The above is some stained birch from an Internet ad for Walker Creek Furniture. This is really a BEAUTIFUL treatment of birch. If only I thought it was really easy for me to do. Guess I better contact Walter Creek Furniture and let them know that all their Internet advertising is paying off for them!
I’m attempting to refinish my stock, using your oven-cleaner stripper. So far I’ve concentrated on the upper barrel stock piece, as I’m feeling my way through this.
I want the yellow finish if possible, like so many of the Mosin carbines that you and Tman refinished. But after stripping only the upper stock part, I see that the result is a dingy gray color, and I fear that I need to perhaps go to some sort of lightning process before proceeding to a yellow stain. The point, I think, would be to turn the birch more “blond”.
By the way, in my reading I THINK that the light grey of so many 91/30’s is because of an infiltration of a bacteria while the birch was being stored: Here Biological control of sapwood staining fungi. From an .edu address, and I expect they will appreciate my mentioning them:
Here is an article that I had seen, but could not locate it before I posted a while ago. It is an ad for Forintek Canada Corp., who sell a powder that can be applied to either birch logs or cut and stacked birch lumber to slow down the infection which colors the wood blue-gray:
Henry, I've refinished a few. But apart from one which had had ebony dye applied to it before I got it, I don't use dye on them. I simply sand them smooth and then oil-finish them with tung oil. Once in awhile I'll use artist's shellac on one.
The oil-finish process is slow and requires patience. You have to oil the stock every day for a month, rubbing in the oil with your bare hand. The finish isn't slick, as it is with a varnish or even shellac. (Please don't mention polyurethane in connection with stocks; I get violent.) But when you're done, it has a silky feel that is very pleasant to the hand and in my experience won't slip if your hand gets sweaty.
The trick with any finish, I've found, is many thin coats, lightly sanded or rubbed down between coats. I tend to treat them the way I do antique furniture, guided by Her Imperial Majesty, oddly enough. One summer while she was in high school, she and her BFF spent a summer working for an antique furniture refinisher, stripping and refinishing furniture. It was from her I learned the trick of rubbing down the wood with a coarse linen rag instead of fine sandpaper. The linen doesn't leave abrasive residue behind it, but it does require more work on your part. As I find oil finishing therapeutic, I don't begrudge the time it takes to do it right.
I tend to treat them the way I do antique furniture, guided by Her Imperial Majesty, oddly enough.
You really had me going for a while there. I'm 67, so i have a few years on you I suspect. I was trying to figure out how you knew Queen Elizabeth, and my wife had to explain your post to me. So much for ageing!
So how do I "lighten up" the color of this dingy gray 91/30 (or grey, if you really knew the Queen), before starting the oil application? I know you like the light colors like I do. Have you had any sucess on that score?
I figure the Easy Off oven cleaner had already supplied the lye. I tried hydrogen peroxide next, but I only had a fresh pint bottle of 3% solution. I was only working on the grim gray upper barrel guard, but I think I found a Process using OxiClean to bleach the barrel guard.
So I sprayed the upper hand guard with a liquid solution of OxiClean which my wife had (“OxiClean Laundry Stain remover“), and let it stand for maybe 2 minutes before rinsing it off and then killing it with a rub-on of vinegar. [Next time I’ll mix my own from OxiClean powder to save a few $. Turns out that Arm&Hammer makes all Oxiclean products, and sells the same powder under the Arm&Hammer brand.]
The bleaching was apparently a success. It killed all the grim gray of the hand guard, and now the hand guard looks very similar to the stock, which I have stripped with Walmarts “Great Value Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner“. It raised a lot of feathers in the softest “sapwood” parts, but left a very dark knothole which I think will turn into a “flame birch” area once I start the month-long tung oil rub process. The cheapo oven cleaner worked very much like the Easy Off brand, except that I think it requires LESS of it to be applied. It foams up on application.
Now for the QUESTIONS:
Where do you get the Tung Oil, and Her Imperial Majesty’s “coarse linen rag”?
I get the tung oil (and tung oil varnish, which I also use) from Home Depot. You can usually find it in the paint department. The coarse linen rag started life as a linen napkin. I pick them up from partial sets of table linens at tag sales. What you want is one that looks like it has thick threads and a not super-tight weave. You don't want damask linen for this. What you are using it for is in place of sandpaper in the refinishing process, remember. You're only using it to open up the pores in the wood so you can refill them with tung oil.
Here is an article which SHOULD scare the hell out of us. I am “immuno-compromised”, because I’m a diabetic. Two years ago I had a brain tumor successfully removed, and so far so good, but I was not sanding on gunstocks back then. I guess I should be wearing a mask while sanding. Mainly I will build an oven and heat my stock to maybe 300 degrees F every now and then before I start with the tung oil rub. Here is a chemical sterilization technique: basically boiling in ethanol, then in bleach, then again in ethanol. Because the wood chips were only 1-2 mm thick, we should boil for a longer period. I’m still going to build an oven out of a long cardboard box and put maybe four light bulbs in it.
“A so-called endophytic method was used during the study when the small piece of wood and phloem of spruce was sterilized (for 1 minute by 96% ethanol, for 3 minutes by NaClO, for 0.5 minutes by 96% ethanol) and cut into split of a size of 3–5 × 3–5 × 1–2 mm. These split were placed at five into 90-mm Petri dishes with 2% malt extract agar (MA2). Incubation took 14–21 days at a temperature of 20-25 deg C.” This is from
After entirely too much time, I have settled on a half-way measure to treat my old stock, just in case it is infected with what is called “sapstain“. I will soak the stock in Propylene Glycol:
“there is Glycol, most readily available as auto antifreeze-coolant. Glycol is toxic to the whole spectrum of organisms from staphylococcus bacteria to mammals.”
“Ethylene glycol and propylene glycol are clear liquids used in antifreeze and deicing solutions. Exposure to large amounts of Ethylene Glycol can damage the kidneys, heart, and nervous system. Propylene Glycol is generally regarded as safe for use in food. Antifreeze that is sold as "Earth Friendly", "Environmentally Safe", etc are generally based on Propylene...Make Sure You Buy The Propylene Glycol, NOT the Ethylene!!!”
Apparently there are stronger sapstain killers, but they use borax. The trouble with borax is that apparently it acts as a wood sealer, but Glycol supposedly does not interfere with future staining:
“Glycol by itself has one big advantage over solutions of borates in water. Glycol penetrates rapidly through all paint, varnish, and oil finishes (except epoxy and polyurethanes) without lifting or damaging those finishes in any way. You can treat all of the wood without removing any finish. Once bare wood has been treated with glycol…and become dry to the touch it can be finished or glued.”
Thanks, Cyrano. I've pretty much finished sanding with 220 grit, and now I'm selectively bleaching the dark, dark spots. Been thinking about something which would "seal" it, but need something which won't seal it against the MANY layers of tung oil. So I'll use the tung oil varnish. I think I remember it from Home Depot.
Cyrano,I bought some “Miniwax Tung Oil Finish” at home depot, which is all they had. It says “thinning not recommended” but cleanup is by mineral spirits. It recommends two heavy coats after the first one dries.
I propose to apply ONE COAT of 50% mineral spirits and 50% Miniwax Tung Oil finish. All I really want to accomplish is to preserve the stock until I can start applying the 30-day hand rubs with 100% tung oil. The last-mentioned has not arrived yet, and I’m stalling for time, because final sanding with 220 grit is scheduled for tomorrow. I finished my bleaching with Clorox today, and now have a pretty BLONDE with lots of interesting dark sap-stained details.
Do you have any opinions?
This stock is a real VET. Been repaired so many times. But I’ve been able to preserve every war wound.
You sound like you're heading in the right direction. At this point, if you are planning to oil finish the stock, the biggest thing you are going to need is a whole lot of patience. You can't rush the work no matter how much you want to. The oil will go back into the wood only so fast. It simply takes a lot of time.
I started this stock only just prior to 11/08, and before 11/08 I was concentrating mainly on the upper barrel guard. So I guess I have been on it for maybe five weeks or so. IT SEEMS LIKE AN ETERNITY!
But you are right to urge patence. Actually, I really look forward to the laid-back daily oil rubbs, and I'm almost there. I look forward to watching my new blond coming into its own inner beauty. Like waiting for a child's hair color to settle down: you don't want to be disappointed, no matter WHERE it settles...
I finally finished the sanding and got the single coat of Minwax tung oil finish on. I mixed it with 50% paint thinner, to get a thin, not overwhelming coat. I want the many layers of rub-on tung oil to dominate the final appearence. The stock is dry now.
I will start the 30-day rub process tonight. I expect I'll use about one-teaspoon of tung oil at a time, poured into my palm, then rub that load into the stock. I'll repeat the process until the entire stock has been rubbed. I'll give it time to soak in, then rub with linen. Maybe I should have said "lightly sand" with linen. Then I'll repeat the rub the next night.
I got the first coat of Tung Oil rubbed in this morning. BOY, REALLY nice, feeling the oil slick down the stock. Some kind of intimacy is forming with my old/new Russian wounded vet. Can't wait until I can do it again tomorrow!
Yes, that's part of the fun of oil-finishing a stock. It encourages an intimacy with the wood that borders on a love affair as the wood soaks up the tung oil and you can make the teaspoonful in the palm of your hand go farther and farther. I find it's best to leave people to discover that for themselves. No one believes it until they've done it.
Cyrano, I think I need to change directions with this stock if possible. I now have 3 coats of the hand-rubbed tung oil on, but the wood is so very diverse all over the stock I need an “evener” of the final finish color. There are at least 54 arsenal repairs. Most of there are wood inserts, from a couple of 1/8 in. diameter plug inserts to a two-in. by 2-in. insert at the muzzle end below the hand guard. The entire muzzle end of lower hand guard is made up of at least four inserts. There are several very dark knots.
The arsenal was not careful to match wood colors or textures of course, and the tung oil is not darkening at all, and I did not think it would. But overall the stock is just getting uglier and uglier. Currently the stock has two binary colors either “honey amber” or “dark walnut” (maybe a little darker than “dark walnut”. But there is no pattern to the location or size of these binary patterns.
I’m considering going to an overall stain like the “dark walnut” like these,
But because of cost would much prefer perhaps something in the Rit dies. Do you think I can apply something like this over the tung Oil I already have installed? On the tung oil container they say I can add stains “as per the manufacturers instructions”.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, and I certainly won’t blame you for any shortcomings.