I was very tempted after removing the existing finish and grease to simply re-stain and varnish the gun. Though this gun isn’t a significant part of U.S. history or a highly sought after collector piece, I wanted to be as accurate to its true state as possible. I knew a lot of the dings and scratchers weren’t from this rifles first life as a pre 66 Enfield but from modern day beatings.
I decided to take down the wood around the bulk of the scratches and dings as opposed to raising the old dents with a hot iron. I wanted to retain some of its history but look like it had just came out of the arsenal and ready to issue as the restocked new action that it was in 1966.
I started off with 80 grit sand paper on most surfaces then moved to 180 grit then 220 and finally 320 to get an absolutely smooth grain finish. Luckily most foreign Military surplus rifles have “extra” or thicker than necessary wood so there is plenty to remove without changing the overall finish; this isn’t usually the case with U.S. arms. The U.S. made weapons typically have better quality wood therefore they don’t waste much of it.
Once it was completely sanded it got a good scrubbing to remove dust with soapy water and then dried for a week; next was to apply the stain, this isn’t necessary if the wood color is pretty and consistent but with many Enfield’s the wood probably came from three different rifles when being put together at the arsenal. The stock had an Oak color, the top guard had a mahogany color, and the bottom had a Walnut colored back end and light wood colored front. I put on a coat of pre stain to help keep the grain from raising then a Walnut stain, then Mahogany stain, next did each piece individually to make them match the other as needed.
Stock refinishers at the arsenals sometimes stain guns darker than necessary due to making them match as one piece, I replicated this but much lighter than the grease imbedded version I started with.
After drying for days in a warm garage, I scuffed the surface with 0000 steel wool so the top coat would stick. In years past I have used automotive clear coat since I worked in a body shop and it would leave a nice protective finish, but now that’s not an option I tried Tru Oil finish by Birchwood Casey and put four coats on using steel wool between each coat.
In the end I scuffed with the grain with steel wool one more time then hand rubbed it with car wax to put a matte finish on it with just a little protective shine. I have to say I was really pleased, the wood is protected and period correct in color and finish and will actually help the value of this rifle. All in all I am glad I took the time even though I probably had $40 and about 12 hours of time, but now that I’m not sitting in a tree stand and there is no ice for fishing, 12 hours seems a reasonable investment.
I hope this has helped you decide to refinish or not refinish a firearm of yours, cost and aesthetics aside, I have to say I have some pride in this gun now and a connection that I won’t likely part with soon. It was a great learning experience and turned out better than some of my past endeavors.
Until next time be safe and shoot straight,
Matt Cheever ~ Flatlander