Boiled linseed oil vs raw linseed oil

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I was told that the military used raw linseed oil to finish rifles like the M1 Garand, 1903 Springfield, and others. I like the idea of going military standard to get a hard wearing, dull finish for a hunting rifle.

I am curious what experienced rifle builders have to say.
 
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Also, I been watching YouTube videos on finishing gun stocks. I don't see anyone using stain or finish on the wood where it is inletted for the lock and barrel. That seems wrong, rainwater would get in there and cause the wood to swell, affecting accuracy I am sure. So does one do alot of sanding to keep the metal to wood fit in those areas when applying the finish?
 

Ironoxide

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Ok, I'm by no means an expert. I re-finished a couple of original stocks and I'm in the final bit of finishing one from new.

However, in the process of educating myself I read few good books written by widely acknowledged experts. I suggest you read at least "Gunstock Finishing and Care" by Donald Newell. If you're having trouble finding a copy there is an electronic one floating on the Internet. It has been written in 1949 so it may be out of copyright. Pm me for the link.

Coming back to your question.

I don't know if the military ever used raw linseed oil. I'm not sure why would they choose to do such a thing when it may have been known adding small amounts of certain metal salts makes it dry a lot faster. Also operations such as boiling, storing in sunlight, even simply storing it outside thicken raw oil and consequently make it dry faster.

I don't know who was the first person to invent which metal salts to use as driers, but we know inks used in ancient Rome were based on linseed (and other drying oils). Painters have used it for a very long time. Also painters use various metal salts as colors (lead white, for example). It was probably discovered many times that mixing some of those salts in makes the oil dry much much quicker.

Additionally I read somewhere (so it may be conjecture) some old French muskets were dried for 14-21 days after dipping. I'm not sure this is enough time for raw oil to dry.

Now, let's address the practicality of using raw linseed oil in modern times. There is literally none. I was told it takes a very, very long time for raw linseed oil to dry. It is possible for it to remain tacky for years. While with boiled linseed oil, you only have to wait few days between coats (if you have a warm box, or live in a warm place - in winter it may be a different story). Once boiled linseed oil polymerises(dries) it is exactly the same thing as if raw oil was allowed time to dry. The only difference is minute presence of those metal salts mentioned before.

Personally I would never use, nor recommend raw linseed oil to anyone. This is advice I read repeatedly in many places.

Also, on subject of use of any form of linseed oil. If your desire is to have simple milsurp-type finish. Few coats will do. That's exactly what I did on one of my plain original guns.

However, if you want to achieve any kind of "depth" in your finishing be ready for it to take months before you have enough coats of boiled linseed (or years if using raw linseed) to achieve any depth.

Rubbed dull finish can be achieved quite easily with modern varnishes (Gunstock specific ones - some swear by tru-oil, or even generic ones like good quality oil based polyurethane).

Also regarding sealing of inletting and other essential places of a stock regardless of final finish choice, I read about, and I used a method myself where one takes a modern oil based polyurethane, thins it with mineral spirits to consistency of water. Then one applies it as the very first thing (after staining, if one stains the wood) to the whole stock with a brush liberally. The goal being for it to soak into wood. One keeps brushing it on as it soaks in until the wood will not take any more of it. Then the surface is wiped clean with a rag. Once it dries, the wood is sanded lightly where other finishes will be applied later and left as is in inletted areas. Assuming good type of varnish was used (for example a marine spar varnish) the wood shood be sealed from effects of moisture and any other compatible finish can be applied on top.

More coats of modern poly can be applied (with light sanding in between coats) to achieve depth, then one can finish with boiled linseed. Alternatively one can polish modern varnish to look like linseed and be much more elements resistant.

There are other things to consider too, which finish is more applicable, are we restoring an original (I wouldn't use a modern varnish despite its superiority IMO), or is it a modern repro? Will the gun see a lot of use in harsh conditions(modern varnish!). Or will it seat in a safe, or a presentation box and be gently pulled out once a year to admire (boiled linseed?). Etc.

No doubt you'll get many more replies from people using both :) I recommend you read the book I mentioned too.
 

Many Klatch

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If you mix Linseed Oil with 1/3 by volume Turpentine and 1/3 Vinegar you will get a much faster drying agent to put on your stocks. Shake it before each use and rub it in.

I was told to use this mix once a day for a week, then once a week for a month and then once a month for a year to get that deep finish. Rub it in until it gets warm.

Be careful, rags with Linseed Oil on them can self ignite if left wadded up. Best to dispose of them after use, outside in a metal container or burn them.
 

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I was told that the military used raw linseed oil to finish rifles like the M1 Garand, 1903 Springfield, and others. I like the idea of going military standard to get a hard wearing, dull finish for a hunting rifle.

I am curious what experienced rifle builders have to say.
OK, every so often it seems we have to dispell many of the myths about Springfield Armory and HOW they used Raw Linseed Oil and why they used it.

It was NOT because it was/is a hard wearing, nor even water resistant finish. It is neither of those things. It doesn't even slow down water vapor and hardly slows down water passing back and forth through it.

It was WELL known that adding "driers" and resin to linseed oil made a superior gun stock finish throughout the 18th century and before Springfield ever opened its doors.

Springfield DID order large quantities of Raw Linseed Oil throughout the years until it closed in 1968, BUT almost no one ever checked on the other chemicals and sometimes resins they also ordered and put in the heated Linseed Oil. This made it TRUE Boiled Linseed Oil and not the garbage sold at hardware stores.

In the Post WWI Era and beyond where there are more records extant, unfortunately it was reported they used the Raw Linseed Oil, BUT didn't mention they had added at least the chemical driers.

It was said they dipped 03 stocks in Raw oil once a day for four or five days and set them in the rack each day to dry, without doing anything else. Don't even think about trying that as you will wind up with a thick gooey MESS on the stock and will have to strip it back down, if you do so. They did dunk the stocks in the treated oil and wiped them down each day with a rag before putting them in the rack, but that's not the way it was almost always described.

When the M1 Garand came around, they tried using the oil " heated and treated" with driers or more accurately TRUE Boiled Linseed oil, as they had long since done. During rapid test firing, the rear handguards actually caught fire from the heat of the barrel. So they switched to using "China Oil" or Tung Oil that was also heated and treated with chemical driers. That stopped the handguards from catching fire.

However, once the war got going, their access to Tung Oil dried up, so they had to go back to using a new concoction of Raw Linseed Oil and driers and resins, so the handguards would not catch fire. It seems they stuck with that till the end of production.

Now, any of us Old [email protected] who went through Boot Camp with the Garand or M14 can tell you about sitting outside on an upside down galvanized bucket and rubbing either Raw or Commercial Boiled Oil into the stocks. We only took a drop of two and rubbed and rubbed it in each spot till it was almost dry to the touch, then we moved to another section of the stock and continued for hours until we had gone over the whole stock. Yes, it made the stocks "prettier," but that's about all it did.

What we DIDN'T know was the primary reason they had us do that had to do with the fact Linseed Oil never completely dries out for many decades. The idea was the outside surface of the stocks would not dry out too much and crack because of it.

If you want a hard wearing finish, then you should use a polymerized Tung Oil or polymerized Linseed oil finish or at least Birchwood Casey's Tru Oil. Now these dry too shiny for most folks, even though that's how good 18th century finishes actually looked, but that's no problem at all.

Get the GREY Scotchbrite Abrasive Pads from the Hardware store and lightly rub the stock down with that until the whole surface looks a little cloudy. Then get out an old terry cloth towel and rub the dickens out of the stock until you see the soft sheen most folks like. Normally this takes only a half hour to an hour to do the entire stock, if that long.

Gus
 
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Old Hawkeye

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Raw linseed oil, NEVER!!! Boiled linseed oil is a base for many finishes, but without the proper dryers, hardeners, & other additives it is a very poor choice. There are many good over the counter BLO based gunstock finishes available that will give you a good finish with relative ease. Arrow Oil & Linspeed are two that come to mind. I make my own using a formula containing BLO, Gum Spirits, Venice Turpentine, & Carnauba Wax cooked at about 200 degrees for 20 minutes. A good oil finish should fill the pores, harden, & provide a water barrier. Why would you want to use an obsolete method & get inferior results???
 

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I have been using the Mini Wax polymer filled stains lately with good results. They are available in a good range of colors. The grain is filled in a couple of coats, then just oil finish as usual. I do the inside of the inletting as well as the outside of the stock, and get some pretty good waterproofing as well. I find Watco furniture oil finish works well over the stain, hand rubbed in til warm to the touch.
 

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I was in the USMC in the 60's we used linseed oil on our rifle stocks , some of us found True Oil and used that, the Inspecting officer knew we used other than linseed and made us redo our stocks with linseed
I still hand rub it into my stocks
 

Old Hawkeye

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I was in the USMC in the 60's we used linseed oil on our rifle stocks , some of us found True Oil and used that, the Inspecting officer knew we used other than linseed and made us redo our stocks with linseed
I still hand rub it into my stocks
Why???? I was in the Corp as well, but I knew stupid when I saw it. Some idiot inspecting officer is still dictating what you do 60 years later???????
 

PathfinderNC

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Ok, I'm by no means an expert. I re-finished a couple of original stocks and I'm in the final bit of finishing one from new.

However, in the process of educating myself I read few good books written by widely acknowledged experts. I suggest you read at least "Gunstock Finishing and Care" by Donald Newell. If you're having trouble finding a copy there is an electronic one floating on the Internet. It has been written in 1949 so it may be out of copyright. Pm me for the link.

Coming back to your question.

I don't know if the military ever used raw linseed oil. I'm not sure why would they choose to do such a thing when it may have been known adding small amounts of certain metal salts makes it dry a lot faster. Also operations such as boiling, storing in sunlight, even simply storing it outside thicken raw oil and consequently make it dry faster.

I don't know who was the first person to invent which metal salts to use as driers, but we know inks used in ancient Rome were based on linseed (and other drying oils). Painters have used it for a very long time. Also painters use various metal salts as colors (lead white, for example). It was probably discovered many times that mixing some of those salts in makes the oil dry much much quicker.

Additionally I read somewhere (so it may be conjecture) some old French muskets were dried for 14-21 days after dipping. I'm not sure this is enough time for raw oil to dry.

Now, let's address the practicality of using raw linseed oil in modern times. There is literally none. I was told it takes a very, very long time for raw linseed oil to dry. It is possible for it to remain tacky for years. While with boiled linseed oil, you only have to wait few days between coats (if you have a warm box, or live in a warm place - in winter it may be a different story). Once boiled linseed oil polymerises(dries) it is exactly the same thing as if raw oil was allowed time to dry. The only difference is minute presence of those metal salts mentioned before.

Personally I would never use, nor recommend raw linseed oil to anyone. This is advice I read repeatedly in many places.

Also, on subject of use of any form of linseed oil. If your desire is to have simple milsurp-type finish. Few coats will do. That's exactly what I did on one of my plain original guns.

However, if you want to achieve any kind of "depth" in your finishing be ready for it to take months before you have enough coats of boiled linseed (or years if using raw linseed) to achieve any depth.

Rubbed dull finish can be achieved quite easily with modern varnishes (Gunstock specific ones - some swear by tru-oil, or even generic ones like good quality oil based polyurethane).

Also regarding sealing of inletting and other essential places of a stock regardless of final finish choice, I read about, and I used a method myself where one takes a modern oil based polyurethane, thins it with mineral spirits to consistency of water. Then one applies it as the very first thing (after staining, if one stains the wood) to the whole stock with a brush liberally. The goal being for it to soak into wood. One keeps brushing it on as it soaks in until the wood will not take any more of it. Then the surface is wiped clean with a rag. Once it dries, the wood is sanded lightly where other finishes will be applied later and left as is in inletted areas. Assuming good type of varnish was used (for example a marine spar varnish) the wood shood be sealed from effects of moisture and any other compatible finish can be applied on top.

More coats of modern poly can be applied (with light sanding in between coats) to achieve depth, then one can finish with boiled linseed. Alternatively one can polish modern varnish to look like linseed and be much more elements resistant.

There are other things to consider too, which finish is more applicable, are we restoring an original (I wouldn't use a modern varnish despite its superiority IMO), or is it a modern repro? Will the gun see a lot of use in harsh conditions(modern varnish!). Or will it seat in a safe, or a presentation box and be gently pulled out once a year to admire (boiled linseed?). Etc.

No doubt you'll get many more replies from people using both :) I recommend you read the book I mentioned too.
Why in heavens name would you put boiled linseed oil OVER polyurethane?
 
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Why in heavens name would you put boiled linseed oil OVER polyurethane?
Because the clear plastic coating gets chipped, cracked and water absorbs through.

Having oil that absorbs into the wood makes more sense than a clear plastic shell that sticks to the surface.
 
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Artificer

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I was in the USMC in the 60's we used linseed oil on our rifle stocks , some of us found True Oil and used that, the Inspecting officer knew we used other than linseed and made us redo our stocks with linseed
I still hand rub it into my stocks
That takes me back, though I didn't come in until 1971, a week after my 18th birthday. In the late winter/early spring of 1972, I was applying oil to my M14 stock inside the Small Arms Shop during lunch time, which was sort of unusual. Normally that was done outside near the cleaning racks outside the Armory.

My Shop Chief, MSgt Jack, sauntered over to see what I was doing. I deftly covered the oil I was using with a shop rag. He squinted his eye in a manner that MSgt's cultivate and asked what kind of oil I was using? I sighed as despite my best efforts, I had been caught. So I uncovered the flat round jar of Lin-Speed Oil, which technically was not on the approved materials list. He looked at it and looked at me for what seemed like an eternity then turned as if to leave. However before he left, he quietly said, "Wondered how long it would take someone in the shop to figure out to use that stuff?" Then he smiled with an almost evil grin and walked away.

Lin-Speed oil is nothing more than Linseed Oil that has been kettle boiled to polymerize it a bit, but it dried much, much faster than Raw Linseed Oil. However, the smell matched Raw Oil, so even though a really astute Inspecting Officer might realize something was up, the IO could not do anything about it.

Gus
 

4575wcf

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I never had a problem with a stock treated with the Mini Wax suspended polymers covered with an oil finish. I hunted in the coast range of Oregon with these stocks, and a 1/4 inch stream of water running off the toe of the stock most of the day is not all that unusual. A freak storm caught us up at Brown's Park at the summit of the watershed behind Tillamook OR, and put down 18" in one day. Washed every bridge and culvert out, we were lucky we didn't happen to be in there at the time. The stocks never moved, and the groups never shifted, in spite of the repeated hosing. It isn't always wet in that country, but when it gets wet it really gets that way. Sometimes a creek you could jump over going in, you needed to practically swim getting back to camp. Of course you did have to break your unmentionable out of its stock after the season, dry things out and rezero it. Bloody hard place on equipment.
 
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cannonball1

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I was told by a very famous knife maker, Buster Warenski, to only use "raw" linseed if a person had a very small bad spot in inletting. It will swell the wood in the area in question.
 

rp77469

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I was told by a very famous knife maker, Buster Warenski, to only use "raw" linseed if a person had a very small bad spot in inletting. It will swell the wood in the area in question.
Antique tool collectors sometimes do that to hide the small shrinkage cracks in wood bodied hand planes.
 

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Raw Linseed Oil aka flax seed oil in an organic state is not very ideal for wood finishing, according to today’s standards. I’m sure at one point it was used however methods were used to increase the drying and absorption of the oil. Today, Raw Linseed oil is mainly used for paints and art work, while it is used on word working, its not really an ideal finish for items other than those that desire a non toxic surface for things like salad bowls Or wood spoons.

boiled linseed oil was used as early as the 18th century for wood finishes, not sure about gunstocks, however varnishes were made using linseed oil which would have required them to be boiled over for a more effective chemistry.
 

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I was told by a very famous knife maker, Buster Warenski, to only use "raw" linseed if a person had a very small bad spot in inletting. It will swell the wood in the area in question.
I don’t see how linseed oil would swell an area, if dried over it will act as a filler however not a good one At that.

For filling voids or bad inletting I used spar or table top varnish over the area until its filled with a dull grey appearance, once dried. I hand rub over linseed oil in the area as the oil will blend in the filled varnish area. The downside to this is disassembly is more difficult, as it is more permanent . .
 

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If you blow an inlet, you gotta bite the bullet and put in a bit of colored Acraglas. A skin coating of Acraglas inside a lock mortice offers a moisture barrier you can attain in no other way, also a perfect molded fit to the plate. Large filled areas around an inlet are no sign or quality work, but a skin coating inside does not detract from the looks if done right, and strengthens and waterproofs the wood in the process. The original riflemakers did not use Acraglas to straighten out little mistakes and defects simply because they did not have it.
 

Ironoxide

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Why in heavens name would you put boiled linseed oil OVER polyurethane?
Purely for esthetic reasons(smell/feel) and some people like the idea of polymerised linseed oil as the final finish layer so they can rubb in a little extra every year.


Because the clear plastic coating gets chipped, cracked and water absorbs through.

Having oil that absorbs into the wood makes more sense than a clear plastic shell that sticks to the surface.
Nope, that's the worst thing you can do if your plastic coating cracks and let's water through. BTW, do you know one dry linseed oil is a polymer - same as polyurethane. Also many modern varnishes contain drying oils in addition to polyurethane. So you can't assume "if it is polyurethane it will crack". Not necessarily. It depends on exact product used etc.

Coming back to "cracking and letting water through". Dry linseed oil offers very little water protection. A correct way to prevent such situation from o curing in the first place is to SEAL the wood before applying any finish.

It is a process I described in few places, but it is so important I'll repeat it again :) You take a good water resistant outside use varnish (or a gun stock specific product). Then you thin it to consistency of water or even a little more with mineral spirits. Then you let the wood soak as much of this as possible and you wipe the excess.

The resulting plastic is in the wood. It is impossible for it to let water in unless you crack your stock into two pieces. While the sealer is soaking in, you can observe the depth where end grain shows. For example under the (removed) buttplate. It penetrates from a sixteenth to half inch depending on wood and varnish. You also treat all inletting the same.

Before modern varnishes became available people that finished gun stocks would often do the very SAME THING just using their finish of choice (for example real boiled linseed oil) thinned in terpentine.

Good finish, modern or old has to be not just on wood. It is in wood.
 

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