Refinishing a Gun Stock

Introduction: Refinishing a Gun Stock

About: Woodworker, Photographer, Camper, Hiker, Canoeist, Hunter, Gardener, Bee Keeper and general outdoorsman. I enjoy teaching myself new things and learning from others.

Hey Everybody!

I want to create an instructable for refinishing gun stocks. I have done some in the past and what I will be showing you is my own proven method on how to get that glossy new out of the box look out of your tired looking stocks. For today's instructable I am blessed with having three different gun stocks all in different stages of completeness. They are all pump shotguns so you should get a really good idea how each should look at each stage of the process. I hope this helps you save some money on your own projects and is easy enough to understand. Enjoy and please comment below!

Also I am entering this instructable in the some contests so if you like it please VOTE for me!

List of Items you will need:
1. Dirty worn out gun stock
2. Sandpaper (150 grit - 400 grit)
3. Wood Stripper
4. Degreaser
5. Wood Stain
6. Tru Oil
7. Stock Wax
8. Cheesecloth
9. Tools
10. Safety gear (gloves, eye protection)
11. Time and elbow grease

Disclaimer: be safe and use common sense.

Step 1: Disassemble the Firearm

There are many ways to do this and way too many different makes and models of firearms to try to explain how to exactly disassemble your(or your clients) firearm. All that really matters is to get the stock and forearm(due to this being a pump shotgun) apart from any metal pieces. Be sure to use the right tools for the job and don't rush it! You don't want to cause yourself more work in the future! Be sure to label all the different little parts and more importantly how to put it all back together.

disclaimer: be sure to follow all proper safety checks with any firearm before trying to dissemble it, I.E. make sure it is not loaded first. seems obvious but you would be surprised.

Step 2: Lets Get Stripping!

That's right, you gotta strip that stock of its old finish before you do anything else. First make sure to use proper safety gear! Second I used a product called "Magic Strip Citrus Action" for three reasons; '

1. It's safe for indoor use
2. It's biodegradable
3. It says magic in the title (so that has to help)

Be sure to set up your stock so that it is free hanging in the air. I used a wire coat hanger to make sure my stock wasn't touching any surfaces. I allow 24hrs to pass after putting on a good layer of the stripper. When you come back you should see a bubbly narly looking surface all over your stock. Take your stock and wash it under warm soapy water in a utility sink. Use a piece of steel wool to tear off all of the extra grit and grime on the outside of your stock. Hang the stock to dry once done.

Step 3: De-grease Your Stock

After stripping your stock, it still will have some old stain and grease trapped in its pores.

To correct this start boiling some water ( be careful!) then use a de-greaser of your choice. I used "Krud Cutter" because it is biodegradable and it lathers the wood in a nice coat of suds. I start by putting the stock back in the utility tub, then lather the stock in Krud Cutter and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Then take your boiling water and pour directly onto your stock (again be careful!). Cover your utility sink with a towel and allow your stock to float in the hot water for about 5 min before flipping it to the other side. Keep doing this until the water is lukewarm.

Take your stock out and allow it to dry by hanging it again.

By emerging the stock in hot water there are some other great side effects. The wood fibers will swell up and correct any dings it has accumulated over the years. Of course it wont do anything to cracks in the wood but allows you to start with a nice level surface.

Also the water treatment will show you any weak points in your stock and seen above. I have a nice crack in the stock that was inflicted by the previous owner dropping the firearm. Thanks bud...... no problem we have a solution for fixing that!

Step 4: Fixing Cracks!

After the stock dried I could tell the stock had a good crack in it. To fix this problem you need to secure the wood fibers back together as best as possible. *Disclaimer - if the crack is all the through the stock you may think about getting a new stock or only using the stock as a show piece. the previous owner thankfully only dropped it hard enough to crack the one side, what a gentleman!

First lightly sand your stock so that you get some sawdust residue, then mix your epoxy with the sawdust until it looks like a glop of gooey wood mud. Use a tooth pick to push your new wood muck into the crack completely, then use a clamp of some sort to push the wood together and hold it there. Wipe away all the residue off the surface and allow it to set up.

The process also works for dents or cuts in the wood surface! Now you know and knowing.........(if you finished this sentence correctly, you're okay in my book)

Step 5: Sanding!

After the stock is dry and cracks are sealed I use a little lemon oil to put back some natural oils into the wood. It allows the fibers to rise up and be resistant to cracking in the future.

Now start sanding, go from lower number grits all the way up to around 400. There is no real need to go above 400 grit trust me. (I went crazy and tried sanding a stock to over 1000 grit before, in the end you can't tell the two stocks apart, it's not worth the time)

I like using sandpaper pads instead of normal sandpaper, it allows me to curve around the stocks edges easier and in the end save me some time and effort.

DO NOT use a electric sander, you will get rub and swirl marks that will appear all over your stock once you stain it......speaking of staining.....

Step 6: Staining

Now the fun part!

Pick out the stain you would like for your stock, I use water based stains and normally try to use two different kinds to enhance the stocks features.

I first start off with a pre-stain conditioner, this allows the wood to have a neutral starting point for the rest of the staining to sit upon. Think of it like a foundation of a house.

Second, I used "gunstock" stain and applied it with cheesecloth to all sides of the stock (Always apply stain going with the grain of the wood). I let it sit for the minimal amount of time just so that it soaked into the darker parts of the wood grains only.

Lastly, I used the darker "walnut" stain with same application as before. This time I allowed it to sit on the wood for the maximum amount of time to really soak in.

Wipe away with a clean piece of cheesecloth and allow to dry.

Step 7: Sealing and Waxing

After you have achieved the color you wanted in your stock, you now have to seal it in for eternity from the outside elements.

Get your gloves on and hang the stock from the ceiling. Break out some tru oil and with one finger apply the tru oil in a circular motion all over your stock. Be sure not to use so much Tru oil that it ends up dripping. The first coat the wood should soak up fairly quickly, which is wonderful! Allow the tru oil to dry for 8 hrs.

Once you get back from an 8 hour pizza run, be sure to lightly sand the surface with some steel wool, and apply another layer of tru oil. If you do get drip marks go back to step 1 and start the whole process over......just kidding, all you have to do is sand that part a little bit harder and reapply some more tru oil.

Do this 4 more times........(it's worth it!)

Once done the tru oil will create a see through layer of protection for your stock.

Lastly apply some stock wax to give it a good shine and show off your good handy work!

Thanks for reading and comment below! If you like this Instructable please vote for it!

Thanks again!

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41 Discussions

I hate to sound like a dummy, but will putting lemon oil on the stock first then putting the stain on cause the two to counteract and make the wood tacky? This is my first time trying to refinish a rifle stock and I want to make sure I understand how to do it correctly. Thanks


There was a suspicious bump on the stock of my old, poorly
refinished Winchester 1894.Sure enough,
when I stripped it, I found someone’s carved-in initials filled in with wood filler. I can either try to smooth out the existing
filler or dig it out and refill. Any
suggestions? I’m just refinishing the gun for my own pleasure, not to enhance
its resale value or collectability.


Hi, how do you deal with the checkering during the stripping process? My stock is relatively new but the gunsmith who made it put on varnish which over time I decided would prefer to replace with oil finishing. My point is that I'd like to keep the checkering as much as possible as it is brand new. Thanks, Maxim

1 reply

Hi Maxim, I came to the realisation of the same problem, if you want to get varnish off chequering, then it might be worth buying a chequering tool that can take the varnish off and re-crispen your chequering before re-staining and oiling, of course if your stock is new, you may not want to risk this option. I have re-crispened the chequering on an old stock with good results.

Hey spiderp123, how did the refinish on the Mosin-Nagant turn out? I have a 91/30 I want to refinish as well. I can't determine the specie of wood. Any tips?

It was on my list, but I never got around to it. I moved and am doing a complete renovation on my new place by myself. The rifle got put in the safe, and it patiently sitting, waiting to be taken and restored.

Good luck on your restoration.... and don't wait like I did.

Life will get in the way.
Good luck.


2 years ago

that's what I will definitely do, thanks for the info.

Just cleaned off the second strip and let it dry. Looks like there are a lot of little pin holes and small cracks on it. Advice?

2 replies

Wet sand a bit with 400-600 with the grain then lightly agains the grain. This will allow the sawdust to fill in the holes.

Make sure you are not using a too much pressure when whipping away the stripping gel. I would start the de-greasing process before worrying about those pinholes, the wood might swell back up and fill those in .

good simple easy to follow instructions would be good if you showed how to swell out bad dents

2 replies

Damp washcloth and an iron go slow and do this before you start sanding

The 5-10 minute soak in the hot water with the Krud Kutter would raise any dents. The only dents that are unraisable would be ones where the wood fibers are actually split or damaged. Those areas would require filling with your personal choice of wood filler and and sanding.

as a gunsmith apprentice I'll give you some hints. One be patient seriously we get paid the money to fix problems because we must take our time especially when finishing wood. Two after you degrease and let the stock dry a bit use 200-400 grit paper and sand with then lightly against the grain with the 400. The sawdust will help to fill in some of the pores of the wood. Three always always always sand using a sponge or sanding pad it'll keep consistent pressure over the wood and avoid divots or dents from deep sanding. Four if you're finishing oil is taking to long to dry or starts to run cut it with mineral spirits it'll allow the pores to soak it in better. More thin coats is better than few heavy coats save a bunch of work. It'll also allow the pores to fill I can't stress this enough. I can tell quickly looking at a refinished stock of someone took time or not simply by how well they are finished. This is the difference between good enough and a custom built holland and holland grade 5. Granted if good enough is fine for you then be it. But I personally wouldn't want to do good enough on someone's gun and put my reputation on it. All in all you did a great write up. If you need any advice or input don't hesitate to ask.

Hey there Red Badger! I just picked up an old beat up Marlin Camp 9 Carbine, with the barrel & receiver of the rifle being just as BAD as the one piece Stock! I look forward to to trying your Stock Re-finishing treatment on it! I simply need to pick up the supplies, and away we go!!! Thanks buddy, your instructions were very easy to follow, and make it look as though I'm gonna have a great time doing it? TWO THUMBS UP BUDDY, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! *****

Thank you! and thank you for putting a comment down, I was beginning to worry that nobody liked my instructable!

I noticed in your list of instructions that you used water based materials for the prep work on your stocks, and then used oil based materials going back on after the prep. I don't know how this works for you, but I have been working wood for close to 40 years, and have restored and refurbished several firearms over the years, and this practice never worked for me. I tried this, and later on after the wood seasons over some time, the finish will begin to show problems. I have learned to use one type or the other from start to finish. But I am not being critical, just stating what I learned the hard way. Good luck.