"The Gun That Speaks for Itself"

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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
   by Dr. Drew Hause


How do I remove the oil from a stock before refinishing it?

Prior to complete stock refinishing, or repairing cracks and glass bedding, it is usually necessary to extract all the old, soaked in oil from the head of the stock.

Three methods are:

  1. Brownells Old Fashion Whiting – Follow the instructions on the package.
  1. "Wonko's" acetone technique – Get a disposable aluminum roaster pan at the supermarket that is large enough for the stock. Stop by Home Depot or a hardware store and purchase a gallon of acetone and a gallon of denatured alcohol (ethanol). Both denatured alcohol and acetone may be ordered from Jamestown Distributors.

    If the stock has a plastic finish you will first need to remove the finish with a paste stripper.  If the stock has a varnish or oil finish, the acetone will lift the finish without stripping. Place the stock in the roaster pan and pour in the acetone (it will neutralize the paste stripper). Cover the wood completely. Then use heavy-weight aluminum foil and make a cover for the "tank” and seal it as well as possible. Be aware that acetone is highly volatile and flammable and should only be used in a well ventilated area (garage) and away from open flames.  Let the stock soak, turning the wood over a couple times a day. When the acetone looks like it has quit changing color (often in less than 48 hours), pour the acetone back in the can and rinse out the roaster with alcohol.

    After a day or so of drying, put the stock on a warm window sill.  If the warmth of the sun brings more oil to the surface, repeat the soak and dry cycle.  Sometimes it takes three or four cycles to get the oil to migrate out from deep in the wood. 

    An electric oven can be used to help move the oil to the surface of the stock.  Soak the stock in acetone over night, and then place it on a cookie sheer in and electric oven (note that the flame in a gas oven could cause the evaporating acetone to ignite) set at about 125 to 150 degrees for a few hours.  You might have to crack open the oven door to help regulate the temperatureMake sure that the area is well-ventilated.  The oil will migrate to the surface.  Then, put the stock back in acetone over night, and then back in the oven.  It may take five to seven treatments before oil stops coming to the surface. 

    When you are sure all of the oil is out, soak the stock in the alcohol 8 to 12 hours.  Follow the same methods that you used to soak the stock in the acetone.  It is possible that the wood will slightly swell during the alcohol soak.  After the alcohol bath, it will be CLEAN! 

    After letting the stock fully dry (48 hours), you can then seal and refinish it anyway you want.

    If all the oil is not extracted, it is possible to refinish a gun only to have dark areas form under your finish long after the job is done.

  2. Fill a quart glass jar with acetone. In a well ventilated area, soak the head of the stock for about ten minutes. Using a heat gun or hair dryer on high and dry the soaked area. As the oil starts to leach out of the wood, wipe it off with a rag. Repeat this six to eight times, or until no further oil is removed. At that point, wet the stock head with Tilex spray and dry with the hair dryer. Repeat the Tilex step once. Let dry overnight and you are ready to refinish the stock. (Courtesy of Bachelder's)

L.C. Smith Collectors Association 2015

Updated 02/19/2015