View Full Version : Weather proofing a walnut stock?

December 18, 2010, 09:38 AM
Just before Winchester fell apart the last time I managed to come across my Holy Grail of a rifle: a left handed pre-64 style Model 70 in 270! I love everything about this gun...except that it has a walnut stock.

I put it in the safe and have never even sighted it in yet, because I was determined to find a synthetic or laminated stock for it first. Well, i don't think that's going to happen because the only source I have found is Richards Micro Fit and I have rarely ever seen a company get such bad reviews on the web. They don't even answer the phone when you call.

Anyway, as luck would have it I found an original factory walnut replacement stock on eBay for very little and so I bought it. That should afford me the freedom to keep the factory original stock and to redo the new one as an all-weather hunting stock. My question is about the best way to treat a walnut stock to make it rain proof, or at least as close as possible.

I know I'm going to glass bed the action and free float the barrel to minimize impact changes due to swelling or warping. I'll probably also inlay a steel rod in the barrel channel. I'm just not sure what would be the best finish to use. A low gloss polyurethane? Paint? Something I'm not familiar with?

It seems a shame to sacrifice the beauty of wood by painting it, so are there any wood finishes that would be as waterproof as an oil-based paint?

TIA for any advice.

December 18, 2010, 11:55 AM
No magic weather proofer for a wood stock.
Here is a custom fiberglass stock maker
Pricing about $600.00 for stock made

Here is a thought, strip old stock down to bare wood after the bedding/rod inletting. And place in a trough of polyurethane and let it sock up as much as possible and then scrap off/sand smooth. Then wrap fiberglass/resin over wood.
Of course not in inletting.
Use paste wax to seal metal /wood joint.
Never tried this but the theory is there.

December 18, 2010, 03:04 PM
I've done a huge amount of woodworking and a lot of research into water proofing finishes. My advice would be 3-4 coats of tung oil, followed by 3-4 coats of shellac. The problem is that most "tung oil" has mostly varnish in it. You need to find pure tung oil online. The other problem is that tung oil takes a long time to dry. You may end up with a week in between applications. Polymerized tung oil will dry much faster than nonpolymerized. Shellac is much better than polyurethane, urethane or varnish at keeping water out. I do a lot of wood turning and whenever I have a fresh piece of lumber I need to dry, I always seal it with shellac to slow the drying speed and keep it from end cracking.

December 18, 2010, 07:35 PM
Deleted. Duplicate.

December 18, 2010, 08:26 PM
A well finished oiled walnut stock will last longer than your blued pre-64 action and barrel if they get wet. You get rust on the metal faster than your stock will start warping because it soaked in water. But if you're really worried, strip your spare stock to bare wood and give it three thin coatings of a good polyurethane, with sanding in between.

December 19, 2010, 09:36 AM
3or4 coats of Permalyn sealer throughout the inside of the stock will get the job done . Do not use sparingly , wipe off excess !

December 20, 2010, 10:34 AM
Johnson's Paste Wax.

Wax the metal, it gets right down into the metal and will not wipe off. Wax the wood well and it fills the pores and waterproofs the wood. Apply a coat, let it dry, wipe the haze off with a soft cloth.

December 20, 2010, 11:09 AM
If you're looking for a tough waterproof finish, you can use epoxy. You'll have to strip the original finish.

Use a UV resistant type like the System 3 product for bright finishing strip canoes.

Warm the bare stock for a day at 90 or so. The idea is to stabilize the wood at that temperature. Apply the first layer of epoxy in a room temperature environment. This will ensure the wood is cooling as you apply the epoxy, drawing it into the wood grain.

Apply a second (and maybe a 3rd coat) allowing to cure between according to instructions. Shouldn't need to sand between coats as long as you recoat within the specified interval. Build up enough film thickness to allow room for sanding. Sand to the finish you desire (matte or all the way through to a gloss)

I've never handled a gun stock that way myself, but I've finished enough wood on boats in this way to be confident in the result.

Up side is that this will be a very tough and flexible finish. Down side is that you'll work pretty hard getting it off if you ever want to strip it.

December 20, 2010, 12:04 PM
You could use clear or matte clear Duracoat as well.
It will soak into the wood.
It is a epoxy based coating.
So alot will be used as it soaks fast and as a stock finish not really cheap.


December 20, 2010, 01:10 PM
I've used just about every kind of finish imaginable for wooden stocks, and the only one that I've found to be truely weatherproof is boiled linseed oil. you'll need to remove all vestiges of the original finish, then just dry the stock well and rub in the boiled linseed oil. Then rub in some more oil, then rub in some more oil, then ........ If you scratch the stock, rub in some more oil, if the stock gets wet, rub in some more oil. If you get really bored, rub in some more oil. You get the picture, I'm sure. By the way, whoever it was that mentioned Johnson's paste wax for the reciever and barrel was right on target. If you wax the metal well, maybe a couple of times, before you put it back into the stock you will save yourself some headaches down the road. Just remember that the internal parts of the trigger assembly and bolt are not waxed (unless you do decide to take them apart and wax them). Well waxed metal and well oiled wood will stand up to just about any kind of weather that a person can endure.

December 20, 2010, 02:22 PM
Have to throw the opposite opinion in. Linseed oil takes a water mark really easily which means the moisture permeates it. I was surprised to learn this, as it has been used on guns for so long, but I got it from a book called Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexnor, sold by Woodcraft. He shows a picture of the watermark effect, so I tried it on a scrap and got the same thing. I have vague memories of a .22 I used as a kid that had a BLO finish and that got streak marks in rain and need more BLO rubbed in.

Flexnor rates the water and water vapor protection as follows:

Linseed Oil - Poor
Boiled Linseed Oil - Poor
Pure Tung Oil - Poor until 5 or more coats are applied (over a month's work)
Polymerized Oil - Potentially excellent if built up
Oil/Varnish Blend - Medium
Wiping Varnish - Potentially excellent if built up

His examples of polymerized oils include Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil and Polymerized Tung Oil of any brand.

His examples of wiping varnishes include Watco Wipe-On Poly, Formby's Tung Oil Finish (note that this does not contain tung oil, but is so-named for its resemblance to a tung oil finish when dry) and General Finishing's Seal-A-Cell.

Since Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil is made for the gun finishing market, I expect you will be more satisfied with its appearance than the others that can be built up for water resistance.

As to the best method, back when the M14 was still the king of the service rifle match hill, the AMU used to finish wood stocks by putting them in a container filled with a single-component clear epoxy finish, and pressurize it at something like 100 psi (air compressor). After several hours (maybe a day - I've forgotten), they were removed and wiped off, then baked for a long time in a low oven. Seems to me that might have been for two or three days to harden the epoxy. The single component epoxies are slow to dry.

For most people the cost and equipment requirements make that approach a non-starter. Just thought you'd want to know what was done for practically zero humidity creep. I don't think I'd do it to a sporting rifle, anyway, because it will add noticeable weight. That's good for a target rifle, but not so good for something carried in the field.

December 22, 2010, 12:09 PM
I have a 55+ yr. old Rem. 721. 30 years ago I completely stripped the wood, sanded with 220 grit to completely slick, placed stock in a 8" closed pipe, filled with a gallon of BLO, placed pipe etal in attic of the garage for 3 months of Houston, TX summer, removed and started to wipe excess oil off the stock.

Barrle has been free floated. I wiped excess oil off for about 4 weeks, until it oozed no more. This stock is completely dead to altitude/humidity/temperature changes. it's a hunting rifle and I can't remember water marks, even when drenched by sudden rains.

Good luck,

December 22, 2010, 04:05 PM
I have done quite a few stocks with Tru-Oil and have had no problems. I rub the stock with the oil till my hand is hot. Several coats and then sand down to the wood surface to make sure all the pores are filled. Then build up several coats (hand rub) and lightly work with extra-fine steel wool on each coat. Finish with the Johnson's Paste wax. Really sop it to the action mortices and the barrel channel.

December 22, 2010, 05:16 PM

You making me wonder if the gun I had as a kid had raw rather than boiled linseed oil in it. 50+ years ago now. Also it may simply have been dulling around the streaks rather than turning white. The test I did was on thin walnut veneer edging. I left a glass with a wet bottom on it for an hour or so, and it turned white.

I also can't tell you what difference saturation treatment like yours would make. If the oil is throughout the wood, it may be that water permeation can't accumulate as easily in the wood fibers and has difficulty causing swelling.

How much more does it weigh than it did before the treatment?

Ideal Tool
December 22, 2010, 05:56 PM
Hello, about that oil soaking...I don't have brophy's book at hand, but I seem to recall the 1903's were treated in a vat of hot linseed oil for a week or so.

December 23, 2010, 12:00 PM
From experience on furniture, enough BLO will waterproof wood. If it's rubbed in with steel wool between coats, and built up until it no longer soaks in, and forms an oxidizing layer above the wood, it seems to do an ok job. That takes a lot of time though. I suppose the old military dipping in hot BLO accomplished the same objective- fill most of the exterior of the stock with oil,and then let it oxidize hard.

I prefer so called "wiping varnishes" on walnut/birch/beech/maple and most other stock woods.
I just used Watco's "Danish Oil" wiping varnish to finish and seal a Marlin barrel channel that I relieved to allow the barrel to float. Their "Teak Oil" is probably superior for weather resistance/sealing,but I didn't have any of that left over from furniture projects. :)
Polyurethane and spar varnish are probably better sealers, but they build up thick on top of the wood; something I don't want in my barrel channel.