Maintaining a military rifle stock

I've read a few threads on various fora on the subject of stock restoration, and most seem to agree that linseed oil, or gunny paste (a mix of boiled linseed oil, turpentine, and beeswax) is the way forward.

But what about finished stocks? Would I have to use the same stuff as for restoration, or could I get away with normal furniture oil and beeswax polish? If I were to use normal household stuff, what do I risk in the way of problems?

Cheers in advance for any help

I get my polish from a local furniture restorer who makes his own, I get him the beeswax and we do a deal,I'm lucky to have a mate who keeps bees, dont know what he does but it smells great, So now you know my secret, I'm a gunbut sniffer.
some pointers here.
It really depends on the original finish and the state it is in I guess. Whatever feeds the wood should be fine but personally I would check the ingredients of any product used and stay with natural oils, waxes etc.
I do trust we are not talking Chinese lacquered anyway... :wink:

edited to say: Thanks, now you got me take my SxS and the linseed oil out for a quick rub... its been overdue anyway
No, it is most definitely not Chinese laquered! It's 64 year old American walnut.
aaah, never had any real doubts :D So the link might be appropriate than.
p.s. Don't forget to post pictures of the results of your efforts.
If the stock is in good condition, then a good quality wax polish should be ok.

If you have had to do any restoration, ie steaming out bumps then usually you have to strip off the old finish and reapply. Birchwood Casey make a good range of stock care products, including a stock finish removal solvent. Their oil finish, Tru Oil is good, but is a bit glossy for my taste. I prefer the "Bisley" range of stock oils for a more traditional finish.

Plain boiled linseed oil can be used (NEVER raw), but is hard work as you need to rub in the layers and it takes for ever to dry. Modern finishing oils have drying agents in them such as tung oil and are much easier to use....
I collect, restore and deal in one speciality of old military rifle (Lee Enfields), so my tuppence worth in no particular order:

1. If your rifle has any value at all, and you wish to preserve that value, then 100% originality is the way to go;

2. Original finish for British rifles was the new stocks being immersed in hot linseed oil for half an hour then air dried. Ongoing maintenance is surface application of raw or boiled linseed oil;

3. "Raw" or "boiled" linseed oil is no longer what it says on the bottle - most modern brands have drying accelerants and other chemicals added. Always worth buying best-quality stuff (eg from an artists' shop) where the manufacturer is happy to declare the ingredients;

4. When treating especially dry wood or trying to restore shrunken wood and if you don't have a Linseed oil bath, the oil can be mixed with up to 50/50 with decent turpentine to provide a mix with faster penetration into the surface;

5. Modern gun finishes and treatments such as Tung oil do of course provide a much better all-round finish than Linseed oil, but - point (1) - they'll wipe out any collector value your rifle might have;

6. If you have an utterly filthy rifle (like some of the surplus ones coming out of India), then the whole thing - metal and wood - can safely be slathered in good quality paint stripper to clean oil and muck out. (Nitromors actually do a perfect one called "Front Door" or similar that contains lanolin and linseed oil). The bare wood can then be oiled as per (2);

7. Wood can be washed in warm water with any kind of soap. This does however raise the grain on softer woods, and can necessitate sanding or finishing - not good. Washing wood with methylated spirits does not raise the grain and gives a good surface for oil absorbtion;

8. The exception to (6) and (7) is if your rifle is old enough to have a lot of patina - eg the woodwork shine thats come from decades of handling. Removing this patina again wrecks the originality of the rifle and its appeal to a future buyer. This type of rifle is best cleaned and preserved with a high-quality aerosol furniture wax (I use Lord Sheraton "Caretaker", but there are lots out there). The solvent in the polish provides just enough cleaning power to remove surface dirt, whilst the wax polish preserves the patina.

8. Beeswax, shellac, French Polish, BC stock finisher, et al, are really only appropriate if you are doing major restoration - ie fitting a new condition wood part to an old rifle and therefore trying to "age" it to an appropriate appearance.


Its a difficult call really I know of collectors who in their youth mistakenly cleaned the black stocks of original Brunswick Rifles, remember the rifle is old therefore should look old, a little sympathetic cleaning goes an awfully long way! If however you are lucky enough to find a nice civilian contract BSA & M Co Snider carbine in dog order externally then there may be no reason why it cant be restored to near show room condition but ask your self why before you embark on restoring something!
Thanks for the advice guys. I'm not planning on stripping it down and re-finishing it, but the wood is very dark from old oil.

The stock is a bit dry though, to be perfectly honest I don't think it's been oiled since the war.


Possibly since delivery from the factory!
A rub of boiled linseed wouldn't do any harm then, followed a week or so later by a good wax polish...

Better to strip the action first. Oil quite liberally with a hessian rag and let stand for a few hours in a warmish place. After a few hours the oil with thicken. Rub off any excess with a rag and then rub in with the palm of your hand. The stock will get quite warm. Let the stock rest and repeat the following day..

Repeat until you have the depth of finish you want. In your case I would just give it a couple of coats. On the final rubbing, I find it helps to add a few drops of light oil such as 3 in 1 to finish off the process, and "set" any residual linseed. After this let the stock lie for at least a week then buff up with a good wax based furniture polish.

... nothing much you can do about oil darkening. Just check the wood has not gone spongey around the action fitting if you are going to use it.

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