View Full Version : Advice on Pre-64 Model 70

July 30, 2011, 01:15 PM
My dad just received a 1953 Winchester Model 70 standard in 30-06 from his hunting buddy of many years, and am looking for some advice on what to do/not do to it. Dad's friend was the first owner of this rifle and used it up until 2 years ago, when he finally hung up his gear at the ripe age of 92.

I have seen (and shot) this rifle in the past, and it shot fantastically, with bluing in decent condition. The wood in the stock was in good condition, though there was not much finish left on it, though probably could have been brought back to looking decent with a wax job.

When Dad called and told me he had received this rifle I was thrilled, and started asking him about it. My heart sank when he told me that due to the condition of the finish he had already stripped and lightly sanded it in prep for finish (ahhhhh!!!!). I immediately gently suggested that he do nothing else to the rifle until I could do some research. He agreed when I reminded him what he had.

After getting off the phone and calming down, I realized that despite the impact to the rifle's collector value, it probably didn't matter anyway, as this piece belonged to a life-long family friend and would probably never leave our family anyway. He would not want it to sit in a case, but be used to hunt whitetails. Now, taking solace in that fact, I want to give my Dad advice on how to at least restore the stock to the correct finish. Any advice you experts could provide on the correct finish materials would be appreciated.

July 30, 2011, 01:34 PM
"correct" is a misnomer. There are a lot of different ways to finish a rifle stock. My favorite is tung oil. It takes a lot of work, but it looks good and is quite weather resistant. Remove all the previous finish with a stripper, let the wood dry, then continually work in a 50/50 tung oil/miner spirit solution using finer and finer grades of wet/dry sandpaper with a sanding block. This will bring out any fancy grain in the stock and provide a glass smooth finish.

Other folks like a polyurethane finish, much easier to do and less time consuming. I think poly finishes are a bit thick and gaudy, but they do hold up to the weather very well.

Some others like boiled linseed oil, especially for older military rifles or rifles that need a "dull" stock in the field. I think this is probably the "most correct" method for a 1953 Model 70 that is being refinished.

The Finns used pine tar, which is a great waterproofer, but it isn't "correct" for anything but a Mosin Nagant.


July 30, 2011, 01:38 PM
A good traditional finish is truoil. Or mix equal parts boiled linseed oil, turpentine, and beeswax. Both do a fine oil finish. Good luck.

July 30, 2011, 01:44 PM
Too bad about the sanding. Oh well.

I've used spray on poly from valspar. Works ok.

Boiled linseed oil or tung oil would be more traditional.

Wood prep is very important. After sanding the stock wipe it down with a wet cloth and let it dry. Then sand again. You can repeat the process a couple more times.

Apply a thin coat of whatever product you chose, let dry and sand. Repeat 3 or 4 times.

finish with a wax base furniture polish.

clean and polish the stock once or twice a year.

It might be a good idea to stop by a Sherman Williams store or some similar and get their advice.

July 30, 2011, 02:17 PM
Those guns do not have a real great value. Frankly, I would rather have one that looked well for me than a collector's ugly one. I would rather carry a rifle with a refinished stock and a reblue job than one that looked like it was dragged out of a wet basement.

I have two pre 64 M70s, one of which I refinished the stock and recut the checkering.
When I think of destroying the value of a collectors item I think of thousands of dollars, and not a couple of hundred or even less.


July 30, 2011, 02:41 PM
Pre-64's made after WW-2 have very little collector value and are considered shooters. Most of them are used as the basis for custom rifles now and are rebuilt anyway. In fact now that Winchester is producing quality CRF rifles now the value of most pre-64's has taken a nosedive. The new rifles are really much better quality anyway.

If I had just received one from a family member I'd take it to a good gunsmith and have it rebarrelled and restocked anyway. Give it a new life as a new custom gun.

July 30, 2011, 03:22 PM
I agree. It is a shooter with immense personal and emotional value, but it's not a collector's piece unless it's unfired and in the factory box with the original receipt. Even then we're stretching the term "collectors' piece" a bit. It just becomes a highly desirable shooter.

You won't hurt anything by refinishing the stock. Just remember that when sanding, the relationship of the wood to the metal must remain unchanged, so do not use any heavier sandpaper than you must. The magazine and trigger guard assemblies must still be "in the wood" when you finish, not standing out on top of it, so be careful around those areas and don't remove too much wood. Also, make sure you leave the buttplate on the stock when you sand or you will round off the edge and it will then be truly ruined until you cut off the stock and refit the buttplate. Rounding off edges is also easy to do around the bottom of the magazine/trigger guard mortise, and there is no cure for that one...the rifle will forever look like crap if you round off those particular edges, so use a sanding block down there and be careful. There is also a real hazard in sanding the wood that rests under and behind the rear tang of the Model 70 receiver - you can't put wood back and this is another area that will ruin the rifle's looks if you remove too much wood. Also remember to mask off the checkering with the highest quality masking tape you can find before you sand.

There is a real hazard to be avoided by Model 70 owners when it comes to tightening the action screws. There are three screws found on the Model 70 instead of the two found on most bolt guns. Just remember that the front and rear screws should be very tight, but the middle one only holds the trigger guard/magazine assembly together and in the wood, and tightening it really tight will warp the action. So just go easy on the middle screw as it is not intended to hold the barrelled action in the stock mortise. Only the front and rear screws do that.

I was once asked by a local gun shop to put a production finish on a customer's Model 70 otsix of the vintage of your gun. The owner wanted it to look essentially like the original finish. So after sanding I used Minwax #224 Special Walnut for the stain and finished it with three coats of Deft Clear Wood Finish, (which Deft finally identified as clear lacquer), and steel wooled it between coats with 0000 steel wool. Lacquer was used by the gun industry for many decades and still makes a very good and durable finish. The nice thing about the Deft is that it dries so fast I have applied as many as three coats in a single warm day. I would probably stick with a subdued but not flat sheen. Say a semi gloss steel wooled down to flat and then brought back up with Birchwood Casey Stock Sheen and Conditioner. Another nice thing about the Deft is that if the final product is too shiny or too dull for you, they make about four sheens, so all you have to do is wool the last coat of the old stuff and apply a new coat of the fresh stuff right over it. It's really easy to work with.

The Minwax stain mentioned above is reputed to have been the stain of preference of the American rifle industry for many years, so you should be able to use it to return your gun to its original looks without hand sanding a zillion coats of finish.

One final word of caution is to mask off the barrel and action mortise and keep the finish out of it during the spray process. Too much finish will change the fit of the metal to the wood and really mess up the gun's accuracy. If it still has finish in the mortise I'd leave it alone or hand brush a minimal coat of really thin lacquer in there for water protection at very most. But again, leave it alone if there's still finish in there.

Best wishes with your rifle and I hope some of this blabber helps.


July 30, 2011, 08:11 PM
I have collected model 70's and other older guns for 45 years and can state without bias, ANY change from original will greatly effect collectors value. Many collecters simply walk away when viewing an altered gun, me as well. The old model 70 is a collecters item though there are quite a few of them out there. The sanding is unrepairable but you can try to correct the bubba job. First off dont use Truoil or linspeen oil. Winchester did not use an oil finish. They used a spray on varnish. Winchester also stained all their wood prior to finishing. This Winchester formula is available I believe through some of the big gunsmith companies.

July 30, 2011, 09:45 PM
All--thanks all for your time and the advice. Will need to absorb this some and discuss with my Dad, since he's the one who's doing all the work! Though I like oil finishes (and have them on a couple of my rifles), thinking initially that I am leaning toward the stain and lacquer approach, if that's the type of of finish the original M70 would have had. Understand this isn't going to be a collector's piece, but think it would be nice to have as much original look/feel as possible.

July 31, 2011, 12:45 PM
My comments were based on the fact that your dad has already started sanding on the gun, and that a refinish would now be required because of it. I agree that most buyers would rather see an original finish, but can't see where a refinish to close to factory standard will do any more than restrict your base of buyers a bit. Best wishes to you and your dad.