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How To Refinish A Gunstock 02/18/2008 - By Brownells Tech Staff
Many of our customers call us and say “I can’t get my wood gunstock finishes to come out looking right. What am I doing wrong?” Probably not much of anything.
The difference between a really great finish and one that turns out only “so-so” is attention to detail and making sure each step in the stock finishing process is fully completed before going on to the next step. Each step is really very important to the overall quality of the finished job.
Sanding. Progressively finer papers up to about 400 grit are usually sufficient. Wherever possible, sanding should be done with the grain to minimize surface scratches that can show as imperfections in the final finish. Some finishing techniques require “whiskering” at this time. Whiskering is accomplished by slightly dampening the stock with a clean rag that’s been soaked in water or fast drying denatured alcohol. The moisture raises the grain so you can sand off the whiskers left from preliminary sanding. Exercise care and make sure all flats are dead flat, corners are sharp, and edges don’t get rounded over. Sanding without a sanding block to back up the paper and not giving attention to the maintenance of edges and corners are the biggest problems that arise during this stage.
Sealing. Sealing the wood with a liquid sanding sealer prevents moisture in the air from moving into the wood. This is very important when the rifle may be subjected to rapid environmental changes, such as a hunting trip to a different part of the country. Seal all surfaces with a penetrating sealant that will be compatible with the final finish product.
Finishing. Finishing is actually a two step process. The first is uniform application of the finish to the surface of the wood. Usually a varnish, oil, or urethane is chosen for durability and coloring. Actual application can be done in different ways depending on the chosen finish and desired effect. Brownells offers a wide variety of wood finishing products. After the finish is fully cured, it usually needs to be “rubbed” or “polished” out. This is done by making the surface uniform by polishing to the desired “sheen”. Very fine sandpaper (1000 or 1200 grit) may be used to level the surface and remove any imperfections like dust specks. This is the time to go slow and careful. Avoid cutting through the finish and into the wood. The stock may then be gone over with a stock rubbing compound to achieve a uniform low, medium or high-gloss finish.
Steps given here describe how to refinish a gunstock with very acceptable results for practically all wood stock finishes. Due to differences in relative humidity, ambient temperature, or wood density, you may need to modify these techniques slightly to achieve the exact finish you’re looking for. If a particular technique works best for you and produces the desired results, then that’s the one you should use. The end result is what really matters.