Restoring a Gun Stock in a Dishwasher
We are part-way through an M1 Garand construction project.
We have collected the parts
and parkerized most of them,
finish reamed the barrel.
Now we need to work on the wooden stock.
The main wood stock and the forward handguard came in a
parts kit based on some returns from Italian military service.
They had seen a lot of use and were stained and battered.
This stock needs some thorough restoration.
And yes, I cleaned my stock by simply running it through the dishwasher.
A dishwasher sprays hot water around 150°F or 65°C from rotating spray arms. Detergent is released as part of the multiple stages the machine goes through during a cleaning cycle.
There are plenty of arguments about applying this "crude technique" to restoring wooden rifle stocks. However, the two sides of the argument seem to me to summarize to the following two extremes:
 "DON'T DO THIS! I have never done it, I have never seen it done, but I have heard that it is bad."
 "I have done this (possibly several times) and it worked just fine"
As someone pointed out, these were infantry gunstocks designed for and used in tropical downpours and beach assaults.
The ODCMP has an article on stock cleaning that calls the dishwasher "inappropriate" and lumps it in with using oven cleaner on wood. But, into the dishwasher with mine!
Given all that this stock had been through and its current condition, it didn't seem that this could really hurt.
I had to remove the upper tray, and I took out the plastic basket so the stock would fit sort of diagonally across the interior space.
The central shaft of the sprayer will telescope up during operation so the stock is placed to clear that.
I also included the forward handguard. Someone else has suggested:
|"I would add a warning about putting handguards in the dishwasher. If you want to put the front guard in, keep the spacer [the "front handguard liner" as written in The Book of Poyer] installed. It will keep the guard from 'curling' up and cracking straight down the middle. Ask me how I know...."|
I used standard dishwasher detergent. I set the dishwasher for a standard cycle with the final drying set for air dry rather than heated.
Here are two areas that had a different appearance before starting the wash cycle. A region on each side of the butt was noticeably lighter, while the grip area was slightly darker.
I opened the washer about 75% of the way through the cycle and found that both those areas were now significantly darker than the rest of the wood. All of the stock felt slick and slightly greasy.
I don't know if that was really grease and oil in the process of being brought out of the outer layers and washed away, or if it was just the usual slick feeling of wet wood.
I used a biscuit of #0000 steel wool to rub down the entire stock, especially concentrating on those areas. It slightly lightened those darker areas, and the steel wool picked up a gummy substance. Then I returned the stock for the remainder of the cycle.
Before and after pictures are below, I am very happy with the results!
The gunk is gone and the overall color is very uniform. I'm not good at identifying wood, but I'm guessing from the color that it's birch. Very Василий Григорьевич Зайцев....
Dents are largely steamed out. The number stamped on the butt is unchanged, as are the gouges under the fore-end.
The forward handguard didn't change very much. I thought that the dark spots of oil on it might lighten further with application of brake cleaner and rubbing with steel wool. Brake cleaner is basically an aerosol spray of hydrocarbon solvents — acetone, methyl-ethyl-ketone, and so on. It may have lightened it some. Maybe a little, but not much.
Here are the bare components post-dishwasher. The stock and the front handguard went through the dishwasher as shown above. The rear handguard is of new construction.
I'm left with fairly different natural wood colors — a grayish stock, a darker front handguard, and a distinctly orange rear handguard.
The rear handguard remained fairly orange even after plenty of sanding. It's just different wood.
I did quite a bit of sanding to smooth out those rough gouges on the bottom of the forward end of the stock. Not to remove them, but to at least smooth them out.
Here you see what will eventually come together at the front end of the stock..
Grey, brown, and orange....
I used Cabot's red mahogany stain. The stain goes on like brown paint.
Parts of the stock were noticeably "thirsty" and really soaked up the stain. I applied more stain in those areas to keep a wet coat on it for 10 to 15 minutes.
Then I wiped off the wet stain and rubbed down the pieces with cotton rags.
The stock and front handguard are close enough for my purposes. This picture shows the rear handguard with another application of stain.
The black oil splotches on the front handguard are still there, but they are less noticeable with the rest of the wood darkened.
Oiling the Stock
I then rubbed boiled linseed oil into the stock. Moisten a clean rag with the oil and rub it into the stock. Apply only enough oil that it is absorbed into the wood and does not leave a slick outer finish!
Some people prefer tung oil. But be careful — what is marketed as "tung oil finish" is not pure tung oil, it is furniture finish with just a little bit of tung oil added.
Pure tung oil would be much more expensive than boiled linseed oil.
Would I Do This Again?
I already have. I was so pleased with the result that I used this technique on another project, click here to see an AK-47 stock refurbished with this same method.
This page at surplusrifle.com has useful information on fitting a stock.
It describes minor modification possibly needed for a new stock, but it has useful general information on fitting the action into the stock.