stripping varnish off rifle stock

Discussion in 'General Firearm Discussion' started by ernurse, May 19, 2010.

  1. ernurse

    ernurse Active Member

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    Hey guys, thought I would ask, what is your favorite way to strip varnish off a rifle stock, the rifle in question is CMP M1 Garand that has had the stock varnished by the previous owner, it looks nice but I want to return it to the BLO look, any hints greatly appreciated, by the way the stock is a Boyds replacement so no worries on damaging a original issue stock. thanks.Scott:paranoid:
  2. dobeman

    dobeman Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I've read about the easy off (original) oven cleaner approach. Haven't tried it.
  3. MountainBear

    MountainBear Well-Known Member

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    My preferred method is to scrape it off with the back of a used up hacksaw blade that I put a burr on with a grinding wheel...
  4. BSG 75

    BSG 75 Well-Known Member

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    Use this stuff, available at Home Depot

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    If it is polyurethane it might take more than one application of the stripper. Use bronze wool to remove the last of the varnish. You can get bronze wool from Ace Hardware, boat supply shows, Woodcraft, or Rockler.
  5. turq

    turq Member

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    Try Formby's wood re-conditioner. Highly volitile so get good ventilation. Like a 10MPH wind outside.Good luck
  6. jordanka16

    jordanka16 Active Member

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    What he said.

    That stuff works really well and will also remove old cosmoline and dirt from the stock with multiple applications.
  7. chemist

    chemist Well-Known Member

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    Another vote for what he said. Formby's is the same stuff but higher priced.

    It takes time, but if you want to preserve the original patina of the wood then you can't use any sandpaper or burred hacksaws on it.

    I use 000 or 0000 steel wool in place of bronze wool, which works fine but loads up easily.
  8. Ding

    Ding Active Member

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    I use klean strip stripper,the gel type.If this suff can take off ak shellac/varnish it'll take off anything.
  9. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Well-Known Member

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    The issue I have with chemicals is that they seem to dissolve the finish and then it soaks into the wood, discoloring and/or sealing it. They also raise the grain.

    I'm with MountainBear on this one. You can also lay a file down flat and square up the back of the blade with that, and then rub the back of the blade on something of tool steel like a screwdriver shank to put burrs on both edges of the blade.

    Stanley tools makes a scraper available at most hardware stores. It's just a rectangular piece of steel like a square of fairly hard sheet metal. You also sharpen that by putting it on edge on a file, and then burnishing it on hard tool steel. The problem with it is that it will do only the flattest surfaces, but the hacksaw blade can be bent.

    Neither the back of the hacksaw blade nor the Stanley tool are too hard for a file.

    I once had a large upright player piano refinished and the old guy scraped all of the finish from every exterior part in less than a day, leaving the wood looking brand new. I went to school on that one. Of course that was old brittle lacquer, but still...


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  10. Ben Beckerich

    Ben Beckerich Well-Known Member

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    just cut a terry cloth towel up into a few pieces, douse 'em in lacquer thinner one at a time, and wipe the varnish right off. when a piece wont hold any more, chuck it and soak the next rag.

    i do a lot of stripping, and this is the best method i've found for most stuff that can't be dumped straight into the stuff.
  11. BSG 75

    BSG 75 Well-Known Member

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    That particular product, Kleen Kutter Refinisher, is designed for use on fine antique furniture. I have used it on stocks without any of the problems you mentioned.

    Before

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    After Kleen Kutter Refinisher

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    After refinishing

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  12. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, but I see all of the problems I mentioned. All of the soft parts of the grain and all of
    the various dings and scratches are dark colored. The stock is a very contrasty
    two tone, showing that the dark dissolved stain seeped into and soaked into and stayed in
    the soft spots and dings and scratches.

    Just for me, it looks "refinished" rather than "once finished." If the finish had been scraped
    off dry, the wood would be more one-colored more like new wood. Even though the original
    wood was somewhat two tone, the dings and scratches are now very dark due to dissolved
    stain. It actually makes the damaged parts more noticeable.

    Also, a lot of dings can be removed simply by putting a drop of water in them, then putting
    a damp rag on them and holding a hot iron on them. The steam will soften and raise the
    grain in the dent. Then after it dries thoroughly you can scrape again and then sand. The
    dings and scratches have had the finish knocked off obviously, and the water will soak
    right in. After using a remover, the dissolved finish has sealed the scratches and dings and
    it won't work.

    $.02
  13. BSG 75

    BSG 75 Well-Known Member

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    Those pictures were taken a couple of years ago immediately after I refinished it. I'll take some current pictures now that it has aged and it is less "contrasty two tone", although I have a suspicion you still won't like it no matter what :winkkiss:

    I wasn't going for a brand-new look with this stock (or ever with my milsurp stocks) so I didn't steam out the dents, although I am familiar with steaming out dents. :winkkiss:

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  14. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Well-Known Member

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    Any way you slice it, every single ding and scratch turned very, very dark from absorbing dissolved stain. Without the finish remover, that couldn't have happened. Now the imperfections are even more noticeable than before it was refinished. I'm having a problem seeing that as a good bargain.

    It would have been just as fast to scrape the finish off and it would look far more natural and in much better condition. I can't see a purpose in refinishing any stock unless I'm trying to improve it cosmetically. I agree it doesn't need to be perfect, but I don't want to make the dings and scratches actually stand out more than they did before by getting them darker.

    $.02
  15. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Well-Known Member

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    Here is a refinished stock. (wink kiss.)


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  16. Iceberg

    Iceberg Member

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    I have always used oven cleaner to strip my beat up GI stocks. Once you strip the finish, clean with hot soapy water, and then dry. Once the stock dries I usually iron out the dents w/ a damp wash cloth. Note: Do not use your wife’s favorite iron or wash cloth; yup I learned that the hard way….lol.
    After the stock is dry, sand w/ 000 or 0000 steel wool to smooth down the raised wood pores and then finish with multiple layers of boiled linseed oil. I have found that if you wet sand (w/ linseed oil) using 800 grit or finer sand paper you will end up with a great looking stock. The wet sanding will fill the wood pores. When you are wet sanding stay off the cartouches and they will end up looking fine. I learned this method from a buddy who was a custom gunsmith and stockmaker.
  17. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Well-Known Member

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    Wanna know how to fix a really bad damaged area? AFTER the finish is all scraped off and the stock is smoothed up, fill the large damaged area with automotive bondo. Yep, bondo. Block sand it to match the shape.

    Now, use very rough sandpaper and pointed objects to approximate the texture of the surrounding grain, going in the same direction as the existing grain.

    Now put a couple of coats of your planned finish on to bring out the color in the wood, covering the bondo too. Let that dry and sand the bondo and surrounding area with fine sandpaper to give it tooth.

    Now, match the color by mixing with tubes of artists' oil paint, painting the bondo and blending out onto the undamaged wood. Yep. Start by matching the lightest (often yellowish) color first, painting the whole area. Then build on top of that with the increasingly darker colors, carefully mimicking the grain and blending it into the edges, feathering it out onto the good wood. Let that dry well.

    Now give it at least three more coats of your final finish and you're golden. I like semi-gloss polyurethane followed by rubbing with 0000 steel wool, but that's personal preference.

    $.02
  18. Father of four

    Father of four Well-Known Member

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    Very nice! I luv the wood! They can keep the synthetic.
  19. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Well-Known Member

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    I'm betting that you can scrape a stock clean as fast, or at least almost as fast as you can set up to use oven cleaner, use it, clean it off, scrub it clean, clean up your mess and then rub it down with steel wool after it dries. Scraping doesn't raise grain. By contrast, it smooths it. It levels it.

    I sure agree about using the iron to take out dents. It just isn't that hard and it makes a world of difference.
  20. BSG 75

    BSG 75 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, that looks nice, and is appropriate for a newer gun. I could sand all of my stocks smooth and make them look brand new too, that's easy, but that's not what I want for my milsurp guns. I want them to look better (sometimes, most of the time I do as little as possible) but still "look their age", including some of the scrapes, scratches, and dings they acquired along the way. Just a matter of personal preference. :winkkiss:

    But if you want the stock on your 60+ year old milsurp rifle to look like it was made yesterday, by all means scrape and sand away and I'm sure you'll get the results you desire. :winkkiss: