Refinishing Question

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Jun 16, 2006
hey all,

So I'm looking at refinishing my first stock. From what I've been reading, it seems like most people suggest a chemical peeler to get the current (and old) finish off the wood, then using a damp rag and iron to get out any minor imperfections, followed by sand paper, and then oil.

is that the jist of it? if so, my question are : what do you use as a chemical for stripping it down?, do you sand with the grain or in small circles?, what kind and how do you apply the oil?

I'm trying to lighten the stock a bit, not blonde by any means, but a natural matte finish is what i'm after.... any suggestions?

thanks for the help
What you use to clean off the old finish kinda depends on what kind of finish is has on it now. If it has some sort or varnish or clear coat on it, you can use just about any kind of finish stripper made for wood. I know Wal-Mart and most Home Improvement stores have a citrus-based stripper that will do a good job. Basically brush it on the stock, let it soak the amount of time called for on the instructions and then take some fine steel wool to it to strip it all off........................repeat if necessary to get all the old finish off.

The steel wool it a good way to start prepping the surface for the new finish, but if the wood needs heavier work, then by all means go for the sandpaper - but don't get too aggressive with the grit until you see how it's working. BTW - ALWAYS sand with the grain of the wood!!!

As far as how to finish it - a lot depends on what kind of look you want. If you want a thick or glossy look, then you'll end up applying some sort of varnish. If you want more of a light and natural look, you might want to go with a military style, sealing the wood with Tung and/or boiled linseed oil.

I went the military route a few years ago on a stock for an old Win Model 100 and it came out looking marvelous. Here's a link that you can go see some step by step pics I took of the process, just look in the 2 Refinishing Project albums -
Just about any stripper will work unless its one of the newer stocks with the plastic like finish on it than Brownells sells a stripper just for it. After steaming and sanding I use OOOO steel wool to go over the stock if its going to be a hunting rifle than I just finish it with Sea-finn teak oil, if its going to be a fancy stock I burnish it with another piece of similar wood before finishing. Here is a link to some other ways of finishing stocks.
As far as lightening the wood goes, you pretty much can't do that short of using an AB type bleach on the wood. The wood might appear lighter if the old finish has darkened with age but you can't, for instance, put Light Oak stain on black walnut and expect it to look lighter than the walnut itself.
Since you won't be putting a stain on, I would suggest starting with 220 grit and sanding with the grain go up to 400 grit. If you want the ultimate surface for wax or oil finish, look into wood scrapers. If you look at wood that has been sanded under a microscope you'll see that it's a pretty fuzzy mess. Scrapers shear the surface flat and really allow the grain and subtleties of the wood to shine through. You can use single edged razors pulled backwards in a pinch. Take your time with the oil finish. If you rush it you can get a gummy mess.
thanks for all the advice so far. i should've mentioned the gun is just an old mosin 91/30, so i'm hoping once i get all the shelack and other goo off of it there will be some lighter wood under there.

so once i have it stripped and then brushed/sanded, i can just pick a light color oil and rub it in? the wood should absorb it so it will be protected and not sticky right? this mosin does go hunting on occasion, so it does get exposed to plenty of moisture.

thanks again
Once you get it stripped and you find you would like to lighten the wood a bit more, you can scrubb it with acetone and steel wool (wear gloves when you do this). At first this will almost make the wood look white, but once you wipe it down with a damp cloth it'll be fine. That is what I did with my stock, then I lightly rubbed in some stock stain I got from Brownell's that was suppossed to simiulate a military finish.

At that point I started hand-rubbing it with about a dozen coats of tung oil (drying between each coat) and then about a dozen hand-rubbed coats of Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO), again let dry between coats. After that, to make sure the wood grain was sealed, I mixed a slurry of equal parts BLO, Homer Formby's Lemon Oil, and Birchwood Casey Stock Wax and hand-rubbed it several more times.

After that, if the stock ever looks "dry" with time, rub some more BLO and/or stock wax on it and it's good to go.

An alternate to all the hand-rubbing work is to use a Tung oil "finish" rather than just pure tung oil. I think Minwax and Homer Formby's both market the finish - it's basically like applying a light staining varnish........... a coat or two and you're done. This will give a glossier finish - similiar to the "plastic" coating koginam mentioned that comes on some newer rifles.
last question: will BLO put a smoothe matte finish on the wood and seal/protect it?
BLO will seal the grain of the wood.....................but not like a varnish or other thick coating. It will look and feel about like naked wood - but the grain will be sealed. I don't consider it an "apply once and forget it" finish though - it would be best (especially if used often) to rub another coat or two of BLO or just some stock wax once or twice a year anyway just to make sure it stays sealed.
Think of an oil-finished stock like a fine or antique needs an occasion polishing to maintain the health and look of the wood.
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