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Direct Link To This Post Topic: CLEANING, REFINISHING and RESTORATIO
    Posted: October 22 2009 at 2:53pm

CLEANING, REFINISHING and RESTORATION

I have broken this page down into sections starting with a non-destructive detailed cleaning designed to clean the Enfield without greatly altering its original finish, followed by two other methods progressively more destructive in nature. A refinishing section that is designed to enhance the original look and patina of the rifle or to return it to “as new” status. The last section deals with restoration, which in the context of this webpage, involves home repairs designed to address small problems found on some rifles. The objective of this section is to repair minor defects, to return the rifle to a more functional state or to enhance the appearance of it. I suggest reading the whole article before deciding your own plan of attack as the sections are not designed as a 1-2-3 approach but rather as separate instructions that must be understood overall before commencing.

Section One - Detailed Cleaning & Cosmoline

Cosmoline is the dark sticky substance that is present on just about every military surplus rifle ever built. It was designed as a long term storage preservative, used to create a moisture barrier to protect the firearm from the elements. When applied, Cosmoline was heated in large tanks and the firearm was submerged into it, allowing the stuff to creep into every crack and crevice of the rifle. When the rifle was removed from the tank, the Cosmoline would thicken to a grease like state. It should be noted that depending on the particular rifles storage conditions, after a very long time (hence surplus rifle) Cosmoline can turn hard almost resembling a runny varnish finish. To tell the difference, try scraping a small amount off with your fingernail, Cosmoline will scrap off unlike varnish. Through the test of time, Cosmoline has lived up to its description, long term, as removing it is not easy. Once you manage to strip it off, you will see that the Cosmoline worked as it was intended to.

Cosmoline must be removed from the firearm before any attempt to test fire the piece, for both safety and cosmetic reasons. Obviously bore obstructions are a very bad thing and that is what Cosmoline is when found in the barrel. However, as stated above Cosmoline was designed to settle in everywhere including the trigger group, cocking piece, striker and all other places. If a detailed cleaning is not done, this could affect the function of these parts and cause the action to be stiff, failure to feed, failure to eject and or failure to fire. The other down side to not getting the Cosmoline off, is that if left on and the rifle is fired (warms up) the Cosmoline will liquefy and begin to penetrate the stock, oil soaking the wood. Not to mention it will also begin to drip off and ooze out of the rifle making the day at the range a messy one. So at the minimum, if the rifle is not a museum grade valuable collector piece bought for display purposes only, I strongly suggest that the rifle be detail stripped and the entire piece be thoroughly cleaned.

Metal Parts

All the metal parts including the barreled receiver are easily stripped of Cosmoline, old oil and the Tunisian desert sand, by first soaking them in near boiling hot water. The laundry room sink works well for this step. While soaking, use an old toothbrush to scrub all the parts down. When finished get out the kettle and boil up a full pot of water and rinse everything with it, this will cause the remaining water to evaporate off, thus preventing rust. If you bought a really well preserved rifle, it may be necessary to soak and scrub the metal parts with acetone or for small stubborn parts a shot of automotive brake clean and the toothbrush may do the trick. CAUTION Later manufactured Lee Enfields were factory finished in enamel type paint. You would be well advised to test a small hidden area of the rifle before going hog wild with the acetone and/or brake clean, it may strip the finish off of your rifle.

Now that the metal has been cleaned, care should be taken to oil all parts and surfaces. Any brand of gun oil can be use for this purpose but I have found the aerosol type oils, like Rem Oil, to be well suited for this job as it can be sprayed into those hard to reach spots.

Wood Furniture

Before going any further, you must step back and assess the condition of the wood stock and the finished result that is desired.

If the wood is not particularly oil soaked or Cosmoline covered and has an appealing look. It would be best to use Murphy’s Oil Soap (MOS) and a shop rag to gently clean the wood. Used as directed MOS will clean the wood of dirt but leaves the original patina intact. When finished all that is need is a light coat of Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) or Tung Oil and possibly a polishing with the homemade stock wax. This method is the most non-destructive and will best preserve any stampings or markings found on the stock and is the method most likely to save the original bedding of the stock.

Note: The next two methods become more destructive and will raise stampings and markings and because of the hot water involved may influence the original bedding of the piece. Care must be taken when finished, to check the bedding. To minimize bedding changes or stock warpage, I suggest using water as hot as possible, to reduce immersion time, followed by hand drying (shop rag/towel) and then allow the wood to dry naturally at room temperature. No hair driers and no setting it on the back porch in the midday sun.

If the wood is heavily oil soaked or has hardened on Cosmoline, the wood is best cleaned using the same hot water/boiling water method suggested for the metal parts. Again the laundry room sink works best, it is large and deep enough to immerse just about all the furniture at once. Leaving it soak for a good half hour or so, will leech out most all of the Cosmoline, oil and other assorted age old crud, just remember to keep the water good and hot. It may help to boil a large pot of water and pour it over the various pieces followed by a good scrubbing with a toothbrush or stiff bristled nail brush. Once cleaned the wood should be allowed to dry at room temperature for a day or two before applying any oil finish or re-installing it on the rifle.

If the desired finished product is the “as new” look, then a combination of the hot water/boiling water along with acetone, scrub brush and #0000 steelwool is called for. This method involves first soaking the wood in hot water and cleaning as described above, but before final drying generously soak the wood with acetone and scrub with either a stiff bristled brush or preferably #0000 steelwool. Do this in a well ventilated area and not near the household furnace, follow the cautions on the acetone container. The acetone will remove everything, Cosmoline, oil finish and wood stain if present. When done, let the stock dry for a day or two before moving onto re-staining and oil finishing.

Note: I have found this method works best when the objective is a new looking set of lumber. Acetone strips everything bare, but leaves the wood in its natural color. I have tried using oven cleaner, which I will admit takes a lot of the work out of stripping. However, I find it tends to leave a tint in the wood which is not quite natural.

Section 2 – Refinishing

 

Metal Parts

 

Enfields were finished a variety of ways, depending on the year and at what factory the Enfield was manufactured. They were also re-finished in several ways during Factory Thorough Repairs (FTR). The most common finish on English made rifles is oil blackened (No1 and No4 rifles) or black oxide (No4 rifles). The No4 rifles may also be initially done in either oil blackening or black oxide followed by a coating of black enamel paint. Australian No1 rifles will be found either oil blackened or parkerized depending on the time of their manufacture. Canadian and American made No4 rifles will be mostly parkerized.

 

Having said all this, there is not much that can be done in the basement to repair worn metal finished outside of touching up small areas with any of the commercial cold blue solutions out there. The best suggestion I can make is to seek out a gunsmith and discuss with him/her refinishing the piece to as close as possible the original finish. If re-coating the rifle with a similar to original black paint is desired, the best choice would be a high heat automotive or barbeque paint. Care would have to be taken to match as close as possible the original paint.

 

Wood Furniture

 

Where the timber was just washed with MOS and allowed to dry for a couple of days 1 or 2 light coats of BLO or Tung Oil (your choice) is all that is needed. For complete moisture protection it is advisable to oil the stock inside and out. This may be followed by a polishing with the homemade stock wax for further protection. The wax also helps to give the stock that well maintained parade ground look.

 

Stocks that have undergone the more radical hot water or acetone bath will need a bit more attention. First after allowing the stock to dry for several days it may be necessary to shave the whiskers (raised grain) from the stock. This is done by rubbing the entire stock (going with the grain) using #0000 steelwool. To repair any large rough or raised area, I would recommend using a scraper, care should be taken not to scrape off any stampings in the wood. When smooth to the touch, the wood will most likely need about 3 separate coatings of BLO or Tung Oil followed if desired, with a stock wax polishing.

 

Section 3 – Restoration

 

This section deals with tricks and repairs designed to fix small problems on shooter grade rifles, not collector pieces. Nor is this section designed to address serious or safety related problems for these types of issues it is strongly recommended that you seek the services of a qualified gunsmith.

 

Removing Dents and Dings

 

If the initial cleaning failed to swell out all of the dings and dents in the furniture, it is possible to coax most of them out using steam. Simply wet a shop rag with water and place over the offending dent and using a soldering iron or clothes iron and heat the area lightly to raise the dent, be careful not to heat for too long as it will split the wood. This is only going to work on small blemishes, large dents or chips will have to be accepted as part of the rifle's history.

 

Stock Cracks

 

Cleaning the stock can sometimes reveal cracks or splits in the stock that could not be noticed before. Small cracks on handguards and other non-stressed parts may be safely ignored or they can be repaired with carpenters glue. To do this the effected area should be thoroughly degreased with acetone and be completely dry. Carefully pull the crack/split apart slightly and work the carpenters glue into the wound. Gently clamp it back together, let set. When dry, use a scraper to remove any excess glue and wood slivers.

 

For the areas that are subject to stresses from firing or that may effect bedding it will become necessary to pin the lumber. This fix is an adaptation from the old craftsmen who used brass pins to strengthen potentially weak areas of stocks. To start, locate the approximate center of the crack, judge the size and go out and buy a package of brass wood screws (the smaller diameter the better). With screws on hand, find your center again and drill a pilot hole (appropriate to the screw size used), degrease the area with acetone, let dry. Carefully separate the crack and apply carpenters glue, working down into the wound, clamp as close as possible to the center and then screw in the brass screw leaving the head out and exposed, leave until set. Remove the clamp and with a die grinder, hacksaw or file remove the head of the screw and file flush with the wood. You may want to mask the wood all around the screw to prevent scuffing the stock.

 

Scrapers

 

Made from flat steel, scrapers are tools used by the professional to shape wood into its finished form. They are the final step when bedding a stock to an action and are also used to shape the final exterior contour of the gun stock if needed. As the name indicates, a scraper is used to shave small amounts of wood from the stock, this is done by pulling the scraper (going with the grain) along the area that requires shaping.

 

Though these tools can be bought commercially, homemade ones can be fashioned from any scrap piece of steel found around the hobby shop. Old hacksaw blades are my favorite as they are small and rigid. To make a scraper, cut the hacksaw blade to the right size and then sharpen the edge on a grinder leaving the burr intact, that’s the part to use to scrap the wood. These can be cut and sharpened to whatever contour or size that you require.

 

If you are looking for a professional finish, any area that requires some small stock removal this is method to use. Stay away from sandpaper, as traditionally it just wasn’t used.

 

Final Prep

 

If after completely stripping the stock and repairing any blemishes, dents, gouges and cracks the whole exterior wood surface should be lightly smoothed out using #0000 steelwool. It is best to rinse the steelwool in acetone to remove any oil that may be present in the steelwool and then allow it to dry before using. Working with the grain buff the entire stock and handguards with the steelwool until it is smooth to the touch.

 

Stain

 

Although stain was not an official method of finishing Enfield furniture in the world of the military surplus affection ado’s it has its place. As many late issue Enfields were stocked in beech wood, over time the combination of the linseed oil finish and the application of long term storage preservatives (cosmoline) darkened this furniture. Stripping these particular stocks to bare wood will result in a very blonde almost yellow appearance.

 

It may be appealing to some to darken the tone of this wood to create a more aged look. The other reason stain may be used is to more closely match all four pieces of the stock to each other, this is not wholly wrong as technical orders did stipulate that armourer’s were to try and match as close as possible the wood furniture during repairs. For whatever reason the decision to stain the stock, it should be done after the final prep but prior to oil finishing.

 

Oil Finishing

 

Boiled Linseed Oil

 

The original finish used on Enfields was Linseed Oil, the furniture was dipped in heated tanks of it. Today it is best to use Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO), the boiled variety has been treated to dry faster, and it is less likely to sweat out of the wood and onto your clothes while at the range.

To apply, dampen a small piece of shop rag, or better yet flannel, in Linseed Oil and rub it into the wood, let stand for 5-10 minutes and with a clean rag wipe off the excess. Coat the entire surface inside and out, the oil creates a moisture barrier to repel water. I would suggest at least 3 separate applications allowing 24 hours before re-coats for initial refinishing and then about one coat a month for the first year and then one coat a year for maintenance.

 

Tung Oil

 

An alternate to BLO is Tung Oil, though not an original finish for Enfields, it is another excellent choice for gun stock finishing. Tung oil when applied to wood forms a highly water-resistant finish similar to BLO but doesn’t darken with age like Linseed.

 

Tung Oil will usually require 2 to 3 separate applications with 24 hours between coats. Apply it liberally with a lint free cloth, let stand 10-15 minutes and then wipe off any excess oil, this will produce a dull sheen finish like Linseed Oil. If the excess is not wiped off and it is allowed to dry on the stock, it will produce an almost varnish like shine so beware.

 

Homemade Stock Wax

 

As part of your normal cleaning routine, rub the furniture down with a Bee's Wax/Turpentine/Boiled Linseed Oil paste. It protects the wood and creates that dark dull sheen of a well-maintained service rifle. To make it, clean out an old shoe polish can and add 3 equal parts, bee's wax (you can find this stuff at any leather craft store or saddle tack shop), turpentine and boiled linseed oil. First off, melt the bee's wax in the shoe polish can (low heat on the stove) and then add in the turpentine and linseed. Stir to mix, remove from heat and let set. Once cool, rub the resulting wax paste on the stock with a flannel rag or chamois cloth and buff.

 

 

Rottie (PitBulls dad.)


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