The Hobby Gunsmith

The Front Stuffer-

Building the Traditions Trapper Kit

Part IV

Last month we used epoxy to bed various metal parts into the stock of the gun. This month was active with the Traditions Trapper kit with a lot of good progress. We completed the finish shaping, sanding, have applied several coats of boiled linseed oil, and several coats of Beachwood Casey Tru-Oil.

   We started this month’s work by reviewing our original assessment of the fit and angles of the wood back when we began the project. This gave us an indication of the work that needed to be done to make the stock look correct.

Tools required for working with the stock.

   We started with several files and the gun fully assembled, but without the barrel or lock in place. We started using a coarse half-round file to quickly remove excess wood. The flat side of the file was used on the forearm stock to straighten the stock between the raised lock area and the brass forearm cap.

Shaping the grip region.

   The rounded part of the file was used to smooth and blend the wood in the area of the grip. When filing on curved areas, it is important to keep the file moving along the wood to prevent filing a low spot on a sweeping curve of the wood. We removed quite a lot of wood from the grip area to have the wood blend properly with the grip cap.

Tang area as we begin shaping the wood.

   We filed the wood from the top of the stock until it was slightly proud compared with the metal tang. We were not worried about damaging the blued tang, because we will rust brown the barrel assembly to give the gun a natural appearance. Be sure to use a sweeping motion with a flat file to make sure you can reproduce the sweeping convex curves of the stock

Tang area after the rough shaping with files.

   The lower part of the stock was cleaned up with a flat file and the wood taken down to match the metal furniture. Be sure to leave the wood slightly proud, or raised, above the metal since there will be much more sanding to remove the marks in the wood created by the filing.

Grip cap edge shows the amount of wood to be removed with the files.

   After doing the initial roughing with the course file, we used a fine file to remove most of the marks in the wood that were created by the rough file. Be sure to file along with the grain or you will have to do a lot more sanding with the grain later to remove the wood damage.

   The objective is to continue working the wood with finer and finer instruments until the wood is very smooth.  It must be perfect before we can apply an oil finish so most of the work is done before we see any progress with the finish.

   When the stock has been appropriately shaped, it's time to begin sanding the wood until it is very smooth. We like to begin with 100 grit garnet sandpaper with a pink rubber eraser as a backing block. We cut strips of sandpaper wide enough to wrap around three sides of the eraser. We then cut them to the length of the eraser before wrapping it around the eraser to make our sanding block.

   Pick an area of the stock to focus on. I like to hold the stock down to the bench using a bar clamp with rubber pads. You will get a better sanding job if the part is not moving around. I began working on the side of the forearm stock forward of the lock and toward the brass forearm cap. The purpose is to remove any marks left by the file and to blend the wood into the brass forearm cap. Care must be taken to not damage the ramp between the forearm and the lock plate. The eraser has tapered ends that can be allowed to move up the ramps toward the lock. The thinner part of the tapered end will exert less pressure on the raised areas and will prevent sanding the wood too deeply and altering the shape of these sloped areas.

   I systematically worked my way from one part of the stock to the next. Each area required a different tactic to sand along the grain while maintaining the appropriate shape of the stock. Patience is needed and I recommend taking a break whenever getting too rushed or tempted to pull out a power tool. Power tools will save time, but will leave marks that may not appear until the first coat of finish is applied.

   Sand, sand, and sand some more. Sand along with the grain and be careful of areas where the stock transitions from one kind of surface to another. When all of the filing marks have been removed and we are down to an attractive surface that is encouraging, we transition to 150-grit sandpaper and start the process again.

   Once I switch to the 150-grip sandpaper, I often move into the house, lay a towel on my lap to catch the sanding dust, and carefully san while sitting in a reclining chair and watching a few westerns on television. I find it helpful to have a distraction while I work so I do not become too impatient.

   You may feel that sanding with 150-grit paper is giving you the surface you want, but resist the temptation to start applying any finish. Repeat the process with 220-gritt paper and then with 320-grit paper. The 320-grit paper will provide an excellent finish that should be extremely smooth to the touch. Inspect the wood for any imperfections that might show up.

   Many people advocate doing a process of raising the whiskers, or loose fibers, from the wood. I now use a process of wet sanding with thinned linseed oil instead of water. Go to an art supply store and pick up a small bottle of boiled linseed oil and a bottle of turpentine. Take a small quantity of each and mix equal parts of each in a small jar. I use old baby food jars. This will provide us with the mixture for wet sanding.

Adding oil finish to the stock using only a finger to spread a very thin coat.

   We used 400-grit wet or dry sandpaper and coat the sandpaper with some of the thinned linseed oil. Begin sanding the stock with the wet or dry sandpaper and keep it lubricated with the thinned mix of linseed oil. You should see a slurry of wood dust and linseed oil forming on the surface of the wood as you sand. After this slurry has formed and you have sanded enough, you should use a finger to rub the slurry into the pours of the wood. This should fill the pours with the fine wood dust from the stock, which is how we fill the pours of the wood.

   When you have rubbed the slurry into the wood, you should continue rubbing it in until the sheen has left the surface. It should not take more than about fifteen minutes to work the slurry of sanding dust and linseed oil into the pours of the wood. Wipe the wood down with a soft cloth and then set the stock aside in a safe and warm place to let the linseed oil dry. Repeat this process about three times, or until you feel the pours have been filled with the sanding dust before switching to pure boiled linseed oil or Tru-Oil.

   The last thing you want to do before switching to pure boiled linseed oil or Beachwood Casey Tru-Oil is to use a brush to coat all of the inside surfaces of the wood that have not been sealed by the epoxy. This is important to reduce the amount of moisture allowed into the wood and to reduce the amount of moisture that comes out of the wood and into contact with the steel parts of the gun. This will also reduce any future swelling of the stock.

   When you switch to pure boiled linseed oil or Tru-Oil without the turpentine, the process remains the same for applying the linseed oil, but you no longer use sandpaper. Tru-Oil from Beachwood Casey will harden much more quickly than boiled linseed oil and I find it can be applied over the thinned linseed oil after the linseed oil has cured.

   Simply get a single drop of finishing oil on your finger and begin working it into the wood at one point on the stock. I usually start with the forearm stock near the brass cap. Begin rubbing that drop into the wood and making it go as far as you can before getting another drop. The wood will absorb more of the oil in the early phases of this process, but it will only require about seven or so drops of oil as the stock begins to fill.

This is the sheen you will see after about five coats of oil finish.

   Rub the oil into the pours of the wood and keep rubbing it in for several minutes. It should be starting to become tacky and the gloss should be about gone before you are finished. If there is any more than a very thin bit of oil on the surface of the wood, it may not dry sufficiently. I often wipe down the surface with a soft rag to remove the oil from the surface of the wood while leaving the oil in the pours. Set the stock aside to dry for several days in a warm and dry place.

The completed stock sits on the drying stand as the Tru-Oil finish dries.

   Repeat this process until you have built up about ten to twenty very thin coats of finish oil into the wood.

   If you are using Beachwood Casey Tru-Oil can be given the next coat in a few hours, but I like go give it a day or two to dry.  If you are using boiled linseed oil try to allow about a week of drying so the inner layers will have a chance to dry.  There should not be a wet layer of oil on the surface as it may take a very long time to dry.  Wipe any excess oil from the wood before letting it stand to dry for a week. 

I lightly buff the finish with 0000 steel wool before applying the next coat of oil.  This removes any contaminates and flaws that attach to the finish while making the surface quite smooth.

   If you are patient, you will have a beautiful finish in about two months. I lightly rub down the wood with 0000 steel wool before using automotive polishing compound and Beachwood Casey gunstock wax.

   Next month we will finish the hardware portion of the project by browning the barrel and polishing the brass to a nice shine. We also hope to test shoot the gun at the range so we can report how well it shoots. See you next month.