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Old May 17, 2008, 05:13 PM   #1
southernboy
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refinishing grips

I was wondering if there's anybody out there that has refinished their grips to make them "less shiny"? I've read that the original bp pistol grips did not have a shiny polyurethane look like the ones today. Any help would be appreciated.
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Old May 17, 2008, 05:31 PM   #2
tomh1426
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My buddy got a 1851 navy a while back and he used real fine steel wool to knock some off the shine of the grips, seemed to work good.
He also rubbed this steel wool all over a nice Marlin 1894 :barf:

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Old May 17, 2008, 06:06 PM   #3
DMZX
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I refinished a couple of BP guns by removing the original finish with sand paper. Smooth down with steel wool and apply boiled linseed oil, rubbing it in with bare hands. This will give the wood an authentic looking finish.
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Old May 17, 2008, 06:13 PM   #4
southernboy
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I think I might give that a try. Could you give me a rundown on the different grits you used? Also, did you boil the linseed oil yourself?
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Old May 17, 2008, 06:34 PM   #5
DMZX
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I do not remember the grit I used, just start with a fine grit and go to a finer grit. The steel wool should be very fine as well to give a smooth finish. I work linseed oil in with my bare hands to warm the wood and let it work in. Let it dry overnight.

Linseed oil comes either raw or boiled. I use boiled because that is what was available. You can get it as most hardware or discount stores.

I like linseed oil on BP guns because I can periodically refresh the wood with another light application. I have a 1863 Remington "Zouave" musket that has seen over 30 year of use. The brass has a nice patina, much of the blue is gone around the muzzle and nipple and the wooden stock (even though it is beech) has darkened with age. It looks very authentic and still shoots Minie' balls very well.

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Old May 17, 2008, 06:42 PM   #6
southernboy
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Sounds good. Thanks again for the info.
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Old May 17, 2008, 09:23 PM   #7
mykeal
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Start with 220, finish with either 320 or 400, then 0000 steel wool. Wipe a light coat of water on and dry with a heat gun or hot hair dryer; this will bring up the broken wood fiber 'hairs'. Scrape with sharp object or lightly use 400 grit to remove the hairs, then repeat (this is called 'whiskering').

Apply boiled linseed oil by hand as described above. Unboiled, or regular, linseed oil will take several more coats and is more difficult to apply; it will also need refinishing sooner.
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Old May 17, 2008, 10:09 PM   #8
FL-Flinter
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I do this for a living and I can tell you, skip the sandpaper and use chemical stripper to remove all of the modern finish (varnish/polyurethane) because if you don't it'll come back to haunt you. Get all the junk off them then whisker & burnish before trying to apply oil. The species of wood as well as the characteristics of the particular piece of wood you have, and it may differ considerably from one side to the other since production gun builders don't care about using wood from the same piece for both grips as custom builders do, will determine the manner in which oil will be applied. Linseed comes in "raw" and "boiled", trust me...unless you want to turn this into a project that lasts a year, if you really want to use linseed get the boiled stuff. Tung oil is far better than linseed but also more difficult to work with because too much will considerably darken the wood and it'll take forever and a day to dry. You could go with Birchwood-Casey Linspeed oil but I don't like it - it's too sticky to allow for laying on the very thin coats desired to obtain a true hand-rubbed finish and it dries way too shiny which is fine if you like the polyurethane look... If the grain is open on the wood you have, you must start by filling & sealing it first (with the oil, not a modern filler) otherwise you'll end up with an orange peel look no matter how many coats you put on.

There are manners of changing base oil properties by combining different oils like stillingia, veronia, dammar, poppyseed... and additives to the base oil like rosin, asphalitic extracts, lead acetate and so forth. Oils can be reprocessed alone as well in order to obtain specific properties or coloring. While you will find internet folks willing to give out "how to" info, most of these processes emit toxic fumes and are quite dangerous. A seemingly simple boiling operation can turn to an explosion and fire in a heartbeat just as a simple additive blending operation can get you a free ride to the emergency room or to a grassy field under a stone marker. My advice - if you don't have the proper training and equipment to perform these operations under tightly controlled laboratory conditions - DON'T!!! Choose your oil from the hardware/paint store selection and use it only as per the directions on the container.

Avoid using steel wool on oil finishes. It's far too easy to have little pieces of steel remain behind as the pillow breaks down and those little pieces will remain invisible to the naked eye until they start oxidizing in the finish leaving little rusty marks all through it. Do your rubbing with 100% tight weave muslin and smoothing with light or abrasive-free non-woven pads.
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Old May 17, 2008, 10:35 PM   #9
kamerer
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I am not as experienced at this as FL-Flinter, above, but what he says conforms to everything I've been told by experts, and what I've followed as a practice in refinishing about 20 pair of grips over time, with great results.

I soak them in acetone for a day or so depending upon what it takes to dissolve the original finishing compound. Thick urethane ones take longer. Put them in a shallow tupperware type container with a cover, as it will evaporate quickly if you don't. Shiny urethane type coatings take the longest - scrubbing them with a toothbrush helps break up the coating and remove it faster.

I use Tung Oil, and the drying time is long but the results are excellent. It may not be practical on a large scale to use Tung oil, but since you are just doing one pair and care about the results, it's worth it. I rub it in by hand and allow to dry a day or two. I repeat this a few times to get the luster I want. Tung oil comes in high gloss and low gloss formulations from Formsby, so get the low gloss if that is what you are after.

Here's a pair of grips that were trashed up when I got them - peeling, cracked nasty urethane, wood all dull and boring. Now it really pops - and this is just Tung oil, not any urethane or anything. This is high gloss type.

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Old May 17, 2008, 11:10 PM   #10
southernboy
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I didn't realize that there was that much to it. I definetly want to do it the right way. Those grips look real nice by the way. Bit too glossy for my taste, so I'm guessin I won't get the high gloss. Can I get Tung oil at places like Lowes or Home Depot? The grips are on my 1851 Navy(Uberti), so the grips are one piece.
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Old May 18, 2008, 06:41 AM   #11
mykeal
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Tung oil is available at the box stores or your local hardware in the paint and stains department. Two major suppliers: Minwax and Formsby. It's actually called Tung Oil Finish, which is a formulated compound, not true tung oil, but it's what you want. I use either tung oil or boiled linseed oil depending on what I want to achieve. Each has it's champions, so I think you'll not go far wrong with either.

The key, like any good paint job, is preparation, Take your time, and if you're not sure, do it over. Don't be in a big hurry and expect to do it all in one evening.
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Old May 18, 2008, 11:44 AM   #12
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Mykeal is correct, the tung oil you'll get in most any store is a blended "wiping finish" and not pure tung oil. It'll dry relatively fast, considerably faster than boiled linseed but the key is to not apply it too heavy and don't rush the job. A proper oil finish, done with out-of-the-can tung oil will take no less than 5-7 days depending upon environmental conditions at the time. Do NOT attempt to rub the finish if it is not completely dry or you'll end up with a huge mess! If you attempt to force-dry wiping finish it'll usually start lifting off the wood and also make a huge mess.

As far as "large scale" goes, a production manufacturer is not going to do hand-rubbed oil finishing but for the custom builders like myself, it's entirely possible to not only do a complete long-gun stock but whole pieces of furniture too. I did custom carving on a large combination dresser & drawer cabinet then put a rubbed oil finish on the whole unit, approximately 35 sqft of surface. The oil finishes offered by production manufacturers is usually nothing more than a single coat of wiping finish topped with a wiped or sprayed wax.

To obtain a satin or flat finish with oil, you need to burnish the surface after the oil is completely cured which may take upwards of 20 days or more depending on the numder of coats, thickness of the coats, atmospheric conditions, yadda, yadda, yadda.... Key thing is, if you don't allow one single coat of oil to completely dry before appling coats over it, you'll end up with a mess too. It's not impossible to do but you need to take your time and practice on scrap wood until you get a feel for it.
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