Walnut Stock Finishing Problem with Danish Oil

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Forum topic by Sneeze posted 01-26-2015 09:30 PM 5417 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 1422 days

01-26-2015 09:30 PM

After spending about a month trying different things with this project I am at my wits end and I have turned to the interweb for some advice regarding the problem I am having.

I am attempting to finish a gun stock with Watco Danish Oil using a technique that I have been very successful with in the past.

I hope somebody on this forum has the expertise to guide me in the right direction.

Brief description of what I have done so far:

I started with a perfectly stripped and sanded to 220 piece of walnut. Applied Watco – wet sanded at 320, completely wiped off after approximately 30 minutes and repeated after dry until I was satisfied with pore fill results.
Began moving up through grains, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500. Each step was wiped dry 30 minutes or so after application. Always left 24 hours before moving up in sand paper #. The stock turned out beautifully with a great hand rubbed satin/semi gloss look (exactly what I was after). Except….

The problem I encountered is on one side of the stock there is an area of very dense (I think) grain. You can see it in the picture I have attached to this post. It is the darker area on the main gunstock. It takes up a great deal of the surface area on the butt of the stock on the left side. No matter what I do, I can not remove the sanding lines from this area. As soon as the grain changes on other areas of the stock the lines disappear. They are not witness lines. I can somewhat hide the lines if I wet sand 2000 & 2500 in a circular motion, however I have found this creates an uneven gloss. I have not been able to capture the lines in a picture, they are only visible when you rotate the stock so the glare is in your eyes.

I stripped the finish back to 320 grit and attempted again under the assumption I had not completely removed scratches from a previous grit before jumping up in grit. The problem repeated itself. I attempted the project all over again, this time using steel wool and working up to 0000. The problem occurred again (but worse).

My next step is to try and working back up through the grits (at 600 again now), going all the way to 3000 then attempting to use a automotive rubbing compound after I let it dry for a week or so. I worry about going this route as my understanding is automotive rubbing compounds are water based, I fret getting some moisture under the finish. Has anybody tried this? Would creating a pumice/oil mixture work better as a polishing compound?

Do any of you fine folks have any guidance or wisdom you can provide me to get rid of these lines! I was pontificating doing a surface build approach (wetting the stock, letting it dry then sanding), but my attempts in the past to build a finish like this have not provided the results I expected, plus if I can see the lines now, burying them in finish will probably not hide them?

I know zero about wood finishing, my brain is an empty bucket. I welcome any advice and guidance you may have.

Thank you very much in advance.

3 replies so far

View OSU55's profile


1978 posts in 2196 days

#1 posted 01-26-2015 10:22 PM

Best guess is that they may be witness lines. A close up pic of the area may help. Watco does not build much film thickness at all. The tight grain will not absorb much of the finish. I’m guessing the more open grain areas are creating a bit of film, but there is less film over the tight grain, and when you wet sand you go through the thinner film (if any) of the tight grain.

The standard for gun stocks has been an alkyd varnish like True Oil, which does build film thickness much more than Watco. Alkyd varnishes “burn in” (melt together) some if done within a time window, so no witness lines occur, and are better than poly varnishes in that respect. I suspect you will continue to have this issue with Watco. I recommend you try either True oil, or Sherwin Williams has an alkyd varnish, I think it’s called fast dry, which is essentially the same as True oil, but probably a lot cheaper. Lightly sanding the cured Watco with 600 or so, I believe you could start with the other alkyd varnish. I recommend 2-3 thin coats, then start sanding back, wet or dry. Y ou need a bit of a base so you don’t sand through to the wood.

I use automotive products (meguiar’s) to do the final rubbing out when I want a super polished finish. I always found wet/dry paper and the polishing products superior to any of the pumice/rottenstone/etc stuff – that was the way to do it before wet/dry paper and polishing compounds. There’s nothing magic about the stuff.

View Sneeze's profile


2 posts in 1422 days

#2 posted 01-26-2015 10:57 PM

Thank you for the response.

I carefully considered them being witness lines – what made me lean away from that was the lines appeared the instant I applied oil to the wood for the first time, and remained during the pore filling (repeated coats at 320 grit – not letting the finish build)

After each time I step up in grit the lines become finer. At 2500 they are pretty faint – but still visible enough to make me want to spray paint the thing.

I will see if I can take some better photographs of the lines tonight. It will break my heart if they are witness lines, not sure how the checkering will react to another round of stripping!

Does Danish oil have the same ability to “burn in”?

Thank you.

View OSU55's profile


1978 posts in 2196 days

#3 posted 01-27-2015 12:44 PM

Watco is essentially a diluted urethane varnish with a higher oil %. Within ~ 24 hrs it probably burns in a little. It will build a film thickness eventually, but that film will be somewhat soft compared to other varnishes.

Since the lines are showed up when the oil was applied, I agree they are not witness lines. I’ve worked with burly, crotchety grained walnut. A lot of times very small cracks show up in the grain. Also, the tight grain is a lot harder and sands more slowly. It’s possible you are seeing scratches left over from 80 or 100 grit sanding (don’t know where you started). After sanding did you remove all sanding dust? That dust is your friend with this type of finish process.

Is the gun to be a show piece? Sometimes you have to take what you can get. Though visible at just the right angle with the right light, if the finish is level and feels flat and level, it will not be noticed. Most of the time we focus on a small imperfection we know about that no one else will ever notice. The watco is not the best choice for this. Because of the thin soft film it is more difficult to get a flat finish but it can be done. It will just take longer.

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