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Refinishing M14 Wood Stocks

Fifty or so years after original manufacture, the finish on most M14 wood stocks is beyond repair.  Dings, dirt and oxidation have made it very difficult to get a "just issued" looking  finish without stripping the stock completely and starting over.  Removing the original finish also has the benefit of removing the dark stain that the manufacturers applied to make their products uniform - there's a lot of very nice wood under there. Some would argue that you lose some authenticity this way, and I agree.  But you gain a beautiful piece of wood for your rifle in the process.  Your stock is the first thing people notice and one of the only things that they will remember about your rifle. 

If you can find a stock that can be cleaned up and re-oiled that you like - that's a very good thing. 

If not, here's how I refinish the stocks we sell:

I use a water soluble soy based stripper manufactured by Franmar on all of our stocks.  It's available at Real Milk Paint Company or Land Ark (someday, I'll carry it in the store). I selected this product because it works, is generally non-toxic (both touch and vapor), does not harm the wood being refinished, is non-flammable/non-explosive and cleans up with warm water. 

I paint on the stripper with a brush leaving a thick, uniform coat over the entire stock. You want to put it on far thicker than a coat of paint. Hang the stock over a drip pan and wait 1-2 hours for the stripper to do its thing.  Wash the stock with warm (as hot as you can stand to work with) water with a little dishwashing detergent and a scrub sponge.  Rinse it off thoroughly with more hot water and dry it with an old towel.  Repeat this process.  Most of our stocks take three round trips to get them where I like them.

Now you can see the nicks and dings very clearly.  I run the stocks through a preliminary sand with 120 grit sandpaper on a sanding block to take off any residual finish and see which of the dings will go away easily.  Anything remailing gets steamed - I use a household steam iron and an old washcloth saturated with water.  Heat up the iron, put the washcloth over the ding and press down with the iron - after it dries, give the area a light sanding.  Repeat until the ding is gone or you give up.  You will be surprised what you can make disappear with some patience - as long as the wood fibers are still there and haven't been broken too badly it will most likely come out. 

After I have the nicks and dings under control, I sand with 120, then 150 and 220 grit sandpaper.  What you're shooting for here is to get a very smooth surface and remove all remaining stain.  The objective is to do this without taking off any more wood than necessary.  Be careful around the DAS stamp and the Circle P.

After I'm satisfied with the results of the 220 paper, I do an inspection for any remaining dings (or "shadows" caused by oil being absorbed where the finish has been dinged), remedy any problems and finish with 320 paper.  The surface should look nearly polished when you're done.

This process is WAY more than the original manufacturers did to the blanks.  If you want an "authentic" finish, stop with 150 grit and refinish with the darkest walnut stain you can find before you apply the Tung Oil. Use no more than three coats of TO.

I use Minwax natural wood finish (it's a stain base without color) to seal the stock and bring out the grain.  This is also the time to apply stain, if you want to change the color of the wood.

After the stock is stained/sealed, I use Pure Tung Oil mixed 50/50 with Citrus Spirits (works the same with mineral spirits) applied with t-shirt material.  You want to get a moderate amount on the wood with the first coat.  Not drippy, but good and wet. Let the stock dry a couple of days.

Subsequent coats should be applied as thinly as possible.  I use strips of an old cotton sheet with just enough Tung Oil to leave a uniform sheen on the wood.  After the second coat (the first thin one), sand lightly with 400 grit or finer sandpaper and wipe with mineral spirits between coats.  You can put as many coats on as you'd like.  For a more military style finish, stop at three to four total coats. 

As you add more coats, the finish will go from a flat to satin look.  When you get to a satin finish, getting it to be uniform (no flat spots) is a challenge.  On my high end stocks, I usually apply the last coat or two with the palm of my hand to make the sheen uniform.
On the stocks we sell, I put a coat of Beeswax Furniture Polish to even out the sheen and protect the finish. 
Have fun!

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