This week started with using steel wool replacement to knock back the prior application of BLO/Walnut/Cedar oil from the prior post.
I was a bit surprised that this did start to lighten up the tonal qualities of the stock, overall, although not by a lot.
The left side of the stock:
The left part of the stock is now getting to the point, here, where there is a darkening going forward from the butt end towards the fore end part of the stock, where it then lightens up a bit.
The right side of the stock:
The right side of the stock suffers this more top to bottom and less so across the main line of the grain going from butt to fore end area. That top rear part at the end of the inletting is just dark. The actual hand grip area started to lighten up just a bit which gave me a clue as to what to do next.
Hand grips are the most handled part of a stock (naturally) and it gets the most impression from the user over time. This tends to press the grain down and any oils that come from the users hand tends to stay in that area. The upshot of it is that there is a burnishing effect (which I tried to remove with gentle sanding as the cartouche marks are there, also) along with darkening from skin oils (above and beyond any finish and what the cosmoline did). I don't actually want to remove all of that as the rifle should show prior use, but I do want some of the actual grain to show through clearly. This time the 0000 steel wool replacement was actually doing some of that, and my next course of action was clear.
What I did next was to apply straight BLO which was hand applied going with the grain to get an even coating across the stock and handguard. After that came the 400 grit sandpaper and giving the darkest parts of the stock a going-over with it and along the grain. There started to be some improvement at the grip area, and also in those areas that suffer from having darker tonal qualities (left/center part of the stock and right butt/bottom, top/inletting rear and fore/central). This was done as the BLO was applied so that added BLO could be finger-dipped on to help smooth the sanding. I paid a bit of attention to a couple of inlet areas that are rough (and will generally remain so) and a couple of larger pore areas that haven't gotten sealed yet.
I let that sit for about an hour and a half before wiping off excess oil, then again at four hours before letting it sit overnight. After that, I repeated the process with pure Tung oil to get a bit more of grain snap going on. It was hand apply, sand, add more as needed, let sit for two hours, wipe, sit for another two hours, wipe, and let it dry overnight before the final morning wipe and going over with steel wool replacement.
Now for what it looks like after that process.
The right side of the stock:
For the first time there is now a generally more even set of tonal qualities on the right hand side of the stock. The butt/bottom is no longer so starkly different as it was at the start of the process. While the upper part at the end of the inletting is still darker, it is now within a set of tones that looks like it actually belongs to the same wood as the rest of the stock. There is a bit of darkening in the fore end area, but again it is no longer a stark contrast.
The left side of the stock:
That last picture still shows the problem with the grip area, just at the neck of the stock transition, but it is nowhere near as bad as it was. The stark ring grain at the butt/bottom is still darker but now helping to balance the overall tone of the area. And while the forward part of the stock is still darker it is a gradual blend from butt to fore end with one part of the grain slightly lighter heading towards the forward grip area.
The handguard remains slightly lighter than the rest of the stock, and the shellac layer still offers a high reflective value.
During today's rub down I noticed that there were shiny flecks of what is oil that would come to the surface after rubbing down a section of the stock. Easily wiped away and I utilized a bit of Citrus Solvent on a rag (no more than a drop or two on the rag at one time) to wipe over those areas and then wipe them dry. This is an indicator that the wood has about all it can take of oils and that what is on there needs to actually polymerize. In other words that is the end of the oil on wood part of the process.
Now for the fun part.
These are two home made spirit varnishes that I whipped up over the last week or two. The top is a mixture of shellac, sandarac, colophony (pine resin), dragon's blood, alcohol and Venetian turpentine. It is the reddish area on the top board and you can see where it has some one coating areas around the main, darker area which is two coats of it. The total drying time, per coat, is about 2 minutes, which is about what it takes for a quick application of 1 lb. cut shellac to dry. The shellac I used is 1 lb. cut of Platina/Light Button Lac, which I had removed the wax from. The dragon's blood gives a near cherry red appearance to the varnish and is from a 19th century recipe. If you ever wondered how great-granddad ever got that cherry look to oak, now you know.
Below that is a coated area between the pencil line and the saw-tooth end of the board. It has had one coat.
The angle on the boards for lighting should highlight it.
Now without trying to show up the gloss.
You do notice how in the last picture there is some darkening of the grain and in the center one there is just a bit of yellow hue to the covered area, right?
What is that stuff that leaves a matte and slightly yellow cast to the wood?
That is the same 1 lb. cut of shellac, with a proportion of sandarac and Venetian Turpentine to it. It is called 'Gun Stock Varnish'. And it dries faster than the red stuff. Close to 30 seconds, actually.
Shellac is one of those coatings that is put on by evaporation (of alcohol in this case) and usually leaves a nice luster to it, and it takes easily to being buffed out with very light abrasives (light grades of pumice or rottenstone). Shellac is the perfect sanding coat as it sands well, fills in the pore spaces, and easily takes on other varnishes or oil in that sanded state (or abraded state with steel wool replacement or bronze wool). It is resistant to water, other resins, stuff like acetone or mineral spirits, and is just about the only thing you can apply to the cut end of sap laden pine that will keep the resin in. I prefer making mine with zero additives from a manufacturer and get the flakes to make my own from a few places. The Mosin-Nagant has garnet shellac as its coating: the only oil is cosmoline that it gets from the arsenal when stored. Oils can get through it (as the amount of cosmoline on a well used Mosin-Nagant stock can attest to) which allows oil finishes to actually do a bonding with the wood and the shellac layer, both.
Downsides of shellac are: it dissolves in alcohol, discolors when heated (which turns it gray), it is a bit brittle and scratches pretty easily. Anything finished with shellac needs something on it (usually wax if you are doing it as a final coat) which is then puts a different layer of protection on the wood.
So if you could start to eliminate the defects by adding other ingredients, you would get a sturdier finish, due to the way the shellac changes its state as it dries. That means that alcohol soluble resins can be tried to change many of the negative qualities of shellac while retaining the positive ones. As mentioned above, sandarac resin is one of those that helps to make the shellac a bit less brittle and a bit more flexible, which reduces its ability to be scratched. Venetian Turpentine is a resin based turpentine (that is it has resin dissolved in it) and it has a lovely texture and color of honey... it even smells nice, though you wouldn't want to eat it... which means it is both a solvent for oils and it helps to add more plastic qualities to alcohol based resin mixtures as it will dissolve into them, too. Common pine resin (or rosin) is what you get in little pouches that pitchers in baseball use. Or you can find some older pine trees that have it already excreted for you if you have a forest of them nearby. That stuff is called colophony and it adds gloss to resin mixtures. Lots of gloss.
Now, having a spirit varnish that is resistant to some pretty nasty chemicals, save alcohol, and that is just a bit flexible enough not to chip off or scratch easily is a real nice concept for a gun stock. A matte finish is also highly desirable and the slightly yellow cast can be varied by either using different shellacs (blond, orange, garnet, or one of the button lacs) means you can do a lovely bit of grain popping with Tung oil or BLO in a few layers and then matte that down with a couple of layers of spirit varnish and then finish up with either another oil coat, a polyurethane varnish, or a wax coat. The fact that there are all sorts of alcohol soluble tints available is a huge plus to getting a lovely finish using something like Platina or Super Blond shellac as a base.
This now brings up the handguard, which has a shellac layer to it. Nice and shiny, isn't it? And lighter, too...
There is one other minor ingredient that one violin maker pointed out must be in all early industrial age finishes as they were made in the early industrial age. That ingredient you would get in any decent sized city or town and isn't horse dung. It is the sure way to start adding just a bit of darkness and reflectivity changes to any finish. The stuff is lamp black, also called soot, known to the gun stock maker's community as 'inletter's black'. The quantities are small, yes, less than a teaspoon per gallon, but many companies went to their outside walls to scrape the stuff off and use it as it had that price of 'free' to it (save for the lung conditions of the era which was a hidden cost). Now if I had to darken up the tonal qualities of the handguard, I would add just a pinch to some spirit varnish and put that on...
So far I have only used 20th century equivalents for mixing, painting, wiping and storing chemicals and equipment for finish application on the gunstock. There is no polyurethane in any of what I have put on. Not even an alkyd pigment or dye. Citrus Solvent is taking the place of turpentine, and they do work the same for thinning oils and drying them, and neither becomes a part of the finish (save Venetian Turpentine which has been around for thousands of years).
If you were stuck out in the boonies of Yugoslavia in the 1950's the hardest thing to get would be the shellac... or the alcohol given its consumption in the region. BLO is known and common. Tung oil less common, but known. Venetian Turpentine can be made and if you have horses, then you already have it. Lamp black you have with any candle. Walnut oil might be scarce, but it is used for cooking. Cedar oil very hard to get, but not unknown especially since you have a ready equivalent from the forests there. Sandpaper might be hard to get at 400 grit, but all the way up to 220 grit you would be OK. Steel wool or bronze wool would be available (hey, you need that stuff for gun CLEANING). For a fit and healthy young adult this process would not take months but at most two weeks, and you could cut back on that to a week if you had any idea what you were doing (or if your company armorer had a clue). Sandarac is the hardest thing on the list of ingredients so far outside of the shellac and/or alcohol ('You want to use your Slivovitz to do what, now?'). The only thing I haven't really hit on is a great, final coating, but could easily use Tung oil or Walnut oil for that.
In other words: you can do it ALL on your own with a bit of knowledge and time to experiment. The time may be hard to come by, but the knowledge and experience is priceless.