Refinishing a Stock - 3 - Staining a Stock

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Refinishing a Stock - 3 - Staining a Stock

Post by Tank » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:38 pm

There are principally two different woods used for rifle stocks - Walnut and Beech. Walnut comes from several sources, there is the European Walnut variously referred to as English Walnut, French or Turkish Walnut, essentially all the same species and of a natural golden colour. Then there is Black Walnut - Juglens Nigra, one of my favourite trees and although it is primarily a North American tree the species grows well in Europe - I should know, the one I planted twenty years ago is now over fifty feet high, they are not for the small garden!!
You may also hear the term Claro Walnut but this is California Walnut and another North American species. Then there is Beech. Why anyone would want to make anything other than drawer backs (though it does make good Tool Handles- it burnishes well) from Beech is beyond me, unless it is Spalted Beech - a beautifully coloured timber. Beech has a reputation for being one of the most unstable timbers, given to massive amounts of movement and susceptable to warping. Using it on a precision target rifle would not be my first choice.
Anyhow, for the purpose of this discussion let's put the idea of a Beech stock aside and discxuss staining a Walnut Gunstock as fitted to most every Vintage Target Rifle and the better rifles of today. Naturally you will have followed the first part of the tutorial and your Stock is now free of old varnish, major dents have been dealt with the smaller bruises and dings no longer exist and you have sanded it down to about 360/400 grit paper.

The next thing to do is take a cloth and dampen it with white spirit, wipe the dampened cloth over the wood and this will give you an instant representation of what the finished article would look like if you just applied the finish now, but remember that an oil finish will darken over time.
So you are still going to stain the piece. I have had good results with both spirit based and water based dyes. The simplest, a mix of 50% Red and 50% green alcohol based dye is hard to improve upon. There are of course proprietory "Gunstock Walnut Stains" - the Birchwood Casey one springs to mind. At the end of the day this is personal preference. If you don't like the stain or it is too dark, wipe it off again - if it is alcohol based use alcohol, water based use water or White Spirit. If, when you have applied your first coat of oil, you think it is too light, add a measure of stain to a quantuty of the oil in a small container and apply directly this way. If it is too dark start wiping vigorously with plenty of cloths soaked in White Spirit - if that doesn't work go back to the Cellulose thinners you used to get the old finish off in the first place.
I have also used tinted Briwax (a proprietory wax brand here in the UK, in North America you will be able to obtain "Minwax" another good wax) to tone a piece of Blonde timber down if it has already been "finished". You can buy "Briwax" in every colour under the sun from Clear right through to Ebony and everything in between.

"Should I fill the Grain?" - if you want. Personally I never have on a Gunstock. An occassional table meant for a hallway made fom the finest crotch veneer and it is to be French Polished, undoubtedly. I would use a mix of Rottenstone and burnt umber, but not a gunstock. Over time the stock will fill with all of the oils and waxes you apply. That beautiful finish you see on a Beretta costing upwards of £6k? You can easily achieve this. You are paying a good deal of money for an Artisan to spend hours rubbing, polishing and fine detailing the stock (obviously amongst other things, like building the gun!) - something that you can do yourself - as long as you take your time. Remember - Nothing Good ever happened quickly, this is why it takes so long to produce a good stock. You need to give it a chance and let the solvents dissipate, the stains to dry out before you progress to the next stage. It really is not the most complicated of tasks but this is why the old timers seemed to take their time, they knew a thing or two about natural finishes.

At the end of the day, the whole point of having a Walnut stock is just that - it is Walnut and if you really are considering staining it I would suggest you think twice before you do!
If you want to read up on the subject I can thoroughly reccommend "Adventures in Wood Finishing" by George Frank: ... 433&sr=8-1
And I am fortunate to have had the pleasure of having learned from the man himself, the one thing that stood out? Patience, and don't be afraid to be creative, try stuff out, wood is like a blackboard, if the finish looks wrong, wipe it off and start again.
I’m going off to go find myself. If I’m not back by the time I return, keep me here.

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Post by zooma » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:54 pm

A very informative series of well informed and practical guides to refinishing a rifle stock.

Thanks for taking the time to prepare it and write it Graham.

Much appreciated - Bob.
Feinwerkbau P40 Tricolour wanted.........still !
http://www.bobsairguns .com - proud to host the RMTC site since April 2011.

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Post by beeker » Fri Apr 19, 2013 4:03 pm

You're a very knowledgeable chap Graham , well written and informative.
Thanks for posting these articles , good reading.
    Hope you're keeping better. :)

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