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Old 06-26-2019, 04:51 PM
C Dexter C Dexter is online now
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 252
Default Birch/Beech Stock Restoration

A few people have asked me to describe the process I used to restore my birch and beech stocks so here it is:

Like most projects, starting with a good base is the key. There are not many shortcuts. After removing all hardware, I start by soaking the stocks in a hot (as hot as you can get it) bathtub of water with TSP (TriSodiumPhosphate). This is a strong detergent (the stuff you use on a wood deck before power washing). After a couple minutes, you can use a green scuff pad and stiff brush to clean off most of the finish. Be sure your wife does not see this step in the process because her pride in your workmanship will fade quickly as she will undoubtedly focus on the nastiness in the tub before you clean it out. Rinse well and take them to the garage or outside to dry. In a day or so, you will see clearly what you are really working with. The next step is to remove the very top layer of “deadwood” by sanding. You don’t want to remove too much wood though. Personally, I try to hand-sand using 180 grit to get the best control but you can also use an electric sander for some areas if you are careful. I do not try to remove every ding, bruise or scratch because that would remove the character of the stock (more on that later). Obviously, I am very careful around any cartouches. This is also the time to make any repairs if they are necessary and if you really want to remove any dents (not recommended), this would also be the time for adding hot steam to those spots. After the first sanding, they go back to the bath and TSP for a second deep cleaning. After they dry again, that is when they usually look great in their raw form. However, if there are still some grimey spots, you can do a little more sanding on those and reclean once again and let dry. Next, you will want to go over them all again with 180 grit very lightly just to remove any grain that was raised up by the hot water. The wood generally won’t feel perfectly smooth but that is ok.

Now it is time to start refinishing. In the past I tried to refinish a birch stock and, frankly, it turned out like crap. As I mentioned earlier, I tried to use normal minwax stain and it just left the wood blotchy and there was nothing I could do to make it look better. So I did some research (the internet is a wonderful thing) and learned about Aniline Wood Dye and why it works better on wood like birch or beech. I mixed it as directed (and you can mix multiple colors to get the right color/shade you want) and applied it hesitantly at first. That was a mistake because it looked blotchy again wherever I stopped and started. Fortunately, I quickly realized you can simply “slop it on” nice and wet and it spreads and dives deep into the wood and then wipe off any excess right away after it is all wet. It dries evenly and pretty quickly so you can see if it is the color you want and add more if needed. Also, I learned that, since it is a water based dye, it will raise the grain once again but not as much. Simply sand it off again and reapply the dye as before. It seemed to me that the sooner I wiped it dry, the less the grain raised up. You can reapply the dye as many times as you need to get it to the darkness and color that you want. If you have a favorite stain that you like, you can also now apply that over the top of this wood dye (after it dries). It will look much better since you are starting with darkened wood, but the stain is not necessary.

Let everything dry again and then you can start applying your top finish. I used a mixture of even parts PURE Tung Oil, Acrylic Urethane and Mineral Spirits to thin it out so that it can be wiped on with a rag. The Tung Oil is imported from China and is NOT a Tung Oil “Finish” like you find at Lowes and Home Depot (which has other ingredients in it too). Wipe your topcoat on lightly and then wipe off all excess finish. This first coat kind of acts like a cleaner that removes any excess dye/stain so expect some residue on the rag and replace it as necessary. I actually wipe most of this finish coat off after applying it for the first time. Your goal with the first coat is simply the cleaning I mentioned and then it also seals in the grain. Next (after drying) I apply another coat. This one will be a little thicker (still thin though) and will sit up on the wood a little better since the grain is closed from the first coat. Try to apply your coats as evenly as possible. After that dries, you will notice the finish feels a little rough. I then take a 0000 steel wool or gentle scuff pad and go over the stock LIGHTLY to smooth it out. Just don’t rub enough to get down to the dye/stain. Keep applying coats as necessary until you get the desired finish.

Philosophy and side-notes:
- My goal is always to return a stock to its original condition except cleaned up and looking nice. These were instruments of battle and have earned their scars so when someone sees one of my stocks and says it looks great for an original rifle stock, that is what I really like to hear. I could also make them look like museum showpieces but I think that would destroy history. I am willing to make minor repairs if necessary to make sure the wood does not get further damaged but I blend it in as much as I can, to the point of being invisible if possible. Any repairs are done with color-matched bedding compound and are stronger than the original wood. That is an entirely different process I won’t address here.
- If a stock looks pretty good already, I just use a 50/50 mixture of mineral spirits and tung oil along with a used scuff pad to simply clean the stock without removing any stain and then wipe it off and let it dry. Sometimes these stocks will then need a very light fresh coating of tung oil. I Know Linseed oil was used originally but I much prefer Tung oil for its spreadability, drying characteristics and durability.
- Always allow plenty of drying time between all steps. This is a process that can’t be rushed or it won’t turn out nice. The time away also allows you to give your project a fresh look when you return so you can better recognize what still needs to be done.

That is about it. I don’t think I left out any steps and hope I didn't make anything confusing but if you have any questions, feel free to PM me.
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Old 06-26-2019, 08:34 PM
Whitpusmc Whitpusmc is offline
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: Nashville, TN
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Could you give your source for that real Tung oil?

You said China but I presume there’s a way to order some?
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Old 06-26-2019, 08:59 PM
Capri_Man Capri_Man is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Location: Arlington, WA
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Great write up! But I'm curious what specific brand/color of Aniline Wood Dye did you use?
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Old 06-26-2019, 09:03 PM
Capri_Man Capri_Man is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Location: Arlington, WA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whitpusmc View Post
Could you give your source for that real Tung oil?

You said China but I presume there’s a way to order some?

This is probably the best that I know of and have used it on one rifles successfully https://www.realmilkpaint.com/shop/o...ung-chinawood/
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Old 06-27-2019, 05:49 AM
C Dexter C Dexter is online now
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 252
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The specific products I used were:

H. Behlen Tung Oil (China Wood Oil)
Arm R Seal Oil and Urethane Topcoat (Satin)
Transfast Water Soluble Dye (Extra Dark Walnut and Dark Mahogany)
The Mineral Spirits was just a basic one I picked up at Lowes

If you Google the names there will be plenty of sources to buy them. I think I used Westlund Distributers and Klingspor Woodworking to get small quantities. You can also get most or all of them on Amazon.
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