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How to clean an oily gun stock

Bill Harriman advises a reader who has been given a shotgun

oily gun stock

Cleaning a gun stock

Q: I have just been given an old shotgun with a very oily stock. Is there any way of getting rid of the oil out of it? (Read more on inheriting a gun.)

Unpleasantly sticky

A: Mineral oil destroys the structure and integrity of wood, and thus it needs removing. Also, an oily gun stock is unpleasantly sticky to use and the oil can stain clothing. (Read how can I restore the shine to my gun?)

Cleaning an oily gun stock

The best way of cleaning a stock that has absorbed oil over the years is to remove it, if possible, and remove the surface oil with a cloth soaked in a solvent — petrol or meths. After this, you should dust the stock with Fuller’s earth (you can buy it from Amazon here) and put the stock in a southfacing window that gets hot when the sun shines.

The stock will warm up, and it will begin to ‘sweat’ oil that will be absorbed by the Fuller’s earth. This needs wiping off and replacing periodically until no more oil comes out. Unscented talcum powder works equally well for this. When you have removed as much oil as possible, give the stock a wipe with some meths and allow it to dry. You should have solved the problem of an oily gun stock by doing this. The stock can then be stained to taste and finished with a tiny amount of boiled linseed oil rubbed in with the ball of the hand. I have known this process to take as much as up to six weeks for a very oily stock. You will need to be persistent, and allow the oil to sweat out and keep changing the absorbent powder. (If you’re looking for gun oil recommendations, read here.)

Read more on how to choose the wood for a gun stock.