I need some guidance. I'm working on a historical firearm project and I have
some stock pieces that I need finished. The pieces are a buttstock (about
12" long) and a pistol grip, in French Walnut, with a couple of coats of
Tried & True BLO already applied. What I need is for these two pieces to be
given a coat of yellowish nitrocellulose lacquer. I've read here that
lacquer yellows as it ages, but I have a couple of original pieces to serve
as a guide, and it looks to me like the original lacquer was
yellowish-orange in color. Here are pictures of those pieces, dated from the
Notice the color of the chipped coating on the metal:
Spots where the coating has worn off, showing the old French Walnut
Another view of the wear spots, hopefully gives some idea of the coating's
thickness & texture:
Worn spot up front:
The buttstock and grip (which I've had custom-made) need a coat to match the
original parts. I'd do this myself with some Deft, but Deft is clear and
it's not chemically accurate for what I'm doing, and besides, my living
situation doesn't afford me the space or environmental latitude to do any
toxic spraying. I'd rather have this done by a professional with the right
equipment. Can anybody suggest someplace I can go to have this done? I was
thinking there might be makers of musical instruments or furniture who'd be
willing to give my stock parts a coating of real nitrocellulose lacquer. I'm
in the DFW area of Texas (a bit closer to the FW than the D).
Thanks in advance for any help!
If I had to guess this is military and the finish has probably been
reapplied at least a time or two through out the years as witnessed by the
first picture showing the varnish that got on the metal.
The finish you are wanting to reproduce very well may not be the original.
Ordinarily I'd be inclined to agree, but the inner surfaces have the same
finish, and all the manufacturer's inspection marks and date stamps look
fine. A design feature of the rifle is that there is an exhaust gas bleed
inside the handguards, which leaves crud in the wood after use. There's no
sign of anybody ever cleaning the wood in there. If these were refinished,
it was the most thorough refinish job ever, getting into all the nooks and
crannies around the reinforcing hardware, rivets, etc. inside the front
handguards, while not covering the stains. The finish is also consistent
with everything that's known about what FN produced at the time.
That really looks like an aged urethane or lacquer to me, as opposed to a
tinted one. To match it you'd probably just want to tint your clear.
You're on the right track by thinking of musical instrument manufacturers
and/or repair facilities for nitro. There must be a good luthier in the DFW
area that would happily shoot this for you. Let your fingers do the
The gun looks to me like it's been cleared more than just the original
finish. There is an awful lot of shine to that finish which is not very
common in older guns. As well, there appears to be an awful lot of dust nib
in the finish which leads me to believe it's a re-finish job. The way that
the finish is totally chipped off of the forestock also makes it look like
someone refinished this stock in the past. Are you sure this is an original
finish? What kind of gun is it?
DON'T DO IT!!!!!
When I first started collecting military weapons 20 years ago I
enjoyed refinishing them myself with BLO. I still have my first M1
carbine I refinished and it turned out beautifullly. IT IS
WORTHLESS!!!! Neither me nor my friends that are collectors have much
interest in refinished weapons. The scaring you showed in the
pictures is part of the firearm and part of it's history. Respect it
for what it is "A weapon that has been lugged around by some infantry
man somewhere". If he carved his initials in it 50 years ago, all the
But that is just my opinion!
Oughtsix (good 'nick, by the way)
Not to worry. I'm not refinishing original parts, I'm looking for somebody
to imitate the original finish on some custom wood I've had made up to go
WITH the originals.
Funny you mention carved initials. Somebody scratched the word "VICTORIA"
onto these handguards. Given the pedigree of the parts, and knowing who the
manufacture was supplying at the time, it's possible the parts were used on
a rifle in Rhodesia.
That's what I was thinking. Searching for "urethane" just gives me floor
finish information, does anybody know the history of its use? I ask because
this rifle replicates a mid-50s example, during a time when there was a lot
of new technology in paint and coatings appearing. For example, rifles from
this manufacturer made just a couple of years later used epoxy-based paints,
while my rifle's paint finish has to be baked alkyd enamel to be
historically correct. Same goes for wood coatings; what had me thinking
"nitrocellulose lacquer" was its common use at the time, and the way it
allegedly yellows as it ages.
I was hoping somebody could make a recommendation! This sounds silly, but I
wanted to avoid offending somebody who might not like firearms. Musical
instruments and rifles serve two very different practical purposes and I've
already heard of a group in this area called "Drums Not Guns". I'm
originally from the Northeast, too, which makes me wary of any reactions I
might get, asking for a guitar maker to lend his skills to beautifying my
rifle! Besides which, what I'm asking for might be something unusual for an
instrument maker to do. I was curious if there was somebody who was known to
be both a woodworker and firearms enthusiast.
I did just find this website, I think it's a start:
The gun itself is a clone of an FN FAL, so it's not original as a whole.
Most of the parts are new or surplus from various sources, but the
handguards in the picture were made by Fabrique Nationale and date to 1957.
I'd be surprised if it wasn't original, because the finish on these pieces
is consistent with original finish on other pieces that FN made at the time.
I've both handled such original pieces personally, and seen pictures of
similar original parts.
I suspect that the finish you're trying to match is well-aged BLO. The
stock appears to be a military piece, possibly an M1, from the photos.
Most 1950s era military weapons had a BLO finish and it would have
gotten really yellow by now (my WWII issue certainly M1 is). I do not
believe the US military used a lacquer finish on any of its wood
stocked weapons - lacquer won't hold up to the kind of abuse a
military weapon must endure. I suspect that's true of most other
countries a swell.
To match, I'd suggest trying some oil based dye added to BLO. General
Finishes sells a small sampler kit that I think is available at
Rockler.Com. Hope you kept some scraps to try for a match.
Top posted for convenience
The rifle is a clone of a mid-50's Belgian Army FN FAL. It's a clone, so
it's a mish-mash of foreign and domestic parts, but the handguards are
original. Fabrique Nationale's wood finish for their semi-auto guns was a
yellowish lacquer, probably over a dip coat of BLO; I have experience with
Garand stock finishes, and I've handled a mint-condition FN 49 (cousin to
the FAL) which has a beautiful yellow-gold finish that's definitely not
To give some background, the wood parts FN made for other country's FAL
contracts (like Germany) also have the same gloss coating which shows its
nature at the wear spots. By comparison, the repro furniture I had
custom-made has had BLO ONLY applied, and they look nothing like the
handguards. I've also worked with a batch of Argentine FAL stocks. The
Argentines, like most early FAL buyers, took some originals and then got a
license to build their own FALs later, and out of the batch I worked with,
about half were BLO finished and half were shiny lacquered. My guess is that
they found the lacquer too delicate and went to BLO on their own pieces.
If these handguards are oil finish, it's like no oil finish I've ever seen;
tough, glossy, yellow in color, chipped and worn on the surface, and not
penetrated into the wood.
I do live a short drive from an actual Rockler's store... Man, it's hard to
not spend money in there.
Understood, FN probably did things a bit differently. The Candian FN I
used years ago was certainly not what the USA issued me in the 60's.
That being said, if you need someone to spray a few pieces with tinted
lacquers to try for a match, drop me a line at
X-L-E-A-N-O-N-E at airmail dot net
Decode the above by dropping dashes, etc.
I'm in Plano and have finished a bunch of stocks for myself. I'm not
in the business, but happy to try to help. Got an HVLP and bunches of
tints, so maybe it can be done.
Then ask a historian what _was_ used, don't ask woodworkers what
they'd use instead.
Most military firearms were given an oil finish, not any sort of
lacquer. Sporting arms were more usually given a film-forming oil
finish, sometimes a varnish. The reason is maintenance - military arms
have _terrible_ finishes that require a lot of upkeep work to keep
them in order. This occupies bored soldiers in barracks and keeps them
out of trouble (similarly the need to polish boots and press
underwear). The finishes are also fairly effective in service, or for
short periods, so long as they get their maintenance when needed.
Owners of sporting arms want minimum effort though and won't accept
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