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Wood Restoration Techniques

  Repairing and Restoring Varnished Hardwood by Bob Smalser 1 of 6  

Have a valuable piece of old boat bright work or furniture that is broken around the hardware? 

Yes… my training aid today is an old walnut gunstock from 1936, but these objects are subjects of close inspection by discriminating clients, and require a degree of precision useful for demonstration. 

Plus, as the techniques and materials are slightly different from other disciplines, it’s also good cross training… the various woodworking specialties would be well served to cross-fertilize more.

Want to learn to bed hardware perfectly? Learn from a stockmaker.  Want to achieve perfection with card scrapers on expensive and fragile, highly figured wood? Watch a luthier.  Restoring original finishes?  A museum furniture conservator. Steambending?  A traditional boatbuilder or chairmaker, of course.

The workpiece was severely damaged in a fall, and has other problems.  Sometime in its past it acquired a sling swivel that will be removed, a missing chip that will be repaired, several dents, and was stripped and refinished separate from its matching walnut forearm… they are no longer the same color.

How do I know the stock is original to the rifle?  I can’t be absolutely sure, but examination of the inletting surfaces and comparing them to the forearm show the walnuts to be of the same age and probably from the same supplier, which is the single most important factor in matching color. 

The firearm in question is one of the first of its model manufactured; has some value, and I’ll restore it… not to new condition, but to appear like a used but well-cared-for representative of its type in excellent original condition.

West System 5:1 boatbuilder’s epoxy when thoroughly mixed has a dab of walnut epoxy dye added…

…and is applied unthickened to all the broken wood surfaces to be repaired… the main portion of the stock at the breaks is heated gently to thin the applied epoxy for the deepest possible penetration into wood and down cracks with the aid of a thin dentist’s spatula… more epoxy is applied if necessary…

…the pieces are assembled and clamped to cure using a few rubber bands thoroughly waxed first with common paste wax.  Cleanup is with a vinegar-dampened rag.

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