Stock finishing for a beginner

Discussion in 'The Gun Builder's Bench' started by brewer12345, Sep 10, 2019.

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  1. Sep 10, 2019 #1

    brewer12345

    brewer12345

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    I will be putting together an 80s vintage CVA squirrel rifle kit. I have not done anything like this before so I am trying to study up before I get started. The bit that seems the most perplexing is what to use to finish a stock. There is a bewildering array of chemicals and I have little idea of the process. Do you stain and then apply a seal? Something else?

    Anyone care to suggest a product to use? The unfinished stock is light wood and seems to have some attractive grain, but since this was by no means a high end kit I am not expecting that much out of it. My intention is to use this gun at the range and in the field for small game, so a durable finish will be important.
     
  2. Sep 10, 2019 #2

    poker

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    Finishing would depend on what you wished to achieve. To change color, stain, dyes, or bleach would be appropriate. Remember that most oil based finishes will darken your wood too. Acrylic not near as much. Personally I find TruOil to work great. Its an easily applied finish, and gives a great , easily repairable finish. It’s oil based and will darken your wood somewhat, so try it on scrap first.
     
  3. Sep 10, 2019 #3

    Zonie

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    When you get ready to put a finish on your gun you'll have to ask yourself, "Do I like the color of the wood?" To find out what it's color will really look like, take your gun outside into the sunshine and use a rag dampened with water to wet the wood. While it is still wet, that is exactly the way if will look after the finish is put onto it.

    If it is too blond for your liking, you are going to have to darken it with a stain.

    The type of wood CVA used (beech) is a very tight grained wood that will NOT absorb oil stains well so your going to have to use a water based or alcohol based stain. The stains sold by Birchwood Casey are the kind to use. If there is a good woodworking store in your area they might also have a stain called "Solar-Lux which is alcohol based.
    The companies like Track of the Wolf and Dixie Gun Works also sell good alcohol based stains from Laurel Mountain.
    BEWARE of the stains sold by your local hardware store. Most of the stains they offer are oil based and as I mentioned, oil based stains will mess up the look of your gun.

    I've had good luck with Walnut as a color to start with.

    Now, getting down to the process. The first thing is to totally sand the wood, sanding "with the grain". The grain of the wood almost always runs from the butt to the muzzle so sanding with the grain means your sanding strokes will be in that direction.
    (Sanding cross grain will leave scratches that will show up as darkened streaks and look really bad.)
    I do NOT recommend sanding with a sandpaper grit finer than 220 for this final sanding. Using a 320, 400, 600 or finer paper will not make the wood any smoother and it will tend to close the grain so it will not absorb the stain evenly.

    After you've finished sanding the stock you need to "whisker" it. Whiskers are the result of little grains of wood that were pushed down against the surface while you were sanding. If they get wet (as they will when you stain the wood), they will stand up when they dry, making the surface feel very rough.
    You don't want this so, what you need to do is to get a damp rag. Then, thoroughly wet the surfaces of the wood and sit it aside to dry. When it is dry, pick the stock up and rub your hand gently from muzzle to butt. In one direction it will feel rather smooth.
    In the other direction, it will feel very rough. Remember this "rough" direction.
    Now, using a brand new piece of 180 or 220 grit paper VERY LIGHTLY push the sandpaper in the same direction that felt very rough.
    You are trying to make the sandpaper cut off those rough whiskers only. You do not want to push them back down against the wood. That's why its important to use new paper and a very light pressure.
    It only takes a stroke or two to cut off these whiskers so don't over do it.
    Also, DO NOT use steel wool to whisker the stock. If there is any water in the stain at all, the steel wool fragments will rust causing freckles all over the wood.

    Now, with the stock whiskered you are ready to apply the stain.
    Right here I'll say, I never use the stain full strength out of the bottle. I've found it is better to thin it with some denatured alcohol at about a 1 to 1 ratio. In other words, a tablespoon of stain to a tablespoon of alcohol.

    With this thinned stain, use a small, fine hair paint brush about 3/4" to 1" wide and paint the stain onto the wood. Apply the stain "with the grain".
    Try not to overlap the strokes but also try no cover all of the wood so there are no unstained places.
    While your doing this, look at the darkness of the stain. While it is still wet, that is the same darkness it will be when you apply the finishing oils. Now, sit the stock aside to dry. (When it is dry it will look much lighter than it did when it is wet. This dry look is not the same as the stock will be with the finishing oils applied so don't be fooled by it.)

    If it is not as dark as you want, feel free to apply another coat or two or three. Each time you apply another coat, the color of the wood will be darker than it was before. This is good. It allows you to sneak up on just the right color and darkness.
    You might also think of buying a Maple Brown stain and applying a coat of it to make the color a bit browner. Mahogany stain can be applied if it is thinned to produce a reddish color to the walnut. That's one of the neat things about the alcohol or water based stains. They are easy to thin and easy to apply multiple coats to change the color.

    Once the stain is applied, you can use boiled linseed oil to finish the stock but, linseed takes days to dry and it is very poor at protecting your gun from water.
    Other good finish oils are Tung oil although if it is real tung oil it too will take days to dry.
    Many people including me like to use Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil. It is like linseed but it drys much faster and it protects the wood better.

    Do NOT brush the finishing oil onto the wood. You don't want to paint it on. Instead, you need a small soft clean rag. Dampen the rag with the oil and start rubbing it onto the wood in a circular pattern. Rub hard while your doing this. Apply more oil as it is needed.

    When an area is thoroughly oiled, move on to another area. When the stock is totally covered, sit it aside to dry.
    When it is dry, use some 600 grit or finer sandpaper to VERY LIGHTLY sand off the small bumps that will show up. These are caused by dust that collected while you were applying the finish or while it was drying.
    After lightly sanding, repeat the oiling process. It is not uncommon for as many as 6 to 12 coats of oil to be applied before some people are happy with the finish. This is especially true when they want a "deep" looking coating.

    After the final coat of finish has dried, many people like to use a wax like Johnsons Paste Wax to finish it off.

    Here's a look at a CVA beechwood stock with Walnut stain and Tru-Oil finish. CVA-SHOTGUN-001web.jpg
     
  4. Sep 10, 2019 #4

    brewer12345

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    Thanks very much. I kind of wonder if I wouldn't be better off skipping the staining part. I have a maple stocked Browning that is very lightly colored and I kind of like it that way.
     
  5. Sep 10, 2019 #5

    Zonie

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    I should have mentioned, there was a time when the military decided to change their stock finishes from linseed oil to tung oil.
    The number of people going to the base hospital had a sharp increase after the guns with this oil applied were issued.

    It turns out, there are some people who are allergic to tung oil. o_O

    Of course now that wood stocks are getting rare in the services it isn't an issue with them but for folks like us, it might be.
     
  6. Sep 10, 2019 #6

    SDSmlf

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    I happen to love Tung Oil, but cannot really argue with anything that Zonie said, and doubt anyone else vcould. Read his suggestions three or four times, then follow. Can’t go wrong.
     
  7. Sep 10, 2019 #7

    Col. Batguano

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    There are as many different finish concoctions as there are builders. It might not be a bad idea for you to go to your local hardwood dealer and get yourself a piece of Beech to experiment with. Alternatively, you can use the inside of the barrel channel to experiment on this individual piece of wood when you think you are getting close, but I don't like that idea as much, as it can wind up looking a bit like a rainbow in there with all the different concoctions, and, you can't readily get it out of there by sanding or scraping without messing with the barrel bedding at least a little..

    Zonie is right about the whiskering, though I would add that once is not enough. You'll need to do it 2-3 times at least. On my last build I bet I did it 5 times. You'll know you're done when you wet it and it doesn't feel any rougher after drying than it did before.
     
  8. Sep 11, 2019 #8

    kansas_volunteer

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    Do as Zonie advises and do not sand finer than 220 grit on beech. Anything more will cause the stain to bead up on the surface. It will be very obvious if you sand finer and apply stain.

    Permalyn finish for Laural Mountain makes a very good finish. I have a Lee-Enfield beechwood stock stained with Laural Mountain walnut and finished with Permalyn and it looks great.
     
  9. Sep 11, 2019 #9

    Dphar1950

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    Permalyn is a plastic "oil" and will eventually fail by checking according a friend who came a across one of Bivens' Centennial rifles a few years after it was built.
    It also will not bring out the figure as well as a properly made "fat" Linseed oil varnish will when applied correctly. But everyone thinks newer is somehow better. It generally is not for stock finish. LS oil varnish needs no stain even with European walnut. In fact staining walnut often covers highlights in the wood. When properly done it will dry somewhat slower but requires FAR few coats than the thin runny modern finishes.
    This is a piece of American "French" walnut during the build and after the finish has aged for a week or three. It was really whiter than the lower photo shows. But thats just how it photographed. For those who don't make their own finish mixing BC Tru-Oil with BOILED Linseed from the hardware store 50-50 works pretty well. Avoid the little bottles of "stand oil" sold for oil painting its transparent and not correct for a stock finish which used heat bodied oil. Using "boiled" oil straight can be done but not recommended. Its for painting fences and thinning oil paints not gunstocks. Dries too slow and usually has not color to speak of. DSC03677.jpg DSC02837.jpeg
     
  10. Sep 11, 2019 #10

    Zonie

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    I agree. Walnut seldom if ever needs a stain of any kind to become the beautiful, dark wood that it is.
    When walnut is bare without any wetness or oil applied, it looks very light in color, just like the stock in the picture above this post.
    For you folks who are new to working with walnut, don't be deceived by that light color. As soon as it gets wet or a oil is applied it will suddenly become very dark.

    About the only time I can recommend staining walnut is if the wood has some sapwood in it. Sapwood in walnut is often a very light color even after it is oiled and IMO, it looks terrible unless something is done to make it match the rich dark heartwood.
    Some very poor stock blanks will have some sapwood in them.

    I didn't mention this in my post above because the topic was dealing with a beech, CVA stock.
     
  11. Sep 11, 2019 #11

    Dphar1950

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    Zonie's comments on sap wood/light walnut are correct. Light walnut can be found on some 19th C firearms. Found this when I had t fix a cracked stock on a 1870s BL this was a nightmare when the surface of the wood was exposed but walnut hull extract and butternut hull extract matched it when oiled with a dark oil. I have stained some others over the years with various things. But good walnut usually needs no "help". Maple on the other hand always does and the only surely color fast stain is Ferric Nitrate. Crystals can be bought on the WWW and color identically to stain made with nitric acid and iron/steel. Plus the crystals require no work with Nitric Acid which is really dangerous stuff.
     
  12. Sep 11, 2019 #12

    dave_person

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    Hi,
    I am sorry Dan and Zonie, I much prefer alkanet root stain on English walnut and yellow aniline dye to kill the cold purple-brown on American black walnut.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    dave
     
  13. Sep 12, 2019 #13

    Walkingeagle

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    Dave,
    That looks sharp!
    Well done sir!!
    Walk
     
  14. Sep 12, 2019 #14

    dave_person

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    Hi,
    Thanks walkingeagle. In the middle picture, the lower gun is an original English fowler made in 1767 by Joseph Heylin. My coloring is fairly close. Note the color is still vivid and has not darkened to black after 240 years.

    dave
     
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  15. Sep 12, 2019 #15

    nhmoose

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    Zonie I have to say use alcohol instead of water to look for the figure. It does not raise splinters or hairs like water does. Denatured kind and not rubbing type
     
  16. Sep 12, 2019 #16

    brewer12345

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    I am just blown away by the craftsmanship on display here. Wow. I can't imagine my humble beechwood kir put together by a beginner will look anything as nice, but it sure is inspiring to see.
     
  17. Sep 12, 2019 #17

    Dphar1950

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    Alkanet root is one of those weird things. It was used to dye cloth gray if I am properly informed.
     
  18. Sep 12, 2019 #18

    45man

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    That rifle is a masterpiece. I like to stain to bring the grain to life and I like Laurel Mountain stains so when turned in the light all changes. They have all kinds that can be mixed to test on scraps. Then I use Tru- Oil. Linseed is very hard to use and is not the best. Tung oil can work. Still not as easy as Tru- Oil. Do not use oil stains or anything from the paint store, it will deaden the grain.
    I tried everything at the start, Nitric acid and heat, Baking soda wash, then potassium permanganate or other that old timers used. Don't go there. Yes, I also stain walnut with LM. LM walnut is beauty on cherry. You can mix some LM cherry with walnut to give a reddish hue. They also have maple color. Depth of the color in the softer grain is what you want.
     
  19. Sep 12, 2019 #19

    Dphar1950

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    Linseed oil blackening is the result of pollutants in the air from the burning of coal. We also have to remember that the English guns, at least those owned by the landed gentry etc, had the finish maintained and renewed as needed. At the end of the shooting season there were, I have read, traveling stock finishers who would do this work. Most firearms were finished with a "fat" (high oil content, soft resin) varnish. This was not only cheaper and easier to make than the "hard" varnishes it was more durable in firearms use than the harder varnishes used on furniture meant to the used indoors. Also note that in the vernacular of the time anything that dried to s shine was a varnish. Either oil or spirit variety. In America "brown varnish" was very common it was made by heating linseed oil, adding dryer metal, lead was one, and rosin for the resin. It was cheap, easy to combine with the oil and made the oil resistant to clouding if the gun was used in the rain or snow. It also made the finish more abrasion resistant. But these were pretty viscous varnishes since heating the oil and mixing the driers and rosin (gum arabic and other soft resins were used as well) thickened the oil. This allowed one coat finished since unless the varnish was thinned with turpentine, it would not soak in and was not intended to. Even when thinned 15-20% for the first coat to make a soak in sealer American walnut can be filled in 2-3 of heavy coats of unthinned oil allowed to dry until its partly set then rubbed off with burlap or steel wool. In the summer with bright direct sun light 2 coats a day can be done and a filled finish done on walnut in 2 days. Maple that is sanded smooth can be finished in a day sometimes with one thinned coat. If a scraped finish is done the scraper marks, it the scraping is properly done, can be covered and the scraper marks made virtually invisible with one coat of viscous varnish.
     
  20. Sep 12, 2019 #20

    dave_person

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    Hi Dan,
    British gun makers have used it since the 18th century and still use today. I buy it in powder form and then pour some in mineral spirits. I let that sit for a week and then strain it with a coffee filter. Any figure in walnut will show up nicely. It can be infused in alcohol and water as well. It also can be used to color the oil-varnish finish, which was and is still done on many high-end British guns. Of course, all walnuts vary in color and grain but often English walnut has a gray undertone tone that I like to get rid of and American black walnut often has a cold purple-brown color that I warm up with yellow dye.

    dave
     

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