Refinishing a Gunstock

There are some military surplus guns that should never be refinished because of collectibility issues but there are also some that the owner of the gun might want to refinish for his/her own pleasure. This method can also be used for today's modern sporting rifles. The only difference in methodology is that the modern gun is usually coated with a polyurethane or other varnish type coating rather than soaked in gallons of wood oil. These modern guns will need to be stripped with common "furniture stripper" concoctions to get through this plastic layer before any oil leeching or wood stain leeching can be done with the method used to refinish an old military surplus gunstock.

My method of refinishing a Military surplus rifle stock...

Step one...Get the oil out , the finish off and the major dents out.

1 - Soak with oven cleaner that contains Lye...Repeat and Repeat again with Rinses in HOT water between...If oil still seems to seep out (brownish color still showing when sprayed with oven cleaner) then we will need step 2!

After rinsing, fill the bathtub with HOT water and soak the stock for one hour...After the hour, feel for dents still evident.
Cover dents with wet towel and use a HOT iron to lift the dents...hold the iron on the dent so you hear the steam from the towel driving into the wood...Lift the iron before the towel dries out!...repeat as needed on all dents....NOTE...Areas where the wood fibres are broken will not be fixed by this method...Those areas must be sanded out or filled somehow.

Now the stock must be SLOWLY dried...5 days is recommended inside...Basement if you have one...Drying too fast could warp or even crack the stock.

2 - if needed...Doesn't hurt either way...OUTSIDE ONLY...Soak the stock with Lacquer thinner and then dry off with a cloth...keep doing it until you are either very dizzy or you are sure that no oil remains in the wood...No matter how dizzy you get, do not light a cigarette...Not good!
Catch your breath and do it some more!
Now you can dry it again...2-3 days is good...If it reeks of thinner, keep it outside for the first day.

3 - Sanding time...Start with nothing coarser than 100 grit or you will never get the sanding scratches out!...Use a pencil eraser for a sanding block EVERYWHERE....Sand and sand again...get out all imperfections with the 100 grit...3 or 4 sheets of paper will be used in tiny little pieces!
Follow with 150, then 180 and then 220 paper...This should take about 6 hours MINIMUM or you will still have scratches from the previous grits...Take your time...This is the hard part. The use of the sanding block is imperative to avoid a wavy feel of the finished stock.

4 - Its finish time...This is what you need...Nothing else or I just wasted a lot of time writing this...
Varathane #66 Natural Oil Finish and a little bit of Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO)...
Wet&Dry paper grits 320, 400, 600 (800 if you really want to go nuts...1000 and 1500 for retards like me).

First coat...BLO and varsol (Paint Thinner) mixed 50/50...Strictly for penetration...Slap it on and sand it into the wood with 320 paper until it "slurry's" into a slush and then wipe that off ACROSS the grain with paper towels...Keep slapping on BLO and sanding it in until you have done the stock 2 -3 times with 320...
Let dry ONE WEEK (BLO dries slow but that's what we want here...penetration!)

Now the Varathane #66...This dries fast!...2 coats a day can be done on the weekends!

Stay with the 320 grit...slurry and wipe...Object here is to make the slurry fill the grain pores and dry there...after a multitude of coats the pores will seem filled....Repeat with 400 grit...same thing, over and over for about a week...It will start looking good now!...Go with 600 grit...by now you should have a pretty nice looking stock but keep going! When this step is done you should have a low level sheen with no oil buildup...The shine is in the wood because the pores are filled.
If you want to keep going that's good!

When you get to the 800 and above grits you can now "polish" by sanding in circles...still wipe off the slurry across the grain though...You will slowly get a glass like finish.

5 - Let dry for a week (2 is better)
Protect with a fine furniture wax that contains lots of carnauba.. 2 coats will do fine.
Now you have refinished a stock like a pro and will never think back that you should have "sanded that little area more".

A word of caution...
Dispose of any paper towels and rags soaked with either the Varathane finish or BLO very carefully...Oil soaked rags like this are susceptible to spontaneous combustion!!!


Cheers.