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What to do about a darkened stock?

skyshadows74skyshadows74 Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
edited May 2009 in Ask the Experts
I have a rifle thats stock has gotten quite dark over the years probably from oils and such, what would be the best way to bring out its original finish or to enhance it to a lighter finish without hurting the value of the rifle?
The rifle is 114 years old and the stock is in pretty good shape except for it being pretty dark from absorbing oils and such, should I maybe lightly sand it with some really fine paper or try a chemical to take out the oils in the stock and brighten it up?
I don't want to hurt the value of the rifle for auction I want to enhance the value, so what do you think would be my best course of action with this?
Thanks so much for the replys in advance!!



  • perry shooterperry shooter Member Posts: 17,390
    edited November -1
    A lot depends on the type of finish . on a 117 year old gun it most likely is an oil finish IMHO DO NOT try to sand Patina is much better then any thing you can do . I like a product like Balistol for oil finish use this and some thing like burlapto clean grime. No steel wool sand paper etc. There is a product for cleaning kitchen cabinets "something GOLD" but you sure DON'T want to try to strip old finish.
  • GuvamintCheeseGuvamintCheese Member Posts: 38,932
    edited November -1
    I would try just wiping it with a mild solvent like goo gone in a small area to see what the outcome is. If it has darkened at the reciever from oils (has soaked the end grain) you are talking about an entirely different kind of cleaning. Post some photos of it if you can.
  • glabrayglabray Member Posts: 679 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Don't sand it because unless you are VERY carefull you will create a bad wood-to-metal fit in areas that will be a significant negative as far as a collector is concerned.

    If the original finish was oil, which is likely with a 114 year old gun, you might try this: (1) Mix some boiled (not raw) linseed oil from a recently opened can 50/50 with turpentine (not paint thinner). It is essential that the linseed oil is fresh and has not been exposed to air as in a partly used can. Dip a small piece of 0000 steel wool in the mix and lightly rub the wood all over then dry it off well. Do this once a day for several days. (3) After several days of #2, dip your bare fingers in the mixture and rub on a VERY thin layer. If you can see little lines in the oil layer caused by your fingerprints, you have too much oil on the wood. Keep rubbing with your whole hand. The harder you rub and the hotter your hand becomes the better it works. Some guys enhance this process by preheating the wood with a heat gun.

    The above process will result in a clean surface without removing any wood. It will still probably be dark but instead of the dull dark it probably has now, it will have a bit of a sheen which is much more pleasant to look at.
  • Tailgunner1954Tailgunner1954 Member Posts: 7,815
    edited November -1
    Acitone and ditamatious earth (from your local pool/spa supplier, I've also seen it in the garden dept at Lowes).
    Make up a paste and apply it to the stock and let dry. The acitone acts as a solvent to the oils and the DE acts as a sponge to absorb the oils.
    Rub/brush off the dried material
    Repeat as necessory
    Refinish as Glabray
  • nmyersnmyers Member Posts: 16,793 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Since you are planning to sell the rifle, & you have no experience cleaning or refinishing, it's best to sell it AS IS. Otherwise, you are likely to do more harm than good.

    You didn't tell us what type rifle it is, & you didn't post photos. So, we are only able to guess at what you have & what will work best.

    In any case, do not apply any solvents or finishing products with your bare hands --- always wear protective gloves & use in a well ventilated area. All contain solvents that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, & toxic.

  • armilitearmilite Member Posts: 35,381 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I once used wood bleach on an old British Enfield stock and it brightened it up quite a bit, but I probably would not use this on some collector rifle as it may brighten it up more than the original was. I would try to find some scrap of wood similar in color to what you have and play with it a little before you decide.
  • slumlord44slumlord44 Member Posts: 3,702 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I would not touch it either.
  • skyshadows74skyshadows74 Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Wow, I didn't realize it was so complex. I didn't post photos cause I figured the date of the rifle would be enough to let the experts know which wood and finish it was made from. I apologize, I will post some photos in the morning of the stock, many different views, and many different options, thank you all for your advice so much! It really means a lot for all of you to pitch in and try to help me fix this problem the right way.
    Im gonna post some photos of the stock in the morning so everyone can see the actual stock and see if you know what the issue is. Im sorry I didn't post photos before, I thought the date would be enough, but I wasn't sure, so I will get that up here in the morn so I can get a better idea of what all of you think might be the issue. It might have been actually varnished without me knowing, meaning before I got the rifle someone may have thought it was a good idea to varnish it without knowing that it would be terrible for a rifle such as this. It is an 1886 model winchester by the way. Made in 1895 im pretty sure with the help of the best expert of all Bert! His help has been truley a gift to me! I just want to auction my rifle to someone that will keep it in a good collection and take care of it well and treat it the way it should be! I do want to get a good price for it, but I want the new owner to have a good rifle that I have taken care of since I was 16, im now 34, so its been with me awhile! I want it to go to a good owner, but I want it to go to them as good as I can give it to them and in as best shape as I can. I have taken well care of it, but its time it found a new owner as I am in a bit of a bind and I am starting to part with my collection. I just don't want to do any harm to it and that is why I asked the experts here before I ever laid a hand on it!
    I am a painter also, so I would never touch those solvents and such without protection as I use them a lot. Thank you all so much for the different ideas and I will post some photos of it first thing in the morning as soon as I take them. I have an issue with another rifle that is not as old, but not by much, so thats why I asked about how to draw oils and such out of an old rifle. It wasn't just for my 1886, its also for another rifle I have have was made in 1903.
    Ok, I will get you all some photos asap so I can get a better idea of what im dealing with. Maybe oil, but it might be a varnish that was put on by someone that didn't know what they were doing and thought it would be good, not knowing they were totally messing up the value of the rifle.
    Thank you all so much for your insight and your options for fixing my finish!! I really appreciate it! I think the photos will help a lot! You'll have them in the morning!

    Night all and I so much appreciate everyone that has chimmed in to help me!

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