100% pure, de-waxed/de-gummed tung oil is a superb, easy to use finish. It can be touched up ad infinitum. It cleans easily. It protects the wood from all sorts of perils. Just make sure you go to a good wood working shop to buy it. Do not get it at a hardware or big box retailer.
BTW, same goes true of shellac. Buy the de-waxed flakes and make your own using denatured alcohol. Waaaay better than store bought ready mix.
In the UK they use Tung Oil for the "internal" wood and a Carnauba Wax and Boiled Linseed Oil mix for the "outside" wood (some Japan Drier is added to speed up curing time).
The Tung oil is great for protecting the wood, but the wax allows for a 'hand rubbed' finish that is to die for... It can take 75 coats or more, where Tung Oil (at least on the inside) can be 'one and done.'
Avoid paste wood fillers like the plague! They obscure the coloring in the wood, wreak havoc on checkering tools and - unless used with a varnish-type finish to hold it in place - will eventually fall out of the pores.
If the pores are exceptionally large and deep, as they are in the poorer grades of river bottom black walnut, use the wood itself as a filler by sanding the finish when wet, then letting it dry, then repeat until the pores are filled with the wood's own sawdust.
If the wood is fine grained, just apply the finish to penetrate, then rub down with steel wool after drying for as many coats as it takes to get that beautiful sheen. You'll know when enough is enough...
Linseed oil finishes will darken over time. They have an ability to react and stain if repeatedly exposed to other dark petroleum products if left on the finish for any short length of time. You've got to keep it clean.
They have a nice yellow highlight to the final finish. The better the grade of oil the lighter the high lights will be when its done.
With both Linseed and Tung oil, you have to repeatedly finish sand your project between coats as it will swell and raise the grain structure of the wood. Its nothing to worry about its just the way it works. You need to put on many repeated coats and then sand and tack between each one. The wood acts like a sponge and soaks up a tremendous amount of the oil before you can get it to build up. Many, many coats are needed to build it up to create a protective barrier. Its not really the best wood protection but it sure looks good.
Tung oil works the same way and the only difference is that it will be lighter than the Linseed oil. Both Linseed and Tung will give the figure in the grain of the wood lots of pop but Tung will show the highlights better on dark wood.
Light areas will be less yellow and more towards the yellow/white.
WARNING: If you use any of the oil dryers that are available to the public or for pro use, they are very hazardous and very toxic. Wear a respirator mask, not a dust mask and do it in a very well ventilated area. DO NOT get this stuff on your hands, its a carcinogenic they contain toxic metals. WEAR GLOVES.
There are many other options for finishing other than a good ol fashioned oil finish.
Conversion varnish is absolutely durable and impervious to about all known solvents. Its hard a a rock but should be applied by someone with the proper equipment like a spray booth etc. Its also very toxic but one of the best finishes out there for a wide variety of applications. It has wight issues meaning that you can only spray it until it builds up to a maximum level like around 4 mils. If it is sprayed on to heavy beyond the wight limit, it will spider and craz and will sometimes blush ( milky ). As long as you know how to use it its one of the most durable. It will look like its dipped in glass when properly applied and buffed.
Polyurethane and Polyester finishes do not have weight issue and make fine gun stock finishes if using the chemically cross linked types. UV curing is also good if you know where you can get it performed. We have a UV oven in our shop and its an expensive piece of equipment. Not everyone has UV curing or can afford it. The chemically cross linked versions are hard as a rock and last a life time. These finishes are very glossy like deep water.
Chemically cross linked Nitrocell Lacquer is also an extremely durable finish similar to Polyurethane and Polyester. Not to be confused with the conventional type which is too soft for gun stocks. It will also look like its dipped in glass when properly executed. It is tough as nails.
All of the chemically cured finishes are very hard and very durable. While they are or can be expensive, they are stunning. You can not get a good finsh product from a spray can. The proper equipment is required to apply this stuff and most of them will kill you if you breath in enough of them. Be careful with any of this stuff.
I build custom bass guitars for a living and we also finish anything made of wood. The other side of our shop is dedicated to all aspects of wood crafting and cabinetry. We also have a $100,000 CNC router.
We've finished so many high end gun stocks, I've lost count.
Yes I have previously used Permalyn.
It is a polyurethane and costs about $30 a quart.
Polyurethane is a plastic resin.
Its solids content is not as high as I like to use as it takes more work to build it up and achieve a closed pore finish. It has a nice quality semi-luster when buffed to that level of sheen. Its not bad but there is better stuff out there that is easier to work with, faster and builds up more rapidly. In my opinion its good but not great. If I didn't have a shop or access to other professional grade chemicals I'd use it.
Some of the stuff that I use has a very high solids content and will shine like liquid glass with minimal buffing required, I guess I am kind of spoiled in that respect.
zeroed4x, I have been using Permalyn, and yeah, it isn't cheap. I didn't know it would be classified as a polyurethane. Last stock I finished took 90 coats of Permalyn. I use and automotive touch-up gun on the last 10 coats. What can I use that builds up faster but has similar qualities that I would have access to? I don't want to use any two part mixes. Permalyn is the best I have found to date.
Jerry P wrote : ------------
"" " I have been using Permalyn, and yeah, it isn't cheap. I didn't know it would be classified as a polyurethane. Last stock I finished took 90 coats of Permalyn. I use and automotive touch-up gun on the last 10 coats. What can I use that builds up faster but has similar qualities that I would have access to? I don't want to use any two part mixes. Permalyn is the best I have found to date. " ""
Jerry I wish I had a magic bullet for you as far as premixed or all in one solutions to wood finishes but I have never seen any and I do not believe that they exist.
Evaporative/air dry products will cure from the top layer down.
Ever touch something you thought was dry to the touch but it then left a finger print imprint? That's again because it is drying as the chemicals flash off.
This takes too much time and waiting 12-24 hours between coats is ridiculous.
Most of these off the shelf products do not fully cure for weeks or even months after they have been applied. Good Polyurethane and Polyesters always require 2 or more parts. This is because they cure / dry from the wood surface to the top of the coat that you've just applied. They do this through chemical reaction of the two or more parts that are mixed at the time of application.
The problem is that, to use a product that has high solids content, that will build fast, fill the grain and rapidly create a close pore finish also requires you to use 2 or 3 chemicals to make this happen.
The base chemical you are going to use will require you to also use a catalyst to function. You will also need to cut or thin the mixture with just about anything that is a high build product. They can be quite viscus and hard to spray.
Its not really difficult to mix them in the proper proportions, you simply need accurate see through plastic measuring cups or a cheap $10.00 digital scale.
Some products also have accelerators which can also be mixed to aid in the curing process. Most will fully cure even without the accelerators from 40 minutes to 4 hours.
BTW, Permalyn is absolutely a polyurethane product. It is a Permalyn resin base which is a generic term used for a product developed by Eastman Kodak years ago for making carrier sheets, film bases, laminates and other plastic resin based products.