How to Refinish a Gunstock with Tru-Oil
Having finished a host of knives and furniture, I’ve used oil-based finishes of all types as well as high-gloss hardening finishes. Through all of those years, I kept hearing about Tru-Oil as a finish that allowed mediocre craftsmen to become masters at finishing wood projects. Running into the name again when finding tips for lacquer spraying, I thought I’d give it a shot. Recently, I bought a new shotgun with a fragile, muddy finish and it became the perfect excuse to learn how to refinish a gunstock with tru-oil.
Refinishing a CZ Huglu Shotgun
I bought a CZ Woodcock G2, a Turkish shotgun manufactured by Huglu and imported by CZ USA. At the price I paid for it new ($650 at the time of this writing), I’m happy. The action is case hardened and unique-looking, it has scroll engraving, removable chokes, and a great carrying case. The finish is fine, and frankly, I had no interest in refinishing this when I had bought it. However, after pulling some of the finish off completely with tape, work needed to be done.
I decided to use refinish this gunstock with Tru-Oil because of how synonymous the name of the brand is with gunstocks. It’s just what people use to refinish gun furniture.
As far as characteristics go Tru-Oil isn’t much of an oil at all. In fact, it’s a varnish with some linseed oil for color. You wipe on coats and build layers of hard film on top of the wood, which allows you to buff it back for a polished finish. The downside is that Tru-Oil is closer to spraying on a finish. While easier to apply and make a good end-product, Tru-Oil is far from an impossible-to-mess-up oil finish.
Refinishing a Gunstock with Tru-Oil for a High Gloss Finish
If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve been sufficiently warned and are brave enough to start. Here’s the shotgun’s furniture with its original finish. You’d be none-the-wiser on nice wood living underneath the finish.
Step 1: Remove the old finish and strip your project back to bare wood.
I use Sunnyside Corporation’s stripping solution. It works okay. It breaks down the top layer of that muddy finish enough to be scraped back with a credit card. If you are bold enough, you can also use the spine of a soft knife to scrape away the old finish. Next time, I’ll use the product that most people recommend: Citristrip.
Step 2: Sand the gunstock free of scratches ending in 600-grit
To be perfectly clear, use rough grit paper if you’re getting rid of scratches. You should start with 320 or so if you have surface imperfections. Once those are smooth, you can skip to 600 or take an intermediary step at 480. Your mileage may vary. I ended with 600-grit.
Step 3: Take a t-shirt, cut it up.
You want lint-free strips you can use as an applicator for the Tru-Oil. Varnish hardens, so you’ll want a bunch of little strips.
Step 4: Use the lint-free strips to dab on Tru-Oil and rub into the wood
This is where patience is a virtue. You want to go thin. I mean super thin. I get impatient and end up adding too-thick of a coat and need to sand back more than necessary. You should rub just enough on to have it look damp, but not wet. Do this like a million times (8 or so coats).
Step 5: Use 0000 Super fine steel wool and flat out the finish
The goal here is to make things as flat as possible so that imperfections don’t get worse. When you’re painting and you get a small drip, if that drip isn’t corrected, you’ll keep adding to it. It’s a snowball of varnish if you don’t flatten it out. This is what I used.
Step 6: Buff it with wax
You can finish here, or repeat steps 4-5 another time or two. This shotgun is a field gun, so another set of coats adds some protection. Besides, it’s the off season and we’re in Covid.
Once satisfied with the depth of coats and flattened by steel wool, use a wax and buff to bring out some shine. I used regular old bee’s wax with a tshirt to buff out the coat for a medium glossy shine. Conveniently, I buy bee’s wax by the pound and use it for other projects like Making Chapstick with SPF.
While it isn’t difficult to refinish a gunstock with tru-oil, it’s incredibly time consuming. The results, however, are pretty damn good.
I can honestly say the “low end” $700 shotgun I bought and refinished now feels like a firearm of much greater value. The muddy finish that Huglu put on in the factory to save costs hid some beautiful Turkish walnut underneath. Using Tru-Oil to redo this stock has made it look like an heirloom piece.