip right off, so have a drop cloth or bucket handy. After 15 minutes, use Nitrile gloves begin to use a plastic scraper tool to remove the majority of the gunked up stripper (looks like snot) on the wood. Then take the stock to a source of running water (not too hot) and use a nylon brush to clean away any remaining stripper. Always let a stock dry at a cool temperature of no more than 80 degree's, wet wood and heat will sometimes cause it to warp or split near the edges, i've seen this a number of times.

    Let it dry 24 hours before doing anything else to it.

    Sanding and surface prep
    I'm usually against using sandpaper at all, if your working on a piece that's collectible at all sanding only diminishes the value, and once wood is gone it's gone forever. When sanding work with good quality papers, cheap Chinese dollar store sandpapers don't work at all, their grit is not uniform, and it just fall right off the paper because they use a cheap glue to adhere it with. When sanding always use a block. Using your hands creates uneven pressure, and stocks naturally have soft spots and hard spots. What will happen is you will create a "ripple" affect on your stock, which cannot be reversed without sanding more. To remove dings and large dents from a stock you can steam them out. First I like to soak the wood fibers on a ding to allow it to swell before steaming. I get some toilet paper and make a small ball of it, put it in the dent, and keep it wet for the next few hours as the dent continues to soak up the water. For steaming, I use an iron, if it has a steam feature, use it as it helps quicken the job. Take a soaking wet rag, ring it out, and place it over the dent, then hold the iron on the cloth pressing down on the dent for at least 15 seconds. I've had to go as high as 30 seconds per dent to remove one, older dents are harder to remove than recent ones. Some dents will not come out at all, it's best to leave them as "character dents".

    Finishes
    As many of us know BLO (boiled linseed oil) was the finish used on the majority of Military rifles. However places like China and Russia often used shellac. Shellac is alcohol based, and personally I am not a fan of it. But it can be a beautiful finish when applied correctly by someone who knows to to work with the stuff. Another oil used by Armies was tung oil. Not that "tung oil finish" you see at Lowes or Home Depot, i'm talking real pure tung oil straight from the nut of the tung tree. It's also called Chinawood oil. It looks and feels like honey, and is a wonderful finish to work with. It does not darken a stock nearly as much as BLO, and will not darken or oxidize with age as much as BLO will. Tung oil also provides much better protection against water compared to BLO. In fact I believe it wasn't until late 1942 when the U.S Military started using pure tung oil instead of BLO, once they found out it dried quicker and gave superior water protection compared with BLO. Many of today's "tung oils" are not tung oils at all. They in fact have very little tung oil in them. They are all very similar to True Oil (which is BLO with polymers added). There's nothing wrong with these finishes, just know what you are buying before you buy it and use it on a Military stock, they dry just like hard varnishes and are very glossy, so sometimes just don't look right on an old warhorse. REAL pure tung oil can be found at www.realmilkpaint.com

    Repairing a stock
    When repairing a gunstock, there's some things you need to know that will help your repair last for the rest of your life, and look good. First off, never use glues, like Gorilla glue or Elmers wood glue. These all degrade over time with oil, and are simply not strong enough to stand up the violent vibrations of a working firearm. The two best things you can use, is Devcon 2 ton clear epoxy weld with a 30 minuet work time (gives good time to soak into the wood), and more preferably Brownells Acraglas. Fiberglass cloth from walmart is also good to have on hand.
    Now I won't go into the details on how to address certain cracks and broken area's on a stock. Instead I will show you some of my work that I have done on stocks in the past. I've done everything from filling a small gouge, to completely building a new part of a broken stock and splicing it in.

    http://www.surplusrifleforum.com/vie...241e65a48f95e6

    This is my 71/84. Old pictures from when I was working on it.
    I completely rebuilt the nose of the stock, as well as patched in two pieces of walnut into two area's where wood had been seriously gouged out. I worked for 50 days nearly all in a row restoring this gun back to shape. Seems like a long time I know, but it's that patience that made it come out so nice.

    Here's what it looked like before











    After





    Well I spent nearly 2 hours typing this. I hope this has helped anyone who may have questions or is new to stock work. I am by no means an expert. I simply take pride in my work and I hope to someday share what I do know with others, so that they can do the same. If anyone has any questions just post them here or drop me an email at thomasbussell25@gmail.com or see my website at www.tomsstocksmithing.yolasite.com

    Remember, with time and patience you can do just about anything.
    Last edited by Gunfreak25; 07-29-2013 at 02:32 PM.
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." -Thomas Jefferson

    www.tomsstocksmithing.com

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    Gunfreak, a labor of love was your post. Nice results, too.

    I have this to say though. I've done a bunch of milsurps what have been packed in gallons of cosmoline, and by far the best I have found is easy-off oven cleaner, time and a garden hose. In most cases the wood is many years old, and if it does not turn out okay, so what, replace it. I have not had to yet. Only thing is there is a warning to this -- don't get it on you especially in you eyes!

    edited to add: Oh, and a WARM day or two.
    Last edited by sundog; 06-10-2009 at 07:00 PM.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Maven's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Gunfreak, Great article and impressive results! This should be a sticky.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master Gunfreak25's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sundog View Post
    Gunfreak, a labor of love was your post. Nice results, too.

    I have this to say though. I've done a bunch of milsurps what have been packed in gallons of cosmoline, and by far the best I have found is easy-off oven cleaner, time and a garden hose. In most cases the wood is many years old, and if it does not turn out okay, so what, replace it. I have not had to yet. Only thing is there is a warning to this -- don't get it on you especially in you eyes!

    edited to add: Oh, and a WARM day or two.
    Oven cleaner contains Lye, which as well all know is a very caustic and corrosive chemical, it's nothing you want left in the pores of your gunstock. Which you can be certain is in there even after a good garden hosedown.

    I posted this small article here in an effort to help encourage people to use what's appropriate for use on old gunstocks, and to help elimate that "so what just replace it" type attitude. It seem to me that if you know there's a chance the chemical your using could potentially harm your stock, and continuing to use it anyway seems like very wasteful thinking to me. And this country is wasteful enough as it is. When using the methods I posted above, you can rest assure that your guns will be in good enough condition to hand down to your kids, and so forth. Remember that these weapons are part of history, and most aren't being made anymore. It's our job (or alteast mine) to help preserve this history, and that's what I try to do everyday, it's as you said a labor of love for me.

    Remember that there's more than one way to cook a turkey, and even more ways to work on a gunstock. There is no right or wrong method, but after doing as much work as I have I have found there are appropriate and inappropriate methods to be used. I've been down that road (we all have first starting out) and that's why I try to share my experiences.

    If oven cleaner works for you, then by all means continue to use it. I've provided the information, but it's up to the reader to choose to follow it or not. And as always, if anyone has questions just ask.

    -Tom
    Last edited by Gunfreak25; 06-10-2009 at 08:08 PM. Reason: Spelling....again
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." -Thomas Jefferson

    www.tomsstocksmithing.com

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    If the stock is not in to bad of shape I have found Orange-Glo does a decent job of removing the crud and not all the original finish. It does soften the oil finish, however over night the finish toughens back up.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    Very Good!!! I heartily concur. I can tell you from expirence what those harsh chemicals will do, I had a fellow who wanted to short cut his work and begged to throw his stock in our metal cleaning dip tank. We let him and in 1 hour the stock turned to PULP WOOD. It just disolved.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Very knowledgeable! Wonderful to read. I have a question that somebody here may know about. What was the product, "Lin-speed Oil" for finishing? I used it as a kid and loved it. Haven't seen it lately.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Gunfreak25's Avatar
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    I want to give a quick thanks to all the mods here who gave my post a permanant place here as a sticky, I really hope to be of help to some of the members here, as far as stock work goes. Thanks guys!

    c3d4b2, Orange Glo can be used to clean up the surface of an old stock, without totally refinish it. You can also use Old English furniture polish, which does a decent job. They are all citrus based and that's what does most of the cleaning action as far as dirt and old oil buil up is concerned. If you come accross a stock that is in really nice shape, but has some flith on the surface, and all you want to do is spruce it up a bit, you can do what's called an oil scrub.
    An oil scrub is easy to do. Take some 0000 steel wool, and get a good bit of boiled linseed oil on it, then scrub your stock with it. You will notice the oil turning a dark brown color, that's because the fresh chemicals in the BLO your are using is what is removing the old oil and dirt buildup on your stock. It's incredible what an oil scrub can do to a dirty stock. Let the oil sit 30 to 40 mintes, then wipe clean with paper towels. Let the stock sit for 24 hours before deciding on if you want to do another coat or wax it, if you wax it wait another 24 hours. I use Johnsons paste wax on the stock, buff it on liberally, let it dry for 2 hours, then buff it off very well.

    725, Linspeed Oil is essentialy just BLO that has been treated with heat and special polymers to create more of a hand rub style of varnish, I believe it dries harder to a gloss. It looks like a good product though and would probably be a beautiful finish for a newer rifle or shotgun.
    http://www.midwayusa.com/viewProduct...tNumber=717734

    A similar product to Linspeed oil is Tru Oil by birchwood casey. In fact I believe the two products are nearly identicle. They both smell real real good though.
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." -Thomas Jefferson

    www.tomsstocksmithing.com

  9. #9
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    Gunfreak, how right you are. Thank you for passing it on. I have done many, many stocks myself and just finished an 03-A3 for a friend.
    Linspeed was a pain. It never seemed to dry, even on new wood. I hated the stuff. Tru Oil makes it look sick. If I am doing a $300 piece of wood, I fill the grain with Tru Oil and then spray 5 to 6 thinned coats of Tru Oil on the stock, allowing only enough time between coats for it to get sticky. Then I let it dry for a month or until I can not smell the finish. Many times I prop it in the car in the sun.
    Now it can be rubbed out without breaking through layers of finish because it is actually only one thick layer. I get a true hand rubbed finish.

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    Boolit Master johnlaw484's Avatar
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    Anybody ever airebrush spar varnish?
    There are two theories to arguing with a woman .. . Neither works.

    Women always say that giving birth is way more painful than a guy getting kicked in the nuts.There is no way to prove that they are wrong.

    But a year or so after giving birth a woman will often say "It would be nice to have another child".

    You never hear a guy say, "It would be nice to get kicked in the nuts again".

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnlaw484 View Post
    Anybody ever airebrush spar varnish?
    I hate the stuff. I have a lot of wood trim, boat, etc that I used spar varnish on and weather ruins it fast.
    Even my threshold on the garage door seems to last forever with plain old interior urethane. I had to do it every year with spar varnish.
    I really like Tru-oil. It is on my Hawken and we hunted deer for a week in Ohio. It rained all day, every day and I had no damage to my rifle at all. My friend had a new TC ML and it was ruined, the wood swelled, metal rusted and the finish was gone. I feel spar varnish would have been as bad.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master

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    Great Job and Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunfreak25 View Post
    Remember, with time and patience you can do just about anything.
    Hey Gunfreak,

    That is one heck of a cool accomplishment! Now I have some ideas of how to go about things like this alot more than I used to.

  13. #13
    Cast Boolits Owner

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    Excellent write up. I will print then add this to my "Magic Book of Gun Things".

    Robert
    "Things always get better once thought, time, and money are applied in the correct amounts at the correct time"
    - No_1 -

    "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free
    that your very existence is an act of rebellion."
    - Albert Camus -

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    Boolit Master jbunny's Avatar
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    useing the spray on true oil. i like useing the spray on true oil but those
    little paint nozzles are allways pluging up. i drilled a bigger hole with welders
    tip cleaners drill and that worked for one side of the stock and it pluged up
    when i whent to spray the other side, i then put my magnum spry nozzlw on.
    it,s a nozzle of the rubberized undercoating spray bomb. u only push it down
    part way and u had better be moveing fast befor pushing down on the nozzle.
    this nozzle never plugs up. i have trown cans away as i could,nt get them to spray.
    now i can use the whole can up.

  15. #15
    Boolit Mold submoa's Avatar
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    Gunfreak, very nice job. The 71/84's are remarkably crafted rifles. If they were made today no one could affrod them. I've been using the same method you've described for over 30 years and patience is the key. The problem with BLO is that it never really dries and it too can soften the wood over the years. Tung oil is the best answer and many of the commercial oils on the market contain Japan dryers. I often use Watco oil for a quick finish that's easy to repair and sands in very nicely to fill the grain. It stretches very nicely with the heel of the hand and takes on a very nice satin sheen. Final buff with a white Scotch brite or better yet, and old piece of wool blanket really brings out the wood grain. By the way, I'm an FNG on the forum but have been melting lead for about 30 years.

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    You did an absolutely beautiful job on that rifle! Hands down!

  17. #17
    Boolit Master

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    Very nice article, thank you.

    A very good friend of mine was an USAF shooting team armorer, now deceased sorry to say. His comments to me when I bought my first cosmoline encrusted nearly new milsurp was this

    Turn only the hot water faucet on in your shower, get it as hot as you can and them put the stock in the the shower after taking off all the furniture. get it as clean as you can ( his added note was take your beatings from your wife it will be worth it). Let the stock dry in the sun. put the furniture back on. put it back on the rifle and take it out and get it dusty and dirty while rolling in the dirt while shooting it. His contention was that that method has worked for most of the armies of the world for a very long time, why change it?

  18. #18
    Boolit Bub
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    Quote Originally Posted by sundog View Post
    Gunfreak, a labor of love was your post. Nice results, too.

    I have this to say though. I've done a bunch of milsurps what have been packed in gallons of cosmoline, and by far the best I have found is easy-off oven cleaner, time and a garden hose. In most cases the wood is many years old, and if it does not turn out okay, so what, replace it. I have not had to yet. Only thing is there is a warning to this -- don't get it on you especially in you eyes!

    edited to add: Oh, and a WARM day or two.
    Or you can use a hair dryer with easy off. For commercial products: whitings.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master enfield's Avatar
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    Whats the best "stain" to darken light coloured wood, I have a few stocks that look like they could be birch or something that I would like to darken. The regular Minwax "dark walnut" doesn't really get it that dark.

    hey, watch where ya point that thing!

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by rojkoh View Post
    Or you can use a hair dryer with easy off. For commercial products: whitings.
    I've used rags wrapped around the stock, then wet with acetone and let the acetone evaporate.

    Pulls a LOT of oil out, but may need to be done multiple times.

    Has worked well for me, YMMV...


    Hi rojkoh, good to see you. Weren't you writing a book, how's it coming?

    Boys, you will soon learn everything you ever wanted to know from this man...

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