Owners of rifles know that taking firearms back and forth to the target range and just general handling can be hard on guns, particularly wooden stocks. If the gun is old, it could have been finished with varnish, which over years can crackle and chip depending on conditions. In this article we will discuss the different aspects of refinishing a wooden rifle stock to restore the firearm to something close to it's original beauty.
Before you refinish or even handle any firearm, it is up to you to ensure you are working safely for yourself and for those around you.
The first thing to consider when refinishing a rifle stock is - should this rifle even be refinished? Some rifles can dramatically lose their value when the original finish is removed and replaced. If you are planning to go ahead with the refinishing, you will need to remove all the hardware from the rifle.
Once the hardware is removed, the first step is to remove the existing finish. This can be done with sandpaper, but is best started off with some sort of a remover if possible. A good paint and varnish remover should get the stock down to either the natural wood, or at least to a stained wood. At this point you will likely have removed most of the nasty marks on the stock with exception of those that are deep into the wood. The next step is ....
... now examine what you have to determine if you will now need to sand the stock, or can what is there be lifted off with something like a coarse steel wool. It is best NOT to be too vigorous in sanding as this can affect the fit of some parts of some rifles, particularly 2 piece units.
Depending on what you want, and how deep the gouges, bumps or scratches are in your stock, and what or if there is a stain finish on it that you want to change, all these will determine how much sanding you need to do, just be careful you don't over sand the wood. Also, don't be afraid to leave some patina on the wood. Older rifles that have been restored should probably proudly show the the wear and tear they have been through.
When the wood is finally prepared to the point you want to finish it, now is when you need to determine what finish you want to put on your wooden gunstock. There is world of finishes out there, and all of them basically come in three types of finish, glossy, semi-gloss or stipple and matte or dull finish. What type of sheen you select is totally up to you. As a woodworker I prefer a semi-gloss as it shows off the wood grain without causing huge glossy reflections ... but that's just me.
Another important decision you will need to decide on is what kind of finish you want, spray on, wipe on or brush on, then what kind of product will you select? Varnish or one of the oil finishes, or one of the many hybrid oil finishes. What I don't recommend is any sort of an outdoor finish, despite the fact that the gun will be used out of doors. The reason for NOT choosing an outdoor finish is that most of them are designed to remain supple throughout their life, which means they never really harden, and of course with a gun that is in use, we need a finish that is strong and tough and not one that will not harden strong. This is why I often look for products that are used on hardwood flooring.
Many people are not familiar with the term "oils" for finishing. There are 2 kinds of oils, one kind remains liquid it's entire life, the other kind hardens over time, such as Tung Oil (made from Tung tree nuts) Linseed oil (made for the Flax plant) Saicos (made from a combination of oils such as sunflower and soy). Most of these "hardening oils" need to be applied in very thin coats and will dry overnight.
The product I selected for this refinishing job is something called Saicos which is an oil finish product and very similar to Osmo, another choice I could have used. The reason I selected Saicos is that if this rifle does get some use and encounters some bumps and scratches, they can easily be touched up without having to re-strip the entire gun again. This oil product has the ability to meld into a previous coating without looking like it was painted on top of it. A very nice feature.
In our case the stock took 4 coats of finish before we were happy with it, and when it was finally finished, the stock looked outstanding. The grain of the stock shows through and with a lustre finish, it's easy to see the wood grains and patterns.
In our case we also re-blued the barrel with a cold bluing product which will be covered in another video and article.
In the end, the restoration of this rifle was beyond our expectations both for the stock and the barrel. We sanded lightly, so as to leave a bit of "character" on the stock and the overall appearance was excellent and the pictures we took, simply do not do it justice.
Copyright - Colin Knecht