Advice Please - Fixing Cracks in Enfield Stock

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Patrick H

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He did mean the varnish (but being polyurethane the "varnish" solidifies into a plastic layer). I clarified that with him when he first mentioned it. The issue with the adhesives is getting them deep into the cracks....the super glues penetrate but they are brittle andcan't handle shock so that isn't an option.

I am definitely considering dowels (I prefer over metal pins) as an extra measure to add strength. I need to give the cracks another thorough examination (depth, direction, etc) before I commit to a repair job, for sure. Thanks for the advice....it helps to get a variety of opinions and then consider how they best apply to the specifics of the repair job.

One other thought .... I should probably test the polyurethane varnish on some scrap pieces of wood to see how well that works, since it is a rather unusual approach.
With all respect and kindness to your friend, I think you should ignore his suggestions as to the conservation of your rifle stock. He is suggesting varnish as an adhesive, which is a bad idea. Varnish is a sealer and a top coat. It is not an adhesive and it certainly wouldn't be shock resistant in this application. What it WILL do very effectively is seal the surfaces inside your cracks, so that when they open again, no glue will be able to bind to them satisfactorily. Your main options at that point will be either restocking or permanently hanging on a wall.

All of that having been said, YES, you should definitely test your varnish IN CRACKS on scrap pieces of wood. Use a chisel and light hammer blows to start multiple cris-crossing cracks down grain lines. Then drip the varnish into the cracks and clamp as best you can. When you are satisfied that it has all dried and cured, hit the test piece sharply with a hammer several times right on the end grain. You will be simulating repeated recoils of the barrel into the back of the inlet. Let us know how that goes. Most importantly, if the joints fail as I expect them to fail, try to reglue them with something else at that point and repeat the test. You will see for yourself what I am trying to convey.
 
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Yes, I understand what you are saying, so that's why I thought a test might make sense. I don't want to mess up this repair. The way I see it, I get only one chance to do it right, which is why I posted this topic. Reach out for the collective knowledge, for there are many that are wiser and more knowledgeable than I.
 
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KHyatt

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I'm not a firearms expert but I have a lot of experience preserving wood in buildings (I'm a historic architect) and restoring antique furniture. I will admit, however, that I have no experience with wood failure due to impact stresses such as in a firearm. Nevertheless, I believe the following would apply. To me, pics 3-6 are clear signs of fairly significant deterioration. I will suggest a couple of options for repairs, but if this were my piece, I would retire the stock and find a suitable replacement/reproduction.

For badly deteriorated wood, there are epoxy systems that are formulated specifically for stabilization prior to filling any cracks. The systems with which I am familiar are a two-part process. The first is an application of a penetrating epoxy "consolidant" that will gradually soak deeply into the wood fibers, even in partially rotted wood. As the name implies, this step will consolidate loose and deteriorated wood, both to prevent further damage and to provide a sound substrate for any fillers. Afterwards, epoxy fillers are applied that are formulated specifically for use in wood. These fillers can be sawn, carved, sanded and shaped to replicate even missing details, but are intended for use where there are significant voids or where wood is missing (i.e. in many old buildings). However, the fillers I'm familiar with are used for buildings where the final product will be painted. I have not used Acraglas but I assume that it is just such a filler formulated for firearms and might be appropriate. However, I don't see large voids and unless you have to create some by drilling holes for repair rods, I suggest using a combination of a wood consolidant with Acraglas. (Here's a link to the manufacturer of a wood consolidant that I've used most: https://www.abatron.com/product/liquidwood/ .) Below is another option for filling exposed cracks.

In many cases, the stresses induced by simply trying to glue and clamp tight open cracks will cause the glue to fail, be it epoxy, hide glue, or any others I've seen suggested. I have even had polyurethane glue (my go-to product for difficult jobs) fail in wood that had significant cracks (1/8" or so) that I glued and clamped, but the dry or weathered wood's "memory" eventually caused the crack to open again. In such cases, my preferred option for restoring architectural woodwork or wood furniture is to fill checking or shrinkage cracks with slivers of wood of the same species, cut to fit any voids as tightly as possible. For an important historical piece (as this weapon appears to be) I would use hide glue. Where wood filler pieces might be exposed, you can experiment with different methods of weathering new wood, even slivers, so that the color will match, or at least come close, without using stain. (If anyone wants to know of tricks to do this, let me know and I'll post later.)

Again, I have no expertise regarding how such repairs might withstand recoil, but buildings experience pretty harsh circumstances and these repair options hold up better than the original wood - I would be surprised if they didn't work on a firearm. Good luck.

BTW, I read the gun stock repair article posted by Booner. Be sure to follow that advice! (But I would still add the step of using an epoxy consolidant.)
 
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KHyatt...Thank you for your excellent post. I had already planned to follow Booner's advice. While you were posting your advice, I was out buying Titebond III, based on his recommendation, and based on considering my best options. I also am going to use dowels as the main re-inforcements to lock up everything tight and be able to withstand recoil. I had actually seen an epoxy consolidant product (what a coincidence, eh?) while I was at the store, but figured that if I used that, then I wouldn't be able to use the Titebond III. Can I use Titebond III after the epoxy consolidant? Won't it create an epoxy seal to the wood which would make the Titebond ineffective?

The cracks you see in the tang area look far worse than they are...although cracked, the wood is quite solid and its very difficult to seal the crack with strong hand pressure (I have not applied a heavy clamp force yet, to test it). None of the wood is rotted. I am quite confident that this stock can go back into active shooting service, with dowels strategically placed and solidly glued. Another question comes to mind....perhaps after doing the Titebond III with dowels, would I gain anything by then using the epoxy consolidant? Willl it fill the microscopic cracks and add strength?
 
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KHyatt

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Happy to help - if it was helpful.

Can I use Titebond III after the epoxy consolidant? Won't it create an epoxy seal to the wood which would make the Titebond ineffective?
I checked Titebond's website. Titebond III is an "advanced proprietary polymer," which I understand is still an aliphatic resin glue (commonly called "carpenter's glue"). I would still use a polyurethane glue with an epoxy consolidant. (And, I would NOT use epoxy glues - ever. I didn't make that clear earlier.) Titebond has a phone number to call and speak to a technical rep if you still have questions. I recommend that you call and ask them.

None of the wood is rotted.
If the cracks that we see in your pics are stress-related and not due to rot from oil or any other kind of deterioration, as you believe, then the consolidant is probably unnecessary. You may have just saved yourself a step.

After doing the Titebond III with dowels, would I gain anything by then using the epoxy consolidant? Will it fill the microscopic cracks and add strength?
No, the consolidant, if and when needed, should be the first step after prepping the wood by cleaning, removing oil, etc. If there is, indeed, no deterioration so that all you need to do is glue, whatever glue you use, get a long, stout hypodermic syringe and force the glue into all of the cracks as deeply as you can. Longer-acting glues will help with assembly time, if necessary, or try to break-up the gluing/clamping into two or more discreet phases.

Again, good luck with your project. Be sure to post progress notes and pics and let us know how it turns out.
 
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Believe me when I say can't @$#%*&$ wait to fire it!! Now you've got me all pumped up, so there's no point going to sleep now...too much adrenaline surging.

I glued one set of cracks last night, the ones on the lock side. Just took the clamps off 10 minutes ago. I'll try to remember to take and post a picture tomorrow. Not sure how much time I'll have tomorrow for Step 2.

Thanks again KHyatt...the extra information you posted is very helpful to all onnzthe Forum, not just me. Thanks everyone for the help, and the interest.
 
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So here is Step 1 of my repair job. This is the before picture.
20190520_214134.jpg

I used Titebond III to fix the big horizontal crack on the left. When I clamped it, it actually helped to seal the vertical crack on the left where the barrel tang seats against the vertical channel (sorry guys, I wish I knew how to add arrows to these pictures). (prior to any gluing I had tested the clamping, and surprisingly I saw that vertical crack seal so I put glue in it). Here is the picture after removing the clamps 24 hours later.
20190602_122323.jpg

Because I don't want any drilling for dowels to show externally, I have not put a dowel to reinforce the repair on the horizontal crack....I am debating whether to leave that for now or drill in a really thin dowel (so that its much easier to hide the drill hole)....any advice????? Fix now or later??. See photo below...I envision a thin dowel going down through the upper stock (immediately behind the barrel "snail") , intersecting the repaired area I described above.
20190602_122409.jpg



Beside the white paper you can see another horizontal crack (and there are a few micro-cracks behind that which you can't see). Step 2 was to eliminate those cracks. Here is the side view of those cracks (see below). I pried the larger crack (near where the barrel "snail" rests) with a small metal pick to be able to get glue in deeper. I blew through a straw to force the glue in deep. I then clamped from top to bottom. The bthin dowel I am considering inserting through here would also intersect this crack.
20190602_122546.jpg

In addition, I drilled a hole for a dowel to go in from lock side, through the cracked tang area (1st and 2nd photos above). (if you see the metal pin at middle bottom, I drilled a hole about 2/3rds of the way above that, within the lock cutout. The 3/16" dowel was being inserted through the cracked tang block. By using the dowel to force glue in, glue came out through the middle vertical crack in the tang block (see 1st photo). I then clamped this from the sides. I cut the dowel a bit short so I can insert original Enfield wood to hide the dowel. Next photo shows the clamps. Tomorrow I hope to tackle the left side of the stock and any remaining cracks within the barrel channel/tang area.
LESSONS LEARNED: I am glad that I really strategically planned each stage of this repair job. Doing it all at once would have been impossible, therefore it was necessary to fix some cracks before others or they would be harder/impossible to fix later. Prying the wood, and testing the clamping to see how the cracks seal/don't seal was very informative in deciding the sequence of repair.
20190602_221551.jpg
 
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Patrick H

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You are doing a methodical job. Yes, it is always important to "dry run" a proposed clamping job to make sure it will work within the glue's open time. I sincerely hope everything stays fixed. If a glue joint fails it probably won't be the fault of the glue. It'll probably be fouling or oxidation in the cracks which keep the glue from bonding. I hope you don't run into that.
 
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Hi all...a progress update. First of all let me say that the varnish finish on my stock wasn't original (Enfields were oio finished, right?) So while I was cleaning out epoxy from the cracks, I decided to clean out the varnish in the area of the repair. This is what it looked like after cleaning the cracks thoroughly...

20190606_222236.jpg


20190606_073452.jpg
 
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And here it is after using Titebond III. I filled the cracks with a bit of sawdust from the stock (obtained when I drilled a dowel hole, earlier in the repair). It needs some more filllng, and I am tempted to sand the wood to level it where there is uneven mating of the cracks. Should I sand it? Can I get an antique finished look, after stripping the entire stock of varnish (using alcohol and 0000 steel wool). If yes, is there a good product for that? Or should I go for the boiled linseed finish so that the gun looks like it did 157 years ago?
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Patrick H

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It looks pretty good to me, I would not worry about a little lightening of the stock color. I can tell you are only cleaning the surface finish. The pores are still sealed, etc. I think that's good. After your crack repair, you can either lighten it overall and then recolor gently, or touch it up in specific areas.
 
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I was surprised to find things that were hidden by the varnish. I found a W.H mark on the left cheek, that is the same as the mark I found under the trigger tang. Even better, I found the initials LW that had been neatly pin-pricked into the left cheek. Amazing!! These marks were not visible before...believe me, I had closely inspected the stock for markings at least a half dozen times before. So I am very tempted to remove all the varnish and see whatvelse I can find, rather than try to match the existing non-original finish where I did the repair work. Although I like the reddish brown finish, the varnish is thick and glossy and I don't like that look...plus the varnish has a lot of shiny little.metal.particles in it, when you look closely, like somebody got some metal dust contamination into the varnish when they applied it.
20190607_173547.jpg
 

Patrick H

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I would NOT sand it. At least not in the usual way. If you use a sanding block, you'll level it, but it'll stand out like a sore thumb. There are lots of potential strategies, but I can't say which to try without seeing the stock and holding it in my hands.

With regard to cleaning: Before you use any steel wool, try denatured alcohol on cotton balls. You will be amazed at the grime that can be cleaned that way. But here's the proviso: Every such step that you take moves your antique another drastic step away from original condition.

You have gone this far, and I can't tell you what to do with your rifle. If it were mine, I'd clean the varnish off (without abrasives) and then I'd consider lightly recoloring.
 
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So I worried about sanding to make.the surfaces match, for that very reason. So you think its a mistake? If its going to create a blotchy looo, I won't. Alas, steel wool and alcohol took everything off. The alcohop alone was taking forever and still leaving so much dull and opaque "finish" on it, it looked really bad. I guess I have no.choice but to clean he entire stock in same way?

I was.dissappointed at first cuz I didn't expect so much of the colour to come off, but it wasnt original.anyway and so that thought made me.feel better. somebofy had posted the tip about using 0000 steel.wool, but i had no.idea just how much it would take off.....sigh....
 
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Patrick H

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I don't blame you for wanting to remove the varnish, but you need patience. I don't think you need steel wool.
 
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Oops...well,.the only way to get the rest of the stock to match now is to use steel.wool everywhere. Let me.explain....its not just varnish, or so it seems to me Whoever tried repairing it with epoxy applied some.opaque finish and then varnjsh it seems. The varnish on the forestock is fairly clear. On the cheek and buttstock there appears to be something opaque. So, the varnish comes off but then there is opaque layer below. Here's a picture that shows, from left to.right, the area I cleaned with steel wool, then de-varnished atea (alcohol only), then the untouched varnish. Any advice based on the picture?
20190603_234447.jpg
 
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