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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
How to do the world\'s best oil finish

I hate doing wood work and especially stock refinishing, but over a 30 year career and for person use I was forced to do so enough to finally find a GOOD oil finish that looks like a real custom oil finish should look like.

Here's my directions to get a true custom gun oil finish with the "egg shell satin finish" that everyone talks about, but which you almost never actually see:

Do all sanding, staining, and whiskering.

Buy a pint can of Minwax Antique Oil Finish:

I have no idea what's in this stuff, but it drys to the absolute HARDEST, waterproof and solvent-proof finish I've ever seen, with the possible exception of an epoxy finish like Remington's "Bowling pin" finish.
This stuff is totally unaffected by lacquer thinner when fully hardened, and unlike tung and linseed oils, on a hot day a sweaty face on the stock won't raise the grain.

Here's how I apply it.
First, do as the directions on the can specify, by applying a thin coat, allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes until it starts to get sticky, then buff off with a clean, lint-free cloth.
An old linen sheet works great.
Let dry 24 hours, then apply again.
I put on 3 coats this way.
This starts to fill the grain, and speeds drying for the later steps.

After three coats as a sealer, apply a thin coat and allow to dry BONE DRY on the surface.
This may take 24 hours or more, and in some cases of really open grain wood, the first may not dry at all.
Using finer steel wool, steel wool the finish off the wood. As you steel wool, the surface coat will turn "muddy" looking so you can see it.
Be careful around proof stamps and sharp edges to not round edges off or thin stamps.

After steel wooling the stock down to bare wood, clean the stock with brushes or compressed air, then apply another coat, allow to dry and steel wool off.
Continue this until the grain of the wood is 100% FULL, and you can see NO open grain.
When held up to a light and sighted along the grain, open grain will look like tiny scratches in the surface.

Usually 4 coats will fill all but the most open grain.
After the last coat is steel wooled off, THOROUGHLY clean the wood.
Then, apply a thin coat and allow to stand for several minutes until it starts to get sticky.
Using several clean cloth pads thoroughly buff the surface until all traces of finish are off.
This is a "color coat" that will give the bare wood more of a color without any build up on the surface.
After buffing, allow the wood to age out and fully harden for 3 to 4 days.

After aging, buy some new burlap at a fabric store, and make a small pad from several layers.
Briskly buff the wood to burnish the surface and bring out the egg shell luster.

The advantages of the Minwax Oil finish are:
It's HARD and incredibully tough.
It's water and solvent proof.
It can be repaired or overhauled by adding more oil and buffing.
Scratches can be filled by coating and steel wooling again.
It's a REAL oil finish that looks like those seen on British double guns and American custom rifles.
It's a life time finish that never has to be done over ever again.
All the finish is IN the wood, not ON it so it looks like an original.

Here's a 1950 Marlin 39-A I'm in the process of restoring. The stock was originally an oil finish that was varnished some time in the past.
I scraped the old varnish off, lightly sanded it and finished as above with Minwax Antique finish.
The stock shows a perfectly smooth surface with no open grain at all, and has a extremely smooth, velvety feel.


3,940 Posts
Re: How to do the world\'s best oil finish

I enjoy stock finishing so enjoyed reading your pointers. Your Marlin stock is very pleasing.

323 Posts
Re: How to do the world\'s best oil finish

That is the best step-by-step instruction process I've ever read!
Your emphasis on filling the grain is so important, and it's often overlooked by those in a hurry.
As an old woodworker, I salute you!

Premium Member
461 Posts
Re: How to do the world\'s best oil finish

Thanks for the detailed refininshing information, I'm going to try it. One question: How do you deal with the checkered portion of a stock?


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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Re: How to do the world\'s best oil finish

The traditional way to deal with checkering is to clean it out by using a little solvent and a stiff toothbrush to brush it out.
I've used a brass "toothbrush" to gently brush in the same direction the checkering grooves run, brushing in the cross-grooved direction also.

The idea is to get any old finish and all dirt out and leave the checkering clean but not damaged or rounded off.
Go EASY if you use a brass brush, but on modern poly or epoxy finishes, you may need brass.

To finish, brush a THIN coat of Minwax in the checkering, let stand for just a couple of minutes, then brush out any unabsorbed oil.
Allow to dry, then use heavy masking tape to cover the checkering to prevent any possible damage during the rest of the stock finishing process.
I cover the checkering with the tape, then use a razor knife to cut around the checkering so just it's covered.

You can allow the Minwax to dry in the checkering, which adds protection to it, but this may leave the checkering with a bright, shiny look.

For those doing a refinish, please give us a report. I'd like to hear your experience with it.
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