Gunstocks often break at the wrist and many times
the cause is weakened wood due to oil soaking into the head and
wrist of the stock; over time the oiling of the barrels and
standing the gun muzzles up, lets the excess oil drain down and
seep into the wood. Much the same way water weakens
cardboard when it gets wet and then dries the oil will weaken the
New gunstock wood is
dried prior to machining. The drying process removes the water
from the wood at a cellular level. The lack of water
"moisture" makes the wood stable and hardened. Dried
wood is like a sponge, it readily absorbs moisture. The inside of
a stock head is not usually totally sealed. Years of exposure to
animal based lubricants absorb or "wick" oil into the
As the oil degrades it and turns the wood
black. Like a wet cardboard box, the cells collapse and weaken,
turning the wood "punky".
The process that gunsmiths use to remove the
oil is referred to as "leaching". This is a multi step
process utilizing several very nasty chemicals and specialized
One of the steps, referred to as "boiling
in acid" uses a superheated solution of a buffered organic Carboxyl
compound. This compound is a purifying and precipitating agent.
It literally draws out and neutralizes any existing oil. When the
wood is removed from the solution, it is completely dry and free
of oil. At this point the wood is neutralized, degreased and
stabilized to a desired moisture content.
Unlike a "salt cured wood" process,
no residual chemicals are left in the wood.
The process reverses shrinkage, raises dents
and removes dark spots. The cellular structure of the wood
expands to its original state and properties. Refinishing it is
like working with a new piece of wood.
But, if this process is not done correctly it will
virtually destroy the wood.