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Refinishing an old firearm stock enables one to remove or repair damages and
enhance its appearance. There is also that 'I did it' factor that makes it
fun. Some firearms though just are not meant to be tampered with. I have a
model 89 Marlin in .38-.40 that would be greatly devalued if I changed it.
Beside that it was handed down to me and I have no desire to erase any of its
history. If I really wanted to I could restock it and keep the old (unchanged)
stock in a safe place.
Before I ever built my first rifle stock I had tried refinishing one first. In
fact I refinished that stock more than once. Not because it saw that much use
between times but because it took that long (for me) to get it right. I think
good that I had achieved an idea of how much work would be involved
before tackling a semi-inletted blank. If asked, I would advise learning on a
lower value firearm before building or refinishing that prize family treasure.
Sand Paper or Chemical
All stocks I have stripped have been done the old fashioned way. Lots of
sand paper, time and care in retaining the stocks' original lines and general
shape. Today there are chemicals available to ease your efforts and help
preserve the stocks original form. Currently, I have no experience with these
for removing old gun stock finish.
Jack Crawford Gunstocks
does and the next time I strip a stock I will follow his direction.
I will proceed as if we are sanding to the bare wood.
Removing Stock Components
Before stripping the wood remove all action components (barrel band,
barreled action, floor plate, etc.).
A grip cap, forend tip, butt plate, recoil pad, and sling studs may be part
of the stock to be stripped. Remove sling studs. The pistol grip cap
and recoil pad may be permanent attachments (bonded to the stock), in which
case they must remain. However, most recoil pads that appear to be bonded
actually are not. The recoil pad may have two tiny slots hiding screw holes.
You must pull on the edges of the recoil pad to see them. Unless your stock is
Mannlicher in style or has a barrel band, the forend tip, if one, is probably
Sling studs should always be removed since they prevent proper sanding where
they are attached. If
made of metal or if not thinly coated, I prefer leaving the grip cap, forend
tip and butt plate, including recoil pad, on the stock. This is the best
way of keeping the stock lines level with the parts. If removed
rounding of edges is possible. Also, the wood may end up lower than the part
it mates to.
I do not worry about sanding on these parts but am careful to retain their
original form and only use fine grit paper around and on them. Upon completion
the stock is masked with tape where it mates with these parts. You can then
carefully buff layers of oil finish off and sanding marks out with fine grit
sand paper and steel wool. If these parts are of blued, anodized or plated
metal or if coated plastic
take them off
. If they can not be removed, mask them with tape. I use masking tape,
taking care to replace it as it wears. In such instances work carefully with
fine grit paper around such areas so not to remove too much wood. You do not
want the parts higher than the wood they mate to.
Parts of solid brass such as a muzzle loader
can be left on and sanded as if part of the wood. This keeps the parts level
with the wood . Polishing deep scratches out of metal requires a lot of elbow
grease so use the finest grit paper as practical for the job.
Start out with a relatively fine grit
- say 220 grit and use a
wherever permissable. Go to the next courser size if needed. The object is to
remove the finish without cutting too much wood. The finest grit that works
well for you is the one you want. Work carefully around checkering
borders so not to flatten the points of the diamonds. If some become
damaged they can later be pointed up with an inexpensive checkering tool that
can be purchased from such places as
. It is important though to damage the diamonds as little as possible since
pointing them also deepens them. This causes the diamonds that you point to be
lower than the diamonds in the rest of the pattern. You could point up
the entire pattern, and you may want to, but cutting the pattern too deep will
cause it to be lower than the wood bordering it. Also, go slowly with the
checkering tool. Just about the time you think it's really working well is
about when it slips outside the pattern and scars the stock. I
would not point any diamonds until all sanding is complete and the stock grain
has been filled.
Once all finish is removed nicks, scratches and dings can be attended to. All
these can be sanded out if they are not so deep as to alter the shape of the
stock and if they are not in places that mate with another component (floor
plate, grip cap, butt plate, etc.). Such damage can be filled with epoxy. I
do not like using the fast drying ones that are bought at the local department
store. I use glass bedding epoxy sold by Brownells, specifically their
original Acraglas. It comes with a packet of brown dye that can be used to
help match it to the stock. Just a tiny amount will make it deep brown, so
experiment first. A perfect match is highly unlikely since you won't know the
exact shade of wood until the finish is applied. Another way to match the
color is to mix wood dust from the stock with the epoxy. Once any exterior
finish has been removed, save dust from sanding the area to be filled. Mix
generously with the epoxy but
include any dye. The flock (fiber glass)
that comes with the kit is for added
strength and is not used for surface repairs. I like to sand the stock smooth,
removing all unwanted shallow marks, before filling deep problems with epoxy.
It's really just a matter of choice I suppose and since the epoxy is so much
harder than wood it may be better to apply it before sanding much wood off
first. Regardless, remove the old finish before repairing the damage. Since
the epoxy will soak into the grain keep it off other areas of the stock,
otherwise it will have to be sanded out or these areas will be discolored. Allow
the epoxy to cure before sanding. With Acraglas this will take at least 24
hours. If upon sanding the repaired area air holes appear in the epoxy two
things can be done. If the hole is not too small it can be filled with
more epoxy. Or, if not too large it can be filled during the wet sanding
procedures to follow.
Mashed wood can be raised with a hot iron. Soak only that area with hot water
and apply a hot iron. Buffer the iron from the wood with some paper. This
does not work well on gauges.
After the old finish has been removed and deep damage filled it is time to
smooth the stock with fine grit paper. This will remove shallow marks,
scratches, etc. and prepare the stock for wet sanding. A 220 grit paper is as
coarse as I would start with moving down to 320 or 400 grit for the final
Grits of 400 will be used during wet sanding, to follow.
sand in the direction of the grain. If not, sanding marks and
wiskers will show after applying finish. Sheen enhances
imperfections. Watch to see how the grain
runs. Highly figured woods can have grain running in various directions. It
often runs one way and curls to another in different areas of the wood. This
makes your job more time consuming but well worth the extra work.
Painting the stock with mineral spirits will highlight the stock by temporarily
bringing out color and figure and help locate areas that need additional work.
Mineral spirits will evaporate without leaving additional moisture behind. Do
not allow water or water based liquids to contact the bare wood prior to