View Full Version : To refinish or not?
04-10-2009, 09:41 AM
Has any one tried to refinish Martini Henry? I have complete NA&A MKII made in 1880, with small b's on everthing. The sight, breachblock, lever, barrel and receiver are matching numbered. The wood is solid, and not badly beaten up, but alot of the oil finish is missing, giving it a mottled appearence. The metal is mostly devoid of blue/black having I been cleaned into the white. I will no doubt strip the stock and refinish it. (There is a light cartouch that may be the NA&A manufacturers mark. All that I can currently make out is the central Broad Arrow and WD. Hopefully the antique finish stripper will allow it to be deciphered after the heavy coat of oil is removed.) What to do with the metal? Thought about browning it? Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks much.
04-10-2009, 11:07 AM
This is an antique rifle. The mottled finish is the Patina. It is part of the history and character of the rifle.
If you remove the patina the rifle will loose some value and will look like and old refinished rifle. It will still show dents, dings and scratches. To get rid of the dents dings and scratches you will have to sand and draw file, then polish the metal. This will fade and flatten markings. When you reblue the finish will not be the same as original. In the end you will have a rifle I refer to as a Mary Tyler Moore or Phyllis Diller rifle...you like their face lifts do you?
So what should you do?
Get some cabinet makers 0000 steel wool and WD-40 and gently clean the metal. Don't scrub, just clean. Leave the patina on the rifle. It actually will protect it.
For the wood use a steam iron and steam the dents out of the wood as best you can. You can't get them all and don't try. Be careful steaming around markings.
Rub boiled linseed oil on the stock with your hand. Rub the oil hard with the heel of your hand. Make sure you have lots of oil and keep the stock wet as you rub. When you rub you should feel heat. After you have the stock rubbed down all over make one last pass with a fresh coat so the stock is wet all over. Set the stock aside for about 15 minute. Then with the type of paper napkins found in fast food restaurants wipe all the syrupy BOL of the stock. Take an old diaper, cotton tee shirt or tea-towel and rub the stock dry. Rub the stock to buff the wood. Set aside for 24 hours. Do it again every day for a week.
If the stock has a thick hard coat of old dried linseed oil the first application of BOL can be rubbed very gently with 0000 steel wool to break the surface, but don't scrub and don't scour as you can and will remove wood...dead trees don't grow. Do this only one time or only on stubborn spots.
The new BOL will float out the old oxidized and dirty finish. The stock will lighten up and you will be able to see grain. Stock markings will retain a dark contrast and you should be able to read them.
The modern cleaners are too effective and remove too much and make it difficult to read stock marks.
Here is a MK II that was picked up in Zululand back in the 70's. Not real bad, but still to dark to read the marks.
After a week of the rubbed BOL treatment this is the stock markings.
Here's a close up.
80th of Foot rack number 464.
Using modern commercial products this rifle would possibly never been identified. This $500 to $600 rifle before cleaning would still be $500 to $600 rifle after cleaning with the commercial products. With these gentler techniques and the discovery of these marks the rifles value is in the thousands.
04-10-2009, 11:57 AM
I appreciate your response and I agree with you about detriying history.
I'll be more specific with what I am facing. This is the condition that I recieved the rifle in and I have done nothing to further destroy the history of it. The patina/finish was cleaned off to the white, or bare metal, by a prior owner. There is lttle or no finnish left. If there was even a little bit left I wouldn't even consider messing with it. I may even leave it as is,in the white, even though it was stripped. Any browning, the controlled oxidation of the metal, a very old technique indeed, would be only a a means of preservation. If a restoration of the original finish was possible I might even consider attempting that. May be logistically impossible though.
As to the stock there are thick areas of old finish and there are areas with no finish. The wood is mostly smooth with only a few knocks and dings that I can llive with. The finish that reamains is very thick in spots, maybe up to a 1/32nds or so of an inch and it detracts more that the dings and bumps. Mineral sprits didn't touch the stuff. I don't wish to use any abrasives on the stock at all so as not to deteriorate any of the remaining marks.It may have an NA&A cartouche but it is partly covered with the think shinny finnish.The wood which is mostly smooth is a relief map because of the finish. There is actually less "finish" on the stock than there is clear wood. I will try and soften it with BOL as you suggest and see where that gets me.
I got the idea for the antique furniture finish remover from a different MH forum. Don't know if it will work or not, and I haven't rushed in to try it yet.
I picked up the rifle on account of the originallity of it, matching parts and numbers, and the fact that the wood, with the exception of the mottled finish was sharp and clear. I am just trying to give her back some of her former luster.
04-10-2009, 02:42 PM
Wonder if some klutz VARNISHED the stock?
04-10-2009, 03:11 PM
Seems more like varnish than old oil. Beats me though?
04-10-2009, 07:18 PM
The other thing you can do is set the stock our in the sun to soften the finish.
It's not so much "protecting history'. It's the end result. Hot dip blue and true oil on a 125 year old rifle that has little to no finish left looks worse than left alone....The old movie star with plastic surgery effect. The result is bad.
The best results are to use the least intrusive procedures first. Then work progressively using more and more aggressive measures.
Keep in mind if you remove metal and wood, metal and dead trees don't grow.
Malcolm Cobb in his book the Martini-Henry Note-book says it best. "That isn't your Martini you have. It belonged to others before you and will belong to others after you are gone. Look after it and pass it on with pride. It deserves it."
Bottom line however is it is your gun right now , you do what you want with it.
04-10-2009, 09:45 PM
I am not looking to hot blue it or put poly on the stock. I want to do nothing more than protect the bare metal and to clean up the stock. I am by trade a preservationist, although my side is with a badge and a firearm, so I got the stewardship thing down pretty well. If there is no way to clean the thick finish off the stock without using abrasive, then I'll rethink the whole thing. As to the metal I am asking about the original finish. Is it the oil dip that was used with the MLM ,MLE and SMLE rifles? Probaly can't be done, but why not ask?
04-10-2009, 10:01 PM
Th original finish was called browning and the formula for it is simply a rust bluing solution. Not the same as Lee Enfields.
04-11-2009, 08:03 AM
04-15-2009, 08:48 PM
It was varnish. Zip Strip took it off immediately with no harm to the stock. Underneath the wood was still in nice shape, with most of the imperfections having been in the thickly applied finish. Except for reapplying BLO nothing else was needed. The cartouche appears to be an NA&A but I will need to look at it with some better light and magnification.
I have no idea who put that varnish on it or why?
06-18-2009, 03:52 AM
I have a MkII MH which has been refinished. The stock has been oiled and the rifle blued. Mine also has an ivory front sight which was fitted many moons ago. I think it looks great even though i prefer the original rifles finish :thup:
09-06-2009, 04:09 PM
Just an observation. I have had several rifles through my hands that have been varnished or shellaced. Not just the wood, I mean the whole flipping rifle, metalwork et all!
Seems to have been the done thing in days past, I talked to an old timer and he told me that it was done to protect and preserve rifles that were used for hunting. He was right though about preseving, laquer thinners stripped it off easily and nicely preserved wood and metal were underneath.
09-10-2009, 03:11 PM
anzaccookies - that is ovbiously not the original finish. So, as a serious "original filth only collector" you wouldn't want to keep it.
Better give it to me!
Seriously, I think you have a peach of an M-H there! Although, as an active shooter, I would change the foresight back to the original type of blade (competition rules, y'know).
10-10-2009, 05:10 PM
I am working on the one I picked up from IMA and I am verry happy with the results so far.
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