How to obtain a classic oil finish
The pores of wood can be filled using a old trick.
Simply use a vegetable oil ( walnut oil, tung oil) and wet sand the stock with a wetsanding paper , 600 to 1200 grit. It depends a bit on the size of the pores. It takes wery little oil, and always work with the grain.
That forms a thin layer of "goo" on the stock, do not wipe it of. Just leave it to dry. When it has dried for at least 24 to 48 hours, polish and add a suitable surface finish. Do not use "miracle oils" that contains mineral oil or silicone.
It harms the wood. And polyurethane are a big no-no.
There are two broad kinds of gunstock finishes, "oil" and "varnish". There may be as much treachery in classifying some finishes as "oil", as in calling some fast drying finishes "varnish", with respect to traditional naming of stock finish. Old, and modern handbooks are consistent with respect to varnish terminology: Varnish is a hard, nearly transparent coating with a glossy surface. Spirit varnishes contain finish resins in a rapidly evaporating solvent. Oil varnishes contain finish resins in an oxidizing oil that supplements the resins and provides additional surface protection. Lacquer and shellac are spirit varnishes; copal, damar, and more common amber resin are oil varnishes, although they contain volatile solvent thinner to facilitate application. The finish of many high grade and custom rifles of the first half of this century can be imitated with "French Red Liquid" filler and Man O War spar varnish.
An oil finish is the legendary hallmark of fine guns. The classic chronology for application of an oil finish is once an hour for a day, once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year forever.
Legend has it that classic "London oil" finishes did require a year.
Orange (amber) shellac is the bilious finish on the plywood wallboard of WPA buildings, and industrial storage bins. Tough, resilient and hideous. It is also the finish of fine violins, other musical instruments and jewel boxes. The look of shellac is a matter of preparation, application, and the underlying material. Shellac is an organic resin extracted from the shell of the Asian lac bug. It is an ancient and stable finish of great repute.
Dried shellac is not only non - toxic, but edible by humans. Those expensive chocolates, which do not stain your fingers, may be coated with shellac. Interestingly, shellac is one of the few human friendly finishes which is not a choice menu item for mildew and fungus. Shellac is relatively resistant to sun and moisture with a little daily care, but cannot endure prolonged exposure to the outdoor environment.
The ethyl alchohol that is the shellac solvent dissolves most oil varnishes, preventing shellac from being used to renew the surface of other finishes. It also softens oil based fillers and stains, but shellac is its own best filler and sealer . Shellac can be dyed, and sticks of dyed shellac can be made or purchased which are excellent fillers for checks or bird pecks. A traditional artesan’s filler is made from corn starch and shellac. It sparsely shrinks, and it can be hand tinted to match complex grain if a check is opened in a finely figured piece of wood. A thin over coat of shellac seals in the tint.
A very fine final finish, sometimes called "French Polish" was accomplished with shellac and linseed oil, rubbed rapidly on the surface until "polish" was achieved.
A shellac/oil finish can progress from bare wood, through fill, sealer, and finish coat in a single work day, if necessary. The ethyl alchohol solvent (spirit) promotes coats of shellac to merge, and allows minor mistakes to be smoothed out on the next coat.
A piece of hard finished cloth, wrapped around the finger and dipped in alchohol, can level or smooth uneven shellac in or around carving or checking. Shellac is the fastest fine finish, and is very controllable in the hands of an artesan.
A good hand-rubbed oil finish can get quite a shine to it.
Most people stop short of that and get a more satin finish.
Oil finishing is a lot of work. It really takes very little oil per coat., but it can get tough on the hands. Eventually you can get a real nice finish on the gun.
You can also raise small dents and scratches by placing a damp teeshirt (folded into 3-4 layers) on the area and hitting it with an iron. Swells the wood and then you can sand it down.
Summa pia gratia nostra conservando corpora et cutodita, de gente fera Normannica nos libera, quae nostra vastat, Deus, regna.