My first stock refinish (SKS)


Live Free Or Die
March 17, 2006, 05:31 PM
I picked up a supposedly 'excellent' Yugo SKS from AIM recently. I guess my expectations were too high, because I was disappointed to find a few dents in the stock, as well as many scratches. Perhaps I need to become more familiar with milsurp grading guidelines, but the wood looked more like "very good" than excellent. Anyhow, I decided to refinish the stock. I wish I had a better "before" picture, but here's one small picture that shows one of the annoying dents (just above magazine):

That dent and two others were about 1/8" deep. Of course before de-denting, I had to get the cosmo out of the wood. I tried the "low heat in the oven" method. Worked OK, except the end of the buttstock burned! This was at my oven's lowest setting of around 150 degrees. Here's what you can see of the burn after I sanded off the original finish (note I blurred out the SN engraved on the stock; burn is at far right):

Here's a picture of the sanded stock before applying a new finish:

I decided to stick with what I know, and I applied a clear poly-acrylic Minwax finish that I've previously used on other blonde-wood furniture such as maple. The only part I didn't yet refinish is the hand guard. Here's the result:

I must say, this rifle cleaned up nicely after decosmoing and refinishing the wood. At the risk of annoying collectors, I believe I'm going to refinish my Swiss K31's next. The wood is in good condition on these, but the finish is not so great. I might consider a more traditional approach the next time I refinish though -- rubbing multiple coats of oil to bring out the grain, then possibly applying a final coat of something more durable.

(Edited to fix image link)

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March 17, 2006, 05:47 PM
Looks very nice. Good job!

March 17, 2006, 09:21 PM
+1 .... nice job.


March 17, 2006, 09:25 PM
Looks nice. Did you use an iron and damp towel or another method to get the dents out?

Live Free Or Die
March 17, 2006, 09:58 PM
Yup, I tried the iron/damp cloth trick. It was able to raise the dents somewhat, but not completely. I needed stronger magic to complete the job: 60 grit sandpaper. On one of the dents I wasn't willing to sand any further, so I used a small amount of wood filler. You can see a small light dot near the top of the stock just before it curves up to meet the bolt cover. It's visible in the last two pictures I posted.

Thanks for the compliments. I did a decent job and really enjoyed myself. Almost makes me want to pick up some of the more beat up milsurps I've seen and try to make 'em purty. Almost.

March 17, 2006, 10:00 PM
A+ looks great

March 17, 2006, 10:06 PM
looks great! I'm always a sucker for lighter wood with darker action.

Live Free Or Die
March 17, 2006, 10:14 PM
Rob -

I agree...light wood and dark blued hardware are a great combination. I used to think the blonde/beech stock on my K31 was sort of cheesy, but I'm optimistic it's going to look great when I refinish it.

March 17, 2006, 10:32 PM
You did the rifle justice. Looks great.

March 17, 2006, 10:37 PM
Excellent job, wish I could get my Yugo to look that nice, but I'm scared of screwing up the stock. I tried refinishing a K-31 stock once, and it looked better before I started.



Live Free Or Die
March 17, 2006, 10:56 PM
Farnham -

Just curious, what exactly did you do to your K31 stock?

Also, I'll refinish your Yugo stock for $50. :)

March 17, 2006, 11:16 PM
First, I went with the first advice I got-- "Use Easy-Off oven cleaner to get the old crap off!" Yeah...that furred the wood up so bad I almost stopped there and started looking for replacements. You know when the grain lifts, and kind of gets fuzzy? That's what it looked like.

Second, I was lazy--I figured if 200 grit sandpaper was good, 60 grit sandpaper would be better. (I must pause to note, my Dad and Grandpa are carpenters, and very good at these things. I, however, did not get that particular gene.)

Third, boiled linseed oil should probably not be used straight. I have yet to read the definitive BLO guide, some recommend half turpentine, half BLO, some have shellac mixed in, and some have straight BLO. Straight BLO will NOT DRY. EVER. I'm fairly certain somewhere on earth there is a pool of BLO that's existed since the beginning of time, and it's just now turning tacky.

As for you refinishing my stock, she may be ugly, but she's mine, buddy! ;)

I'll keep her ugly until I figure this all out. Your method might soon be tried, though!



Live Free Or Die
March 17, 2006, 11:41 PM
Heheh, sounds like you had quite an experience with that K31 stock. I believe I will steer clear of Easy Off. I've successfully used paint thinner sparingly, combined with sand paper, to strip off old finish.

As far as 60-grit, I've used it many times when the furniture is very rough. As long I sand somewhat gently with the grain and follow it up with 100/180/320/420, things have worked out fine.

I've never tried the lindseed oil method, but it sounds like a PITA. I think I'll stick with stuff that is already pre-mixed to the appropriate proportions. :)

March 18, 2006, 12:56 AM
turned out great! was that the unissued grade?

Live Free Or Die
March 18, 2006, 10:23 AM
trickyasafox -

This was AIM's 'excellent' grade. The importer is Interordnance. I'd say the wood was good/very good, and the metal finish was at least excellent. There are very minor usage, handling, and storage marks on the's 95%+.

March 18, 2006, 12:11 PM
That turned out really good. Is this one of the AIM military suprlus Yugo SKS's for like $130 or something?

March 18, 2006, 12:16 PM
Farnham - about BLO not drying, you may want to tell that to my rifle stocks I've refinished, along with my hiking staff and a few other things I've finished with many, many coats of BLO that are bone-dry and not tacky in the least. ;)

Live Free Or Die
March 18, 2006, 01:05 PM
That turned out really good. Is this one of the AIM military suprlus Yugo SKS's for like $130 or something?

SilentStalker -- Thanks! And the answer to your question is yes...see the post above yours. I'm actually very curious to see what sort of condition a shooter-grade Yugo is in, as well as the unissued ones. I imagine the problem with the shooter grades is that the metal finish as well as bore condition might be significantly worse than the excellent or unissued rifles.

March 18, 2006, 01:19 PM
I've had mixed results with straight BLO as well. I never did nail down why some projects dried well and some did not. I kind of suspected it had something to do with the age of the product I used.

My favorite refinish for milsurps is Culver's magic paste. I've finished numerous stocks using this approach and all have turned out great (I'm on my 3rd quart of mix). I've modified his approach slightly by GENTLY prewarming the stock before the first coat is applied. This seems to open the pores a bit and that first coat is sucked deep into the stock as it cools. Only tricky part for me was finding beeswax (not paraffin). I've had the best luck obtaining it at the craft stores.

You can find his recommendations for refinish at

refinishing milsurps (

It's Method #3 on that page.

His formula for a finish goes like this

Equal parts of Boiled Linseed Oil, Turpentine (essentially a solvent) and Beeswax. (1/3rd Linseed, 1/3rd Turpentine, and 1/3rd Beeswax. Melt the mixture over a "flameless" heat source (hot plate, radiator or the manifold of your vehicle). Stir the concoction and allow to cool into a paste. Put the paste in a convenient container (I used to use a typewriter ribbon can when they still had such things). You might get a can of Brie Cheese in the Grocery Store, those round cans work well and will fit in your shooting stool most handily inside of a zip-lock bag.

Take your prepared stock and start to rub the Beeswax mixture into the outside of the stock with the palm of your hand. Allow the friction (and generated heat) of your hand to melt the paste into the grain of the wood. You can do this while watching the "tube" and not screw anything up. After you have rubbed in the first coat, rub it down with an old towel. Repeat the process until you are satisfied (you can always add more, and this is one of the beauties of the finish, as it can be used until you get tired of rubbing). The last coat is always burnished with an old (Terrycloth) towel. The final "piece-d-resistance" is a quick final rubdown with a silicone cloth. The finish gives the appearance of a hand rubbed stock with 20 years of effort applied. The Beeswax imparts a waterproof finish to the stock, and any minor scrapes, or scratches can easily be rubbed out of it with a small addition of the Magic Paste. The finish looks good, has a non shiny military appearance, itís waterproof, doesnít smoke or bubble the finish in rapid fire and appears to be an original well rubbed rifle stock from the days prior to WWII. It truly IS a hand rubbed finish!

March 18, 2006, 03:21 PM
Good work on the cosmoline. Looks like you got most of it out, which is pretty tough. While I'm generally against refinishing unless needed, when you have a yugo it's almost ALWAYS needed. Cosmoline was never designed as a wood preservative, and it does a lot of damage to wood. Instead of drying and protecting the grain, it stays gooey and weakens the grain so much you can often scratch it with your fingernail! It has got to come out of there.

One trick I learned from M-48's is to leave the wood grain open after stripping it down, covering it only with some wax or perhaps a layer of BLO. That way any cosmoline trapped inside can still get out and be cleaned off.

March 18, 2006, 03:25 PM
For those that need beeswax, I suggest this ( company - they're very good to deal with. I've bought well over 100lbs from them.

Live Free Or Die
March 18, 2006, 03:58 PM
Good work on the cosmoline. Looks like you got most of it out, which is pretty tough.

Coming from someone who goes by "Cosmoline" I suppose that's a nice compliment. :)

After the burning-the-stock fiasco in the oven, I tried a different approach. I have a 3' long space heater that looked like the perfect size, so I built a little stand to elevate the stock just above the heating element. I made an aluminum foil tent to trap the heat, and covered the stock/space heater with that. The cosmo oosed from the wood quite nicely with that method, and I wiped it down frequently. After a couple hours it stopped seeping out of the wood, so I suppose I got most of it.

March 18, 2006, 04:02 PM
Don't worry too much about the burning. I set an entire M-48 stock on fire many years ago when I was starting out :D

March 18, 2006, 07:48 PM
Gee, thanks, Third_Rail...and here I thought it was all MY fault. :p



March 18, 2006, 08:01 PM

Glad to have cleared that up!

In reality, it may be that I did most, if not all, of the refinishing in the dry winter months, I live in New England, and that I waited well over a week between coats. FWIW.

March 19, 2006, 08:09 PM
Anybody have any experience with this stock?

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