1873 Uberti Shoulder Stock Refinishing
Originally published on the Open Range September, 2013
I have been refinishing gunstocks for 30 years on and off. Over the past several years I have done quite a few Uberti rifles and handgun grips to get the red sprayed finish off.
Here is the method I use all the time for great results for refinishing an Uberti shoulder stock and here are the results:
List of items needed:
- Quart of Orange Citristrip gel (available at most larger Hardware stores)
- 00 Steel wool and 0000 steel wool
- Minwax Oil Base stain in your choice of color
- 1 paint stick
- Formby’s Tung Oil, either high or low gloss
- Old cotton Tee shirt
- Steam Iron
- 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper
- Rubber disposable gloves
- Disposable foam brush
- Cheap white 1 inch bristle brush
- Old Newspapers
- Old toothbrush (if checkered)
On a 73 – To remove the fore-stock, you first have to remove the two screws that hold the fore end cap on, and then remove the block that the screws mount to from it’s dovetail. Then tap out the pin in the mag tube mounting block on the end of the barrel (this locks the mag tube in place). Slide the mag tube forward and out, then the block out of the dovetail. The fore end will then slide off. You may be able to remove the fore end without removing the block at the end of the barrel by just sliding the mag tube forward enough to drop off the fore end.
The rifle should be disassembled and the wood placed aside on a good work bench free of debris and clutter. Lay out a piece of newspaper and lay the forearm and butt stock down. Apply the Citristrip with the bristle brush liberally (as thick as you can) to both pieces covering the sides as much as you can. Now forget about it for about 40 minutes minimum. This stuff stays active for 24 hours so you could even put it on and leave it for a long time.
This wood now will be mostly free of the finish where you applied the citristrip. (It smells nice so you wife won’t kill you) Use the paint stick wearing the rubber gloves and scrape the finish off. It won’t all come off the first time and will need to be repeated. The 00 Steel wool is excellent for taking the finish off after scraping.
Change the newspaper and lay the wood down again and do another area. You will go through a few pieces of newspaper before you’re done. As you go follow the same routine with the paint stick and steel wool.
Once the wood is bare and clean you can apply one more coat of the citristrip, let it sit a few minutes and then wipe it off following with a good rub down with the 0000 (Extra fine steel wool). You will be amazed at the results.
If the stocks are checkered the old toothbrush works well taking the finish out of the checkering.
Now to look over the stock for damage. If there are actual gouges where the wood grain is cut you will have to decide if sanding them out is an option. If there are dents (most likely) then move onto the next step.
With the flat iron set hot enough to produce steam (no hotter) take a 6 inch piece of the old tee shirt and soak it in water and squeeze it out. Fold it over a couple of times and place it over the dent. Put the steam iron over it and you will see what happens. The water in the cotton is forced into the wood grain and raises the dent out of the wood. Repeat until it is all out. This takes very little time.
Once you are happy with your work take it to the kitchen and quickly run the stock under water and pat it quickly to get the excess water off it. Now hold it about two feet over the stove burner constantly moving it until dry. You will feel whiskers all over. These are the end grains of the wood. Use the 400 grit paper very lightly to knock them off followed by a good rub down with 0000 steel wool.
The stock should now be ready for final finishing. Use the Stain with the foam brush applying it
heavy and letting it sit. After a few minutes wipe the excess off and see if that is the color you want. Reapply for a darker finish.
When it looks nice let it dry 24 hours, I know this part will kill you but it is important. When dry use the 0000 steel wool lightly and wipe down with a clean cloth.
To apply the Tung oil follow the label directions. The first few coats take the longest to dry but after that you can put 2 or 3 coats on in one day. I use a piece of the old cotton tee shirt folded into a 2 inch square and make long runs following the grain to apply the finish. Don’t apply this finish in anything but thin coats. I usually put 10-12 coats. After every couple of coats (when dry) go over it with 0000 steel wool.
I have a wood dowel to hold the forearm and a wood dowel to hold the stock and have them in a 2×4 so the pieces stand up to dry.
In a weekend you can get the Uberti to look like a million dollars. Be careful if you use sandpaper to stay away from the stock’ sharp edges (the parts that attach or come up to metal) if you over sand these areas the job will look lousy.
This procedure take patience but well worth the end results.
If you can get the exact items I described you will be set. To get the high gloss finish just end with a coat of tung oil. To get the low gloss after several layers and when dry just go slowly and steel wool with 0000 followed by furniture polish. This finish can be touched up easily.