05 August 2011

Recent Arrivals - Four Weeks

At this point the SKS is stripped down and the majority of cosmoline is off the stock via light applications of acetone via rag.  Do that in only well ventilated areas!  With that off the assessment of the stock finishing is what I thought it would be: it is uneven, has drips and drops on it, and the underlying stock while having gone through two sanding phases doesn't appear to have actually been worked too much after basic shaping.  There is enough uneven shaping to show that areas of the stock that should be relatively flat and smooth just aren't that at all.  While those are limited in extent just after the firing port inlet on the right of the stock and on the buttstock on the right,  they do need to be addressed.  Visually its a mess.

Another set of shop projects moved up in priority while the SKS stalled out on getting out two pins: the bolt retaining pin and the handguard retaining pin (which is more like a rivet that has been flattened out and smoothed down on one side).  For those I scoured the message boards and found this message thread on the SKS Boards which addresses forming a hex bolt to have a pin at the end and then thread it into the windage tool.  Absolutely ingenious!  I'm waiting for a few bolts to come in from Bolt Depot and then will send those with the tool to my sister who works in a machine shop to get them finished down to a 1/8" pin pusher for the front part of the bolt.  I will probably end up having to dremel the handguard retaining pin and put in a replacement and for that I should have some decent pin stock which I can pound in and then just shear off the end with a hacksaw and smooth it.  I will give a try at just using the new tool to push it out, but don't expect much success there.  Either way the handguard piece must come off so that it can be finished with the rest of the stock.

I need to get a quick router table set up and need the workbench to do the finishing work on that.  I'm giving it a nice coat of Herter's Red and then will do a tung oil coating... probably 5 or 6 of them, and that will take about a week to ten days.

Reading up on final finishes means that I now have a supply of carnauba wax in to help get a wax/tung oil based varnish made.  I was doing the chemistry set sort of looking around with alcohol burners, stands, beakers and such until one fortuitous entry of 'alcohol burner set' got me the greatest possible invention for making this stuff ever: fondue sets.  Think of it you have the burner, you have an oil resistant pot, if you hunt around you can find those with actual lids to them, you have a stand and, if you are real lucky, you can get a stainless steel one so as not to live with '70's avacado green in your shop!  Found a nice one used for $25 delivered, 2 quarts.  That should last a lifetime of varnish making.

On the finishing front I do not give up on shellac so easily and look forward to that with a set of bench drawers that I need to make to get some order to things here.  Reading up I found that shellac wax is almost as hard as carnauba wax which means the button lac I picked up needs to be processed through to yield its wax and shellac.  That is a week to two week process and since the wax is only 3-5% of the material I would need to make a lot of shellac to get it out.  A quart ought to yield enough to do some tests with, at least, and it proves out I should then have a final varnish that would look good on most gunstocks and will only add a bit of luster to it.

That's it for this report, sorry for lack of pics but should have some once I get the pin pusher.


Kerry said...

Reading about the Cosmoline wars, I would think turpentine, unscented mineral spirits or even a combination of the two would work; you could then abandon the acetone. And the cost ought to be lower so one might even submerge the whole shebang. (Woodworking person here.)

A Jacksonian said...

Kerry - My thanks!

Dealing with a piece of wood that has been in contact with cosmoline for 40+ years is an ongoing pain in the C&R and surplus rifle community.

There are a few common methods used to do this:
1. Heating. This includes making a trashcan easy bake oven affair, putting the stock in a big black plastic trash bag with kittylitter and using the sun, using a dishwasher (if you like the smell of cosmoline in it..), hanging over a wooden stove with catch pan...even taking a shower with it. Those all work to a point, but those long chain hydrocarbons have really gotten into the surface pore structure.

2 - Chemistry. Acetone is a favorite for immediate surface break-up, and I've even read of acetone hanging baths with draped plastic around the stock so everything goes into the bath as the acetone works its way up. Also I've read about oven cleaners, which can leave a greenish tint to the wood being used and various automotive cleaners for brakes. I've used turpentine as a surface wash on previous Mosin-Nagants and its good for surface removal. The last stuff I've used is Kramer's Antique Restorer which is a combination of turpentine and other wood-based products and it has finally gotten one of my older Mosin-Nagants free of cosmoline.

3. Combinations of heat, chemistry, sanding and time. Pick your poison on that, once you get the stuff off and then get a good 220 grit sanding things looke a bit better.

One of the things to be wary of is wood swelling if you are trying to keep marks on the stock. Cartouche marks, arsenal marks, unit markings, and hand done marks all lend history to the piece and what might be good for removing cosmoline (the dishwasher) may pop out the cartouche marks. If you have one of the Gahendra rifles that is black and covered with all sorts of filth but still has good wood underneath, choosing the right way to remove the filth and cosmoline is important as you are buying it for the history involved. A Mosin-Nagant (unless special by country, unit or other history) is a bit less important but the beautiful shellac finish really should be preserved... that got me involved in woodworking, really.

I can give the turpentine/mineral spirits angle a try since I'm going to be stripping the finish off the stock due to the way the arsenal treated it. Since many stocks were issued to soldiers without a finish, they were left with field techniques and thats a great justification to rework the SKS stock. I feel sorry for people who got un-finished stocks out of cosmoline. Acetone is my dead last resort but felt it was justified as nothing else was getting to the surface stuff and it, at least, got the surface dry.

I do like the Kramers as it does slowly close the surface pores which doesn't ruin the finish but does slowly (very slowly) drive out the cosmoline. The one M-N stopped getting surface cosmoline a month after a week of daily treatments but it did not have a quart of cosmoline in it that vacuum sealed the receiver to the stock. But that stuff does have to go as it forms a nasty lacquer in the firing chamber and can stop rounds from chambering if you don't take care of it up front. That is a prime safety issue. So is having scalding cosmoline on the handguard after firing a few rounds. The person who comes up with a sure-fire way to get rid of ALL cosmoline in a stock and leave the markings plus the finish will make a mint, I tellya.

My thanks for the help! Will give it a go on our next half-way decent day around here where I can vent the workshop.