One thing that all long guns with a wooden stock have in common is that at one point in their lifespan, they will have to be reconditioned or restored to have a better finish.
Constant use and the effect of time will make the finish of wooden gun stocks get either damaged or dull. Sometimes, this is an issue of aesthetics: guns with a dull finish can be embarrassing to display. Other times, however, it’s an issue of functionality.
While some degree of aging might be acceptable, even sporting a rustic aesthetic, the finish should never deteriorate to the point where the gun is no longer practical to use. Once your gun reaches this point, you should probably have to refinish gun stock.
If you’ve ever tried to get a professional to refinish gun stock, the first thing you’ll discover is how expensive those services are. They can cost more than the gun itself!
So, if you have some free time on your hands and are willing to explore refinishing your gun yourself, rest assured that it’s quite easy to accomplish. In no time, you’ll achieve a pro finish by applying the awesome tips we put together for you.
Without further ado, here’s our in-depth guide on how to refinish gun stock in 7 easy steps.
Tools Required to Refinish Gun Stock
Before you jump right into refinishing your gun stock, you have to make sure that you have gathered all your tools.
The items you’ll need:
- Your worn out or dirty gun stock
- Wood stripper
- Sandpaper (150-400 grit)
- Wood stain
- Tru oil
- Stock wax
- Safety gear (eye protection, gloves)
- Elbow grease
- A scraper, sharp blade, or pocket knife
How to Refinish Gun Stock
First things first: make sure you follow all safety protocols for gun handling and maintenance before you begin. Once you have done that and gathered your tools, you can jump right into the process.
Step 1: Take the Gun Apart
We recommend taking the gun apart before you begin to refinish gun stock because it’s much harder to maneuver the gun stock if you still have all the other parts attached.
We also recommend that you have some form of pictorial representation of your gun showing the labels for all the pieces and where they go. That way, once you take everything apart, it won’t be difficult for you to put it back together.
We can’t stress this enough: follow ALL gun safety rules before disassembling your gun. Make sure it isn’t loaded with bullets. Also, take your time and use the right tools while taking your gun apart to really think through all the steps.
Step 2: Remove the Old Finish
The next step is to remove the dull original finish from the wooden stock. There are several methods for doing this. Some people prefer to use chemical strippers, while others prefer the more traditional method of using sandpaper to sand and scrape the wood.
Either way is fine, but sanding by hand is more popular. It’s also easier, just as effective, and gives you better control of the stripping process. For hand sanding, do the following:
- Use sandpaper with 150-400 grit to scrape the old finish.
- Scrape along the grain of the wood and pay particular attention to the dents on the stock to determine how much finish needs to be removed.
- Begin with a fine grit and switch to a coarser if necessary one as you go along.
If sanding by hand is too much work, you can opt for power sanders or chemical strippers. However, note that power sanding is not as precise as hand sanding.
If you’re considering going the chemical way, you need a well-ventilated area and some PPE (eye protection, gloves, and face mask, in this case) so that the chemicals don’t harm you.
Gun stocks tend to have different finishes and will require a different approach to remove each one. However, most of them have polyurethane or a similar finish. Polyurethane requires strong chemicals (preferably one with methylene chloride) for full effectiveness.
To apply the chemical stripper, follow these easy steps:
- Soak a steel wool pad in the chemical stripper and slowly rub it into the gun stock. Ensure you take it in small patches at a time and apply it in circular motions.
- Try not to rub the wool pad into the stock; it doesn’t take much pressure to scratch the gun stock.
- After the first application, go over the stock again and rub the stripper with the grain this time.
- You will know you made some progress once the finish begins to disappear. However, if you’re not seeing any difference, stay patient and keep repeating the process.
- Once you’ve finished stripping the old finish, hang the stock freely in the air to dry for about 24 hours.
- Wash the stock in soapy water and use a steel wool pad to remove the extra dirt and gunk on the outside of the stock.
- Hang the gun stock outside to dry once more.
Step 3: Degrease
Once you’ve stripped the gun stock, you may notice that it still has some grease and grime trapped in the grain. At this stage, you will completely clean the stock by degreasing.
If the stains are straightforward, you can easily remove them with soapy water and a dry cloth. However, if the grease stains are tougher, a more intense method may be necessary.
To go after tougher stains:
- Grab a de-greaser from the nearest hardware or department store
- Boil some water
- Place the stock in a utility sink and lather the de-greaser into the wooden stock until it forms a nice coat of suds, then let it sit for about 10 minutes.
- Carefully pour the boiling water directly over the stock in the sink and cover with a towel for about 5 minutes, so the water can soak in before flipping to the other side.
- Keep alternating until the water becomes lukewarm.
- When you’re done, keep the stock dry by cleaning along the wood grain with a clean rag.
- Once clean, you can hang out the stock again to dry.
An additional benefit of this water treatment is that it causes the wood fibers to swell and corrects those accumulated dents or dings to create a nice, clean, level surface. It also shows you all the weak spots in your gun stock.
Step 4: Fix Those Cracks and Blemishes
With this step, you can correct all the perfections that the hot water didn’t. These include gouges, dents, scratches, cracks, and even tough gun oil stains.
- If the imperfections are minor scratches, you can easily hand sand the gun stock to get rid of them.
- For smaller cracks, you can fill them up using tung oil or shellac. However, take care to not overdo it. It’s going to take more than only shellac or tung oil to fill up those cracks, even though they’re small.
- Just before the shellac dries up, use a 220-grit sandpaper to sand the surface. As you sand, the sawdust from the wood fills up the crack for a uniform color and feel.
- Repeat the entire process until the crack is completely dried up, then you can leave it out to dry.
- Another option is to first lightly sand the stock and mix the resultant sawdust with epoxy to form wood mud. Then use a toothpick to push the goo into the crack and press down until it becomes compact. Wipe away the excess residue and leave to set.
- If you have deep scratches or the crack is way larger and cuts through the stock, then you should really consider getting a new one or only using it as a showpiece.
Step 5: Sand the Stock
Once the stock dries up and you have filled all the cracks and imperfections, you can apply a little lemon oil to return some natural oils to the wood. Natural oils will help the wooden fibers rise and make them resistant to future cracking.
After applying the oils, sand the stock again so you have a clean, smooth surface for your refinish. You can also use a sanding block instead of a sandpaper for this part as it gives you more freedom to curve around the edges of the stock, saving time and energy.
Begin with 220-grit sandpaper and work your way up to 400. You don’t need to exceed 400-grit because the difference stops becoming noticeable from this point. Also, sand with long strokes.
Ensure the butt plate remains in place while sanding so you don’t make any mistakes. After you have finished, clean the sawdust and other debris from the surface of the gun stock.
Keep in mind that if you use an electric sander in lieu of regular sanding blocks or sandpaper, there is a high chance that swirl marks will appear after you stain the stock.
Step 6: Stain the Gun Stock
The actual process to refinish gun stock begins here. To properly stain your wooden stock, follow the following steps.
- First, choose your preferred type of stain (water-based, gel, lacquer, oil, varnish, etc.). We recommend you go for at least two different kinds of stains to give your stock a deep, rich color.
- Use a pre-stain conditioner to prepare the wood and give it a neutral base for the remaining staining process to rest on, like a foundation layer.
- Use a soft cloth to apply the stain to the entire stock. As usual, remember to apply along the wood grain.
- Let it sit for a little bit. Ideally, this allows the stain to soak into the darker grains of the wood only.
- Finally, you can add the second stain using the same method, except that you allow the stain to sit for longer so that it really soaks in.
- When you obtain a satisfactory result, wipe the excess stain away with a clean cloth and leave to dry.
- Alternatively, you can completely forgo staining your gun stock and just skip right to finishing. Applying stain gives your gun stock a fresh look, especially if the old one has become dull and unattractive.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
After you achieve the color you like, all that’s left is to seal the stain in and protect your stock with a good finish. Here’s how to apply gun stock to finish the process.
- Hang your gun stock from the ceiling, grab a pair of gloves and spray Tru Oil gun stock finish with a circular motion all over the wooden rifle stock.
- Try not to apply so much that it drips; the light coat should soak into the wood fairly quickly.
- Allow the first coat to dry for at least 8 hours.
- Once dry, use steel wool to lightly sand the wood surface before applying another layer of Tru Oil.
- If it so happens that despite your best efforts, you still end up with drip marks, you can sand that part over and apply more oil until it’s uniform.
- Repeat this process four more times but allow each coat to dry for 8-12 hours before applying the next one.
- Finally, use stock wax to give your stock a good shine and show off your refinishing skills in the best light.
In this article, we broke down the steps on how to refinish gun stock. As you can see, if you have some time on your hands, refinishing is a simple enough process to do on your own. No more worrying about breaking the bank for the services of a professional!
All it takes is the right tools and some serious patience. With regular practice, you’ll be well on your way to being a professional stock refinisher in no time.
If you need more tips to help you maintain your pride and joy, we’ve got you covered.