Early Sako birch stock finish?

Discussion in 'Tips and Tricks for gunsmithing your own Sako' started by waterwolf, Oct 28, 2018.

  1. waterwolf

    waterwolf Well-Known Member

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    I have a few very early L46/L461 Sako sporters with stocks of relatively light-colored birch or beech. They do not need complete refinishing but could do with some touch-up. I have plenty of experience with walnut but not so much with birch and beech. I have re-stained (dyed) and re-finished a few Finnish military Mosin-Nagant beech stocks and I know how hard this is to do. Does anyone have experience with finishing the Sako hardwood sporter stocks? Does anyone know what the original Sako factory finish was?...some variation on pine tar and varnish? Similar to the Finnish Mosin-Nagant?

    I have read the following:

    https://sakocollectors.com/forum/threads/type-of-birch-used-in-early-sako-stocks.10290/

    https://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?285344-Arctic-Birch-stocks-quot-speak-of-Finland-quot

     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018

  2. waterwolf

    waterwolf Well-Known Member

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    Okay...no replies.

    ....so let me try another question. What do you think the early light colored (although often disguised to look like walnut with a heavy dye or stain) wood used in the early Sako stocks actually is...? It does not look like Beech which is a common replacement for walnut in Scandinavian military stocks. I am familiar with that wood from my long ago days collecting Swedish Mausers. It has a very distinct grain pattern entirely lacking in the early Sako stocks. I am assuming, given the Finnish manufacturing location that the early Sako stock wood is Birch (I see that Silver Birch has been called "the national tree species of Finland". ) That said, it may be something else and I know that many later Sako walnut stocks are very light colored, some almost as blonde as birch.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2018
  3. P04R

    P04R Well-Known Member

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    Early L46 stocks were stained silver birch. More precisely the silver birch variation that grows with the wavy grain pattern in the wood. I can't find clear translation for this "flame birch". The wood was changed to walnut because of the "market demand" (just one bad review) in the USA.
     
  4. Old Hippie

    Old Hippie Formerly known as bloorooster

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    Maybe “flamed” is referring to the scorching process that was used to add contrast to those somewhat plain grained stocks. Maybe?

    hippie
     
  5. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    No torches are involved. The "Flame" is natural to the wood. Has to do with the amount & location of sapwood running through that particular piece of wood. It can be enhanced sometimes with fire, but can't be created. With regard to others mentioning Beech. Beech was never used by Sako. Beech is mainly a cultivated nut tree(not a commercial timber tree) that during times of war, when wood supplies can be stressed, was sometimes used for a cheap alternative for rifle stocks. It's use commercially for firearms manufacture is extremely rare. Most of the time when people think a stock is Beech, it's actually Birch. Both are light colored woods, but Beech is much softer than Birch and can have areas in it that have a "gummy" surface texture.
     
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  6. icebear

    icebear Sako-addicted

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    Beech is commonly used for furniture in northern Europe, and is also used to make barrels for aging beer (what was that ad touting "beechwood aging" for some brand of beer?), but, as Paulson says, it has seldom been used for rifle stocks. Probably the biggest user of beech stocks was the Swedish military on their excellent M96 and M38 rifles. Here's a photo of an arsenal refurbished Swedish military stock in unstained beech. (The early beech stocks were stained dark, probably with permanganate.) Note the sort of scalloping in the grain. That is unique to beech, as far as I know, and is a useful visual key for identifying beech. Finnish military stocks were generally made from Arctic birch and many show mottling or "flame" in the grain which is emphasized by uneven absorption of stain.

    Swedish Beech
    CG 6.JPG

    Finnish Birch
    Stock 2-2.JPG.JPG
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2021
  7. blackjack

    blackjack Well-Known Member

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    Good Evening All. Beech wood was used by B.S.A. and Webley during the 1950's 60's & 70's air rifle production. Walnut was an option, but would add more £'s to the cost. I have a Webley Targetspot .177 Cal. air rifle made in the 1960's with a walnut stock with fabulous figure that would grace a James Purdey, Holland & Holland or Boss & Co. shotgun or double rifle.
    Blackjack
     
  8. Bucktote

    Bucktote Well-Known Member

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    Hi fellow Sako shooters,
    While sitting in a deer stand there is ample time to examine your rifle stock. I observed the checkering is strong & good, but there is some alligator minor cracking starting to appear in the butt stock area, The finish looks original & after the hunting season I plan to remove the action & refinish the stock, Question is, what finish remover works best with the present finish on the stock? I am not interested in selling the rifle, only to make it better when it is time to pass it on. Several of the kids expressed interest in the rifle. I have finished several stocks in my time & would consider Tru-oil or a urethene Semi or gloss finish. Any suggestions on the finish remover brand that seems to work best?? B/T
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2021
  9. icebear

    icebear Sako-addicted

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    I'd recommend tung oil for the finish. The result is similar to linseed but tung oil is much faster drying and easier to work with than linseed. Also, tung oil doesn't turn yellow over time the way linseed does. Tung oil soaks into the wood, giving a coat that can be repaired, unlike polyurethane finishes that sit on top of the wood and make it very hard to repair a chip or scratch. Oil gives a richer, deeper finish than synthetics. I have used Tru-Oil in the past but I thought it came out too shiny and without a lot of depth.

    I use Tru-oil for a quick finish on inexpensive guns, linseed oil in restoring, repairing, or renewing older guns that were originally finished in linseed, and tung oil any time I am finishing fresh or fully stripped wood. I do not use polyurethane on guns, but I sometimes use it for furniture. PU is prone to runs and brush marks. I believe tung oil is the choice of most professional stockmakers. You can buy straight tung oil, or tung oil varnishes that contain additives to give the finish desired, i.e. semi-gloss, gloss, or matte. I've gotten it everywhere from Ace Hardware to Brownells.
     
  10. Bucktote

    Bucktote Well-Known Member

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    Hi Icebear,
    I have never tried Tung Oil, is the application special? or difficult to apply?
    I have used urethane in the past on model 12 shotguns. The trick is to apply a light fogging coat at first pass. Next apply thin coats within 15 min. of each other to desired thickness. Allow to cure three days or more,
    (temp. & humidity governs) then using progressivly finer sanding, wet sanding with soapy water. Finish with 3M liquid polishing compound. results are a mirror like finish. do not rush it!! Would be interested in learning the Tung Oil process. Also used auto clear coat finish. It cures quickly, it can be sanded & polished soon after application, but is difficult to obtain in small quantities and shelf life is not good! B/T
     
  11. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I call it "spider webbing", and it is common with hard surface finishes on some Sakos, and particularly on Brownings. Before destroying the original finish try rubbing down the stock with Ballistol. Those spiderwebs will largely disappear. Over time they will begin to come back, but another Ballistol treatment will once again restore them. Ballistol is a treatment and not a cure for this problem, but using the treatment may be more satisfactory than going through the laborious process of refinishing.
     
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  12. icebear

    icebear Sako-addicted

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    Tung oil is usually wiped on with a clean cloth. It soaks in and fills the grain. Some people use it with a grain filler. A member here whose expertise I respect applies the first coat or two with 320 wet or dry sandpaper; the fine sanding dust fills the grain. I haven't tried this myself, but I most likely will the next time I do a stock. Drying time depends on the particular formulation, but you can usually apply two or three coats per day. Sand with 320 or 400 between coats, or every two or three coats. Before the final coat or two it's good to rub the stock with bronze wool (not steel wool). Check the directions on the can, and also there is a lot of material on the internet on wood finishing, both in text and on YouTube. Brownell's has an extensive video library. I haven't checked out their wood finishing videos but their video on assembly/disassembly of the C96 Mauser Broomhandle was a lifesaver.

    Tung oil is available in pure form, or as a varnish formulated for a high-gloss, semi-gloss, or matte finish. The depth and shine of an oil finish varies with the number of coats - more coats, a deeper and shinier finish.

    A natural oil like tung or linseed requires more time to finish a stock than poly, but it's actually easier because you don't have to worry about runs or brush marks. And the result is a rich, deep finish that looks better than the synthetics, which to me look like a layer of plastic laid on over the wood. Another advantage to an oil finish is that it's easy to repair. You can steam out dents, sand out scrapes, and blend the new finish into the old, which is not an option with poly.

    Here are photos of some rifles with different finishes. The photos do not fully capture the nuances of the different finishing products, but they are at least indicative.

    Sako factory (high-gloss synthetic varnish, late 1980's)
    Rifle 5.JPG

    Sako factory, 1950's (probably linseed oil blend)
    L46FS-1.jpg

    Custom Sako by Audette (probably tung oil)
    Audette 1.JPG
    Audette 5.JPG

    Custom L46 by Al Biesen (oil finish, not sure if it's tung or linseed)
    Biesen 3.JPG

    Custom FN-Sako by me (tung oil)
    300 Stock - Right.jpg

    Military/police FN Mauser carbine, refinished by me (Tru-Oil)
    FN Carbine 1.JPG
     
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  13. Bucktote

    Bucktote Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Icebear,
    The crazing shows up only after the stock is held at an angle..
    I need to take the action out to remove the sling post cross pin. If my hands feel good I will mask off the checkering & butt pad, remove the finish, sand and
    recoat. Why do you prefur Tung or linseed to Tru Oil?? B/T
     
  14. icebear

    icebear Sako-addicted

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    Mainly the depth of the finish - it brings out the grain more than any other kind of finish. The finish is in the wood, not laid on top of it. Put enough coats on and it almost seems to glow from within. Note the glare in the top photo (poly) versus the way the grain stands out in the oil-finished stocks, especially the Al Biesen L46. Looking at the Mauser finished in Tru-Oil, it just isn't as rich a finish as the guns finished with tung or linseed. It seems to have some of the laid-on aspect of the spray finish. Not as much, but it's there. It may be hard to see the difference in the photos. Tru-Oil is a compromise, formulated for ease of use. It's a bit quicker to finish a job because it dries faster and you need fewer coats, and the synthetic additives may give a harder finish - but after doing a couple of guns with it, I switched to tung oil and I'm not going back. Tung oil is the almost-universal choice of professional stockmakers.

    I would not use linseed oil for a complete refinish. I only use linseed for repairs and restorations.

    Here's another photo, a set of Koa wood pistol grips that I made from scratch and finished with semi-gloss tung oil varnish from Ace Hardware.
    New Unique Grips.JPG Unique M52 Right Side.JPG
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2021
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