View Full Version : How to remove polyurethane from a gun stock

Richard Schimenti
09-04-2006, 05:57 AM
I have a reproduction revolver, the brass frame is nicley aged and the blue on the barrel is worn enough to look good. the only problem is the grips have a heavy coat of polyurethane and my question is the best way to remove it. I am afraid to start sanding because the fit of grip to frame is evey good.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Rich Schimenti, 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, Co. D

09-04-2006, 06:07 AM
I have been slowly defarbing my Enfield and tried name brand oven cleaner and it worked great. You'll want to refinish the handles with linseed oil (just a suggestion - check to see what is an authentic finish for them).

The oven cleaner also worked great when I got my 1903A3 from the CMP and had to remove the cosmoline from it - where I go the idea.

Just a suggestion for you...

bill watson
09-04-2006, 07:40 AM
Check brush-on paint removers. They'll specify what they can be used to remove. Some target paint types, others remove anything. Some are so good you can wipe off with a plastic scouring pad, something that won't remove any wood. Just follow the directions to neutralize the paint remover when you're done, before getting busy with the refinish.

Be advised that removing the finish may also remove the stain, if there is any; and that you may discover the stock is visually not uniform in color to begin with. You may have to restain. No big deal. Just depends on your individual stock.

I think some research might come up with a correct formula to use for the finish. I know it has come up before, I just don't remember what it was. It needs to be the right stuff -- that polyurethane looks terrible and can chip, but it does keep the moisture out.

Good luck.

09-04-2006, 12:00 PM
From the archives:

Hallo Kamerad!

Not so much "lacquer" as "Polyurethane."

From an AC Forum post, and one of many possible ways:

This is a brief Q & D (Quick & Dirty) “how-to” for improving the appearance of Italian reproduction firearm stocks. It is a “Quickie” method for those with less time and less desire to follow some of the other tips on “de-farbing.”

Original U.S. “Springfield and Harpers Ferry armory firearms had stocks that were made from Pennsylvania American Black Walnut (ABW), that were tank dipped in period boiled linseed oil sometimes to referred to as “hard oil.” (Note: NOT modern “boiled linseed oil).

Original British “Enfields” used Northern Italian Walnut or occasionally English beech. Italian reproductions use Italian hardwoods (IH) or occasionally Northern Italian Walnut (NIW) (some use beech or basswood).
Stripping the poly finish from Italian stocks, or removing the “Italian oil,” and them reoiling with modern boiled linseed oil is a commonly accepted and often practiced so-called “de-farb” technique.

However, for Springfields, the grain pattern and color of the NIW does not look like ABW. (Fine for Enfields, though.)

To get NIW’s ,and to get sundry IH’s, to look something more closer to ABW used on Springfields, I recommend this short-cut, quickie technique. Please refer to the archived threads/posts for greater detail, or detail on sliming the forestock, wrist, or butt, etc.). While we are stuck with grain pattern and can at best hide it with darker stain, we can replicate color,

1. Disassemble the gun.

2. Using “Dad’s” brand stripper (in my experience, I have found this band superior to any other I have tried), or any other quality stripper, remove the poly-urethane “dip” coating, or “oil-finish“ from the stock.
It may take 4-5 applications. I use “Dad’s” which bubbles up and can be scraped carefully with a dull knife.
For the “oil,” I use an old towel to wick and raise the oil, as well as stock color/stain (which is often more like brown shoe polish to hide poor wood).

3. Lightly, carefully sand the wood with 120, and 220 sandpaper- being careful not to “round” crisp edges or mortising- to “open” the sealed surface of the wood. When “open,” final sand with 440 or so to remove any trace of scratches (they fill in with stain and appear like dark lines if not removed…)

4. Mix up a 50/50% mixture of Tandy Leather's Dark Brown leather dye, and lacquer thinner. Apply a test spot to the barrel channel or butt. This is to check how your particular piece of wood will react. Some wood will shift the dye to yellow ranges, others to red (a common problem if one uses “walnut” rifle stock stain, as I have a comrade with some nice red "cherry" looking stocks).
That usually means, for your particular piece of wood, you will need more dye in the dye/thinner solution.

5. Apply a medium “coat” or application of dye/thinner, being sure to be even with no concentrations or runs. Dry stock wood will drink this in, and appear dark. Allow to penetrate into the wood for 2-5 minutes. (Wear surgical gloves unless you want brown hands...)

6. Using a piece of towel slightly dampened with lacquer thinner, gently wipe down the wood. The thinner will “lift” surplus dye and the towel will “rub off” some. This is how one controls the color, as well as “grain coverage.”

7. Repeat Step 6, twice or three times (depending upon how the wood is behaving, and how dark you want the stock to appear. Surviving originals often appear blackish, but this is due to the hard oil finish taking dirt and grime over the years, as well as from the hard oil acting as varnish- which as on oil paintings darkens and blackens with age and exposure. (Note: The color will lighten slightly when oiled, and the color will fade over time due to sunlight.)

8. Color is a tricky thing on undarkened originals as the ACW or NIW varies tree to tree, and where the wood was cut from the tree. Some will appear light, other dark. I try to find sample references in originals, or sometimes colored pictures (never exact due to camera lighting and printing), and duplicate that.
But to hide “bad Italian wood,” I tend to go on the darker side of ABW ranges.

9. Mix up a mixture of 2 ounces of Laurel Mountain Stock Finish (not their sealer) for the “hard oil” properties, 2 ounces of Lacquer Thinner, and 1 ounce of Japan Dryer. (Half that will do for most stocks…).
Apply a heavy coat with a lint free rag. Allow to soak in and penetrate for 2-3 minutes. Wipe of the excess. Allow to dry. The Japan Dryer radically accelerates drying time, down to 1-2 hours an application.
Steel wool with 0000 Steel Wool to reduce grain that have popped up.
Apply a light film with a lint free rag. Allow to soak in and penetrate for 2-3 minutes. Wipe of the excess. Allow to dry. The Japan Dryer radically accelerates drying time, down to 1-2 hours an application.
Lightly steel wool with 0000 Steel Wool to reduce grain that have popped up.
Apply a very light film coat with a few drops in the palm of your hand.. Allow to soak in and penetrate for 2-3 minutes. Wipe of the excess. Allow to dry. The Japan Dryer radically accelerates drying time, down to 1-2 hours an application.
Lightly steel wool with 0000 Steel Wool to reduce grain that have popped up.

10. Most woods will now have a uniform, dull satin or “egg shell” look to them as found on originals. Do not apply further coats once this even “slight sheen” has appeared, as the 4th or 5th application may start sealing the wood under a semi-high gloss like a modern hunting rifle!

11. Using 0000 Steel Wool and oil (like 3-in-1 brand) gently work the stock to cut any excess shine or sheen. (I also rub the stock down with Birchwood Casey’s Stock Finish, which contains pumice and acts as “rottenstone” for a period slight “egg shell” sheen (look an excellent to mint original stocks for what this appears like).

12. Reassemble the gun.

13. Wax the stock with a 50/50% mix of beef or mutton tallow and beeswax, and even as periodic “maintenance.”
I have refinished stocks using this method in one afternoon of a few hours of “easy work.” (While I would recommend the better, and longer method and “mixes” found in the “de-farb” posts- IMHO this also produces a much more “period looking" Springfield and Enfield stock with little effort, little cash (cheaper if more than one comrade joins in) and little time invested…

(Hint: Look at the originals… and make your gun look like them, not like Italian reproductions!)

Others’ mileage may vary.
Curt-Heinrich Schmidt

Former CW Gunmaker Mess
Curt-Heinrich Schmidt
I didn't like him anyway. He wasn't right....in the head.

09-04-2006, 01:47 PM
That sure was a nice well written lengthy piece but all you need is a 50/50 mix of turpentine and boiled linsed oil (which is not boiled by the way, justs acts like it supposedly), warmed if possible but beware the smoke and flammability. this or a plug of tobacco in a jar of turpentine is all we used . Stains walnut to authentic color.

Richard Schimenti
09-04-2006, 07:04 PM
Gentlemaen, thanks to all for your time and effort. i will let you know which works best for me. Thanks Again, Rich Schimenti 2nd Kentucky Cav. Co. D

09-04-2006, 07:33 PM
Strip-eze, steel wool, both availible from Walmart.
Re-finish with tru-oil.

That's the easy way to do it.

09-04-2006, 08:09 PM
both availible from Walmart.

What dont they have?!?!?!?

bill watson
09-04-2006, 09:34 PM
What dont they have?!?!?!?

Ummmm -- medical and dental for their employees? :-) Sorry, couldn't resist.

09-12-2006, 10:18 PM
What dont they have?!?!?!?

High Quality Meats.

09-13-2006, 10:14 AM
What kind of cloth would you use to wipe the excess linseed oil off the stock with out leaving lint behind?

Daniel Harhangi

bill watson
09-14-2006, 07:32 AM
Cheesecloth, but it really isn't necessary. The linseed oil doesn't dry "hard" like a varnish, it just soaks in and then repels water. If there's lint left on the stock it just wipes off.

09-15-2006, 06:52 AM
Good morning.

Anyway, the different "grain" in the wood in your stock will soak up, or take up the boiled linseed oil at different rates. I'd suggest at the least two coats. then, take a good look at the stock in bright light to see if you'll need a third to make the finish even. Of the 4 muskets I've re-done I sanded original finish off the stock which, gave me the oportunity to slim down the wood to be more like an original. All took at the least 3 coats of hand rubbed finish. BTW, since the wood on a repop rifle isn't of the dark hardwood variety like the originals, what stain are you using to make the stock appear to be walnut?

09-15-2006, 12:09 PM
I used seven thin coats of boiled linseed oil (from Wal-Mart's craft department - no health warning) on my '53. After it was totally dry, I put on two coats of Jarnagin's Preservation Wax (the same stuff that they sell for shoes).

After an event, I'll hit it with a rag dampened in Kramer's Antique Improver, wipe it down, and put on a light coating of the Jarnie wax. On the brass furniture, I'll use vinegar and rottenstone, the way they did back then.

A year and a half later, when at Inspection Arms, I still get asked if it is new.