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    1. · MGySgt USMC (ret)
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      Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
      This subject comes up a lot, so I thought I would post the way I do it. This method gives you a "G.I. looking" stock finish.

      1. Clean/degrease the stock. This is only really necessary if the stock wood is really greasy or oil soaked. I've had good luck with "Simple Green" to clean the gunge off most stock wood. Some folks will skip this step, but they can often wind up having to use a stripper a second or third time if they don't, when the stocks are real greeasy or oily. If the stock is not really greasy or oily, you skip this step.

      2. Strip stock. If you want to use Oven Cleaner, be advised you MUST wash the stock thoroughly with hot water while vigorously rubbing the wood with a strong bristle brush or the caustic lye or Sodium Hydroxide will not be washed off. If not, it will turn the stock a greenish cast because the SH is still evident and eating the wood. That and the fact that even the "No Fume" stuff has bad fumes and eats bare skin until it washes off. AFTER you wash the stock thoroughly, you MUST put the stock in a dry place and NOT in the direct sunlight for about two to three days and depending on how much humidity is in the air in your locale. If you put a wetted stock in the bright sunlight, I guarantee you that cracks willl form because certain sections of the wood will dry faster than others. For all these reasons, I stopped using oven cleaner about 10 years ago.

      For a single stock, I have had the best luck using Acetone you get from the hardware store. What is great about Acetone is that it leaves NO HARMFUL CHEMICALS and actually no chemicals or anything else on the wood. That means there will be NOTHING on the wood that will interfere with the stain and oil you are going to apply. If the stock is or oily (and not enough to have used Simple Green to clean it first), I will scrub it with a bronze bristle brush and/or bronze "Chore Girl" kitchen pot scrubber while I wet the stock with acetone from a wadded ball of paper towels soaked with acetone. You also use paper towels moistened with Acetone to clean the "gunk" off that you are stripping. No worry about cracks being caused by doing this and you don't have to wait a couple of days for the stock to dry. There is a superb reason to only use Acetone on a "Collector Stock." If you want to save the DOD cartouche on an M14 stock or even MORE important, the cartouche and ordnance wheel on a Garand stock, DO NOT USE ANY STRIPPER BESIDES ACETONE. Strippers will wipe out or so screw up cartouches that you can turn a $ 300.00 to $ 1,200.00 Garand Collector stock into a $80.00 "used stock" so fast it is not funny. On the wood right over and right next to the Cartouche, I wet a paper towel with Acetone and wring it out so it is just moist with Acetone. Then I just lightly dab at the wood to get some of the surface finish off. DO NOT scrub that area with any kind of brush or really wet that area with Acetone. This will keep the Cartouche and Ordnance Wheel in the best possible shape.

      You can use a stripper designed for wood, but I've had the very best luck with plain old Acetone.

      3. Steam the dents/dings. You can do that by wetting a rag and laying it on the dent/ding and then pressing an iron onto it. I would NOT use your wife's iron, though, as you can get crud in it and she will skin you alive. Go buy an inexpensive iron and use that. I do enough stocks and handguards that I bought this "Stock Iron" from Brownells, though most people don't need it. http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=13120/Product/STOCK-IRON

      Now, steaming will NOT raise the dinged wood back to the surface height in every or even most cases. If the ding is across the wood or if the fibers of the wood are cut/crushed across the grain, steaming will not raise those kinds of dings. I don't actually do much steaming anymore as I can tell which ones will raise and which ones won't, but that takes a lot of experience.

      4. Rough sanding and contouring the stock. What you should do is familiarize yourself with the contours of the stock. Pick the stock up and hold it with the butt facing you and turn the stock around all the way slowly while looking down the stock. The comb and bottom of the butt are rounded pretty well, but there is a gentle rounding along the sides. The top and bottom of the grip are also more rounded than the sides, but the sides should have a gentle curve as well. Turn the stock so the ferrule is pointing towards you. The sides of the stock should be gently curved while the bottom edges are more rounded. The very bottom of the front of the stock should also have a gentle curve. IOW, there are NO large flat areas on the stock. A power sander will turn even gently curved surfaces FLAT when they really should not be and then you have to do some SERIOUSLY CAREFUL stock re-contouring. Now, sometimes you have no choice but to flatten the sides of the front of the stock from just forward of the grip area, but if you don't have to - try not to do it.

      The next thing you need to do is make a mental note about where the Cartouche is, if there is one on the stock. It is normally best to STAY AWAY from sanding directly on or very near a cartouche. Now, on an M14 stock that may be not as important as on a Garand stock and if the Cartouche has already been sanded, you may decide to go ahead and sand it off. HOWEVER on a Garand Stock, you should do your best to NEVER sand off a Cartouche or Ordnance Wheel as you will SERIOUSLY hurt the value of the stock.

      If you need to do some re-contouring of the stock, you do it at this point. Some folks, including me, have used some kind of power sander to do this work. If you do not know how to use a power sander, I would very much advise you NOT to use one on a stock. It is too darn easy to sand too much wood off the stock you can not put back. Also, I have found it actually makes more work than it helps in far too many occasions. I will SOMETIMES grab my hand held vibrating sander if/when I have to recontour certain areas of the stock to blend them back after someone filed flat areas where there shouldn't be, but that is the only time I use it anymore. What I do most often nowadays to recontour a stock is to use cabinet scrapers to do most of the work. You can scrape a good deal off when you need to and only a very little when you don't. HOWEVER, if you think you would like to use cabinet scrapers and you have never used them before, it is best to practice with them on scrap wood and then a real beater stock first. You have to learn how to sharpen a cabinet scraper and that is not that difficult. I didn't buy a set of cabinet scrapers until after I had done over a hundred stock sets and I wish I had bought and learned to use them sooner. However, if you don't alreay have and know how to use cabinet scrapers, this is normally not the time to begin without practicing on other scraps and beater stocks. You do NOT need cabinet scrapers for one or even a few stocks, though.

      Noticed we have not begun sanding yet? That's right and for good reason.

      OK, Grasshopper, I don't care what the Sensei said in the Karate Kid, do NOT sand in a circular motion. Grin. Sanding in a circular motion will make the stock finish look crappy and you will easily see sanding swirls through the finish. You want to sand the wood "with" or along the grain. That means you sand it along the length of the stock. You may have to sand the top and bottom of the grip along the curved sides to restore a nicely curved surface. After you do that, though, you want to sand along the wood and than keep in line with the grain and go around the top or bottom of the grip with the grain. I mention this first BECAUSE every time you use any grit of sandpaper, you need to follow the grain of the wood.

      It is very difficult not to wind up with a "wavy" looking stock when you contour or rough sand it by hand without some sort of sanding block. Tht can look really terrible. I have tried a HUGE number of sanding blocks over the years from a simple piece of FLAT scrap lumber with a felt bottom glued on to rubber blocks, etc., etc., etc. You REALLY need some kind of sanding block when doing contouring and rough sanding. The thing I have found MOST USEFUL is a drywall sanding block and these come with a nice/thin rubber bottom the sandpaper is against on the paper side. I bought mine from either Home Depot or Lowe's many, MANY years ago and still use it over almost anything else. Here is a link to one type, but mine just has spring wire clamps on the front and back to hold the sandpaper and was made of plastic and fairly cheap. [ame]http://www.amazon.com/Marshalltown-Trowel-16320-Drywall-Sander/dp/B000CP2LUA/ref=sr_1_143?s=power-hand-tools&ie=UTF8&qid=1318341467&sr=1-143[/ame]

      The first Commandment about rough sanding and contouring a stock is: THOU SHALT NOT USE 40 TO 60 GRIT SANDPAPER. Thou shalt resist the urge to use these grits in the vain hope of easing your labor and getting the work done faster. You will far too easily oversand a stock and mess up the contours or leave such deep scratches it will be A PAIN IN THY REAR END to sand them out. I have found the coarsest grit to use is 80 grit and that is ONLY when I have do recontouring or get some really deep dents and dings out. It would not be a bad idea to use 100 grit as your coarest grit the first time or so you do a stock.

      The second Commandment is: IT IS BETTER TO SAND TOO LITTLE THAN TOO MUCH. Most of the time, you do not need to go over the whole stock with 80 grit paper. 100 grit is the coarsest I use over the whole stock and then only lightly to "roughen up" the surface, if you do not have to re-contour any place.

      The third Commandment is: THOU SHALT NOT SAND HARD WITHIN AN INCH OF THE BUTTPLATE WHEN COARSE SANDING. It is WAY too easy to take too much off the stock close to the buttplate, so I never coarse sand all the way to the edge. This keeps the sin of an overhanging lip of fhe buttplate extending beyond the butt surface from happening. We "sneak up" to the edge with sandpaper later on and sometimes if there is not enough wood, we may not sand all the way to the edge at all.

      Edited to Add the fourth Commandment: THOU SHALT NOT SAND ANY OF THE BEDDING SURFACES FOR THE RECEIVER OR TRIGGER HOUSING. You don't sand those surfaces at all !!! Sanding those surfaces will make a tight stock loose up and down. You may use a scotchbrite type pad made for wood to slightly abrade those surfaces so the oil finish will stick better, though.

      If you really have to recontour the top or bottom of the grip to get the nice curves back in them, do that with the sandpaper just in your hands as it is easier to sand the curves smoothly. If there are no dings or bad spots on these areas, I would NOT coarse sand them with 80 grit sandpaper.

      OK, use the sanding block with 80 grit and go over the surface of the stock and recontour as necessary. HOWEVER, you are NOT triying to sand every ding or dent out of the stock at this time. Get the contouring done first and see how much of the dings or dents that come out.

      Now you STOP sanding and look carefully at how much wood you have left on the stock. If you have a really fat/thick walnut or birch stock, you can probably sand out most of the dings (though maybe not the really deep ones). IF you have a thin Walnut or a stock that has already been rasped/filed/sanded fairly thin, DON'T try to sand them out. You have to decide if it is better to fill in the dings with epoxy or if you can sand them out without making the stock too thin in some areas OR if you would have to take too much off one side of the stock to get them out and that means you would have to sand too much off the other side to get it to look right. If you don't have deep dents or dings and you have enough wood left, then go ahead and sand them out.

      If you have really deep dents or dings, I suggest it is far better to fill them than to try to sand them out - especially if you have more than 3 or 4. The first thing to do is prepare those dents for the glue. I grab a dental burr and cut out the dark stained part and then cut under the edges of the ding all around the ding. That gives the glue patch a sort of interior dovetail so it won't come out. You may not have a dental burr, but you need to use some king of sharp pointy tool like an awl or dental pick to dig out the soft/stained wood and then roughen the surface down inside the ding so the glue will stick. Then FILE a piece of scrap wood that is the same type as your stock and do this over a piece of paper so you can keep the very fine sawdust. Mix two small batches of 2 part CLEAR epoxy. In one batch, mix in as much of the fine sawdust as it will hold. In the other small batch of epoxy, leave it clear with no sawdust. Now, "wet" the bottom of the ding with the clear epoxy. You are not trying to fill the ding, just get a little glue on it. Then PRESS as much sawdust epoxy into the ding with something like a tongue depressor or scrap of wood. You actually want press MORE sawdust epoxy into the hole so it mounds up above the surface of the hole. Then stretch a piece of masking tape over it tightly so the tape actually presses down over the glue mound. This will usually keep holes from forming in the sawdust epoxy. Do this on every ding/dent you want to fill. Let the glue dry overnight. SAND the mound of glue back down to the surface of the stock and the ding is filled. If you have a hole, you can repeat this step to fill it in if it is big enough. If the hole is tiny, you may just want to let it go.

      5. Finish Sanding. At this point, I a$$ume you have sanded the stock with 100 grit sandpaper. You will need to use 120 grit and finally 150 grit for final sanding. I will use the sanding block with the 120 grit paper, but I don't bother with the 150 grit as that doesn't take much wood off at all, just sands out the scratches from the 120 grint. In the curved areas of the stock, I just use the 120gr or 150 grit sandpaper held in my hand. G.I. stocks were NEVER sanded with 180 grit sandpaper, so if you want to make it look "G.I." don't use 180 grit or finer paper. Trust me, that is experience talking.

      When you sand close to the buttplate area, LIGHTLY sand there so as not to take too much wood off the stock. I do that by hand with the 120grit if necessary, but often only with the 150grit so I don't sand too much.

      After you have sanded all over the stock and got all the scratches from the 120 grit paper out with the 150 grit, it is time to "whisker' or "raise the grain" of the stock. Lord knows I have tried many things for this, but the VERY BEST and easiest thing to use is wet about 3 paper towels bunched up into a loose ball and wet it in Acetone and go over the whole stock with it. As it dries, wet it again as you go over the stock. Allow it to dry for about 10 minutes, then sand the whole stock with very light pressure and with 150 grit sandpaper. What this does is knock off the top of the "hairs" or "whiskers" of the fibers of the wood you sanded. Because birch and beech are softer woods, I do this twice on those stocks. This keeps you from having a really rough surface finish when you are done.

      6. Get the sticks. OK, you may be thinking I've lost my marbles (and you would not be entirely wrong, grin), but this is something I've come to believe is really necessary. What I'm talking about is a piece of wood to stick into one of the buttstock compartment holes and another that will go into the front handguard - if you are doing a Garand stock set. The one for the buttplate hole can be made from a 1" or 3/4" dowel and you taper the end a little by sanding until it will go into the hole in the butt just tight enough it will stick. If it is loose, just wrap some masking tape around it to tighten it up. We want to be able to hold onto that and turn it in our hands to turn the stock while we seal, stain and oil the stock. I have found a piece about a foot and a half long overall is plenty. Of course you need a smaller diameter dowel or stick for the front handguard of a Garand and you only need that stick to be about a foot long.

      7. Sealing the stock. This is a MUST DO step if you want the whole stock to look as one even color after staining. If you don't do it and stain the stock, you will wind up with darker areas on top and under the grip and anywhere else that endgrain is exposed. If you don't want to stain your stock, you should still do this step because it will show you what the wood will look like when the finish is on it to a degree. You may decide you want to add some color by staining when you see this coat dry.

      There are a BAZILLION products from sanding sealer to Bullseye Spray Shellac to Spar Varnish to God only knows what for sealing wood. There may be a few out there I haven't tried over the years, but I've tried most of them. The problem with many sealers is they are not made for outdoor use. Spar Varnish would be great, but it can have a tendency to show up as shiny spots in the finish or make it difficult to stain or the oil coat to adhere.

      After trying most of what's out there, I have come back to using Birchwood Casey's Tru Oil for sealing a stock and for the outside finish. No need to buy two products when this product will do both. The 4 oz. bottle will do two or more sets of Garand wood, so you only need one bottle. The ONLY thing you have to know about this stuff is after you are done using it, wipe the any oil off the bottle with a paper towel, twist the cap on tight and store the bottle UPSIDE DOWN. What that does is the air inside the bottle will harden the surface layer of the oil a bit into a gooey skin. When you store it upside down, that gooey layer will always be on the bottom when you turn it rightside up to use it and you will always have clean oil that comes out. To show you what it looks like, here's the link: http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=4952/Product/TRU-OIL-STOCK-FINISH

      You can dip a finger or two in the oil and rub it HARD into the wood in small areas of the stock and then dip and rub over another area. You do not want to leave much on the surface of the wood at all. Actually, I've been using one of the jumbo wool daubers to put it on lately and what I REALLY like about that is I don't put too much oil on in any area and makes it a whole lot easier to clean my hands later. You put this size dauber in at the top of the bottle and turn the bottle a bit to get some oil on the dauber. I get them from Tandy, the same as the stock stain. http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/en-usd/home/department/Liquids-N/43081-000.aspx

      After you have HARD RUBBED a coat of Tru Oil over the entire outside of the stock and put a THIN coat of oil on the inside. Clamp the stick in a vise to hold the stock or lean the stock against the wall where the stock ferrule is against the wall. OK, wait 20 minutes. Now go back and see if the stock will absorb any more oil under the bottom front of the stock, on top and and bottom of the grip and on top and bottom of the butt of the stock. You do this by trying to rub some more oil over those areas. (That will keep the stain from going too deep in those areas and making a blotchy stain job.) Then WIPE the whole stock down with a ball of clean paper towels. We are not trying to wipe ALL the oil off the top surface of the wood, just make sure the oil is not real shiny and there are no drips. Also take off any paper towel hairs that may stick to the stock as you see. Don't worry if there are some you can't see. In the winter and if you don't have a heated basement or garage, you need to sneak the stock into the house to allow the oil to dry as you really need about 70 degrees or higher for the oil to dry. Mud rooms or kitchen closets are places I've put them in apartments or condo's over the years. Now here is the difficult part. WAIT TWO DAYS for the oil to harden and cure. If that oil is still partially wet when you go on, it will just mess everything up. I have waited 24 hours in the summer, though, and then put it outside in the sunlight to "bake" during the day and that works extremely well.

      When the oil has dried and cured, sand over the whole outside sureface of the stock BACK to where the bare wood shows with 150 grit sandpaper. The Tru Oil will now seal the pores when you go to stain it. Wipe and use a paint brush and rag to get all the sawdust off the stock so it is clean and free of sawdust, lint, whatever.

      8. Stain the stock. OK, if you want one of those super light Blonde birch or beech stocks, then skip this step. If you liked the color of the stock when you put the sealer coat of Tru Oil on the stock, then skip this step. However, if you want a richer color or if you have to match M1 Garand or other handguards to a stock, you will have to stain the stock.

      Man, if you want to start a Huge Broughhaha amoung cabinet makers and advanced woodworkers, ask three or more which is the "best" stain for wood and then sit back and watch the fight begin. Grin. The four main types of stain for wood are: 1. Water Stain, 2. Oil Stain , 3. Spirit or Alchohol Stains, 4. Outdoor wood stain. I know guys who use Water Stains to great effects on some woods, but I have never liked it for stocks. Oil stains will cause the finish not to cure correctly. Outdoor stains actually have paint pigment in them and that makes a GOOEY MESS. (Yep, I tried it once.) The ONLY STAIN I use on stock and handguards is an Alchohol or Spirit stain. It dries fast and even. You can apply more layers of stain over the first coat or more coats to darken wood to match stocks to handguards. If you get the stain too dark, you can easily lighten it by wadding up a ball of paper towels and wetting the ball with Acetone (my favorite) or Rubbing Achohol lightly wiping off a little or a lot of the stain and try again. You only need to wait about four hours for it to completely dry, but overnight is best. OK, so what kind to use?

      Well, I have tried almost every kind of alchohol stain from getting powders from woodworking hobby outlets and mix myself to the things that are sold by different gun companies. These can be too difficult to mix, too much red in them, too whatever. The stuff I use is Tandy's Leather Dye. For stocks I don't want to color a whole lot, I use the Light Brown. You can lay on more of it to get a little more color, though. I probably use Medium Brown and Dark Brown the most, though, because I match handguards to stocks. If you don't like a medium to darker brown color, then buy the Light Brown dye and lay on more coats until you get the color that suits you. There is ONLY one brand of leather dye I buy for both wood and leather and that is Fiebing's leather dye. If you are only going to do one stock, get the small bottle. I get it and the large daubers mentioned above from Tandy's. Here is a link to show you what I'm talking about: http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/en-usd/home/department/leather-dye/2100-05.aspx You can look up the medium and dark brown colors on that website as well. OH, almost forgot, if the Medium Brown or Dark Brown are a little too dark, you can mix it 1:1 with acetone (my favorite) or alchohol to get "in between" colors.

      Go buy a pair of LARGE kitchen dishwashing gloves to use when staining. Yeah, you don't HAVE to have them if you don't mind scrubbing stain off your hide with Lava soap for an hour and waiting three or four days until the last wears off your hands, though. Get a clean wool dauber out and a wad of maybe five or six paper towels wadded up into a loose ball along with your can of Acetone. If you want or need to do the inside of the stock, that is the best place to start, especially on your first few times and I STILL do it that way 300 or more stock sets later. Moisten the dauber with stain and rub it on the wood. Then quickly grab the wad of paper towels (NO ACETONE ON THEM YET) and wipe the stain off the area you wet. Go over the whole inside of the stock AND BE CAREFUL if you get a run that goes on the outside of the stock, to wipe it QUICKLY with the paper towel wad.

      Here's a tip for staining the end grain. Wait till you have done the long sides of the stock before you do the top and bottom of the butt and pistol grip and also wait for the bottom of the front of the stock. Squeeze the stained dauber in the ball of paper towels so you won't get as much stain on the wood when you go over the endgrain areas. QUICKLY wipe over those areas and QUICKLY dry with the wad of paper towels. What we are doing is using a ligher coat of stain on the endgrain. Then, after you have gone over the whole stock, apply more stain to any light spots or to match the handguards as necessary. On Garand Sets, I LIGHTLY stain the darkest piece of wood first and then stain the medium and lightest woods to that color. Once I think I have good even color, I allow the stain to dry for at least four hours, but overnight is best. Once the stain has cured, I take an old Kitchen Terry Cloth Dish Towel and RUB THE HECK out of the entire stock and handguards. Then I take the stock OUTSIDE to look at it and see if something shows up in natural light you can't see inside. If it is a Garand set, I compare the colors of all three pieces. If there is something you missed or something you don't like, NOW is the time to fix it.

      If the stock is too dark, then you can ball up some paper towels, dip in acetone and SQUEEZE MOST of the Acetone out. Then glancing wipe off the dark spots. If the stain is too light or if one handguard or the stock is too light or dark, fix that now and repeat the steps to this point. I will warn you the color won't look quite right now, though, because it will look different when we apply the finish coat of oil.

      9. Apply surface finish. You only need ONE more coat of Tru Oil to finish the stock to make it look "G.I." You can use a dauber or your fingers to apply one more thin coat and rub it VERY HARD until it does not look glossy. Go over the whole stock a little area at a time. When you have done the whole stock, rub the whole thing HARD one more time. Don't worry, a there will be a very small amount of shine like a G.I. stock when it dries. DON'T touch or grab the stock with your fingers or hands or you will leave imprints in the finish. If you do touch it, quickly rub that area hard again. Now, put the stock somewhere where dust and lint won't get on it AND that is about 70 degrees or warmer. Wait three days before you touch it or you may mess up the surface and have to do another coat. When that finish is fully dry and cured, once again rub the dickens out of it with the terrycloth towel. Take it outside and look at it for any problems. If you have a spot that is just too dry, you can lay a tiny bit of oil and rub it hard in that area and allow it to dry fully again and rub it out.

      Now it should look like a G.I. stock. One warning though, if the finish looks a might too thin, wait a couple of days and take it outside. It will probably look fine. If it still looks too thin, you can lay another THIN hard rubbed coat on. However, I have found that most of the time that second coat will make the stock too shiny. If that's the case, you can lightly abrade the shine down with a scotchbrite TYPE rubbing pad that is made for working on wood. I buy the grey ones for this. After you rub it down, then rub the devil out of it again with the terrycloth towel and you are done.
       
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