by David Bennetts
It was a really tough hunting season, and your poor gun took
quite a beating!
Look at those dings and scratches in the stock. They look
horrible! In fact,
it looks bad enough that you should think about refinishing
during the winter
so it will look good for spring shooting.
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have the proper
tools you will
need to do the job. If you have a shotgun, you need to have the
tools for removing
the recoil pad from the stock. This is usually a Phillips screwdriver,
you will run into a square drive, or slotted head screw. Take a
look at Brownells
Magna-Tip Screwdriver SuperSets™
for working on guns. Next, you will need the proper stock wrench
for your shotgun.
Be sure to check www.brownells.com
all of the stock wrenches we have in stock.
After you remove the buttstock, you will need to remove the
forearm. Some guns
it just slips off, some you need a special wrench to remove it. If
you are unsure
of what to do, go see your local gunsmith, they can usually help
you with this.
If you have a rifle, it normally requires a set of screwdrivers, or
to remove the stock. Sporting rifles are simple, but the military
can be more difficult, so again, if you’re not sure, seek
advice. You can also call our Gunsmith Techs for specific help at
After you have the wood removed from the firearm, you need to
also remove any
other non-wood related parts, such as buttplate, grip caps, cross
studs, etc. In a lot of cases, the grip caps, forend tip, and butt
made of plastic, and the stripper you will use will melt them. If
like you will destroy them during removal, then don’t! We
will tell you
how to work around this later. This is also a good time to think
on custom accessories, such as custom swivel studs, new recoil
pad, or a custom
grip cap. It sure is a lot easier to fit this stuff while you’re
the refinish than it is with a finished stock.
Now that the wood is off, and the hardware is stripped off, you
get to the really
fun part. Stripping the old finish!
You’ll need quite a bit of stuff to do this. First, a good
is essential. Look for one that is rated for epoxy finishes, and I
prefer the paste type as it will cling to the odd shapes better
than a liquid
will. You will also need a pair of rubber gloves, and to be on the
I would highly recommend wearing a pair of safety glasses and a
shirt. These potent finish strippers will give you a chemical burn
so protect yourself. .
If you have a newer gun, the chances are that the finish on it is
firearms made since the mid-80’s have this finish, so in
order to remove
it you will need a couple of scrapers. I personally like the Jerry
in a small diameter with the octagon shape.
They are easy
to use, and easy to re-sharpen. Make sure that the work surface
you are going
to be using will not be damaged by the stripper. In other words,
use the dining room table! I have found that a very thick layer of
(10 to 12 layers) on my work bench works well to absorb the
and keep it from soaking through to the bench top.
Before you start laying on the stripper, take a close look at your
it appears to have a very uniform, dark drown, or reddish brown
color, the chances
are the existing finish had a colorant added to it. This is how the
get the uniform color from gun to gun. This is important to know
because you will find that after stripping, the wood underneath
will not be
anything like what you see now, in fact, you may have quite a bit
of sap wood
in the stock that you will deal with when you do the finishing.
Just be aware
that your stock will not look much like you see it now. The good
thing is, however,
in many cases, there is some very pretty wood being covered up
by that colored
To start the stripping process, lay the stock on its side on the
I usually will pour the stripper right from the can and use a bristle
or even a rag to spread it over the stock surface. You want a
good thick coating.
If you had plastic fittings on your stock, you want to be very
careful not to
get the stripper on it. I will brush the stripper up close, then take
and apply the stripper as close as possible. Another thing to
keep in mind is
to do just one side at a time. It’s easier to concentrate
on a smaller
area, than it is the entire stock. Now sit back and let the stripper
work; generally 20 to 30 minutes.
If you have an older stock with the non-epoxy finish, you will be
able to watch
it bubble up and see it working. If it’s an epoxy finish, it
as though nothing is happening. But, it is.
Next, hold the stock firmly in your rubber-gloved hands, and
using the flat
scraper, start at the checkering and scrape back towards the
butt of the gun.
The finish will scrape off, but not easily. You’ll have to
work at it!
Get as much off as possible, always working away from the
checkering since this
keeps you from slipping and putting some unsightly gouges in it.
When you get to the inside curved areas, get out the small
and work those areas trying to get as much off as you can. At
this point, you
will probably have most of the finish off, but you will some brown
This is that lovely colorant and filler that I talked about earlier, so
may want to apply some more stripper and scrape some more.
Try to get as much
as possible off but if some remains, you can get it off later when
you do the
As you get to the plastic parts (if you have them) start the
scraper on the
edge just ahead of where you stopped the stripper and work
away from the plastic.
It’s okay if you scratch it, you just don’t want the
melt it. If you do get stripper on it, wipe it off quickly and you
hurt anything, just don’t let it sit too long! When you
have that side
done to your satisfaction, wipe the remaining stripper off with a
rag or paper
towel. It doesn’t have to be perfect; you’re just
getting rid of
some of the mess. You also might want to take a scrap of stiff
scrape up some of the crud off the newspaper, or take the first
layer of newspaper
off the top and discard the whole thing.
Now, turn the stock over and repeat the whole process again.
On-two piece stocks,
I’ll usually do one side of the stock and one side of the
forearm at the
same time. Again, try to get as much as possible of the brown
colorant as possible,
but don’t worry if some remains. Now take a rag or
paper towel and wipe
as much of the stripper left on the stock off the surface. You also
get the finish out of the checkering. To do this, I take a Q-tip and
to the checkering pattern only, one panel at a time. Allow it to sit
minutes or so, then take a bronze brush and scrub all the crud
out of the checkering.
Dipping the brush in lacquer thinner sometimes will really help
with the cleaning.
The next step is to neutralize the stripper. One of the biggest
problems I often
run into is problems with a new finish not drying properly, and
most of the
time it is due to not cleaning the residue of the stripper off the
and out of the pores. The way I like to do this is by dipping a pad
steel wool in lacquer thinner and scrubbing the surface well. This
any petroleum base additives in the stripper. Next I will take the
to my sink, and with hot running tap water and a few drops of
dish soap, I will
saturate the stock with water, put the dish soap on another pad
of steel wool,
and scrub the stock with the soapy, hot water.
Also, you can use an old toothbrush to scrub the stripper that
the inletting. Shake the stock off, and set it aside to let the
While the wood is still slightly damp, take a look at the surface. If
is finish left, it will look like little crystals on the surface. If you
them quickly, before everything is dry completely, they will come
Once you are satisfied the finish has been thoroughly removed,
set the stock
to the side and let it dry completely. Overnight is usually the best
you want the wood dry again before you start sanding. Just
make sure that the
area you leave the stock in is fairly dry and not damp and musty.
it might take a few days for it to dry out completely.
When you’re satisfied that the stock is dry,
you’re ready to start
sanding. I always hand sand, rather than using a power sander.
It is very easy
to lose your sharp lines, and over-sand with a power sander.
These also have
a tendency to leave swirl marks in the wood, so I avoid their use
The supplies you will need for this will be Aluminum
(wet- or dry) in 120, 220, 320, and
. I like
the aluminum oxide paper because it cuts fast, and
doesn’t dull from the
abrasive fillers that are in the pores of the stock. You will also
need a good
sanding block. You can make one up from a scrap block of wood,
with a hard felt
pad glued to the bottom. You want a sanding block that is firm,
yet has some
give so it will follow the stock contour. Now you want to install
pad, or buttplate, and any non-metallic fittings back on the stock,
a plastic grip cap. The idea is to sand these parts at the same
time you sand
the stock. This how you get that perfect fit on your recoil pad!
Remember the plastic pieces that you had to leave on the stock?
Well, now you’re
going to sand the old finish off! I usually do this first since it will
the surface uniform to the wood before you sand the rest of the
stock, and this
will avoid any dips that could show up from over sanding to get
the finish off
the plastic pieces. You want to start out using 120 grit paper
backed up with
the sanding block.
The goal is to only remove what finish and dark filler is left on the
of the wood, you are not looking to remove any defects, just to
get the down
to the wood surface so it looks a uniform surface. You must take
care at the
areas that the wood and metal will meet. You do not want to
The whole idea is to remove as little wood as possible, and to
the edges roll over. Keep everything sharp! Just as the stock was
when it was
made. You also want to be very careful around the checkering,
just work up to
it, and don’t sand over it. To sand inside contours, such a
or flutes, tear off a small piece of sandpaper, and wrap it around
For small radii, use the eraser end of a pencil, or any other
that fits the radius.
You now have the stock and fittings all sanded to a uniform 120
grit, so the
next step is to try to lift the old filler out of the wood pores. To do
you want an OLD
steam iron; don’t use your
wife’s good one, as it
will ruin it! Take a soft cotton rag, flannel works good, but make
sure it is
well washed, or it could transfer dye to the stock. Wet the rag
and lay it over
the stock, covering as large an area as possible. I usually make it
to cover both sides of the buttstock, and long enough to go full
length of a
shotgun stock, or _ the length of a rifle stock. Turn the iron on to
let it get good and hot. Now take the iron, and lay it on the wet
rag, but keep
it moving slowly, and go over the entire covered area including
Be careful! You will be producing some very hot steam that
If you are doing this correctly, you can actually hear the steam
the cloth. This will force steam into the wood pores and lift out
and raise most of the dings and dents that you have acquired.
Go over the stock
with the wet rag and steam iron enough to make sure you have
covered the entire
stock as best you can. If you haven’t covered everything,
rewet the rag,
and move on to another area. When you have finished, set the
stock aside to
dry. If you have an old hair dryer, you can speed up the drying
You will also see a color change in the wood as it dries. After the
dried, you will see that the grain has also been raised and
Now take some more 120 grit paper and sand the stock again.
Once more, all you’re
trying to do is smooth the surface, not to remove much wood, or
of the stock. When you are happy with your sanding, remove all
the dust with
a soft rag and a soft brush, such as a cheap paint brush. Now
take a close look
at your stock. Check it over carefully for defects, like scratches
clear through the finish and into the wood, dings that
didn’t come out
with the steaming process, and hairline cracks. The scratches
can, for the most
part, be sanded out. But be careful, and follow the stock contour.
leave a low spot. Blend your sanding in with the rest of the stock.
If you still
have some dings, try spot steaming them with a wet rag, and
use the point of
the hot steam iron.
If you work at it you can raise most dings with success. If you
get them out, I like to fill them with a clear, quick drying epoxy,
You mix a small amount of epoxy, and using a toothpick, apply
the epoxy to the
low spot, building it up higher than the surface, because some
will soak into
the wood. Another trick is to take a lit match and pass it a few
the epoxy. This warms it and allows it to work into the wood
fibers for an even
better repair. Just be careful not to burn the adhesive. Set it
aside and allow
to dry overnight.
Once this has dried, go back and sand the surface till it is even
with the wood.
For cracks, the best thing I have found is The
Original Hot Stuff
. This adhesive is water thin, and will seep
a crack that is clamped tight. Just apply the glue to the crack, and
wick itself to the back of the crack. Once again, let the outside
and sand the surface even.
Now look at where your recoil pad, grip cap, etc. meet the wood.
If they are
not perfectly flush, then use your sanding block and sand either
or the piece till they are flush. Also make sure you have all the
off of your plastic pieces. By this time, you should have a nice,
with nothing showing other than the darker areas where you did
any repair work.
Don’t worry about those areas being darker; they will
blend in when you
do your finish.
Now, start sanding with the finer grits of paper to smooth off the
Start with 220-grit and re-sand the entire stock. You want to
remove the scratches
left from the 120-grit, but once again, do not over-sand the wood
to metal areas,
and use your sanding block to maintain your contours. Once you
with the 220-grit, remove the sanding dust like you did with the
repeat using 320-grit paper.
Once you have finished sanding with the 320-grit, this is usually
for any type stock finish, but if you want to get your stock
than proceed to use the 400-grit paper. This will nearly polish the
and if you have any defects, lake waves in the sides, they will
up. If you are satisfied with the results, then the next step will be
Next month I’ll be talking about putting the finish on the
Stock Refinishing - Part II