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Old December 14, 2006, 03:05 PM   #1
Dfariswheel
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How to do the world's best oil finish

I hate doing wood work and especially stock refinishing, but over a 30 year career and for person use I was forced to do so enough to finally find a GOOD oil finish that looks like a real custom oil finish should look like.

Here's my directions to get a true custom gun oil finish with the "egg shell satin finish" that everyone talks about, but which you almost never actually see:

Do all sanding, staining, and whiskering.

Buy a pint can of Minwax Antique Oil Finish:
http://www.minwax.com/products/speci...ntique-oil.cfm

I have no idea what's in this stuff, but it drys to the absolute HARDEST, waterproof and solvent-proof finish I've ever seen, with the possible exception of an epoxy finish like Remington's "Bowling pin" finish.
This stuff is totally unaffected by lacquer thinner when fully hardened, and unlike tung and linseed oils, on a hot day a sweaty face on the stock won't raise the grain.

Here's how I apply it.
First, do as the directions on the can specify, by applying a thin coat, allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes until it starts to get sticky, then buff off with a clean, lint-free cloth.
An old linen sheet works great.
Let dry 24 hours, then apply again.
I put on 3 coats this way.
This starts to fill the grain, and speeds drying for the later steps.

After three coats as a sealer, apply a thin coat and allow to dry BONE DRY on the surface.
This may take 24 hours or more, and in some cases of really open grain wood, the first may not dry at all.
Using finer steel wool, steel wool the finish off the wood. As you steel wool, the surface coat will turn "muddy" looking so you can see it.
Be careful around proof stamps and sharp edges to not round edges off or thin stamps.

After steel wooling the stock down to bare wood, clean the stock with brushes or compressed air, then apply another coat, allow to dry and steel wool off.
Continue this until the grain of the wood is 100% FULL, and you can see NO open grain.
When held up to a light and sighted along the grain, open grain will look like tiny scratches in the surface.

Usually 4 coats will fill all but the most open grain.
After the last coat is steel wooled off, THOROUGHLY clean the wood.
Then, apply a thin coat and allow to stand for several minutes until it starts to get sticky.
Using several clean cloth pads thoroughly buff the surface until all traces of finish are off.
This is a "color coat" that will give the bare wood more of a color without any build up on the surface.
After buffing, allow the wood to age out and fully harden for 3 to 4 days.

After aging, buy some new burlap at a fabric store, and make a small pad from several layers.
Briskly buff the wood to burnish the surface and bring out the egg shell luster.

The advantages of the Minwax Oil finish are:
It's HARD and incredibully tough.
It's water and solvent proof.
It can be repaired or overhauled by adding more oil and buffing.
Scratches can be filled by coating and steel wooling again.
It's a REAL oil finish that looks like those seen on British double guns and American custom rifles.
It's a life time finish that never has to be done over ever again.
All the finish is IN the wood, not ON it so it looks like an original.

Here's a 1950 Marlin 39-A I'm in the process of restoring. The stock was originally an oil finish that was varnished some time in the past.
I scraped the old varnish off, lightly sanded it and finished as above with Minwax Antique finish.
The stock shows a perfectly smooth surface with no open grain at all, and has a extremely smooth, velvety feel.





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Old December 14, 2006, 05:25 PM   #2
rem33
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Dfariswheel;

Thank you,
No telling the hours I have spent trying to fill the grain with linseed or tung oils. I will be trying this soon.

Last edited by rem33; December 14, 2006 at 06:38 PM.
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Old December 14, 2006, 08:40 PM   #3
Harry Bonar
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stocvk

Sir:
Great job.
Harry B.
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Old December 15, 2006, 10:41 PM   #4
Hedley
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Beautiful.
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Old December 16, 2006, 05:16 AM   #5
VaFisher
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Thanks for a fine informative post. Will be trying this for sure.
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Old December 17, 2006, 08:12 PM   #6
delzo
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Yessir Dfariswheel, I really appreciate the info. Home Depot nor Lowe's had the Minwax Antique Oil Finish and I was getting a bit frustrated. Sears Hardware came through. I'm refinishing a .30 caliber carbine for a friend that wants the stock sealed completely throughout, with a low gloss look. It's was his dad's war weapon and is being re-blued in preparation to become a wall-hanger forevermore.

Thanks for the guide.
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Old December 17, 2006, 10:51 PM   #7
Dfariswheel
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Let us know how it works for you.
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Old December 18, 2006, 12:44 PM   #8
PinnedAndRecessed
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Dfaris, thanx for the info. I'm getting ready to redo a Remington 700 BDL stock. I first have to strip the finish, then prep the checkering.

Then I'm going to remove the plastic forend tip and grip cap and replace with some figured Myrtle. Now to some questions about your procedure.

Quote:
Do all sanding, staining, and whiskering.

Buy a pint can of Minwax Antique Oil Finish:
http://www.minwax.com/products/speci...ntique-oil.cfm

Apply a thin coat.
(Question: with a natural bristle brush?)

Quote:
Allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes until it starts to get sticky, then buff off with a clean, lint-free cloth. (An old linen sheet works great.)
(Question: what's the room temperature where you did this?)

Quote:
Let dry 24 hours, then apply again.
Repeat twice for a total of three coats.
After three coats as a sealer, apply a thin coat and allow to dry BONE DRY on the surface.
This may take 24 hours or more, and in some cases of really open grain wood, the first may not dry at all.
Using finer steel wool, steel wool the finish off the wood. As you steel wool, the surface coat will turn "muddy" looking so you can see it.
(Question: "finer" than what? According to your instructions this is the first use of steel wool. What grit steel wool? And will only steel wool do?)

Quote:
Be careful around proof stamps and sharp edges to not round edges off or thin stamps.
After steel wooling the stock down to bare wood, clean the stock with brushes or compressed air, then apply another coat, allow to dry and steel wool off.
(Question: You say "clean with brushes." Paint brushes or stiff bristle brushes?)

Quote:
Continue this until the grain of the wood is 100% FULL, and you can see NO open grain.
When held up to a light and sighted along the grain, open grain will look like tiny scratches in the surface.
(Question: So there will be no visible tiny scratches, right?)

Quote:
Usually 4 coats will fill all but the most open grain.
After the last coat is steel wooled off, THOROUGHLY clean the wood.
(Question: clean the wood with what?)

Quote:
Then, apply a thin coat and allow to stand for several minutes until it starts to get sticky.
Using several clean cloth pads thoroughly buff the surface until all traces of finish are off.
(Question: you're just talking about cotton rags, right?)

Quote:
This is a "color coat" that will give the bare wood more of a color without any build up on the surface.
After buffing, allow the wood to age out and fully harden for 3 to 4 days.
After aging, buy some new burlap at a fabric store, and make a small pad from several layers.
Briskly buff the wood to burnish the surface and bring out the egg shell luster.
I don't mean to sound so anal about the whole thing, but I'm not the world's greatest wood finisher. I've found variables such as room temperature, types of bristles on the paint brush, grit of steel wool, etc., make a huge difference.

I remember working for days on a pistol presentation case. It wasn't working out. Finally, as per the instructions, I was using steel wool on the nearly dry finish, and was horrified to see I was leaving bits of steel wool in the varnish.

I finally fixed it with a hatchet and fireplace.
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Old December 18, 2006, 02:15 PM   #9
Dfariswheel
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In order:

I've applied the coats with brushes, a paper towel or cloth pad, and even with my fingers smoothing it out with my hand. (Gooey, and messy, but it worked).
I also apply one or two coats in the inletting to seal it, and often 3 or more coats on open grain wood like on the end of the butt and end grain in the inletting. These end grain areas will absorb the finish almost instantly for the first coat or two.
For the first coat, I use a small brush to continue applying finish to these end grain areas while I wait the 5 to 10 minutes for the coat to start getting tacky.
This insures plenty of finish penetrates and seals the end grain areas.

Room temp is normal room temp. I've done it in hot summers in a garage, and in the winter inside a building.
As long as the temp is above 60 degrees or so, it's fine.

For steel wool, I've used #0000 to #One, but I think something in between the two extremes is best. I seem to recall having best results with #00 or #000.
Too fine and it takes a lot of rubbing.
Too coarse and you can scratch the wood, or round off sharp corners.
This time out, I tried some of the synthetic abrasive pads similar to Scotchbrite or the green pot scrubber pads sold in grocery stores.
These did NOT work very well, and even the coarser type took forever to get all the dried finish off, even then leaving some on.
Steel wool just works faster and better.

To clean the steel wool and debris off the wood, I've used a clean paint brush, soft toothbrush, compressed air, and paper towel.
The idea is to get the debris off the surface of the wood, and out of the inletting so as not to contaminate the next coat, and "glue" some steel wool particles into the wood with the finish.
It isn't necessary to get the stock perfectly clean, just clean enough that the exterior surface is cleaned off.
This is usually just a fast blow or quick brush off.

If you hold the wood up to a light, and sight along the surface in the direction of the grain, you'll see the open grain as what looks like tiny scratches in the surface.
The idea is to continue applying coats until you see only a smooth level surface with no open grain.
If you see open grain ANYWHERE, continue applying coats to the entire stock, since there'll usually be some open grain in other places, unnoticed.
As the wood fills up, the open grain becomes more and more apparent.

After steel wooling off the last coat, simply do a better job of cleaning the stock, using the brushes, compressed air or whatever.
Any steel wool left inside the inletting will rust later, and can damage your metal.
I just spend more time than the quicker cleaning I do while applying the finish.

To buff the finish off, I like old linen sheets. These are easy to rip up into pads, and are pretty lint-free.
Since a sheet is large, I use the pads one time and pitch them.

The entire process is not difficult, just time consuming and rather messy, with sticky finish on your hands and loose steel wool particles getting everywhere.
As long as you allow the finish to dry there's not much that can go wrong.
Unlike coating-type finishes like polyurethane, it's not really possible to botch up and ruin the entire job.
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Old December 19, 2006, 01:00 PM   #10
Picher
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Beautiful work!!!

Thanks for the tips.

Picher
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Old December 19, 2006, 05:11 PM   #11
M3 Pilot
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Lovely work,useful post. Thanks much.
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Old December 25, 2006, 12:11 PM   #12
Old Gaffer
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Is there anyway to make this post a "sticky"?

I've been refinishing wood products (from antique furniture to musical instruments) and cars for almost 40 years, and this is killer information.

All the best,
Rob
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Old December 25, 2006, 04:35 PM   #13
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Although I use Waterlox, Minwax makes, and has always made, very good products. You have some wonderful results there, Mr. D. Thanks for sharing your detailed info.
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Old December 25, 2006, 05:32 PM   #14
Seamus
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A huge "THANKS" ! This is great information. You should be a teacher. I may even attempt to resurrect an old 'beater' shotgun that's been collecting dust. This is classic instruction.
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Old December 26, 2006, 09:53 AM   #15
Foxman
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As indicated in an email message from Minwax, regarding their Tung Oil/Varnish (Minwax Tung Oil Finish) and Linseed Oil/Varnish (Minwax Antique Oil Finish):

"Both finishes are penetrating, oil-based, hand-rubbed finishes. The Tung Oil Finish is derived from oil extracted from the tung nut blended with an alkyd varnish resin. The Antique Oil Finish is derived from linseed oil blended with an alkyd varnish resin. Both finishes create a natural feel and appearance to wood (protection lies within the wood grain not on top of the wood). Overall, the Antique Oil Finish is a more durable finish and will have a softer look to the finish." It is important to remember that once an Oil/Varnish Finish is applied, only that finish should be used to refresh/renew the finish. Do not apply an Oil Finish on top of an Oil/Varnish Finish because the Oil Finish will be repelled by the Oil/Varnish Finish and will result in a gummy finish.

Advice from Minwax, great stuff for a finish as DFW says.
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Old February 19, 2007, 06:15 PM   #16
delzo
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My finished product for a buddy's carbine, who only wanted the surface imperfections removed and a good sealing coat throughout. Due to rust pitting, a matte blue was used on all the metal. I was able to preserve the cartouche and the darkening of the grip area from the original owners skin oils!

I thinned the Min-wax Antique Oil Finish by added 25% mineral spirits for the first 4 coats. It absorbed into the wood really quick. I then hand rubbed 5 more coats in with my fingers alone. When it was too sticky to keep rubbing, I moved to another area. After allowing it to dry for a couple of days, I steel wooled it with 0000 before the next coat and only quit when all the grain was filled. The coats I put on was so thin, the surface looked like a peach seed until the last coat was done.

The original owner is gone now and his son wanted to save it as a wall-hanger only. I was proud it turned out good enough to make his mother quietly sob when she saw it. Every nick and bruise on that stock held a memory.

Thanks for the excellent instructions and tips on the refinishing, Dfariswheel.
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Old February 19, 2007, 08:08 PM   #17
Dfariswheel
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Nice looking job.

I hesitated to attempt thinning the first couple of coats, since Minwax does not recommend thinning the oil finish.

My best buddy is really "into" wood working, and he thins the first coat of most finishes as much as 40% to 50% to get really good penetration.
For the second and third, the thins much less.

What I like about the Minwax oil finish is it's waterproofness and durability.
Over the years I tried all the oil type finishes from Linseed oil, to tung, to "Tru-Oil", to George Brothers "Linspeed" real kettle boiled linseed oil.

ALL of them were not as water resistant as most people think.
I'd take a rifle out on a hot, muggy summer day, and after shooting a string, I'd notice the grain was raised where my sweaty face had been.

Only MinWax resists this and stays sealed.
It also looks better than anything else I've ever tried, and ALL the finish in IN the wood, not on it.
It's about the only finish I ever used that really does have the "egg shell" luster the old timers always talked about.
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Old February 20, 2007, 06:48 PM   #18
delzo
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Thanks DFW. The only other thing I did to help the absorption was heat the oil finish. I found my wife's little "cheese dip" size crock pot and thought I could sneak it into the shop and back into the cabinet without her noticing. Yeah right!!!

She got a NEW mini-crock and I got the old one. It really does rub in better if it's warm.

Don't bother asking to use it ,,, just take it. She'll never agree, I promise.
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Old February 20, 2007, 08:18 PM   #19
Dfariswheel
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Yeah, I can hear it now:

"You used my slow cooker FOR WHAT!!!!!
(This sounds remarkably like a rusty chainsaw hitting a tree spike).
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Old March 9, 2007, 11:04 PM   #20
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I have been trying to use this finishing technique, but have had no luck with the initial coats that are supposed to dry 5-10 minutes then buff off. The finish becomes very tacky and rips fuzzies out of any cloth that I try. Maybe our sheets are made differently, but they supply liberal amounts of lint to the surface of my stocks. Has anyone else experience this trouble? If so, how have you resolved it?

The later coats that dry 24 hours and are removed with steel wool seem to work fine.

I am concerned with running into the lint problem again on the final color coat.

I have been talking about this with friends. So far, we all think the the "lint free cloth" is a myth and nobody has ever really seen one.
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Old March 10, 2007, 12:38 AM   #21
Dfariswheel
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You're allowing the coats to dry TOO long.

You want to allow the coats to dry just to a slightly tacky state that can still be buffed off.
Per the can's directions, if it's too tacky, apply a little more oil to soften the coat then buff.

On the final "color coat", use a thin coat, and buff within just a very few minutes, since it tacks-up much faster than the earlier coats.
As with most finishes, as the grain is filled up, the coats start drying faster and faster.
For buffing, I use old LINEN sheets, not flannel. These are fairly lint-free.

Just don't let the coats dry so long.
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Old March 10, 2007, 12:49 AM   #22
intruder
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Great post thanks
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Old March 10, 2007, 08:45 AM   #23
puff-tmd
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Thank you for the quick update. Earlier I had tried re-applying a bit of finish when it got tacky and that did help some. The winter air is really dry where I am working, so will try cutting the drying time down more. Overall, this looks like it will be a nice, streak-free finish.
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Old March 10, 2007, 09:16 AM   #24
sophijo
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two amateur questions

Thanks...great info....I was going to use linseed.
Recently found a '52 Winchester 94; carried one all over Michigan's UP 45 years ago.

1. Do I have to remove the ammo tube to get the fore-end off?
2. Should I seal the "inside" ; action inleting of the stock?
and BTW; what are the problems with linseed oil?....and why are hollow ground screw drivers important to this work?........sorry to ramble and I appreciate the time and effort it takes to "school" guys like me.
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Old March 10, 2007, 09:38 AM   #25
EJJR
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Very interesting; Im refinishing an oiled guitar and this looks much better than the tung oil.

On a side note; for final polishing, untreated polishing cloth for musical instrument works really well.

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/produ...oth?sku=420053


If the more durable synthetics are preferable you can try these, an added benefit is they work w/o additional polish.

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/produ...oth?sku=420985
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