Treating dry wood grips

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Griffen, Sep 10, 2022.

  1. Griffen

    Griffen Member

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    I just acquired a pistol on which the grips are very dry and in need of oiling or treating to preserve the wood. They are fully checkered and in need of a little cleaning, as well. What is a good process for cleaning and preserving the wood?

    I have used lemon oil on guitar fretboards, but I m thinking there might be a better protectant against moisture for a gun grip exposed to skin, pocket carrying, and humidity in general. I have never had to deal with this before. Thoughts, suggestions, personal experience are welcomed. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Pat Riot
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    Pat Riot Contributing Member

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    I have used Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean old, dry, dirty grips. Some folks say 3 parts Murphy’s to one part water. I used less soap. I wipe the grips down and use a soft toothbrush to clean checkering.
    I let the grips dry for a few days then I wiped them down with Boiled Linseed Oil.
    On one set of grips that had most of the finish worn off I used Tung Oil to seal the wood, but I should have completely stripped them first. I had tung oil dry in some of the checkering and it just looked tacky to me. Tacky as in crappy, not sticky.
    The boiled linseed oil didn’t really change the appearance of the grips much but helped seal them.
     
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  3. sgt127

    sgt127 Member

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    Post a pic to see what you’re talking about.

    is is old lacquer peeling off? Were they originally just oiled? (Rare). If they are Cocobolo, just a light cleaning and Polish back up with 0000 Steel wool.

    if there’s old finish coat left, gotta get it off. For old S&W grips, I do an acetone soak. Gets rid of dirt. Sweat, old oil, old lacquer and, I refinish them in Tung Oil.

    Old military grips can be rejuvenated with Boiled linseed oil.

    But, post a pic and I’ll tell you what “I” think I would do.

    Oil is generally not optimal as it may soften the wood. Just like leather, a little Neatsfoot oil is good. A soaking may wind up a soggy mess.
     
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  4. Mizar

    Mizar Member

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    Just be a little bit cautious, as acetone can lead to cracks in the wood if too much is applied.
     
  5. Hal

    Hal Member

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    I use Ballistol.
    Come to think of it - I use Ballistol on metal, wood and leather.
     
  6. Mizar

    Mizar Member

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    Ballistol is a mineral oil and as such it cannot polymerize - it will protect from moisture to some degree, but one should use it sparingly as too much will soften the wood.
     
  7. Tallball

    Tallball Member

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    I have repaired small damaged areas with boiled linseed oil and it worked fine. That's also what I use for wooden knife grips. I apply several coats, one per day for a few days, to the knife grips.

    An oil finish will eventually come off with just hot water and soap (that's why I use polyurethane on kitchen knives), but I'm reading the removal ideas with great interest.
     
  8. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    Assuming they aren't lacquered or varnished, a penetrating oil is what you want. BLO, Birchwood Casey Stock Finish, Tung, Danish, or any penetrating oil. These are not lubricating oils they're penetrating wood finishes. Just a dab will do you, and use a toothbrush to get it into, and then the excess wiped out of, the checkering.

    And get a new toothbrush.

    Don't soak in acetone, it'll do the same thing to the wood it'll do to your hands: it will dry it of all oils leaving it brittle and cracked. You can use a little to remove gummed up finish from the surface.
     
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  9. Griffen

    Griffen Member

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    Pics as suggested. The color is not nearly as dark as the pics make it seem. It’s a 1971 Colt Junior 25 ACP per the serial number. I’m pretty sure they are walnut.
    6E9FE538-FBCB-41E3-AD9C-C80C86442658.jpeg 66788587-A958-445A-96C1-5E85F490B966.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2022
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  10. shoobe01

    shoobe01 Member

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    As per Pat's comments, clean with careful cleaning agents (not solvents!) and use good wood cleaning soaps. You are more interesting in flushing than cleaning, so very little soap is good, and be sure it is ALL rinsed off. I deviate or add in:
    • Brush. Do NOT go too stiff, but brush out to get in the grooves, such as for the checkering, being careful to move directly along the cut line to clean but not further damage the wood.
    • Oil very soon. Air drying of water can cause problems for old wood.
    • I also do, as some others commented, Ballistol for these old and finely detailed ones. Linseed I find takes a lot more effort to keep from building up in the small grooves of checkering and we don't want oil stocks, with layers of the polymerized oil, but oiled stocks that are just treated wood alone.
    Indeed in the photo it looks like your stocks are not that dry. I have had some that made me thirsty just looking at them :) But do look like they could use some cleaning first, indeed. Nice looking metal, good find.
     
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  11. film495

    film495 Member

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    I don't have any that old, but for the most part - old grips that have somy poly or wood sealer on them are fine IMHO. I just wash old grips with lightly warm water and dish soap, rinse off good, maybe brush with a very soft toothbrush, and then use a similar soft brush to apply Ren wax. Those are very nice old grips, sometimes less is more. If you do wax them, the idea is to completely seal them, and the wood won't really age or dry out any more.
     
  12. bangswitch

    bangswitch Member

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    Must be something about old Colt automatics. My 1903's grips looked about the same. I took an old toothbrush and scrubbed them with Bri Wax, wiped off as much of it as I could, which took most of the dirt with it, then waxed them again. Didn't change the color, but they shed water like a duck now, and aren't sticky.
     
  13. BigBlue 94

    BigBlue 94 Member

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    Tung oil or danish oil. Wax the backs after the oil.

    These are some super dry grips... Dont think they have had anything but hand oils on em since 1897!
    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Griffen

    Griffen Member

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    Thanks, everyone, for the input. I think they need a good cleaning and a wax coating.
     
  15. sgt127

    sgt127 Member

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    Those look pretty good. Toothbrush. Sweep all the dust out of the checkering. Renaissance wax, Johnson’s paste wax. Even Neutral shoe wax will be fine.

    Then, 20 minutes in front of the TV picking all the lint from the polishing cloth out.
     
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  16. Mizar

    Mizar Member

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    What I would do - clean the grips as already suggested, without being too harsh on them - a little bit of 95% pure alcohol and scrubbing with an old toothbrush should be more than enough. Then get yourself some cheap painting brush and a bottle of Tru Oil (Danish oil is also fine) - something that polymerizes quick and has lots of additives. Put two-tree drops per grip and spread it evenly with the brush, making sure everything is soaked in the wood and no oil is left on the surface (really important!). If you put too much oil, then use a paper towel to remove the excess, but be quick. Do not apply more than 3 hands of the finish, as those oils contain varnish and it builds up quickly. That should give you an oiled finish look - it will darken the grips a little bit and bring out the grain, but done properly will not leave a layer of varnish on the surface of the wood. The so called "Boiled Linseed Oil" from a hardware store will also work - the cheapest you can get... Real pure BLO, although a rather fine oil for wood finishing, is just too slow to cure - takes ages... Just apply the above mentioned finishes in moderation and you will be fine.
     
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  17. Seedy Character

    Seedy Character Member

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    I concur, Mazar

    Soft, nylon or boar bristle brush

    Murphys oil soap

    Danish oil
     
  18. Rodfac

    Rodfac Member

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    Murphy's oil is a good enough cleaner used in conjunction with a soft bristled tooth brush for the checkering. After wiping down with alcohol to remover the soap residue, I've finished with multiple coats of tung oil thinned, till I achieved the depth of finish I was looking for. I like a soft, satin finish on all gun wood and tung oil, multiple coats allows me to get that just right. Minwax makes a good/great tung oil that's about good to go right out of the can without thinning...and it's compatible with their line of stain finishes.

    But for a truly excellent waterproof finish, inside and out, the Marine armorers at Camp Perry, back in the M1 Garand and M14 days used polyurethane, multiple coats inside and externally, then rubbed the exterior down with OOOO steel wool to get a dull, satin finish. It works and I used it for many years on my Garands and O3 Springfields in competition. Too, it's easy to touch up nicks and dings in a hunting rifle.

    Best regards, Rod

    Here's a pic of four Ruger Single Action's with stocks that I made and finished with tung oil.​

    Ruger-22-357-41-44-Spl.jpg
     
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  19. wcwhitey

    wcwhitey Member

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    I remove old finish by soaking in acetone, gently clean with a toothbrush and 000 Woolf. A coat or tung oil for darker woods or Linseed for lighter. Works nicely. Here a pic of a set of J Frame grips refitted to an older I Frame. They were scratched and dry and the old finish was cracked so they were a nice cheap candidate.

    However, those look nice, a gentle cleaning with Murphy’s is all you need. Another pic of some old Colt grips after a good cleaning with Murphy’s
     

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    Last edited: Sep 11, 2022
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  20. Griffen

    Griffen Member

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    Cleaned and waxed. Turned out nice I think and should repel moisture pretty well. 8087F0FA-F2E9-436D-AC20-09D0CAAA2CE3.jpeg
     
  21. Hal

    Hal Member

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    If it does come down to that - then just contact Ballistol since they recommend it for wood - they should make it right.
     
  22. Mizar

    Mizar Member

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    I'll say it again - Ballistol is a mineral oil. I don't care what Ballistol advertises, or what the German Imperial Army wanted in 1904. Mineral oils are just not the best choice for wood care. If you so insist on using Ballistol products, at least get yourself a bottle of Balsin Schaftöl (stock oil) which is a very decent quality boiled linseed oil.
     
  23. doubleh

    doubleh Member

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    I guess something is wrong with my eyes as those look pretty darn good in the picture. If they were mine I would brush them with a medium toothbrush, apply a little paste wax with a soft one, let the wax dry, and then brush again with the medium brush to remove the excess wax. No way would I put ballistol, no matter what the maker says, or any other brand of mineral oil on them. Mineral oil of any brand will only soften the wood.

    Wood needs to be dry to be stable. You don't build a gunstock, furniture, or a house with green wood. You want it to be moisture free and use a protectant to keep it that way.

    If, IF, I felt the need to do something other than the wax I would go with lacquer applied with an air brush in mist coats. Lacquer is high on the hardness scale of wood finishing products.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2022
  24. murf

    murf Member

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    i had the pleasure, a while ago, to refurbish ten garand rifles (see my avatar) for the yarnell az american legion. most all stocks were very dry and turning to sawdust. i poured and rubbed in lemon oil on all the furniture. i did this three or four times until the oil stopped soaking in. i haven't touched the stocks since.

    luck,

    murf
     
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  25. 357smallbore

    357smallbore Member

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    I use Scotts Liquid Gold. Been using it for 30yr.
    Makes your dried wood moisturized and treated through and through.
    I use it one a year on all my wood grips
     
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