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Old 07-25-2018, 12:38 AM
69Shelby 69Shelby is offline
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 350
Default Hackberry Stock Refinish - 1 way anyhow

I've had several forum members ask how I refinished a Hackberry Stock off of one of my recent CMP Field Grades. One Forum Member suggested posting a "How To". Here it is for those that may be interested.

I am no expert and hopefully other members that have better luck or more knowledge will add their experiences as well.

To remove the original finish, I used alcohol and a grey scotch bright pad. The finish removed very easy for the most part. I am sure that acetone, stripper etc. would also work but I wanted to try something on the mild side.

I let the stock dry for a few hours.

The stock had an excess of wood overhang at the butt plate but other than that the profile felt really good to me.

I removed the butt plate and rear sling swivel. I left the other stock metal in place since I did not have any plans of heavy sanding in any areas other than the butt stock area.

I covered the remaining stock metal with several layers of "3M Blue Painters Tape" (3 - 4 layers) to protect the metals finish from sanding, stain etc.

I used 80 grit sandpaper with a rubber hand sanding block to remove the excess wood at the butt plat area. Pressing the butt plate into place occasionally to check how the fit/fair was with the butt plate. Once I was happy with the fit/fair, I blended the last 1/3 to 1/2 of the butt stock from the butt toward the pistol grip to maintain the original contour.

I then sanded the entire stock with 120 grit paper using the sanding block and bare hands in the tight areas. I sanded as light as possible since I did not want to change the profile or contour. This also helped remove any of the remaining original finish on the stock.

This may have been a good point to try stain (the pores of the wood were pretty open) but I wanted a bit smother stock so I continued on without staining at this point.

I did a final sanding using 220 grit paper over the entire stock until it was uniform. I dusted the stock off and prepared to stain.

*****This is where the challenge began*******

I first tried a water based die, hoping it would soak into the pores and allow me to tint the stock...trying to achieve the "USGI red tinted look". The stock didn't absorb much if any at all. After leaving what ever didn't bead up and roll off, for a lengthy period, it just wiped off and would not stay.

I sanded the stock lightly with 220 grit again to clean off the fiber hairs and the little residue of the water based die.

Second shot was with an alcohol based stain which did better than the water based but not by much. The Hackberry wood does not absorb or retain stain like any other wood that I have worked with. I presume this is why the original finish is a sprayed on finish.

I sanded the stock lightly again with 220 grit to get back to a uniform starting point.

The Third time I used Minwax Red Mahogany #225 Stain. This stain absorbed a little and the wood retained it best of all. I let the stain dry for 24 hours, It remained tacky so I let it dry another 24 hours. I am in Houston and it was very humid which may have been a factor. I put on another coat after 48 hours (trying to get the shade/tint I was after). The new stain appeared to pull up the first coat to a small degree so I had to use a light hand to apply the second coat. I was pretty happy with the results. I let the stain dry another 48 hours.

The stain felt ok to the touch so I decided to put on Linseed oil over the top....bummer...the Linseed oil began to remove a lot of the stain causing it to streak. Not down to the bare wood, but ruining the nice stain character. I tried to go back over the stock again with more stain but that seemed to compound the problem. After several attempts, cleaning, sanding, staining, using Tung Oil etc. I was pretty frustrated and took it back down to bare wood.

Starting again from bare wood, I applied 2 coats of Minwax Red Mahogany #225 and let it cure as before. Once again the stock looked pretty good to me. CAUTION, use a very light hand when applying the second coat of stain to keep the first coat in tact.

Once the stain was cured ( I let it cure for 48 hours because of my previous experience) I sprayed it with Minwax Fast Drying Clear Satin Polyurethane. I applied 3 very light coats allowing it to flash dry about 45 minutes between coats. I let that cure 72 hours. I lightly went over the stock with 0000 Steel wool, just enough to allow additional coats of Polyurethane. I sprayed 2 more even coats allowing it to flash dry about 45 minutes between coats. I then let the stock cure for about 1 week to make sure the Polyurethane had cured very well (the Houston humidity makes things cure slow) and I didn't want to take any more chances and relive the previous experiences.

Once I was satisfied the topcoat was cured, I very lightly went over the whole stock with 0000 steel wool to bring the sheen down a bit. The Clear Satin was still a bit shinier than I liked.

Here are some photos of the finished stock, stain and polyurethane.
I wish I would have taken some photos of the process but didn't anticipate doing this. If I do another, maybe I can post those as well.

I hope this helps some of you avoid a few headaches if you are considering doing this.
I originally wanted to stay with the "purist" type of finish (BLO or Tung Oil etc.) but had to abandon that idea once I saw how fragile the standard stain finish was. The stain does not penetrate deep enough into the wood to survive bumps and bruises of normal wear/tear. The under layer of very light wood shows through very easily. I opted for the Polyurethane top coat to (hopefully) protect the stain layer somewhat better. I know many on the forum may frown on the use of Polyurethane, but Hackberry is a new addition to most of us. This option may allow some of us to be able to enjoy and use our Garands for years to come. I didn't get a Garand to hang on the wall the rest of it's life....and look pretty.




Last edited by 69Shelby; 07-25-2018 at 12:57 AM. Reason: addition
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Old 07-25-2018, 06:11 AM
Bear57 Bear57 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Clarkston, Michigan
Posts: 1,159


Great write up! .... a BIG THANK YOU! ....
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Old 07-25-2018, 07:17 AM
dnmccoy dnmccoy is offline
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Ohio
Posts: 3,888

Great results!
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Old 07-29-2018, 09:10 PM
capoetc capoetc is offline
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: McKinney TX
Posts: 111

That came out lookin’ purty! ;-P
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Old 07-30-2018, 05:41 PM
hcmaize hcmaize is offline
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Rolla, MO
Posts: 1,026

Just thinking..What if Hackberry had been used from the beginning of production...imagine what it would look like now...probably strong enough but..
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Old 07-30-2018, 08:51 PM
bruce bruce is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Georgia
Posts: 1,202

Simply a beautiful result! I have not yet looked at a hackberry stock first hand. Reports here and there are not encouraging. But, you results argue well for what can be done with hackberry stocks. Most definitely not firewood! Anyone would be very proud to have such a beautiful stock/handguard set for their rifle. No it is not feather crotch french walnut fitted and finished by DGR. So what! The vast majority of M-1 rifles are stocked in either GI or Boyd stocks or some other aftermarket product. Beech, birch, walnut, maple, they all have good and bad points. Your hackberry (or whatever the species is) stock is a joy to my eyes. Sincerely. bruce.
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Old 07-31-2018, 07:48 AM
69Shelby 69Shelby is offline
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 350

Thank you to everyone for the great feedback and responses.
It is very encouraging to hear other forum members opinions
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Old 08-02-2018, 02:09 PM
Gunfreak25 Gunfreak25 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Yuma, AZ
Posts: 38

Beautiful. I've been a stocksmith since I was 17 years old. Trained by the best in the biz.
Wood quality will never be the same for gunstock's. Most of the stock material used by arms manufacturers post 1900's were cut from old, slowly grown tree's which produced tight grain and when properly cured, a stable platform not prone to warpage. The german's, Turks, French and Italians all used the best.

Those old tree's have long since been used up and now we work with tree's that are purpose planted for rapid growth and commercial cookie cutter production. Woods are fast dried in kilns which does not produce the same effect as slow dried for several years.

So in a sense, you could say even the BOYD CMP walnut sets aren't the best. In reality, they are on par with whatever else is available, Hackberry included.

My field grade is coming tomorrow and I look forward to seeing the hackberry in person, and working with it of course.
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure." -Thomas Jefferson

Proud owner of a 1954 GMC Deuce and a half
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Old 08-02-2018, 02:28 PM
Gunfreak25 Gunfreak25 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Yuma, AZ
Posts: 38

You took a methodical approach to the staining which was correct. Not having used Hackberry before I was curious how it would take alcohol based which is my go to stain for the stubborn stock's. As you found, Minwax is oil based stain and putting linseed oil over that will tend to lift it right off, BLO tends to have a lot of other chemicals in it that act as driers but also solvents. Pure 100% tung oil is what the Army switched to sometime in 1942 or 43 I can't remember. Not Tung oil as in varnish that you'll find at the store. But 100% pure tung nut oil that dries similar to linseed but has better water proofing capabilities. It is almost honey like consistency and stock's were originally dipped at the arsenals in a heated vat, then drip dried. They didn't really use sandpaper in those day's and stock's were often draw filed with very open pores so they had no issues absorbing lots of oil and drying quickly.

My old "mentor" always scoffed at polyurethane so his attitude kind of rubbed off on me. I've used it many times per customer requests but it was never for me. It is a wonderful water proofer, but will bubble up if heated up too much (handguards).

Tru oil is made from linseed oil with additional driers and chemical treatments to dry hard. I can't recommend the spray can's enough for those glass smooth jobs some folks want on commercial grade guns. Of course only using a couple coats and burnishing the last one will produce a nice sealing effect on stain's without the varnishy look.
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure." -Thomas Jefferson

Proud owner of a 1954 GMC Deuce and a half
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Old 08-15-2018, 06:09 AM
mac1911 mac1911 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 2,964

Its a good idea for people to know that often when you apply a oiled based stain then try to apply a oil based finish it will pull the stain. Also the stain can act like a sealer even worse when it actual says "stain and sealer" some woods are just tough to get finish into the wood.
Especially after years of what ever finish is "in" the wood already.

Looks good
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