Historic gunstock finishes?

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Darto

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I'm talking really old gonnes here, 1300's, 1400's. What type of finish, if anything, was used back then on wood gunstock to preserve it? I presume linseed oil came much later, the 1700's?

I have a new handgonne with barewood club shape stock in the white, sanded smooth, no finish.
 

david50

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:idunno: good question! just a guess,maybe several coats of beeswax worked in.
 

Darto

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Sounds reasonable that beeswax was used for thousands of years to wooden objects. :thumbsup:
 

Canute Rex

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I'd recommend walnut oil. It was available in that period. Make sure to get some without preservatives. It needs to polymerize with oxygen to dry and solidify.

You might also consider milk paint. It was used prehistorically through the early 20th century and has been revived. It was a mix of milk, lime, and earth pigments. There is a milk paint company reproducing it as a powder that can be mixed with water. I have seen some old firearms with painted stocks. See http://www.milkpaint.com/index.html

Beeswax would have been extremely expensive in that era, and not a likely finish for anything so crude as a gonne.
 
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Billnpatti

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I am not sure why bees wax would have been expensive at the time in question. :confused: Bees have been domesticated in Europe for well over a thousand years and in China for longer than that. I would think that bees wax would be no more expensive than other possible wood finishes. :hmm: That having been said, I really have no idea what was actually used to finish wood :idunno: but it obviously was finished with something to protect it from the elements as opposed to leaving it unfinished and allowing it to simply age on its own.

No arguement intended, just a thought.
 

dave_person

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Hi,
They had resin varnishes made from linseed and walnut oils at least since the 12th century. The value of tree resins that harden was known before Roman times. There are references to a Venetian varnish used for furniture and woodwork. Unfortunately beeswax mixed with oil or turps is easy and produces a low sheen but it is not a very durable finish.

dave
 

Musketeer

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Dave Person said:
Hi,
They had resin varnishes made from linseed and walnut oils at least since the 12th century.

I've been doing some reading on this myself, and linseed and walnut oil based varnishes seem the most likely candidates. These would be mixed with a resin (amber being the most obvious). According to what I've read, the main problem with extant wooden artifacts from those times is that it's hard to tell what was the original finish and what products may have been used centuries later to restore or preserve the artifacts. :idunno:
 

ChrisPer

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Beeswax expensive, not used for anything so crude as a gonne?

I think we can conclude that the 'crude' gonne is only so by modern standards. The cost of iron and smithing for weapons means they were seriously expensive and taken very seriously.

I dont know what they were using - wax, tallow, or the rendered fat of priests - but there is no way they regarded a ha'pny-worth of SOMETHING as not needed to finish raw wood for use, whether on pikestaffs or gonne stocks. If people can burn wax as candles or oil for lamps they can afford a couple of spoonfuls for the weapons their gonners carry.
 

Canute Rex

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From everything I've read, beeswax candles were a luxury, and I mean a rich person's luxury, in the Middle Ages. That was true right up through the 18th century. Those historical movies with the rooms of farmers lit up with a dozen candles are inaccurate. To give you an idea of the expectations, a visitor to Monticello in the 18th century wrote later that the grand dining room was "brilliantly lit" by the light of six candles. And those may have been the cheaper tallow ones, not beeswax. Most people used rushlights or fat lamps, or just the fireplace.

Aside from the expense, beeswax isn't that great an outdoor finish, as others have mentioned. An oxidizing/polymerizing nut oil or milk paint would still be my best guesses. I have seen, right on this forum, photos of original "12 apostles" powder bottles that are painted.
 

Dphar

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Darto said:
I'm talking really old gonnes here, 1300's, 1400's. What type of finish, if anything, was used back then on wood gunstock to preserve it? I presume linseed oil came much later, the 1700's?

I have a new handgonne with barewood club shape stock in the white, sanded smooth, no finish.

You need to think about the oil painting of the Renaissance various drying oils were used including linseed. But artists oils were prepared differently than oils for wood finishing such as Spar Varnish.
Cave paintings in France contain vegetable oil binders but they cannot be specifically identified.
I don't know how far back linseed wood finishes go but the oil was known to the Ancient Egyptians.

A stock without finish will not survive long.
Firearms were extremely expensive early on and I doubt that they were put into service without finish of some sort. Even raw Linseed will work and was apparently used on many M-1 Garands and other military firearms. It will not develop a shiny finish from handling as "boiled" linseed will.
Lots of flax was grown to produce cloth from at least the time of ancient Egypt so there was an abundance of flaxseed to produce oil from. I don't know what the Egyptians used to make every varnish/paint they used but linseed oil was available.


Beeswax makes a poor stock finish from the practical standpoint. It tends to be sticky.

Dan
 

Dphar

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Darto said:
Finally found when linseed oil was first refined and boiled to become usable. I googled '14th century linseed oil.

example:
http://www.paintmaking.com/oil_binders.htm
(14th century was first purified linseed oil made)

shellac (late 1400's?)
varnish (1800's?) http://www.reloadersnest.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=11276

Varnish is FAR older than the 1800s. "Well Varnished" was a common term in the firearms lexicon in Colonial America.

Artists "stand oil" for mixing pigments for artistic painting was far more expensive than boiled linseed oil used for wood finishes. The things that make boiled oil a good base for wood varnishes made it too dark to use in mixing bright colors or top coating the same.

Back in the day anything that could be applied to a surface and dried to shine was varnish. Shellac is a spirit varnish. Oil varnishes were made from Linseed oil, generally, in Europe and America though other oils were used and in the late 19th century Tung oil became a common oil for varnish making.
Hard resin varnishes with little oil were "short" varnishes and were invariably too brittle for use on firarms and ships masts and spars. Varnishes that were toward the shorter end were generally furniture finishes and could be used to enhance tonal qualities of musical instruments such as Violins. But they did not tolerate exposure to weather very well.
Long or "fat" varnishes with higher oil contents were/are very elastic and work well on wood that is exposed to the weather. Like ship spars and gunstocks. This is not new technology circa 1600 by any means.
Gum Benzoin and Rosin were common resins in oil varnishes. However, I am told, rosin did not make as durable a varnish as other resins did.
Copal and many others were also used.
This will give an idea. http://woodfinishingenterprises.com/varnish.html

Dan
 
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Darto

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Thanks everyone, very interesting and helpful. And different (and more accurate) from what I found on the internet.

I know more about lamps than guns, I agree that beeswax candles were so costly that only Lords had them. Even tallow candles were expensive. The 99% used rushlights.

For authentic rushlights (without a supply of rushes) fancy boxes of heartwood are sold in hardware stores (kindling for fireplaces). People in northern nations (middle ages) used heartwood (sappy pine) instead of say England where rushes were used in rushlamps. A chisel cuts a typical commercial heartwood kindling stick into about 4 pieces of typical historical size.
 
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From what I've seen and read, a lot of really early guns had painted stocks and even painted barrels. There seem to be traces of minium (red lead) paint on many early barrels. Here's an elaborate stock, but most were much plainer:
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Dave T.
 

Musketeer

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I guess that's a possibility, though that gun appears to be about 200 years newer than the first gonnes. AFAIK, Medieval paints were of the rather crude (and ancient) "egg tempera" variety, made of egg yolks, alcohol/water, and pigments. That stuff proved quite long lasting in paintings, but I can't imagine it having much durability on something that got handled and bumped around all the time like a gonne tiller. Then again, I know just enough about the Medieval period to be dangerous. :haha:
 

Canute Rex

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Dave T: Nice photo. If my memory serves, you can get reasonable versions of that red and blue from the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company.
 
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