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Thread: Boiled linseed oil vs raw linseed oil for finishing a rifle stock

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy


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    Boiled linseed oil vs raw linseed oil for finishing a rifle stock

    I was told that the military used raw linseed oil to finish their service rifles like the 1903 Springfield and M1 Garand. I like the idea of a hard wearing, dull finish for a hunting rifle. Can anyone here confirm if they did use raw linseed oil? Are there reasons why boiled linseed oil might be a better option?

    Also, I been watching YouTube videos. I don't see anyone using stain or finish on the wood where it is inletted for the lock and barrel. That seems wrong, rainwater would get in there and cause the wood to swell, affecting accuracy I am sure. So does one do alot of sanding to keep the metal to wood fit in those areas when applying the finish?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master Ithaca Gunner's Avatar
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    I've read the .45 Springfield stocks were dipped in hot, (possibly boiling) linseed oil and hung to dry. I'll have to find the book to be exact.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    I was told , that Boiled Linseed oil dries much quicker over Raw Linseed oil.
    I only use Boiled stuff on my stocks.

  4. #4
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    BLO has always been my choice. Many coats over many days and finished off with rottenstone and a wax.
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    BLO is not 'boiled' as in heated to a boil. It simply means it has dryers added so it dries more quickly. The military heated the oil so it would penetrate into the wood - at least in theory. It was a simple dip process suitable for production. Typically multiple days drying, though.

    Linseed oil does not completely polymerize - or harden. It always retains that tacky feel. Only two oil finishes completely polymerize - Tung oil and walnut oil.
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  6. #6
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    I build guns for a living. I don't use any sort of BLO product. It isn't water proof, water goes right through it. I find tung oil finishes much better. I like Formby's. I have had many originals apart, NONE of them have finish in the barrel channel or lock mortise.

  7. #7
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    Raw linseed oil is just better than nothing, it offers no protection from water. I much prefer either Danish oil or French oil (shellac, turpentine and BLO). Danish oil in thin coats well rubbed in and each coat let to dry a week or so and let it build into a fine finish.

  8. #8
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    Best oil finish for gunstocks that I have found is called "Lin-Speed." Family has been using it since the 1950s or earlier. What's nice is you can touch it up every few years, just rub it on with your hand. If you don't rub it down well afterwards, it will also retain a bit of a tacky feel, which I like for my hunting guns...

    Formby's and similar watery "wiping varnish finishes" are typically just polyurethane thinned down w/ mineral spirits that flash off fast and maybe some Japan drier with some kind of oil thrown in so they can call it an "oil finish."

    There's a lot of folklore, hocus-pocus and misrepresentation in the wood finishes aisle...

    https://thewoodwhisperer.com/article...varnish-blend/
    Last edited by Buck Shot; 08-30-2021 at 10:42 AM.

  9. #9
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    I used Watkins Danish Oil dark walnut finish (used it after I saw Mark Novak using it and recommending it) on an 03 that I had stripped which had been slathered with varnish by Bubba. It worked fine. In the past I have used Tung Oil and BLO for military stocks. All worked about the same. The Danish Oil had a walnut stain in it which helped even out the light places on the Bubba'ed 03 stock. BTW I read somewhere that in WW2 tung oil and BLO were used interchangeably by the US manufacturers. Basically whichever was on hand.
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    Boolit Master quail4jake's Avatar
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    I use many gallons of BLO in a year but that's for wooden farm equipment. It is not waterproof or repellant, it does not "dry" to a hard finish but preserves weather exposed wood when it is applied many times over to soak in. It doesn't form a hard resilient surface soooo...you really don't want it on a stock. Adding hardeners, like japan, to linseed will make it tack up and form a soft, gummy coating. That's about it. And that's why I use commercial stock finishes that someone else, smarter than me, has already figured out. Birchwood casey's tru oil, Jim Chamber's stock varnish (very red tinted) and sometimes Waterlox. These are blended varnishes using naturel polymerizing oils and hardeners etc to make a hard surface once cured, that's what I recommend. Tung oil is OK but it hardens to a brittle coating and can chip also coats don't always adhere to each other well. Good luck!

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    Any manner of linseed oil and tung oil for wood finishing is just a pain for me to process and the results are never stellar let alone "good".

    As of years ago I'll only use Tru-Oil and have done many stocks to my perfection.




  12. #12
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    I always have put stain and a coat of finish in all inlets. No extra sanding needed. Sometimes finish will build up a bit in the lock mortise, that will need scraped a bit to allow the lock plate to seat properly.

    As has been said, linseed oil is a poor finish, it was just a military expedient. I've had good luck with Truoil, and Hunters Shack finish.

    I've done a few guns with tung oil, but no more. Last weekend I went to a dangerous game rifle shoot, where we by chance ended up shooting in the rain. Pretty much all the tung oil finish came off of the checkering on my .375 H&H. I've not had that problem on any of the muzzleloaders I have finished.

    For those who HAVE used linseed and ended up with a tacky mess, wipe it down with paper towels and white gas.
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    Boolit Master bedbugbilly's Avatar
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    "raw" linseed oil will get gummy - boiled linseed oil can be worked into the wood in repeated applications - I thin it with "real turpentine", not the new artificial turpentine. If properly applied and rubbed in over many coats, it can provide a nice finish but it all depends on what you are applying it to. Yea . . it's been used by many for many years for gunstock finish but it will not provide a true waterproof finish. I always kept it on hand in my woodworking/custo millwork business because every once in a while, I would have a need for it but it was never my "preferred" finish. Every once in a while I woulds be called upon to make replacement pieces for antique farm equipment - usually out of white oak due to the nature of the species to resist rot - 9 times out of 10, the customer would request a BLO finish application unless it was going to be painted - they knew what they wanted so I did as asked.

    In this day and age, there are many good finishes out there for such things as gunstocks that will provide for a nice waterproof finish. In my business, I used a lot of sprayed Laquer for finishing cabinets, furniture and millwork that I produced. There are many types of lacquer. I once had a fellow ask me to spray lacquer his half-stock of a muzzleloading kit that he was building - he saw the finishes I could put on cabinets, etc. and he really wanted me to do his stock in spite of me saying that it was not the "best" finish for a gunstock. He loved it but after a fall of hunting, going through the brush and swamps of lower Michigan, he brought it back to show me - like I said - not the best finish. He stripped it down and used a commercial gunstock finish on it.

    Many of the cheap production guns - those with birch stocks, etc. are often sprayed with lacquer with toner in it. Think of it as a combination of lacquer and stain. Toner is used in the cabinet industry in order to come out with matching color finishes on such species as maple, red oak, etc. which otherwise, if just stained first, would never match since different pieces of wood from different trees stain differently and some stain "muddy". On stocks made out of birch, etc. - using lacquer with a toner in it allows the maker to make it look good as far as "color" goes - but it is not a finish that will last over time and normal things you run into when hunting.

    BLO is a "traditional" finish and I have used it on a number of my muzzleloading builds over the years - but I always kept a bottle of BLO/turpentine thinned finish handy so that I could rub in a good coat on the stock after cleaning the rifle after a hunt in usually wet or damp hunting seasons like we had in lower Michigan.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master Ithaca Gunner's Avatar
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    I tried ''Linspeed'' and didn't like it, Birchwood Caseys ''Tru Oil'' was what I used for many years, then I tried some Formby's ''Tung Oil'' and didn't like that either and went back to ''Tru Oil''. Here's what I may have settled on, Minwax ''Antique Oil Finish'' $16.00 Qt.

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    Boiled linseed oil is a lot thicker than regular and drys faster. Yes it does dry compared to petroleum oils.
    Cutting it with turpentine works well to speed up penetration and then the turpentine evaporates fast. You can use super fine steel wool to clean up dirty spots. Afterwards wipe off the excess and let dry. It will give you a nice patina, if that’s the type of finish you’re looking for.

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    Raw linseed oil DOES NOT DRY. It will remain sticky. USE BOILED.

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    BLO and later Tung Oil is what the military used. BLO is an OK stock finish, but will constantly need to be reapplied. Some branches of service (USMC) used "Gunny Paste" on their wooden stocks. It is a mixture of beeswax, turpentine and BLO each by 1/3. It is available commercially as Tom's 1/3 Wax.

    BTW. stock inletting and other exposed areas like under the butt plate should never be left unfinished. Back in the day, stock makers used several coats of white shellac.

    Have used Tru-Oil for over 45 years and have learned it's ins and outs. You have have a wonderful high gloss finish or take it back down to the wood with OOO steel wood for a duller but still very pretty finish. It is about as water resistant was a wood finish can be. No wood finish is waterproof. I give any wood rifle or handgun stocks a coat of Johnson's Paste Wax if they might get wet. I would never intentionally carry any firearm in the rain, but a time or two, the rain caught me by surprise.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  18. #18
    Boolit Grand Master uscra112's Avatar
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    I don't like that the chemical "dryers" they use in "boiled" linseed are toxic. The traditional 18th century London Oil Finish used raw linseed. It cures as hard as any oil will, but it takes a long time. "Once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, once a year forever" wasn't too far off. In the early stages it does get gummy. Therein lies the secret. The trick is to cut that gummy layer off with more oil and a coarse cloth. The old-timers used burlap - I use progressively finer grades of aluminum oxide paper. This is the same technique used to get a fine lacquer finish on cars - you don't build up the finish, you cut down to it.

    I've got a dozen guns I did ten and fifteen years ago that look and feel great. But I'm a patient man. If you're not, then boiled oil or one of the "Magic Oils" will suit you better.

    I think it was Howe who admitted that gunsmiths tend to prefer the quickest finishing methods because they want the job delivered and paid for as soon as possible.
    Last edited by uscra112; 08-30-2021 at 05:13 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by uscra112 View Post
    I don't like that the chemical "dryers" they use in "boiled" linseed are toxic. The traditional 18th century London Oil Finish used raw linseed. It cures as hard as any oil will, but it takes a long time. "Once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, once a year forever" wasn't too far off. In the early stages it does get gummy. Therein lies the secret. The trick is to cut that gummy layer off with more oil and a coarse cloth. (The old-timers used burlap - I use progressively finer grades of aluminum oxide paper. This is the same technique used to get a fine lacquer finish on cars - you don't build up the finish, you cut down to it.

    I've got a dozen guns I did ten and fifteen years ago that look and feel great. But I'm a patient man. If you're not, then boiled oil or one of the "Magic Oils" will suit you better.
    I stand corrected. My experience is with finishing woodwork not gunstocks.

  20. #20
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    one never dries, and stays tacky/ sticky. guess witch one? clue RAW!

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