How to recreate the wood finish on an older (mid '50s) Winchester?


May 11, 2009, 01:38 AM
I picked up a mid-50s 1894, and it's in fairly decent shape. I purchased an '80 vintage XTR (.30-30) a month or two ago, also. I think I have my lever gun needs covered for the next few decades. I am new to '94s and need to ask a few questions:

1) what to use to re-create the original wood finish? I need to strip and sand the rear stock, which is rough as pictured. I use tung oil on handgun grips, but does anyone know what the Winchester factory used to use?

2) How to strip it? for handgun stock I use an acetone bath, but that's not practical with a large wooden rifle stock.

3) Anyone know where there are disassembly instructions? I like to know how to detail strip all my weapons. compared to the newer XTR, the action is a little clunky and less smooth. I imagine it needs to be stripped, cleaned and re-lubed.

4) The older one is missing the front sight hood. Do those just press on? Try ebay or gunbroker?

5) The butt plate has some rust on it, and I was going to remove it and have it blued. Anyone can recommend a place to mail it who affordably blues single parts? Since it's just a butt plate, I can mail it anywhere cheaply.

6) Regarding the XTR, does anyone know if the .30-30 XTR was on the same action as the big bore XTR, or only had the fancier wood and polish blue vs. the basic 1894? I am assuming it was only the blue and wood finish and nothing mechanical unlike the "big bore" XTRs, but I don't know.

Thanks for your thoughts...

If you enjoyed reading about "How to recreate the wood finish on an older (mid '50s) Winchester?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
May 11, 2009, 11:08 AM
Matching the old Winchester red varnish color is difficult.

You might try this:

Or this:

Or this:

We covered Winchester lever-gun disassembly yesterday here:

Then there is this for post-64 94's.

The older pre-64 guns are somewhat different though. (Coil springs instead of flat springs)

Best to get the book I suggested.®


May 11, 2009, 04:01 PM
Thank you, rcmodel, for putting together those links for me. I appreciate it.

May 15, 2009, 08:58 AM
Brownell's also sells a product called French Red. It is very close to the old Winchester color. It has a lot of saw dust in it and fills the grain quickly.

PM me about bluing your butt plate. I can add it my next run of steel very cheaply.

May 15, 2009, 09:51 AM
You might want to look at also

May 17, 2009, 04:52 PM
It's pretty easy. Winchesters of that era were finished using a dip in oil based stain then topcoated with a spray of DuCo Lacuqer. DuCo was DuPont Company. You can recreate the feel and look with a spray can of semi-gloss lacquer. There will probably not be a need to add stain but use the appropriate color red oil based wood stain if needed.

Start on the bare area where the lacquer has flaked off. Take a rag with a splash of lacquer thinner and rub that area into the part that still has the lacquer topcoat. Unlike other wood finishes. Lacquer does not change chemically as it dries. You can take 60 year old lacquer and rub it with lacquer thinner and it will turn back into wet lacquer. So you are rubbing the bare spots blending them into the existing lacquer. Be careful not to rub too much on the bare area or you'll put off the stain and it will always be lighter there. In some cases this will pull enough lacquer onto the bare area so no extra finish need be applied. Usually at this stage I will topcoat the entire piece with Watco semi-gloos spray can lacquer. Allow to dry for 10 minutes and lightly steel wool.

I have refinished Winchesters this way and the stocks are literally undistinguishable from original. I have a few 50's Winchesters NIB condition to compare. Sometimes I have to think which ones have been resprayed.

Lacquer has a very distinctive feel in the hands. I'd not attempt any other finish than lacquer for this job even though other finishes are much more wear resistant. This technique will make your Winchester look "correct". Good luck.

May 20, 2009, 03:20 PM

Thanks for that advice. I will try your technique first next week. When I get done I will post some results w/photos.

I will need to pick up some lacquer thinner; at the moment I just have acetone on hand. That is my go-to organic solvent, but it's likely too strong for the lacquer and would prevent it from drying evenly if I used that.

May 21, 2009, 08:03 PM
As someone who has brought numerous old Winchesters (and other vintage sporting arms) back to life, let me offer my two cents worth.

I prefer not to strip or sand to the bare wood. To me that ruins a great piece of history.

I sand only enough to smooth out the varying layers of remaining finish. Use only 0000 steel wool and 600 grit sandpaper. That gets rid of excess and loose finish even though various layers will still exist when you are finished with this step.

Be prepared to be patient. This is not a 24 or 48 hour process.

The finish I most strongly recommend is Arrow Wood Product. You can Google it easily. Delivery will take a couple weeks. Follow the instructions and never put it on too thickly. Also, mightily resist the temptation to not wait as long as you need to between coats before sanding and polishing.

If you must have the pre-64 Winchester finish, it can be purchased through Galazan, now owned by the Connecticut Shotgun Company. I have used it successfully and it will make your new acquisition look like it should.

These two products are very close in the finish they produce.

Good luck but beware, this is addictive. You may end up doing 50 or 60 guns like I have.

And remember to work in a ventilated area. The fumes from this stuff can give you headaches that would make Jeff Cooper cry.

If you enjoyed reading about "How to recreate the wood finish on an older (mid '50s) Winchester?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!