We understand, a lot of us still love a nice set of wood furniture on a firearm. It is pretty hard to beat the look of an M1 Garand, a nice set of wooden grips on a 1911; wood is classy, classic, and can be a fantastic material to finish a firearm. So, how can you clean a wooden gun stock?
One of the major principles of woodworking is do as little as possible, and be as minimally harsh as possible. Having said that, there are three phases: prevention, cleaning, and repair.
How to prevent damaging your gun’s wooden finish?
Wood is susceptible to heat and moisture. The best way to maintain your wooden furniture is by trying to control them both as much as possible.
At home, keep your firearm in a climate-controlled safe and make sure to wipe it down with a clean cloth before you put it away. Microfiber cloths work best to avoid scratching the wood.
In the field, things are tricky:
- Wood doesn’t do well with rapid temperature changes and will either expand, when it gets hot, or contract when it gets cold. To prevent either, you want to keep frequent, large temperature swings to a minimum. When the temperatures are sub-zero outside, keep your truck a little cooler, so when transitioning the rifle from the truck to the woods, the temperature difference is minimized.
- Wood also soaks up water, so try to keep it dry! Keep a gun cloth in your kit, preferably in a plastic bag. When wooden stocks and forends do get wet, you can just towel them off at the first possible opportunity and avoid having to do much else.
So, say your wood stock does get a bit dirty, what now?
Cleaning a wooden gun stock could be as simple as toweling it off if slightly wet.
- Make sure to think about lifting any dirt off with your motion instead of rubbing it into the finish.
- Flip the towel regularly and wash it when you’re done.
- If the dirt dried, or you got some solvent meant for the metal parts on the wood, then you have to be a little more aggressive. Spray a specialized wood cleaner on the wood and then wipe it off. You can use the ones meant for household use, but get one without a scent. These are meant to be relatively light and foolproof, which is perfect for leaving finishes untouched. For a little heavier cleaning of creases or nooks like the checkering on a lot of hunting rifles, consider a soft paintbrush to get the dirt out.
Repairing your firearm’s wooden finish
So, you manage to scratch the finish, what now? Do not want to leave it bare, as that lets water in and can result in more damage. Depending on the severity of the damage, things will change a bit.
If it’s just a scratch and the finish is mostly intact, clean everything off and let it dry overnight. Once things are dry, apply some linseed oil in a few coats with a rag. This light oil should pretty closely match most firearm finishes and leave you with a sealed result that isn’t thick, smelly, or oily. It’s also pretty forgiving, which is why we like it so much.
If the damage is significant, you might need some specialized gunsmithing tools and training, such as being able to steam out dents, remove finish, and so on. At that point, a call to a local gunsmith or woodworker is a good idea, as some of these techniques can get you into trouble pretty quickly.
To sum up, try to keep things climate controlled and, above all, dry; this will prevent further problems. After that, do minimal cleaning with some simple, household wood cleaner, a rag, and a brush. If all else fails and you want to take out a scratch, think about some linseed oil.
We hope that this info helps you maintain and preserve some of the best-looking firearms out there while still enjoying them on the range or out in the field.