black walnut finishing

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old ugly

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my new flintlock pistol stock is black walnut. I have in the past just linseed oiled black walnut but I was wondering about a stain before the linseed. is that something that is done?
thanks
tom
 

LawrenceA

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Can be done. There is Black walnut and black walnut. It takes a stain well. I liked using golden oak on walnut as it gave a reddish gold hue that appeals to me.
I know others use a yellow especially if the natural wood has a purplish tinge.
I even use tea to bring out the figure and add a ever so slight brown.

Yiu can always try a bit somewhere hidden before going whole hog
 

tenngun

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I’ve always got very dark finish using oil on walnut. If I used a stain to get the reddish it even gets darker. I don’t know why, but I’ve never got the pretty red that many get off of walnut.
I’ve never worked in European walnut.
 

old ugly

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the stock blank came from TOW im uncertain of the type of walnut but I found a discard pc and will do some tests. id like to make it faily dark but not dirty looking.
thanks
tom
 

dave_person

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Hi,
If you use the search function and search for "finishing black walnut" the result is many posts on the topic. It is one discussed very often on this forum.

dave
 

TXFlynHog

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EC9F2749-5C98-4311-9C9D-5099ED0D517B.jpeg
Here’s my kit first build -in American Walnut. Following Dave’s advice on another post, I used yellow Aniline dye, followed by a light sanding to bring down the fuzzies that it raised, then finished with Tru-Oil (Dave preferred a diff oil). The yellow dye lightened the darker wood nicely to my eye, and brought out what little grain this piece of wood has in it.

I’m happy with the result.
 

dave_person

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Hi,
You really turned your black walnut pistol stock into an English walnut stock. Well done. Below are photos of an English walnut stock so you can see how close you came.



dave
 

old ugly

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after reading through the previous past threads and posts i need to go and reset my brain. so many ideas.
thanks
tom
 

Artificer

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Hi,
You really turned your black walnut pistol stock into an English walnut stock. Well done. Below are photos of an English walnut stock so you can see how close you came.



dave
Dave,

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but just wanted to see if you stained that stock at all? Looks to me like you used little or no stain?

Gus
 

oldwood

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In the early 1980's , I was making myself a new deer rifle. Went to a local military surplus warehouse and picked out a new in British #4 mark 1 pattern .303 cal. service rifle. These were covered in cosmoline grease , cost $55 new . I stripped the stock w/ acetone to get down to the wood and what a surprise. The butt stock had the most magnificently colored English walnut wood. The colors were basically orange , yellow, and light tan. A tri-color show stopper . Over the years I've always tried to use those colors on English.
A number of English walnut m/l stocks have passed from my work bench. The colors mentioned go best w/brass parts.
As far as black walnut , here in Pa., there a number of colors of wood seen. To my view , to slap a coat or two of typical dark brown stain on a piece of walnut is shameful. That stuff from the 1950's , was made to hide white cambium layer wood in military gun stocks to get the wood passed the inspectors @ the factory. I urge you to be innovative and try some yellow or orange stain especially on highly figured wood. Another trick I've never used, but others have used on plain too black color walnut is to bleach it and apply yellow , orange or red stain for an unusual effect...
Just my opinion....oldwood
 
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TXFlynHog

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Hi,
You really turned your black walnut pistol stock into an English walnut stock. Well done. Below are photos of an English walnut stock so you can see how close you came.



dave
Thank you Dave. I couldn’t have done it without your sage advice!
 

Artificer

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after reading through the previous past threads and posts i need to go and reset my brain. so many ideas.
thanks
tom
I think the biggest problem folks have staining ANY type of gun stock wood is they don't understand you have to do something to ensure you don't get blotchy spots in some areas. Those areas are the end grain of the wood.

Now I'm not referring to just the area under the butt plate and nose cap, but ANYWHERE there is a curved surface OR where the end grain comes out. Where you see most blotchy spots is the curved area of the wrist and the butt portion of the stock ahead of the comb and the underside of the butt.

I'm going to quote Dave next:

"In the first photo I stain the stock with a dilute black aniline dye dissolved in water. This is part of my whiskering and scratch removal process but the black color remains in the open pores after scraping it all off. That black color highlights the grain and give an old mellow look. After scraping off the black, I paint it with pure yellow aniline dye. "

What Dave is ALSO doing by using the black aniline dye, he is sealing the pores of the end grain at least a little bit and enough so that when he uses light yellow dye, it doesn't leave blotchy areas when he paints on the yellow dye.

Since 1973, I have refinished and stained many hundreds of walnut stocks and handguards on military arms. Also a fair number of birch and to a lesser extent maple. I've learned a lot about staining stocks and handguards to "match in color," but by far the biggest thing is you have to fill the pores of the wood (especially the end grain) or you are going to get blotches in the wood. That's because the end grain, in particular, soaks up the stain much deeper, if you don't use something to seal it first.

I actually learned how important it is to fill the end grain and all pores from a reprint of an 1822 book on finishing furniture that had techniques going back to the 17th and18th centuries. Make no mistake, the only way they got all the boards/lumber to match in the high end furniture was to STAIN the wood so everything matched in color. The Key Trick, though, was they used a coat of shellac or another period "filler" and then they sanded the surface down to where the shellac or filler remained just in the pores of the wood.

Up to that time, the only way I could get the stock and one or two handguards to match was stain everything so dark, the pieces finally matched. As Dave and others have mentioned, we don't want to do that on ML stocks, as it hides the figure of the wood.

As a Lad and in my early years of learning gun work, I read a lot about using "french red" or red or black fillers on walnut, though I confess I did not understand why it was done, most of it at the time. They did it for the same reason Dave uses the black aniline dye and scrapes it all off the surface of the wood after he applies it.

I'm going to end this here, so I don't lose it and will continue in my next post.

Gus
 

dave_person

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Hi Gus,
On that example in the photo, the English walnut stock was stained with dilute black dye, which was rubbed off completely during the whiskering process. Then I applied alkanet root stain because the wood had a slight gray-brown hue that you often see in English walnut. That warmed the color up a lot without really darkening or painting over the original wood color. The finish applied was also tinted slightly with alkanet root to further give a reddish tint to the stock, but only a hint. The other key to this stock was the way I applied finished it (Sutherland-Welles polymerized tung oil). I applied the oil with 220 grit sandpaper, sanding the stock until I obtained a slurry of oil and saw dust on the surface. I let that dry overnight and then sanded it off smooth. The slurry becomes a filler for the grain with the exact same color as the wood. After filling the grain, only a few sparse coats of finish are needed to complete the job. Below are photos of another gun stocked in English walnut and finished the same way. The wood had a lot of figure and I used more concentrated alkanet root stain.



Below is a black walnut stock stained with yellow dye to look more like the warmth of English walnut. It was a dark walnut originall so I could not lighten it very much but the yellow eliminated the cold purple-brown black walnut color completely and gave it a much redder and warmer color.



I always have well defined objectives for each gun I build and that includes the color and finish of the stock. Staining wood of course is always a bit of a gamble because each stock is different but I have an arsenal of tricks to give me most of what I want from any piece of wood be it walnut, cherry, maple, beech, or some fruitwood. For example, I am currently at work on an early pattern Brown Bess. I am going to experiment with final finishing the wood using only spare use of scrapers but heavy use of a fine file. I am going to restrict my time working on that finish, deliberately working fast. I won't finish the stock using any slurry filler, just file finish and then oil-varnish. I believe the result will look very close to the original muskets.
dave
 
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Artificer

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I never had experience using aniline dyes, so I can't speak to their use.

Before I get into dyes/stains, I learned to use Birchwood Casey's Tru Oil something like Dave Person uses the Black aniline dye. For quite a while, I've used one "Plus" coat of Tru Oil as the initial filler coat for the pores of the wood BEFORE using dye/stain. What that means is I rub all the Tru Oil the stock will handle and hang it up where dust can't get to it. Then about 20 minutes later, I go back and rub in more where the pores have soaked up the oil the most. When done, it is pretty much filled and "tacky" over the whole surface of the stock. I let that dry at least 12 to 24 hours, though if hung outside when there is no wind, that time is much shorter. Then I scrape or sand the surface back to the bare wood in preparation for dyeing/staining.

The 17th - early 19th century texts kept referring to "spirit" stains and I sheepishly admit it took some time for me to figure out they meant alcohol based stains. However, the little information provided on making the stains did not seem near complete enough to use. Finally I figured out that the Spirit or Alcohol based stains I used for leather might work on wood as well. Bottom line, they worked to an excellent degree.

One of the first "spirit" stains I used was Dixie's Stain, linked below. I did not realize it at first, but it is a special formula made for Dixie by Fiebings. While it worked very well in staining, it had WAY too much Red color in it. Even a thinned coat made the walnut look like it was Sun Burnt. I wound up mixing it with a really dark brown stain and it looked like the stuff they put on G.I. Birch stocks and handguards. Bottom line, DON'T buy it for a ML gun

There is one Fiebings Stain that I probably use 90% of the time on walnut and that is Fiebings Medium Brown Stain. It has just the right "hint of red" that gives a very pleasing tone to the wood. (DON'T buy the Light Brown Stain as it has NO Red in it and DON'T buy the Dark Brown Stain as it also doesn't seem to have any Red in it and it must be "thinned down" way too much to use on gun stocks.) For a ML stock, I recommend one part Medium Brown Stain to 2 or 3 parts (by volume) of alcohol and mix well before staining. Better to "build up" the color with additional coats where you need it than to make it too dark all at once. However, a wad of paper towels dampened with alcohol or Acetone will easily remove too much stain, where needed and you can try again. Yep, had to do that a few times over the years.

I sometimes use Fiebings British Tan dye on some stocks and have used some of their Yellow and Red dyes in very small quantities mixed in other dyes when needed as well. But for most folks, I suggest you stay with Fiebings Medium Brown dye.

Shake it up VERY WELL before you open it and mix small batches of 1 part or tablespoon of stain to 2 parts or tablespoons of alcohol and/or another thinner mix of 1 part stain to 3 parts alcohol if your wood is naturally kind of on the dark side of color - but has some lighter spots in it. (USE Rubber or Vinyl gloves so you don't get dye/stain on your hands that won't come off for two or three days.) Try the smaller batch of dye/alcohol mix and use full strength dye on any super light spots. You can add more coats and blend the color as needed. Watch the color before it dries and you can easily learn to judge close to what it will look like when dry.

I prefer to put the stock outside in the sunlight for half an hour and let it bake, though wait at least that long if indoors to say an hour or more - to allow the stain to thoroughly dry. Then I take an old/rag terrycloth dish rag or dish towel and rub the stock down VERY HARD all over the surface. This will take a little stain off, but that's a good thing. Take it OUTSIDE in the sun to ensure the color is the same all over the stock. If it is, then you can begin to apply your finish. If not, then you can add more stain where needed. If the color is too dark, you can remove some or all the finish by wetting a wad of paper towels in Alcohol or Acetone and starting over.

Gus
 

oldwood

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I hate to further muddy the waters on staining , but just can't resist... Looking at old rifles and breaking down colors on them , one of the prime colors is black , then the rest like yellow , orange , red. can be part of the finished colors.
I put black first. The amount the 100% black is diluted W/ 90% rubbing alcohol depending on how hard the wood is. Soft wood might require stain to be diluted to 50% or even 25% strength. Hard wood might take full strength black for desired . Test on wood slivers for accuracy.
The colored stains can be mixed to infinite shades of reds , orange, yellow and all in between. Once shade is reached . apply the final desired color last.
When staining beginning w/black , since i'm impatient , I dry stains between coats w/ heat gun , or hair dryer will work. Once dry to touch , steel wool w/ OOOO . until smooth to remove whiskers.. Adjust the dark level . To lighten, apply straight 90% alcohol to wood . To darken , more black stain , w/more heat gun to dry , and steel wool.
Same treatment for the color stain. Stain , heat gun 'til dry, steel wool and more stain if desired , etc... Once the stock appearance is ok , put the first coat of penetrating finish on the warm wood. It's best to look @ the stain colors using natural light or incandescent light , and not florescent light. Heat gun to dry , etc. .
I buy Fiebings stains , by the qt. from Leather Unlimited , Belgium Wis.....oldwood
 

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