Refinishing a Wooden Gun Stock
We are building an AK-47, restoring some of the parts from a Romanian parts kit and constructing a replacement receiver. We have finished with the metal working — bending, milling, riveting, and heat-treating. Now it is time to restore the wooden stock and hand grips.
This is just one page in a series on reconstructing an AK-47, Автомат Калашникова 47, Avtomat Kalashnikova 47 or Kalashnikov Automatic Rifle 1947 Model.
We're starting with the "furniture", the wooden stock components as received in a Romanian parts kit.
We will start by stripping off the original finish.
Then, most controversially, we run the stock through the dishwasher.
Finally, we stain it and then rub it with linseed oil.
Here you see the wooden stock components from a Romanian Garda parts kit. See the page on the design history for how the Romanians came to be building them, and what was unusual about the Garda design.
From upper left to lower right, using the original nomenclature, those are the приклад (priklad or buttstock), the цевье (tsev'ye or forestock), and the ствольной накладкой (stvol'noy nakladkoy or hand guard) for the газовая трубка (gazovaya trubka or gas cylinder).
Here is an overview of the steps we're about to take:
You can see how the приклад (priklad or buttstock) appears to have been dipped in thick black paint.
A compartment with a spring inside the rear of the buttstock can hold a small cleaning kit.
The Romanians built their цевье (tsev'ye or forestock) with a slightly curved and forward angled grip. Both the buttstock and this piece are carved from laminated blocks of wood.
A spring steel clip is inserted into the forward end and engages a band on the barrel assembly.
We will remove that clip before continuing with the finish removal. Simply grasp it with needle nosed pliers and pull it straight out.
The ствольной накладкой (stvol'noy nakladkoy or hand guard) has been battered. Something had knocked a sizeable dent into it, breaking the outer rigid shell of original finish.
The interior is shaped to fit closely around the газовая трубка (gazovaya trubka or gas cylinder).
How do you remove this upper handguard? Simply twist it off. It rotates about 180° around the barrel and comes off when those rims at the end have rotated out of the bands on the barrel.
The finish looks almost like brown paint, and it has a number of dents and gouges.
Time to remove that ugly finish! This unfortunately requires finish remover, always an unpleasant process.
I used this Zinsser Magic Strip with Citrus Action.
This type of material is sometimes marketed as being "organic", which is true in the sense that (just like gasoline) it is made up of complex and nasty hydrocarbon compounds appropriately referred to as organic chemicals.
According to its Material Safety Data Sheet, it's chock full of monoethanolamine and N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone and other natural goodness. The first is described as toxic, flammable, and corrosive, the second has recently been identified as a reproductive toxicant.
Use in a well-ventilated space, while wearing adequate eye, respiratory, and skin protection.
Recall how the buttstock seemed to have been dipped in thick black paint. Be careful or you will just redistribute that black paint all over the parts, possibly giving you a sort of "zebra" style lamination look depending on the woods used on your stock.
I bought a glass bowl at Walmart for $1. It was just barely wider than the rear of the butt. Stand the buttstock vertically in that bowl and pour in just enough stripper to submerge the black paint band. Give the stripper 30 to 60 minutes to work its toxic magic. Then use a brass brush if needed, followed by a natural bristle brush to wipe the black paint and blackened stripper down into the bowl.
Set that now-black stripper aside, don't use it on the other parts. I poured the rest of the jug into an equally cheap paint tray.
You may notice that I tried using one of those foam "brushes" to redistribute the stripper. But the stripper immediately melted that foam rubber.
Use natural bristle brushes to wipe the stripper up onto the surfaces.
Once you believe you have finally gotten all the original finish removed, or at least as much as is going to come off, remove the wooden parts. Wipe as much of the stripper as possible back into the pan.
The discount home supply place where I bought the stripper insisted that you can just discard it in the garbage. Or, if you want, and you manage to get it back into the jug, you can take it back to them for disposal. I leave that decision up to you and your conscience.
The parts will be somewhat slimy from the residual stripper.
Clean them thoroughly with brake cleaner.
It is also a nasty brew of hydrocarbons, although these are very light and volatile. At least it immediately evaporates with no residue. Use in a very well-ventilated place, with absolutely no ignition sources nearby.
You are going to have a collection of toxic rags when this is finished. They will be moist with chemicals that will melt right through plastic garbage bags. Plan ahead for what you are going to do with this mess.
Below are the results after the finish removal and the cleaning with brake cleaner. It certainly looks different than when we started, but much more remains to be done.
The next step is the controversial one: Run the stock through the dishwasher.
Which, by the way, is a посудомоечная машина or posudomoechnaya mashina to a Russian, and a maşină de spălat vase to a Romanian.
Anyway, as you can see, Cascade brand dishwashing soap promises to leave my dishes and surplus military gunstocks sparkling.
The box is shown there for illustrative purposes only. Load the machine with a large dose of dishwashing soap, remove the box, and let 'er rip. The second picture show the state of things part way through the cycle. The process is removing something brown.
Below are the results, after the parts were allowed to fully dry overnight. They were set aside after a spot of oil was placed on the ends of each fixed steel pin. Meanwhile, the dishwasher was run for another cycle with hot water and plenty of soap just in case any unpleasant chemicals were still lurking inside.
Now for the final step — applying stain, and then oil.
Give the parts one more cleaning with brake cleaner, then apply a stain. I used Cabot's red mahogany stain.
After giving the stain a few days to fully dry, I rubbed in the first of multiple applications of boiled linseed oil. 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.
This was not the first time I refurbished a gunstock with a dishwasher. The first time was with my M1 Garand. Click here to see the details of the first time I did this.
Next: Parkerizing, applying a protective phosphate treatment