Ye Olde Armorall+Tru-Oil Sorcery: 24+ coats/day


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From the guru himself:

Do you want to refinish your stock and make it look like a professional job?  :mrgreen:

Are you slightly intimidated by the process?  :x If you don't know where to begin, start here.

If you are interested in replicating that hand-rubbed, old-school, English walnut appearance (that reddish hue on walnut, pre-64 Winchester) on your stock using a combination of original ingredients and modern chemistry, then read on. I have compiled a "how to" here that was edited from many different posts online (I was unable to give credit to every member whose info I collected for this article, so I hope you don't mind if you see your words here). I did this as a courtesy to members and to begin a dialogue since most of this information seems scattered around all over the interwebs.

This secret "elixir" to finishing your walnut, beech, laminated, etc. wood stock, from start to finish ahs been compiled from the collective wisdom of Woodstock63, dcblvsh2, me and other experienced people on the internet.

A special thanks goes out to member dcblvsh2 with and woodstock63 at ... p?t=331108

GENERAL RULE: Alway sand, oil, finish, dye, stain, etc. in the direction of the grain. Carefully sand because it is very easy to remove wood

[The only time to go perpendicular to the grain is if you are building up "mud" (a combination of Tru-oil and wood particles from wet-sanding) and using the "mud" to fill the "pores" in the wood for a smooth finish. If you use the "mud" method, you will have less three-dimensional appearance, but "mud" will make the oil on the finish "last longer" over the years (because the oil will not get absorped into the wood as quickly). The method below describes Tru-Oil or Boiled Linseed Oil WITHOUT creating and using "mudd" to fill the pores. Instead, layers of Tru-Oil or Tung Oil act to fill the pores for a glass-like smooth surface.]

Shopping List
Citrusgel-used to strip your old finish and can purchase at Home Depot. It will not harm the wood. Be sure to use a soft toothbrush for the checkering or you will certainly ruin the checkering. Do this process outside for ventilation. Apply with a paintbrush. Leave a thick coat for 30 minutes (can leave for 24 hours if necessary). Use a credit card to scrape off the old finish or a strong plastic brush. Use water to rinse off the Citrusgel. It will leave a slight orange odor on the wood. You may need to repeat this step up to 3 times but it will get almost all of the gunk off of the stock. Wait until the wood dries and any areas that still have old finish on it will be obvious. You will easily notice any areas that need to be re-coated with Citrusgel. USE EYES/FACE PROTECTION AND at least 3 layers of LONG nitrile (blue) chemically resistant gloves. This nasty stuff will eat through your gloves like the blood from the creatures in “Aliens.”

Tru-Oil (or Tung Oil)- is the product in a brown plastic bottle (3 oz.) sold by Birchwood-Casey among their many other products such as gun stock filler, sheath, etc. I've even seen it at Walmart. It goes a long way and you can do a lot of stocks with one bottle. (“Found this thread, didn't have Tru oil, but a high grade Tung Oil, works almost the same, still experimenting.”) I can generally find it at a gun shop or better sporting arms dealer too.

Armor All-original formula. Buy at Autozone, Pepboys, or (evil) Walmart.

*Alkanet Root Powder-a dye which is what the old classic English guns used to create that reddish finish on woods. This dye can be mixed into the Tru-Oil or mixed with denatured alcohol and rubbed on the wood’s surface. Wait until it completely dries before applying oil finish. The wood should have an even pink tint. (*Only use this dye if you want a "reddish" look to your walnut or wood. If you would like your original color, then don't add this or any other dye. Avoid stains at all cost. A dye and stain is different, as you will find at the bottom of this article.)

Here is what Shotgunguru posted: “I have been using alkanet for years. I dissolve it in surgical alcohol and use it on the wood once it is polished to 600 grit. It has a very subtle effect, so it takes a few passes to get the desired pink tint. I then finish polishing to 1000 grit and then use artist grade linseed. When the oil dries the pink turns to redddis brown.

There are others who prefer to color the oil itself, easily done by adding the alkanet to the oil and giving it a good shake. Some like to heat the oil, believing the alkanet does more when heated.”

220/400/800 & 1500/2000 grit sandpaper-note: use 2000 grit if you want to avoid using 0000x steel wool because steel wool imparts tiny metal particles that can rust in the finish and create color changes. If you must use steel wool, then get a magnet and cover it with a cotton cloth and rub all over the wood’s surface to help lift the metal particles out of the wood.

Quoted from "woodstock63" who discovered this amazing technique:

Brief History:
I've used this process for four years now on Walnut and laminated stocks. This accounts for about six stocks per year. I've been doing them for our local gunsmith, who is a very discriminating individual. I do his own personal guns as well as his customers. There has never been a single problem with any of these, no matter the weather.

No worries regarding humidity/drying time; runs, drips, errors or overlaps that a traditional Tru-Oil only finish can leave requiring sanding out, the end result is a finish smooth as a baby's bottom.

Step One; Preparation
Strip old stock, use a wet cloth over dents and use the tip of a steam iron, which swells the area around the dent and lifts out just about all except the deepest. Be aware that any sharp edged dents will probably require deeper sanding below the dent and then blend into the surrounding area. I use 220 grit sandpaper (always with the grain), primarily to avoid leaving deeper sanding marks and scratches. I constantly will backlight the stock turning it to view along the wood for any imperfections. When the desired smoothed finish shape is there, I go to 400 grit, then 800 grit.

Now de-whisker. With a wet cloth wipe down the entire stock and let dry. This raises small fibers or "splinters" which I now lightly sand off with 800 grit. Now lightly rub the stock down with 0000x steel wool.

This is important; check your work, use the light source. It is what it is, don't scrimp on your quality now and be satisfied with your prep results. The next part is the easiest.

Step Three; The Magic Elixir
Here's what you've waited for..,the formula!

I use Birchwood-Casey Tru-Oil and ArmorAll. Other brands of tire shine will also work, but I usually have enough ArmorAll around. I do not use grain filler or stain unless the stock really begs for it.

Spray on a coat of ArmorAll, rub it over the entire stock and wipe off the excess. Now rub a couple of fingers worth of Tru-Oil over the ArmorAll in all directions, but initially across the grain to fill the pores. (Doing sections at a time intially is best because you can see where you've been.) Once some coats have been built up, you can do one full side of the stock at a time. Rub briskly with palm and finger tips until the surface loses its tack and feels like glass. This may take 5-10 minutes but subsequent coats will go even faster. The first coats will appear dull, but subsequent coats will start to gloss up.

I will put on as many coats as required to give the perfect flat surface finish. Don't rush the coats or thickness application or you'll be rubbing longer.

DO NOT rub the Tru-Oil in a circular motion. It will cause air bubbles (that are so small, you can't really see them), and those will cause a dimpled look as they try to escape the oil. Rub the Tru-Oil "with the grain" of the wood, and only in one direction. Going back and forth (even with the grain) can cause minute air bubbles, too.

As I continue once the sheen has been built up, I often lightly buff with 0000x steel wool. This gives a bit of bite for additional coats.

I can put two or three dozen coats on in a day and typically finish a stock in the same day and use it immediately. When I'm satisfied with the final coats I will often put a good furniture polish on a small piece of 0000x steel wool and gently rub it on in the direction of the grain, buff it off and add pure wax and buff again.

For a flatter sheen, the last step is a light 0000x steel wool buff without wax, your choice.

Why does this work?
I believe that there is a chemical reaction or catalyst occuring between the ArmorAll and the Tru-Oil that is much the same as a two-part epoxy that strengthens, hardens and gives such a rapid working/drying time. Don't panic; the process starts working only when you start rubbing the mix together and in.

"I looked up the MSDS info for Armor All and it's Dioctyl adipate [a plasticizer] and Polydimethylsiloxanes [silicon]. As far as I know, Tru-Oil is a synthesized oil which hardens like a varnish. Both products probably "set up" in a similar manner and it appears the blend is an agreeable handshake."

I know this was long winded, but I hope it gives you greater satisfaction in a much shorter amount of time. Repairing small nicks later on is a snap, steam and/or sand the area, apply your "elixir" and it'll blend right in. Thanks for your patience and please feel free to ask about anything you feel I may have skipped over. Start with a beater stock if you have doubts, but don't
have any fear, this works like a charm.

"Do you only apply the ArmorAll once, or between every coat of Tru Oil?? You only state it being used first, and never again. Just wondering how the following applications of Tru Oil will harden with this if its not used every time you apply the Tru Oil."

Sorry, my bad! Yes, ArmorAll between every coat.

"Wow... can't argue with those nice results. Thanks for the info and details.
How does it do on beech? I'm wondering if the ArmorAll darkens up the beech at all, or if the result is very blonde?"

Ohhh man, I'm not too fond of finishing Beech but I have. No, it won't darken it much. If you need to darken Beech, I've used Analine Dye which is a powder that you mix with Wood Alcohol and water .Follow the mix directions on the Analine (a true dye that comes in different dye colors)very carefully, but it's easy. It's typically available from a good wood workers supply house, maybe even Brownell's. Then the elixir once that's dried good.

Apply Armor-All with hand & fingers, wipe off excess and then apply small amounts of Tru-Oil over that briskly rubbing in with palm and fingers creating some friction/heat. Because you have a finish on it already, you can easily do a side at a time

After 5 minutes or so you'll feel the dry/slick surface and then you can keep going the same way...,Armor/All-Tru-Oil, etc., etc. until you end up with what you're happy with. The beauty of this method is really not having to sand out thick areas of dried Tru-Oil. It drys so fast that it doesn't have time to collect dust or dog hairs.

“Help, I did a light sanding with 4/0 steel wool on a Tru Oil finshed laminated stock, wiped down with a cloth covered magnet then with a tack rag. Then I applied a small amount of ArmorAll rubbing it in good, then some Tru-Oil rubbed until it felt dry. Still wet after 5 hours and has a orange peel texture, what did I do wrong?”

As mentioned in the formula, I spray Armor-All on and wipe off excess with a cloth. It's almost like having 1/2 Armor-All and 1/2 Tru-Oil. This isn't isn't a measured formula, it's just that i've never rubbed the Armor-All in, just cloth wipe any excess off.

I guess what I'm saying is that if the Armor-All was rubbed in good until almost dry, then the Tru-Oil has nothing to mix with and the little bit of Armor-All left after rubbing good has put up enough of a barrier to repel the Tru-Oil just enough to not let it dry, and then what's left of the Armor-All underneath is causing the "orange peel' from the bottom up.

A better theory that I had was that maybe the Armor-All got rubbed in too much and didn't have enough fluidity to mix with the Tru-Oil. That is really a must, they have to be able to mix, hence, it's not drying. This may be an even more logical theory.

Once you get it sanded off test a small area first. Spray on Armor-All; palm or cloth wipe off excess; rub in Tru-Oil to mix the two. Don't rub the Armor-All application in by itself, let it be fluid.

Remember, you can do sections at a time especially the first coats. Not to worry about overlapping as each coat dries, unless you apply it too heavy and let it set ; when your first layer is slick/dry,do the adjacent section. The first few initial coats will have a very flat dry sheen until you build up some layers.

The photos of my guns have many layers. If you wish a gloss finish then yes, your last coats can be just a couple of thin rubbed Tru-Oil only. I've not done that because even my last coats are the "elixir" mix and it's too much gloss for me. I knock the gloss down per instructions in recipe.

I don't quit with the "elixir" until all pores and the smallest pinholes are filled. Keep in mind that Tru-Oil alone generally has a thicker build-up and takes a fair amount of time to dry, especially if the humidity is high and requires sanding between layers.

The real beauty of the "elixir: fast drying time so you stay right with it; a hand-rubbed look without sanding off runs, drips and errors; less airborne debris having time to stick to it; less time per coat.

How much time/days do you spend with maybe 4-5 coats of Tru-Oil only? 4-7?
With the "elixir" I can put on at least 2 dozen in a day/evening on the porch or in front of whatever Sports is on.

I doubt if I've ever put on less than at least two to three dozen coats, maybe more. Once you start to get a few layers on and some gloss built up, you can really go fast because it isn't soaking in as much anymore.

The first 1/2 dozen coats usually leave a lot to be desired but the last couple dozen make it really glow!

Just remember that there has to be a light film of Armor-All on, then Tru-Oil, then hand rub it in together until it feels dry and slick to your hand.

The first few coats will have a dull sheen and as you build them up you can get it as glossy as you want. This is because the first coats of Armor-All will tend to soak in.

Also, don't expect the first few coats to have the immediate sheen you start to get with TruOil only finishing. It takes a few coats before that starts to happen.

You will put more coats of this "mix" on but again, it dries so fast, has high humidity working time and doesn't get the over-runs or thicker build-ups of straight TruOil that often requires too much sanding to level out.

The TruOil/ArmorAll will deepen the original wood color somewhat. It won't be dark but it should be richer.

"Some" have rubbed the ArmorAll too dry and then applied TruOil. Remember that this method needs to be blended together while hand-rubbing. A thin sheen of ArmorAll and thin coat of TruOil blended together wet in wet for each application that you apply.

Relative to a comment about turning "white" after a few years. I have stocks out there that are 5-6 years old including mine and they look exactly as they did when first finished, warm and rich.

The TruOil is the finish, and the ArmorAll is only the catalyst that speeds drying time.

Many who've tried this "process" have seem to have applied too much TruOil, hence "the stickey mess syndrome". This process still needs to be methodical and each layer controlled...,light sheen of ArmorAll and fingertips worth of TruOil, repeat, repeat. Don't hurry the coats.

If you have some minimal tack, let it sit for an hour or two and then lightly buff the "tack", wipe with a tack cloth and add another coat.

This process relies on building up many light coats and if the mix is as described, it is the hand rubbed friction that "heats" the mix speeding the drying allowing for additional coats much more rapidly than TruOil alone..

Laminated stocks generally have varying degrees of soft/hard wood whereas certain portions soak it up and portions hold it more to the top (your inconsistent comment).

Initially, the finish will appear flat on all wood, especially on softer woods but as you proceed, the sheen will be obvious, the pores will fill and each successive coat will rub dry faster.

Tip for all...,get a scrap of walnut, prepare it as you would a gunstock and practice the mix proportions on it to get the mix feel.

Per my recipe, I like to do a smaller section at a time by "spritzing" Armorall, lightly wiping off excess and then rubbing in Tru-Oil until dry to the touch. Guaranteed no mess.

Alternative technique from someone experimenting:
“I think I may have stumbled across the missing link. I began using the process provided, but it didn't take long to figure out that the level of ArmorAll had a direct relationship to the effectiveness and ease of use. i first started wetting the entire stock, then started applying the TrueOil, but what happened is by the time I got around to the oppisite side, the ArmorAll had dried too much to make the TrueOil go on easy. Then I started to wet just a small area at a time and that worked better, so I put on about four coats like that. Then i thought, what makes this work so the TrueOil dries so fast? I thought what have I got to lose, my little tray that had the TrueOil was about half full, so I added the ArmorAll direct into the tray, about a 50-50 mix, stirred it to blend with a popsicle stick til it looked well blended. Started by dipping a couple fingers worth onto a small area and started to rub it in and in no time the mixture dried and hardened as I rubbed and rubbed. i did the whole stock like that and then buffed it out with a piece of felt.”

I think I'm the only one here who advocated pre-mixing. It was trial and error, i started out 50/50 and then if it is too sticky, add a little more ArmorAll. the more ArmorAll, the less sticky it is when you put it on. I have done two stocks like this so far and it worked out good considering the the stocks and what I felt happy with the result

What I did was start out about 50/50, we're only talking about a teaspoon, and mix it up with a popscicle stick; it's a thick milky blend try to mix as good as you can. When you start to put it on, with your finger tips, you'll see right away if it's too sticky, then add a little more ArmorAll. I will dry almost instantly and you can do two coats in less than one hour.

Stains vs. Dye
Stain hides the best highlites and reduces contrast in the grain, so I avoid it whenever possible.

"Dyes are made up of molecular-size particles that attach themselves to wood fibers. They are essentially transparent and can add a lot of color without loss of grain definition. Dyes are available in liquid form or as powders (like Alkanet root powder) to be dissolved in a solvent such as water, alcohol, or oil. Dyes enhance figure (cool swirls in wood) and make wood shimmer (aka chatoyance) and can produce a dramatic, three-dimensional look (on highly figured wood like spalted maple). Dyes can cause bad blotching on pinne and cherry and leave open-pored species like oak looking off-white." ~Paul Snyder

Stains consist of colored pigments combined with a bindder that glues them to the wood. The binder can be oil, varnish, or acrylic (water-based). Stain emphasizes the grain structure but also leaves the wood with an unnatural contrast and can completely distort and blur-out the grain pattern altogether, especially with multiple coats.

“For some reason I'm not sure I'm doing it right because when I use the steel wool I get brown gunk in the wool and it still feels a bit sticky to the touch a few hours later. Despite this, so far I'm really happy with the results!”

At what point are you using the steel wool? It sounds like the "brown gunk" is from the stain. Was it completely dry before you used the "elixir"?

I've never had the steel wool have any residue other than a light "whitish" powder from the "elixir" once it had dried and was gently buffed. I also don't steel wool until after probably 6 coats, by this time the stain is "sealed" in.

The coats go on so thinly that there is very little need to have to smooth out runs, drips or errors, other than to buff out minor airborne dust particles which is rare because it dries so fast.

The stain must be dry and the "elixir" should also be be dry before using steel wool. ( Other than buffing out minimal tack if necessary to speed the process.)

From reports I receive it sounds like many have experienced too much TruOil to ArmorAll ratios. Light coat of Armorall and finger dabs of TruOil is the key.

After the first "elixir" applications and once a sheen starts to build up, I can literally hand rub the next coats briskly and in no more than 15 minutes it's dry to the touch, slick, glassy feel. If it's not, there was too much ArmorAll. Think of it as if you're mixing epoxy (catalyst).

It really doesn't take much Armor-All for the reaction to take effect.
The key to the mix will be; is it slick and dry to the touch within 5-10 minutes?
If it takes 10-15 minutes longer than that, up the ArmorAll a bit.

I never did mention checkering which is an area I like to avoid rubbing for obvious reasons. 1.) you end up forcing the mix into the checkering filling it up. and 2.) I don't want to reduce the crispness of the checkering by burnishing.

I will typically spray a small amount of Armor-All into the checkering, worked in gently with a toothbrush and use a turkish towel to blot up the excess, brush a small amount of Tru-Oil over it and take a very soft brush (like a shoe brush, and buff it rather briskly. Then hand rub the excess that will fall outside the checkering.

How to fix damage to stock
Use Brownell's Acraglas. It is a fiberglass epoxy. If you mix with powdered wood (from the same piece you are fixing, if possible), it may even take a little dye or stain. Otherwise, you will have to do a "hit or miss" mixture of the brown/black dyes that come with the Acraglas. The repair will never look as good as the underlining wood, but it's better than nothing.

I would strip the stock with Citrusstrip gel first. You can buy it at Home depot in the paint area. It will take a couple applications but it works pretty good.

The superglue and saw dust thing works pretty god if you have some clean sawdust from the piece but at this point that might be pretty difficult.

Brownells sells a fiberglass resin that you can mix to fill anything you want. It comes with a brown and black dye as well so you can try to match the color to your finished piece.

You can get it here: ... S_GEL_reg_

You could do it first while the stock has a finish on it and then strip it afterwards avoiding the patched areas. If you are good with the match it will be ok. Truth be told nothing is going to be perfect once it needs repaired.
When I return to CA Monday, I’m going to try this on my headstock. Will document.
That's an interesting process. I would never have thought to try ArmorAll with it. I'll have to give it a try on some scraps. Thanks.
Results through this epic post here. This is obviously not meant for someone looking to apply another finish over the tru-oil blend.  These rifle sticks see sever weather and handling, so this is beyond sufficient for our purposes.
You mean like playing a gig in a rough and tumble roadside bar on a Saturday night? Sounds like a good finish for a guitar.

I lived in an adobe house next to one of those in Kingman. There were bullet marks in the wall facing their parking lot. I just stayed away from the windows when they got loud.
Lol where I grew up in Louisiana, there was a shooting range next to a fried chicken shack. There were exit holes from the range on one wall. Some marked the chicken shack.  :toothy12: