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British military gun stock finish duplication

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Frod733

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Greetings all,

Curious about how to duplicate a 18th/19th century military gun stock finish. I have heard of linseed oil and tried it on a few stocks, but never really satisfied. Looking at old originals, up to and including civil war arms, the finishes I tried were not very close to original. I believe I read somewhere that the American armories dipped the stocks in hot linseed oil for some period and then dried them. I presume the Brits did something similar. The finish I am talking about is what appears to be a satin finish but you can still see the pores in the grain of the wood.

I also have heard of boiled linseed oil and turpentine mixture, Never tried it though.

I am not opposed to using some modern potions to duplicate, but would like to try to duplicate an original if possible. Not looking for anything shiny and artificial looking.

Would appreciate some suggestions and pictures if possible.

Thanks much,
 

tenngun

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I don’t know so do quote me, but I understand they used varnish.... the real stuff is big juice. I’m thinking their varnish would of been a pine tar and resin combo.
 

Art Caputo

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i have gotten excellent results with the Track of the Wolf, Original Oil Finish. It is a blend of linseed oil and pine distillates that serve as driers. It brings out the wood color and drys completely. The degree of grain fill and luster can be easily controlled.
DC6F9398-864B-4052-87D4-6ABE7AF1F1D5.jpeg
 
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dave_person

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Hi,
British ordnance used a linseed oil varnish that dried hard and a bit glossy. It was much more weather resistant than simply a dip in linseed oil, which really doesn't give much protection. They also sometimes tinted the varnish to give stocks a more uniform color and appearance. To achieve an authentic look, you have to consider more than just the finish. The stock should be file and scraper finished without a lot of effort to remove all scraper and file marks. The photos below shows a Brown Bess stock I built from American black walnut.


It was finished just with files and scrapers and stained with yellow aniline dye to make it look like English walnut. The finish is Sutherland-Welles wiping varnish, which is polymerized tung oil mixed with polyurethane varnish. The resulting finish cures a little less glossy than the photo but looks like the oil varnish used on the originals. Note the slightly porous, textured look. I mop on the first coats to seal the stock, let them dry thoroughly and then rub in sparse succeeding coats until I get the sheen I want. However, I don't build it up so that texture gets filled and lost. You can use a variety of finishes to get that look. Tru-Oil, Tried and True Linseed Varnish, Formby's wiping varnish, linseed or tung oil mixed with spar varnish, etc, will all work if the stock is prepared and finished properly.

Photos below show the finished musket under different lighting.






dave
 

Frod733

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Thanks for the responses. What is PALE boiled linseed oil? Also, I seem to have read somewhere that the linseed oil you get in hardware stores is not the same as the original, has some additives, which affect finish. Any thoughts?
 

Schatz72

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Years ago I found an article in Muzzle Blasts where the author talks about the differences between early 19th century boiled linseed oil and modern ones. Much of it was the dryers used and that they were cooked in. (Muzzle Blasts on-line, April/May 2000. "Traditional Varnishes" by Eric Kettenburg.) He goes into his process for making this as well.
 

Frod733

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How might I get a copy of this article? Looked on the NMLRA site and didnt see anything that old.
 

Heelerau

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Linseed oil is sold marked as either Raw Linseed Oil or Pale Boiled Linseed oil. I have found that the raw linseed takes much longer to dry and can stay sticky on the stock whereas the Pale Boiled seems to give a dry finish. I have not researched into the actual differences, but guess it might just be a mouse click away !
It was ! metallic dryers are added to the pale boiled ( its not actually boiled) the raw linseed just takes longer to dry. I find the gum turpentine ( as against the mineral turpentine) acts as a thinner and aids in better wood penetration, and as stated earlier just smells nice. I first encounter it in and ex girlfriends fathers' artists studio, where he used it with his oil paints. I always loved the smell of the studio.
 
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dave_person

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Hi Frod733,
The key thing is that the originals were made quickly. The gunsmiths and "setter uppers" did not fool around with finishes. They coated stocks with a thick oil varnish until it sealed, but not necessarily filled, the open grain of walnut. That was it. To look authentic you have to finish the surface of the wood as they did in the past, files and scrapers, and then slap on the oil varnish until sealed. One other little trick is to stain the stock before applying finish with dilute black aniline dye. Then scrape it off as part of your final scraping. It will leave black color imbedded in the grain. When finish is applied, the result looks old and mellow.






The next photos show the difference in the finish when the grain is actually filled and the surface glassy smooth as would be the case on a good quality privately made gun.




dave
 

Frod733

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Dave,
thanks for your response and the beautiful pictures. Much appreciated, and hopefully, i can come close to those.
 

Dale Lilly

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I use pale boiled linseed 2/3 by volume 1/3 by volume of gum turpentine. Has a lovely smell and dries quite hard.
Many years ago, working with a master gunsmith in California, he challenged me. "Smell this and tell me what it is" I could not identify the ingredients, He laughed and told me it was a very complicated formula. It was exactly the formula you use. Memories are good. Dale
 

Flintandsteel

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Listen to Dave! Everyone has there own pet finish.
You asked what was used historically....... listen to Dave.
 

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