By Dave Henderson
A wet towel and a hot soldering iron applied over a dent will serve to raise the wood fibers and remove the dent. It will often take several applications to raise a dent.
A dent in a wooden gunstock is simply a depression in the fibers of the wood. Most minor dents are pretty easy to raise.
To remove a dent, gather a soldering iron, an old towel and a cup of water. Soak a corner of the towel in water and place the wet part over the dent, being careful not to wet the area surrounding the dent. Now, place the soldering iron on the towel directly over the dent. The heat will turn the water to steam, which will expand the compressed area.
Be careful not to hold the iron on the towel so long that it scorches the wood finish. As long as you see steam coming from the towel, you’re all right.
Repeat the procedure until the dent is fully raised. It may take three applications or it may take 20, depending on the depth of the dent, type of wood and finish, etc.
This simple application should repair about 90 percent of the dents encountered. The other 10 percent, usually larger and deeper dents, will require a little more attention and a slightly different application of the same procedure.
If you intend to refinish a stock, you can remove dents as part of the stripping/ refinishing process.
You’ll need a sealable, heatable can or jar with a top into which a 2-inch length of 1/8-inch copper tubing can be inserted and soldered in place. Hook a foot-long piece of rubber tubing over it and insert a 2-inch piece of the same copper tubing in the other end to serve as a nozzle.
With water in the can or jar, place it on a heat source to boil. This forces steam down the hose. Use the hose to apply steam directly to the center of the dent for a minute or two, and watch it heal.
This procedure will not repair a gouge where wood has actually been removed from the stock. These have to be filled with shellac or wood dust and a glue of the correct color, or by splicing in an inlay. Getting an exact match is extremely difficult, and the successful application of the process entails more luck than skill.
Raising dents on oil-finished stocks isn’t a problem. But a fancy lacquer finish may be marred by a dent, and raising it will leave a blemish. If you intend to refinish a stock, don’t bother to raise any dents, since they can be removed as part of the stripping process.
The old finish can be removed with a chemical stripper and/or sanding, But there is a process that both scrubs off the old finish and uses heat to fix any dents at the same time.
You’ll need a bucket of hot water mixed with a half-cup of bleach and a half-cup of Mr. Clean. Wear rubber gloves, and use a scrub brush to apply the solution to the stock. Rub for about five minutes, wipe the suds off with a cloth, then hold the stock over a source of heat to dry the wood.
Obviously, you don’t want to scorch the wood; just heat it enough to raise the grain. When you can’t see any more moisture on the wood, rub the entire stock with 2/0 steel wool to clean off the “whisker” and remove more of the finish. Repeat the entire process until all signs of the old finish are gone.
The process should raise most dents in the wood. Any stubborn ones can be raised with direct application of heat as outlined previously. Many stocks will be ready for final sanding after three or four applications of the solution and heat. Stubborn ones, however, will take 15-20 repetitions. Concentrate on stubborn spots. If the applications don’t bring all of the oil out, mix a little plain paint whiting and a grease solvent, and brush it on the trouble spot. Heat the spot, and when the oil comes out, wipe it away and treat the area with the whiting solution.
When all of the old finish is removed, sand the stock completely, starting with medium grade and working to very fine, then polish the wood with fine (4/0) steel wool. Now, clean the entire stock with an application of turpentine, and allow it to dry.
There are many commercial finishes available. Dem-Bart and Birchwood Casey have complete lines, including polyurethane and epoxy, but probably the best all-around finish for novices and professionals is linseed oil with fast-drying additives.
Reprinted from the October 2004 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine