method of applying Tru-Oil or Tung-Oil

Discussion in 'Technical Questions & Information' started by wpshooter, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. wpshooter

    wpshooter Member

    Jul 21, 2009
    A friend of mine was telling me that when he applied either Tru-Oil or Tung-Oil when refinishing old gunstocks that he would use a cotton ball wrapped inside of a piece of woman's hose/stockings. He said that this worked great for applying the liquid to the stock's surface.

    Has anyone tried this ?

    If so, is this a good method of applying the Tru-Oil to the gunstock ?

  2. carver

    carver Moderator Supporting Member

    I have used the sponge that comes with the tung oil, but I mostly just use a rag. Never tried your friends method.

  3. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    I use my fingers. hand rubbed is the best way anyway. tru oil is rather sticky and will streak if you use anything 'uniform'. Handrubbing helps it 'soak' into the wood evenly.
  4. Bindernut

    Bindernut Well-Known Member

    Oct 24, 2007
    ND, USA
    That nylon-wrapped cotton ball (or nylon wrapped gauze pad) works pretty good. The nylon keeps 99% of the cotton lint from gluing itself down to the workpiece. You will still get the occasional piece of fuzz stuck to the wood though.
    If you can't find any good lint-free rags, it's a good substitute.
    That's how my high school shop teacher taught us to apply oil finishes (tung, boiled linseed, any oil) and I've used it a few times although now I usually swab the oil on with a disposable foam brush.

    Now, like JLA posted, Tru-Oil is pretty thick stuff so the swab method might not work quite as good with it.
    That's the one thing that has always shied me away from using Tru-Oil... A thinner finish will allow for better penetration into the wood than a thick one.
    Even "old" Formby's Tung oil starts to get a little thicker than I like and I will cut it with a little turpentine to keep it about the same consistency as when it's fresh.

    With any oil finish, you wanting it to soak into the wood not build-up on the surface like a varnish/shellac. The sheen from a good rubbed oil finish comes from the burnishing of the grain between coats. How much sheen depends on how much you want to to rub it out and how fine of an abrasive that you finish up with.
  5. wpshooter

    wpshooter Member

    Jul 21, 2009

    Do you find that you get a good thin & even application with the foam brush, i.e. no runs or build-up dimples ?

    Does the use of foam brush work as well with Tung-oil & poly as it does with Tru-oil ?

    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
  6. goofy

    goofy Well-Known Member

    Feb 7, 2011
    I have always used my finger to apply tru-oil starting with circular motion to work in the oil then with the grain to smooth it out.I lightly sand with 1200 grit wet-dry paper between coats.I put on up to 10 coats before I am done.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
  7. Bindernut

    Bindernut Well-Known Member

    Oct 24, 2007
    ND, USA
    I have used a foam brush for the initial 1st-coat "soak" application with both Danish Oil and Tung Oil finishes, but I'll always wipe it down with a lint-free rag for the final wipe down before setting it aside to dry.
    After I've got one coat on a piece of wood, then I'll use just a rag to apply the finish with wet-or-dry sandpaper or steel wool to final wipe and polish those coats.

    The thing I don't like about foam brushes is they tend to shed those little foam boogers at the most inopportune times. Otherwise, yeah they do a decent job for applying oil-type finishes.

    How's your project coming along?
  8. CHW2021

    CHW2021 Well-Known Member

    Feb 16, 2009
    I have to agree with hand rubbed, less waste if nothing else as you do not have to soak the applicator. I use cheap mechanics gloves and hand rub on the finish, I have found that I get a more even coat with less fibers. Also, I have found that the finish goes on much quicker and seems more even as you can really feel any thin or heavy spots.
  9. wpshooter

    wpshooter Member

    Jul 21, 2009

    Certainly not perfect but sure am doing some learning.

    First, I am one of those perfectionist persons.

    I am about to make my third attempt at this, once I have decided what procedures & finish brand and application method I am going to use on the 3rd attempt.

    Here is a short synopsis of this adventure so far.

    I started off 1st attempt by applying several coats of Tru-Oil using my finger tip and letting it dry 24 hours between each coating. I did NOT do anything to the finish after it was dried between coats per the recommendation on another forum. Turned out fairly nice but I did not like the fact that it was so GLOSSY, so I attempted to cut down the amount of gloss by using the Birchwood Casey sheen conditioner. But when I attempted to do that, I really did not like the result. Finish was then too flat and also the white coloring of the sheen/conditioner was showing in some of the pore/lines of the wood.

    So I stripped it back down to bare wood and finely re-sanded.

    I started off 2nd attempt by applying several coats of Tru-Oil using my finger tip but this time I applied in a circular motion and then wiped (with my finger) the Oil out smooth in the direction of the grain after I had worked it well into the grain. This attempt turned out again fairly well EXCEPT on each coating, when I looked at it after each coating had dried overnight, I had invariably somehow missed a small spot or two and had to go back with more application to cover the areas that I had missed. When I finally got it to where I was fairly well satisfied, I still did not like the high gloss that the Tru-Oil yielded. So, I then attempted to apply some SATIN polyurethane over top of the Tru-Oil, to attempt to cut down on the high gloss. I found out that the polyurethane does not apply as easily as the Tru-Oil because it tends to dry so fast that you do not have time to smooth it out evenly on the surfaces before it started to dry/gets tacky. So I wound up with finger prints and streaks in the finish (especially on the buttstock area). I then purchased some Formby's tung-oil (low gloss) and attempted to coat with that to cover the streaks and finger prints and although it went on better than the polyurethane, it still did not go on as well as the Tru-Oil. After polishing the entire stock with some cheese cloth, what I wound up with was a finish coating that was about the correct gloss/shine that I wanted but I still had some minor finger prints / streaking on the buttstock area and the coating on the under side of the pistol grip was not very even (had sort of a patchy look to it). The finish on the entire surface of the forearm was just perfect. If I could have got the buttstock and the pistol grip like I had the forearm, I would have been satisfied. But since the entire thing was not up to my standards, I stripped it down again. That is where I am now, trying to decide what my next attempt should be.

    I am sort of thinking about trying a spray-on version of the SATIN or the semi-gloss polyurethane but I am not sure about whether I could get that to come out without having runs and dimples in the finish or whether I could apply it in good even coatings.

    Am very open to suggestions at this point.

    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
  10. Bindernut

    Bindernut Well-Known Member

    Oct 24, 2007
    ND, USA
    Take a look at the three pics I posted at the bottom of this thread.
    Are you looking to get a kinda of satin sheen like in picture #3? The same, glossier, or duller?

    For starters, you've already got a good Tru-Oil base soaked into the wood so an initial "soaker" coat will not be needed.
    Also, having applied a coat of poly varnish over the top you've already started a built-up sealer finish on the wood.
    Short of some pretty aggressive material removal (sanding) to make sure you've gotten rid of all the poly it will be hard to do any more Tru-Oil or tung oil finishing on the wood since the oil will no longer soak into the wood or blend with the initial Tru-Oil coat. It'll just build up on top of that poly varnish.
    If you thin the Tru-Oil or tung oil with some turpentine or mineral spirits you can melt down the poly finish and blend it with the new coat of oil finish by wet-sanding with the thinned oil finish. The blending result is hit or miss though.

    I kinda have a hunch that the best way to finish up what you've got will be with a poly varnish on top of your current finish. A spray-on finish might be a good method...go for several thinner coats to minimize build-up. Let dry between coats and knock down any rough areas with 0000 steel wool to scuff for the next coat. If the coats get too thick, the finish will just wind up looking like the nasty thick varnish finish that Remington used for years on their stocks.

    That third pic I posted was 4 coats of Watco Danish Oil, which applies like fresh (thin) Formby's Tung Oil. Tru-Oil is kinda thick (like "old" tung oil), and I honestly can't say for sure how well it would work for a wet sand finish without drying and streaking as you're working.
    Initial wood prep was 400-grit dry sanding...but this was raw wood so you can bypass this step.
    First coat was a heavy soaker coat...wet-sanded with 600-grit and oil finish. Wiped down with a lint-free frag after I was done sanding. It was set aside to dry for a couple days.
    Second coat was applied lighter. Again 600-grit wet sanded. Just enough oil was applied to keep the surface wet as I was sanding it. This makes a paste of sawdust and oil finish that will fill in the pores and open grain. Once done sanding and before it has a chance to start to set up, I wiped it down with a rag to remove the excess "paste" and set it aside to dry.
    Third coat was applied the same as #2 except I used 800-grit for the wet sanding. Set aside to dry for a couple days afterwards again.
    Final coat was another wet-sand coat except using 0000 steel wool instead of sandpaper. This required more oil since a lot of it soaked into the steel wool. Wiped down very good with a rag being careful to not leave any streaks.
    Last step was to finish seal it with a coat of Watco's Satin Wax (the same as the Birchwood Casey Gun Stock Wax). Let the wax dry and buff to bring out the sheen. If there are little white streaks in the wax, then you've either got rough spots in the wood surface (unfilled wood pores) or just an excessive buildup of the wax on the surface that can be rubbed out.

    The Birchwood Casey Stock Sheen and Conditioner is a wax-type sealer product like their Gun Stock Wax, except it also has some pumicestone grit in it to polish down the surface from a glossy surface to satin.
    I do have a bottle of this stuff in my cabinet. Local store was out of Watco's Wax and I bought this from the hardware store...didn't notice it had the pumice in it until after I was at home. I did try it out on a small scrap of wood though just to see what it would do. Basically, it acts about like a 1200 or 1500-grit oil wetsand finish. Nice and smooth but enough tooth to knock the glossy surface off.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
  11. myfriendis410

    myfriendis410 Member

    Mar 30, 2011
    Lompoc California
    I am in the process of finishing a stock on a pre-64 Model 70. After I recut the checkering I went to the Tru-Oil. This is my preferred material for stock finish. It is relatively insensitive to solvents when cured, which makes it a good choice on a rifle (which might get gun solvent on it).

    After sanding with 400 grit wet-or-dry, a THIN coat is applied with a gloved finger and allowed to set. Another coat is applied the same way. Cure for five days to allow for shrinkage and another sanding with 400 grit, then two more finger-applied coats. Once I have enough build, a VERY light sanding with 400 grit to knock down any irregularities then a rub down with 0000 steel wool. Finally a wipe down with pure boiled linseed oil and wiped off with a lint free cloth. This might be repeated to regularize the surface if necessary. Allow ample time to cure between applications. The result for me is a nice satin-like finish.
  12. langenc

    langenc Active Member

    Oct 23, 2009
    Montmorency Co, MI
    When doing Tru-oil with rags, brushes cotton balls etc all they do is soak up a half spoonful or so (depending on size) and wasting it.

    TO is sticky on the fingers. It can easily be removed from hands with spirits, lacquer thinner ar couple doses of soap and HOT water.
  13. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    I have always used my hand. No stray fibers because I am not a cotton picker, though I have been called something close from time to time.

  14. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

    Jan 11, 2010
    toothbrush( kiddies type) user here
  15. wpshooter

    wpshooter Member

    Jul 21, 2009
    Hmmmmmmmm, I hadn't thought of that !!!

    Do you have any problem with the bristles leaving markings/lines/streaks in the coating of Tru-OIl ?

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