September 23, 2010
Finishing The Wood.
By Reid Coffield
The tang of the trigger guard bow is shown before inletting into the stock wrist.
With the bedding of the stock completed, the Mauser sporter is well on its way to being done. The next major step is to finish shaping the stock, sanding it, and applying a finish to the wood. Once that's accomplished, the only major step left will be to apply a finish to the metal components.
While the Boyd's stock I'm using is very attractive and well shaped, there are a couple of minor changes I want to make. Keep in mind that while doing a project like this, you should never hesitate to make alterations or changes to the factory product. After all, this is your rifle! Customizing it and incorporating features you like is part of the fun. Don't worry about whether someone else approves or if your ideas match the so-called right way or accepted way of building a sporter. This is your rifle, and it's perfectly okay to make it as an expression of your personality as well as your likes and dislikes. After all, even the ideas and methods considered accepted and traditional by the so-called experts were at one time radically new and different. Your new ideas or ways of doing something might just become the standard of the future.
The first alteration I made was to the top of the receiver rear tang. By using a file to modify the height and shape of the receiver tang, I can also change the contour of the top of the wrist of the stock. The stock comes from Boyd's with a notch cut in the wrist as clearance for the bottom of the cocking piece. By reshaping the tang and contouring the wrist, I'm able to remove this notch and give the stock wrist a more slender and attractive look. Also, I'll never have to worry about the cocking piece chipping the wood around the notch in the stock.
Once that was completed, I did a little reshaping to the underside of the wrist directly behind the trigger. The stock was a bit thick, and I needed to reshape it prior to inletting the rear of the modified shotgun trigger guard. When inletting the tang of the trigger guard, I first used a pencil to trace the outline of the tang on the stock. Some small chisels were then used to remove most of the wood inside this outline to a depth approximately half the thickness of the trigger guard tang. After that, I coated the tang with inletting black and finished the final inletting. This allowed me to carefully remove no more wood than was absolutely necessary and avoid any gaps around the sides of the tang.
By the way, before inletting the trigger guard tang, I used a file to give the sides of the tang a slight inward bevel. This made inletting a lot easier and helped to avoid any unsightly gaps between the metal and the wood as the bottom side of the tang is narrower than the top. Once the tang was fully inletted, I drilled it for a wood screw to secure it to the stock.
After careful inletting, there are no gaps between the wood and metal. The author says it isn't difficult, just time consuming.
I also beveled the right side of the stock adjacent to the loading port. This bevel has very little functional value, but it helps to make the stock look slimmer and thinner near the receiver. The last bit of work was to make a cut, or slot, for the shank of the bolt handle. Again, to avoid removing too much wood, I coated the bolt handle shank with inletting black and then let the impression from the inletting black guide me in removing wood. This can be a bit slow, but you'll end up with a bolt slot that is just large enough for the handle shank. I've often see where folks have make this slot so wide and deep that it's really unattractive and distracts from the appearance of the stock.
With all metal now completely inletted, the next step was to begin sanding the stock. Since I'd done a fair amount of reshaping using rasps and files, I began sanding with 120-grit sandpaper. The sandpaper was always used with a backer or sanding block. The sanding block ensures the wood surface will be level. If you just use your fingers to hold your sandpaper, there's a darn good chance your finished surface will have ripples or waves. Wood naturally has hard and soft areas, and the sanding block helps to bridge these areas and create a uniform surface. Your fingers won't do that!
For the initial sanding I left the receiver and trigger guard in place. This helped to keep from sanding away the wood where it joined the metal and preserved nice, sharp, and distinct wood edges. From time to time I would remove the metal components when I needed to get into some tight areas, around the trigger bow for example.
I worked my way up using gradually finer grits of sandpaper. Between each sanding grit I dampened the stock with a clean wet cotton cloth. The stock was then dried with a hot air gun to raise any whiskers, or wood fibers, that were not cut by the previous grit of sandpaper. This simple process is a major factor in getting a smooth finish on the wood. Also, the dampening of the stock helped me to spot any stray sanding marks from previous grits I had missed.
Upon completion of the final 280-grit sanding, I raised the grain twice just to make sure I had removed all those little wood whiskers.
When sanding, the author made extensive use of sanding blocks to ensure a flat, even surface.
Staining, Filling & Finishing
Once that was done, I used the Pilkington Gun Company Classic Pre 64 Spirit Stain on the wood. This alcohol-based stain has a slightly red tint similar to that used on older Winchesters. Once the stain was dry, I then applied a sealer. With this stock I used Brownells Tung Oil Clear Sealer. This is a very thin sealer that penetrates deep into the wood fibers. The sealer was applied with a foam brush, and the excess was wiped off. The stock was then allowed to dry for 24 hours.
The next step was to fill the open pores of the wood fibers with a filler. I decided to experiment a bit and mixed my own using bone black, rottenstone, and a generous amount of Brownells Clear Sealer. This paste was wiped across the grain of the stock, filling the pores. I let it set for a few minutes and then wiped off the excess. The stock was then set
aside to dry for 24 hours. After that it was just a matter of applying the stock finish, which in this case was Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil. This was one of the "standard" finishes used by many hobbyists years ago during the golden age of home gunsmithing, and it's still a darn fine finish.
In between applying coats of Tru-Oil, I started working on finishing and bluing the metal. The next time we get together, we'll do the metal work and check on the progress with the stock.
Until next time, good luck and good gunsmithing!
The author applied several coats of Tru-Oil to the new stock of his Mauser sporter.