Refinishing a Stock - 1 - Removing the Old Finish

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Refinishing a Stock - 1 - Removing the Old Finish

Post by Tank » Fri Mar 22, 2013 5:39 pm

I have been prompted to write this as I am often asked how I achieve a good finish on an old stock and I see a great deal of mis-information on wood finishing and frankly, some downright bad advice. I have thirty two years of wood finishing experience so I am almost getting it right now! I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the very best.
Refinishing a wood stock is pretty straightforward, it is not like a repair or a retouch or - God forbid - a re-colour over the top of the original finish. Even if you are going to repaint the stock in exotic Camouflage I would suggest you follow the first part of the tutorial - removing the old finish.
Right, this is the procedure broken down
1) remove the old finish
2) prepare the stock for refinishing
3) applying the stain (you can skip this step if you are leaving it natural)
4) applying the finish
5) detailing the stock

The first part will deal with step one, removing the finish. There is a great deal of bunkum covering this first part and really it is very simple, should take you no more than half an hour and be immediately ready to work on. In the "olden days" we had Nitromors, sadly today's version bears no resemblance. It is "safe" - read - "useless"! Okay, it will do the job, cost a fortune and you will end up with a stock that is thoroughly soaked through. Why anyone would want to take a perfectly good, dry, stable stock and then soak it with water is beyond me.
My technique is simple and effective. I developed it years ago when I needed to refinish a whole office block full of furniture. The pictures show it better than I can describe. First off, get an old pillow case, towel or other cloth that you will never need again and wrap it around the stock as in the picture, I secured this with rubber bands.
Then you put it inside a couple of bin liners. Next up you open the gallon tin of Cellulose Thinners you bought earlier from your local automotive paint supply house, although this is useful stuff to have around I am taking a leap of faith here and I assume you are doing this outdoors and NOT on the rug in front of the fireplace! Pour a coupleor three pints over the cloth wrapped stock. Then close up the top of the bin liners - again an elastic band is good for this then just leave it in the garden shed or your garage overnight - see, it does all the hard work for you.
Next day retrieve the stock from where you left it and open it next to a bowl - I use an old washing up bowl - into which you have already emptied a pint or two of that cellulose thinners. Now pay attention - this stuff is NOT available at B&Q, Home Depot or anywhere else like that. This is automotive paint Cellulose thinners. There are all sorts of different types but the stuff you want is the cheapest they sell - we call it Gun Wash in the trade (pretty ironic huh?) and it is what we use to clean all the spray equipment, including the spray guns. Don't be buying anything exotic as you are wasting your money.
Anyway, you can see from the photograph the next stage - you will need some O grade - Coarse - wire wool. You can buy packs off ebay that have three balls of Coarse, Medium and fine in the pack. This will cost a couple of pounds and more than enough for the project.
Just soak the steel wool in thinners from the bowl and wiping firmly down the stock towards the bowl you will literally wipe the finish off.
Chequering/stippling - this presents a unique challenge. I have had the best results by brushing firmly with a brass brush, the small ones to be found in pound shops sold as "suede brushes". On really stubborn staining, particularly stippled stocks as stippling does not form a natural channel or groove I have had to be quite aggressive with a wire brush and this has abraded the wood to the point I have had to recut some of the stippling. Chequering seems to be much easier to clean but if you really destroy it, much harder to re-cut without the correct tools.
This whole process should take you no more than half an hour and you will be down to the bare wood. There is not much in the way of finishes that will withstand this treatment but there is always one.
This is the so called "Epoxy Finish" or "two pack" finish. You are on your own with this one as it is a nightmare to get off and nothing short of sanding it off will work.
Anyhow, by now you should have a bare stock which absolutely reeks of thinners. Dispose of the waste safely and tidy up after yourself. Just leave the stock in the garage overnight and next day you can start the second stage of refinishing. If you are painting the stock all you need to do is sand it down and make sure there are no nicks, dings or bings in it and it is ready for primer. If you are going to oil the stock you will have to wait until my next installment!

The stock as it was:


Wrapped up ready for the thinners:


In the bin liners and covered in thinners, plenty in and when you seal the bag up make sure you give it plenty of squishing around:


In the washing up bowl removing the cloths:


Plenty on:


Plenty of elbow grease next, keep rinsing the wire wool in the bowl of thinners:


You can see the bright clean wood contrasting against the old dirty varnish:

I’m going off to go find myself. If I’m not back by the time I return, keep me here.

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Post by beeker » Sat Mar 23, 2013 9:47 am

Very interesting . Debunking a lot of myths.I await the next installment. :D
The auto shops could be out of thinners shortlly.

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Post by zooma » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:37 am

Thanks for taking the time and making the effort to produce such a well written and comprehensive documentary on stripping a stock prior to re-finishing.

This is an invaluable reference that will never go out of fashion, and one that many of us will refer to for years.

The stock looks vaguely familiar too !
Feinwerkbau P40 Tricolour wanted.........still !
http://www.bobsairguns .com - proud to host the RMTC site since April 2011.

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