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Old May 16, 2009, 12:27 PM   #1
Skyyr
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How to clean / care for a wood stock?

I've got a Marlin 30-30 that's about 8 years old and in good condition. It's been kept in a hard-case/safe it's entire life and the wood stock is in near-mint condition.

Every few months, I've taken it out and cleaned down the stock / oiled it with the standard furniture wood care products (pledge, old english, etc). Looks just as good as the day I bought it. But...

Is there an "ideal" to clean a wood stock? I'd like to know I was doing it the "right" way instead of a way that seems to work.

Thanks!
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Old May 16, 2009, 12:32 PM   #2
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I've got a 1993, 94 year Rem 700 with wood stock and I've never actually cleaned the wood. It's been kept in a safe most of it's life. My only thing is wipe it down with a clean dry clothe so that no cleaning oil, dirt or other chemicals are on it before I put it back up. Doing this has given me no problems, still looks great.

If there is a proper cleaning technique, I apparently missed that memo..
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Old May 16, 2009, 12:59 PM   #3
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I own a bunch of wood-stocked rifles and feel there are some precautions you can take to preserve the fine finish/look of a well-kept rifle. If you're up to it, remove the stock from the action and using a wipe-on type varnish finish, coat all the unfinished portions of the stock. In most modern guns you will likely find this includes every bit of the stock, you cannot see(underneath and close to the action). Be sure to remove the buttpad or plate too.

After re-assembly, on "shiny" finished stocks an application of a hard paste wax(floor wax or similar) will give excellent protection. If it's a matte, or oil type finish, I've found an excellent furniture polish works best of all things I've tried: Natchez Solution it is excellent stuff. The typical polishes you mentioned are fine as well, but these tips will work best, short of re-finishing to a waterproof Polyurethane/Verathane finish, IMO

(If you use a hard paste car-type wax on the metal parts, it's a good weather proofer too)
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Old May 16, 2009, 01:25 PM   #4
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@pilothunter

Thanks! I'll look into maybe doing a weather-proof finish on my gun.

If you don't mind me asking, where in TN are you from? I'm from Murfreesboro. You wouldn't happen to be a pilot (guessing from your handle)?
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Old May 16, 2009, 02:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ndking1126
My only thing is wipe it down with a clean dry clothe so that no cleaning oil, dirt or other chemicals are on it before I put it back up. Doing this has given me no problems, still looks great.

If there is a proper cleaning technique, I apparently missed that memo..
Sounds to me like you got the memo. If the finish is in good shape, there's no need to do more.

A coat of paste wax now and then is a good idea with a finish that's a bit worn, but but basically OK. On furniture, I tell people to stay away from products like Pledge, which have silicone in them, because the silicone goes right through the finish, into the wood, and will complicate any future refinishing. And oil-based polishes are dirt magnets...

Skyyr, there's really no need to strip and redo a finish that's in good shape -- and if you think the rifle might appreciate in value over time, it's probably a bad idea anyway. Just wipe the stock down with a clean cloth before you put it away, and give it a coat of wax every year or so. That's all the care it needs...
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Old May 16, 2009, 07:29 PM   #6
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I didn't like the glossy finish on my Marlin 30-30, so I removed the receiver, hand sanded it down to bare wood and brushed it with tung oil. When it dried, gave it a good hand rubbing with 0000 steel wool. Then I brushed it with tung oil, followed by another hand rubbing...and then repeated the ritual 15 times.

That project took over a month and was done nearly 18 years ago, but the ultimate compliment came recently when my Marine son told me that he would like that sweet rifle for his own someday. I will oblige him.
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Old May 16, 2009, 07:39 PM   #7
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...and was done nearly 18 years ago
Have you had any problems with the finish? You didn't need to reapply or anything? I've heard tung oil finishes aren't very strong, just curious about your experience.
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Old May 17, 2009, 01:20 PM   #8
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@pilothunter

Thanks! I'll look into maybe doing a weather-proof finish on my gun.

If you don't mind me asking, where in TN are you from? I'm from Murfreesboro. You wouldn't happen to be a pilot (guessing from your handle)?
Retired military pilot here from north of Nashville, not far at all from the 'boro. A very simple weather-proof finish would be a wipe-on or spray-on poly finish. I have two model 100 Winchesters I refinished, one 30 and one 15yrs ago. Both look great still. A light sanding and coat of a poly finish over a still good factory finish, will work very well, especially if you ensure coverage in the previously unfinished areas.
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Old May 17, 2009, 02:43 PM   #9
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I've heard tung oil finishes aren't very strong
As wood finishes go, tung oil is among the best. The oil is absorbed by the wood, which makes it very long lasting, and durable.

As far as care for your stock, take a lesson from guitar and furniture makers, plain old lemon oil. No wax. Wax is fine as a finish on its own, but is prone to hazing. Wax is also not a cleaner, it doesn't take anything off. Furniture polishes (like pledge) contain surfactants (cleaners,degerasers) that are fine for, and intended for tougher finishes like urethanes, but hard on softer finishes like oil or laquer. Lemon oil is a natural cleaner as well as a moisturizer. Use lemon oil.
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Old May 18, 2009, 01:35 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by smoakingun
As far as care for your stock, take a lesson from guitar and furniture makers, plain old lemon oil. No wax. Wax is fine as a finish on its own, but is prone to hazing. Wax is also not a cleaner, it doesn't take anything off. Furniture polishes (like pledge) contain surfactants (cleaners,degerasers) that are fine for, and intended for tougher finishes like urethanes, but hard on softer finishes like oil or laquer. Lemon oil is a natural cleaner as well as a moisturizer. Use lemon oil.
Sorry, smoakingun, but I have to disagree here. I restore antiques (and build furniture, sometimes) for a living, and wax (used sparingly and infrequently) is the only treatment I, or anyone else I know in the profession, ever uses or recommends to use on an existing finish. The way to remove dirt from a finished wood surface is to clean it, either with a barely damp cloth for light dirt, a weak detergent solution for heavier dirt, or with mineral spirits for a non-waxed surface on which you don't want to use a water-based cleaner, or a waxed surface from which you want to remove dirt and old wax. Protecting the surface is mostly the job of the finish; if it's in good shape, nothing else is needed. If a finish is starting to look a bit shabby, a coat of a good-quality wax is the best way to renew and protect it. And "waxy build-up," by the way, is a myth: all modern wax formulations include solvents -- turpentine, mineral spirits, or toluene -- which dissolve any wax on the surface as the new wax is applied.

I routinely see finishes more badly damaged by the frequent use of proprietary furniture polishes (Pledge, Old English, etc.) than by years of doing nothing at all...

Oils, including lemon oil, will soften some finishes, and will hold dust and dirt on a surface. It's fine to renew an oil finish with a light sanding and additional coats of whatever (drying) oil was used originally, but this comes more under the heading of refinishing than cleaning and protecting, for which oils are a bad idea. And as to notions of "moisturizing," "feeding the wood," and such... sorry, but no. Neither wood nor finishes require moisture (which, in any case, means water) or food. Not hungry. Not thirsty.

Much of the mistaken information on these topics comes, by the way, from the manufacturers of "furniture care" products, who have a great interest in getting you to buy their products and no interest at all in how the stuff you use it on looks after 5, 10, 20 years -- unless they're also in the business of marketing refinishing products...
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Old May 18, 2009, 05:18 PM   #11
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And as to notions of "moisturizing," "feeding the wood," and such... sorry, but no. Neither wood nor finishes require moisture (which, in any case, means water) or food. Not hungry. Not thirsty
You make a good point about using mineral spirits for removal of heavier grunge. I've been building and repairing guitars for almost 20 years and I can say from experience that wood can and does dry out. More like guitars, guns are handled routinely, and moved into and out of controlled enviroments, and exposed to dirt, grunge, finger funk and body salts. I very routinely see guitars with fretboards that have dried out and cracked, especially in necks where the fretboard is just waxed(no laquer on the board). As to hazing, you are right that it is easily removed, but I see guitars that customers keep waxed, and usually the back of the instrument where it contacts the body will haze. However, I work on instruments in excess of 70 or 80 years old, and the ones I see in great shape are almost always cared for with lemon oil.
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Old May 18, 2009, 05:57 PM   #12
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I can say from experience that wood can and does dry out. More like guitars, guns are handled routinely, and moved into and out of controlled enviroments, and exposed to dirt, grunge, finger funk and body salts. I very routinely see guitars with fretboards that have dried out and cracked, especially in necks where the fretboard is just waxed(no laquer on the board).
Yep, wood sure does dry out, and that's exactly what a surface finish, like lacquer, is meant to prevent, or rather slow down: rapid changes in moisture content from moving from a humid environment to a dry one, or vice versa. Wax is definitely not adequate to prevent this. But the wood is still going to pick up and lose moisture seasonally or from being moved into different conditions of RH; even a good, well-maintained finish just slows this down to where it's less likely to damage the wood. Can't speak to guitars, but in furniture, drying out and cracking of wood can result from exposure to too much moisture: the wood swells, the fibers take a compression set, and then, when the RH goes down again, the fibers can't expand evenly, and you get checks in the wood. And, of course, that's why we put wax or some other heavy coating on the end grain of boards we're drying -- end grain transfers moisture much faster than face grain, so if you slow that down, the wood is less likely to check during the drying process. But once the wood has checked, that's pretty much forever; you can't fix it by adding moisture back into the wood.

You can improve the appearance of a rather small piece of wood with checks in it, like a molding plane, by standing the end grain in boiled linseed oil for a few days, so the oil gets soaked up that way. Checks are still there, but this will sometimes expand the wood fibers so that they're hidden. I suppose this might also work with a gunstock, depending on the species of wood (size of fibers), but I've never tried it with anything but molding planes.

And I wonder if lemon oil works well as a treatment for guitars because it's a pretty good solvent for oily finger-and-hand gunk, which is the worst thing I know of for a finish. Worse even than Pledge, which is saying quite a bit...
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Last edited by Vanya; May 18, 2009 at 06:03 PM.
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Old May 18, 2009, 06:40 PM   #13
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Beautiful rifle wyatterp, I've always been a fan of tung oil myself. I use it mostly on milsurp rifles but have a levergun of my own that is in need of refinishing and think I'll use tung oil on it.

The one thing I'll add to this debate is if you are going to use tung oil on a rifle use the real deal tung oil(chinawood oil) not the mixes such as Formby's or such. The mixes have varnishes and other crap mixed in. You can get tung oil at the following link if you can't find the real thing locally.


http://www.realmilkpaint.com/oil.html
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Old May 18, 2009, 07:09 PM   #14
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The one thing I'll add to this debate is if you are going to use tung oil on a rifle use the real deal tung oil(chinawood oil) not the mixes such as Formby's or such. The mixes have varnishes and other crap mixed in. You can get tung oil at the following link if you can't find the real thing locally.
Great advice. Nothing worse than those blends...
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Old May 21, 2009, 09:33 PM   #15
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I use boiled linseed oil. The stuff is a bit hard to apply but last forever (I have my great grandfather's quart of it to to with his rifles mfg. 1920). You have to keep up with it, but it makes for a beautiful finish if your stock is made of good wood. The smell is noticeable right after application, but if you keep your rifle in a safe, that doesn't matter much anyway. My sister's Rem 870 has been treated with it since our grandfather bought it in the 1960s and has a perfect stock. Тhe trick is to make sure you re-treat it after you've taken it into the rain (an annual event with a hunting shotgun). The key to applying it is to put about 2-3 drops on the stock and then rub it into until you feel noticeable heat from application. Takes about 3 minutes or so to treat a stock. You need the heat from friction to work the oil into the porous wood.
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Old May 21, 2009, 09:49 PM   #16
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Is there a specific type/brand of wax that's best?
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Old May 22, 2009, 12:38 PM   #17
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Is there a specific type/brand of wax that's best?
Any good-quality paste wax is fine -- Butcher's Wax, Briwax, Liberon, are all good brands. (Woodworking supply houses carry the last 2 -- Butcher's you can find in a good hardware store.) There's a "gun wax" out there that contains silicone -- I'd stay away from that (it's also way overpriced for the amount you get). And a dirty little secret: Kiwi shoe polish, in those little flat cans, is a very good quality wax -- better for "finishing" a wood finish than for leather, IMO. With any of these except Butcher's, you can get a color that's close to that of the wood, and it won't show white when it dries.
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Old May 22, 2009, 01:03 PM   #18
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I use this product often.

http://www.midwayusa.com/viewproduct...tnumber=514618

I finish most of my stocks with oil finishes and this works very well to restore finishes after years of use.

It comes with a little bag of rottenstone....you mix the oil with the rottenstone and rub the stock the down...it both cleans and conditions the stock.
If you have a very "soft" finish, just don't overdue it.

Works great....and then I follow up with a good paste wax.
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Old May 22, 2009, 01:28 PM   #19
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+1 on the boiled linseed oil. I use it on rosewood guitar fretboards as well as gun stocks. It lasts a long time and smells really good.
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Old May 22, 2009, 03:23 PM   #20
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Interesting topic. I can't think that I've ever seen a rotten gun stock--of course, people usually don't bury their guns in the mud.

The way I look at it is simple. If a stock is varnished, then just wipe it clean with damp cloth or possibly a solvent (i.e. spirits) for dirtier areas. If a stock is oil-finished, re-apply oil lightly to re-condition it. I use boiled linseed because it is thin and rubs into the dry wood easily. Tung oil is very heavy and very sticky--and is usually applied to furniture in dozens of very thin coats, but does dry to form a very durable and tough finish.

I really like oil finishes better, mostly because they develop character with use. If you ding a varnish--it turns white, chips, or pits. Also, some varnishes will lift, crack, or even bubble. A ding in an oil finish looks like it is meant to be there.

Best thing about wood is that it makes plastic look cheap. This is a Circassian walnut stock--hand rubbed oil finish.



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Old May 22, 2009, 03:31 PM   #21
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smells really good
I thought I was the only one that did things for smell
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Old May 22, 2009, 07:40 PM   #22
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Two products that I've had good results with over the years are Tom's 1/3 Mix and Renaissance Wax Polish. Tom's Mix works well on oil finishes and is made of beeswax, linseed oil and turpentine. I've got several rifles over a hundred years old and Tom's is what I use on them periodically, especially after a range session.

Renaissance Wax was recommended to me by a Smithsonian curator years ago. It's what they use to preserve rifles, on both the metal and stocks. I also use it on old wood planes.

Your Marlin has a vanish finish. Any good wax will work on it from Johnson's to Howard's. Miniwax makes a paste finishing wax that I've used on varnish finishes before, too.

Many of the new rifles have a poly finish and some people get good results with car clear coat waxes. Carnauba wax seems to work well.

The Winchester 1873, third from top, was made in 1896 and all I use on it is Tom's Mix on the stock. The 1873 Uberti, second from top, also has a oil finish, which I also use Tom's on. I use Renaissance Wax on the metal.

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Old May 22, 2009, 08:26 PM   #23
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i use HOWARD FEED-N-WAX. a poster on the mauser forum recomended it for a 98 mauser that sat it a corner for 40 years. and it works very well on all wood surfaces. eastbank.
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