Onwards with the SKS stock finishing, and it is getting to the home stretch!
When last we left the last Tung oil coat was doing its thing and it was decision time on what to do next.
Some Dr. Science observations on the utilization of Cedar oil allowed the observation that it helps to increase contrast, decrease tonal shifts and reduces drying time of normal oils used for finishing (Tung, BLO and Walnut). A revisit to previously used boards with Cedar oil mixtures has demonstrated that almost all of the aromatic parts of the oil have disappeared after 2 weeks. At most a slight earthy smell has been left that comes from the oil, itself.
I haven't been that satisfied with the contrast on the forward part of the stock, but that is due to the underlying wood having grain with lots of ring artifacts that intersperse into the inter-ring area. Bleaching with oxalic acid demonstrated that these are not introduced by outside artifacts (such as steel wool embedded in the wood from a previous finish) but are actual color and tonal qualities of the wood itself. While it is possible to actually bleach the entire stock to get rid of those natural colorants (mostly tannic acid with some wood resins), I am generally against that for a gunstock as no arsenal would take that sort of care to do that unless it was done to every rifle going through it, and its an added step that is for a military rifle, not a hunting rifle. That and some of the abrasions and abuse suffered while in use have been left as-is with only some sanding done to smooth over rough areas and a bit of glue mixed with wood dust to fill in a one minor surface crack and smooth over a part of the handguard. So far the only attempt at shifting color was done on the handguard with a two layers of shellac after the initial sanding coat and first coat with Walnut oil, and on the arsenal number area of the butt part of the stock to darken that a bit via using a quick brush-on of Walnut oil over applied Tung oil. After putting an oil coat over the shellac (Tung oil), both the handguard and stock were ready for a primary coat.
After hemming and hawing I decided on a BLO/Walnut oil/Cedar oil equal proportion mix with no solvent, just straight oil. Using 3.5ml of each oil mixed together in a stainless steel cup using an acid brush I applied that over the handguard and stock, itself. After 45 minutes I wiped off the excess oil, let it sit for 4 hours and then wiped it down again and let it sit overnight for drying and a final wipe-down.
Here are where things stand and the ambient lighting required the use of the flash for a number of pictures. Way down on the list of 'things I should really make in my copious spare time' is a lightbox. Needless to say it is not a front-burner project.
No flash on this one!
Lots of flash reflection here.
Light coming in from outside does make a difference and clouds started to darken up in the few minutes between pictures.
With that said the top picture shows a far more even set of tonal changes from the rear going to the grip area. This is nearly matched by the upper part of the other side in the lower picture, and there is a nice set of gradations going light to dark to light over the top of the butt portion of the stock and going to dark then much darker to dark along the bottom. It now looks like the wood on the left side of the butt stock actually is a continuation of the tonal qualities coming in from the right.
Notice that the arsenal numbers are nice and dark and in high contrast to the rest of the wood around it. That is the Cedar oil at work with the previous Walnut oil that I only lightly rubbed over in that area. In fact the heaviest areas of rubbing with 0000 steel wool replacement has been on the forward part of the stock with some actual 400 grit sanding up there. It is a nearly vain attempt to deal with the wood grain as it gets so dense in color with all the darker brown and even black specks that there isn't much contrast to begin with.
Now a few other close-ups.
The left part of the butt end of the stock. Numbers are looking good and the stark tonal differences from the grip to the end of the stock are a bit more gradual. I concentrated on rubbing steel wool replacement along the grain over that neck transition above the grip, and its having some effect.
With flash but with less glare. On the forward part of the stock, not much can be done particularly through here. It isn't tight grain, but the growth rings aren't well defined with some specks of bark captured throughout. The handguard with its Walnut and shellac treatments has darkened a bit and now BLO/Walnut/Cedar have actually lightened it a bit. Some gloss is coming from the underlying shellac, which I did rub down. It is still much better than it was and looks like it actually came from the same tree wood, not one two counties over.
This left side has been a PITA to work with. The flash is making it look lighter than it really is. With that said it is seeing some effects from the Cedar oil with the grain a bit better defined.
Right side, excuse the glare. If I have been working to darken the tonal qualities on the left part of the butt end, then on the right I have been working to lighten them and show the grain a bit better. When it came in this was a uniformly dark, mess that might have been wood if you looked at it right, through the cosmoline. The cosmoline hid a wealth of problems with the underlying finish, what there was of it, and trying to deal with the problems (not just cover them over) has been a pain and a joy. The butt end of the stock is turning out to be a real pleasure to work with with relatively well defined grain. Even with the tonal problems of the stock due to the cut angle in the wood (usually done at 7.5 degrees when cut for the arsenal) just catching the grain where it is opening up, this part has yielded the most to hard labor, sanding, and applying finish so as to help even out tone while popping out the grain visually. Almost makes me want to go into stock making, but I don't have a lathe and I have very little chisel experience, as yet.
For all the glare, the flash does help to point out the problems with the wood grain: it is dark, has flecks interspersed in the growth areas, and that causes a darker tonal quality throughout the main portion of the stock. Still I have assiduously worked first sandpaper and steel wool replacement to lighten this area up a bit. It is better than the left side of the stock is for this, that's for sure, but no great shakes. I'm starting to think the tree this came from had a pretty rough life given the condition of the growth ring areas.
And sometimes the flash is absolutely useless.
There is some nice grain in the wood here... even while still having the other problems previously mentioned.
At this point I am no longer that worried about the use of an aromatic oil as the volatiles from it leave the oil very quickly. The entire thing needs another day to let the last application cure, however and then it is either a colorant coat to add some red into the deal (probably a spirit varnish) or just say 'the hell with it' do a light bit with steel wool replacement and put on Waterlox and be done with it. I don't think another oil coat will get me much more than what is currently here or magically lighten the front part of the stock. A shellac colorant layer (aka spirit varnish in one form or another) would increase gloss and then need a final finish layer unless I add something to the shellac.
I am getting into that realm of things and whipping up my first batch of spirit varnish with platina/light button lac with colophony, sandarac and dragon's blood, plus a dollop of Venetian Turpentine, but that is to get a faux cherry look. I might substitute garnet shellac and remove the dragon's blood, which ought to do it, but that will take time to test and experiment with. Spirit varnishes are pretty easy to work with and I need to get a supply of either anhydrous ethyl alcohol or have a family member ship in a case of Everclear for me at 190 proof.
An oil finish is very easy to apply, user friendly with Citrus Solvent, and teaches a lot about how to use it if you are willing to dabble a bit. Every oil varnish recipe I have looked at has the words 'boiling oil' attached to them. Fun, fun, fun!