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992B Offline OP
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It also might be the reason the inside of the wood was left unfinished, was that nobody had ever finished the wood on the inside. It just wasn't done, and that was the traditional way.

Gunmakers were, and are, conservative. How long did it take recoil pads to become standard equipment on cheaper guns? They still don't come on the finest guns.

My father planted oats on a certain patch of twenty acres. He owned a threshing machine, and a binder, and every spring he'd plant that field to oats, and when the oats were ready to harvest, the entire community came over and the men cut the oats and bound them, hauled them to the thresher, threshed the oats, and trucks hauled the oats to town where they were sold for nearly nothing. Every other crop my father planted, he had ground up for feeding his hogs and cattle, except the oats.


I asked my father why he planted oats on that twenty acres.

He thought a minute, and said that the family used to need those oats to feed the horses, years ago.

But even though we hadn't used horses since World War Two, he said we'd always planted oats there, and he didn't see any need to stop planting oats there, because it was the oat field.

Maybe the same reasoning left the insides of the wood unfinished.

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Planned obsolesence as a theory for lack of interior stock finish is ridiculous.

Why anyone has to ask questions that simply will never be answered by someones theories a hundred or two years later brings out these foolish speculations. There is this kind of drivel in Burrard's writings and he could have actually asked someone!

Surely anyone who hand made a sidelock to the best quality he knew how, with many generations passing their best knowledge and experience of creating quality was Not advance planning for the stock to fail.

Stating, "the number of guns that we assume to have 'original' stocks is far smaller than generally thought." Is pure speculation from someone who should know better.

These unanswerable questions mainly come down to, "they just didn't consider it important".

Last edited by SDH-MT; 04/03/18 05:47 PM. Reason: edit
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992B, that is probably about the best explanation anyone's going to come up with. After all, aren't we all usually most comfortable with the status quo rather than change?


If we feed our faith our fears will starve, if we feed our fears our faith will starve.
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Most furniture is finished only on the outside exposed surfaces. Open up a chest of drawers made 100 years ago or 200 years ago and clearly there was no finished used on the inside surfaces. It seems finish is only needed on surfaces exposed to the elements.

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Maybe, stock makers and furniture makers of a hundred years ago didn't ever worry about having to use questionable wood. There was always an endless supply of stable old growth hard woods. I think light sealers such as shellac was probably used here and there, but if stocks weren't holding up, they probably would've figured out why and fixed it. Maybe, the process wasn't broken.

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Wood can absorb and emit water vapor. Perhaps the makers didn't have kiln dried wood and further felt that wood should breathe. Leaving the interior unsealed could be considered an aid to longevity?


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Perhaps the stock maker feared that the finish available at the time, would flake off and foul the locks?
Natural wood, sealed by the lock plate would be enough protection?

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Originally Posted By: 992B
Rather than take over the thread on how to seal old doubles when restocking or refinishing, I've wondered for many years why the careful makers of fine old double guns didn't seal the insides of the wood at all where they were inlet to the stock or under the fore end iron, or at the end of the butt stock.

Maybe the really best guns did seal the hidden parts of the wood, but I've never seen an original old double gun, ever have any sealant or finish on the hidden insides of the wood, that I've ever taken apart.


Was it merely economy of manufacture?

Or was there some arguable reason they didn't?

Any information or opinions on this would be much appreciated.


The sealing of wood on the inside was not done because it was not needed.

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Originally Posted By: KY Jon
Most furniture is finished only on the outside exposed surfaces. Open up a chest of drawers made 100 years ago or 200 years ago and clearly there was no finished used on the inside surfaces. It seems finish is only needed on surfaces exposed to the elements.


Pause and consider the world of about 1900, those guns and furniture and other finished wood articles were born to.

The Morgans and the Vanderbilts, didn't have air conditioning, and had no way to regulate the humidity in their homes in the summer. The wealthiest people with electricity might have had a small electric fan. In the winter, wood and coal heat sapped the humidity out of the indoor air. Gun safes, were closets. Closets, often were pieces of furniture called wardrobes.

Guns were transported to the fields and trap arenas in carriages, buggies, on horseback, and on railroad cars. The best express cars were heated, but none were cooled or humidity regulated.

If there ever was a need to seal wood on the inside of furniture and gun stocks to the elements, our great great grandfathers had a reason to do it. The biggest difference between where the furniture and the guns slept and the outside was there was no rain, snow, or bitter cold inside homes.

Maybe, it was such a losing battle they didn't make the attempt. Super glue and polyurethanes were way in the future, and mostly they had boiled linseed oil, shellac, lacquer, and varnish, to finish the outsides of the wood. Those weren't really true sealers against the elements, even had they finished the inside of the wood.

And also consider the care that had to be given to any firearm that survived in decent shape for us to own. All ammo was corrosive. Synthetic gun oils didn't exist. When a gun got wet, it had to be taken apart and inside from the wet, and dried out and oiled, or it became a rusted mess.

Even forty years ago, well into the WD 40 era, when I was away at college for even a month or so, rust might start to bloom on the metal parts of my guns hanging in a farm house with no air conditioning, and wood heat in the winter.

So not only did it save labor and money to leave the insides of the wood products unfinished, and it was the traditional way to do it, even if our ancestors had tried to seal the insides, they didn't have the ability then, to even seal the outsides of the wood. The finish, was just that, a finish given to the walnut, pretty to look at, and not anymore proof to the elements than the owners.

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Originally Posted By: 992B
....consider the care that had to be given to any firearm that survived in decent shape for us to own. All ammo was corrosive. Synthetic gun oils didn't exist. When a gun got wet, it had to be taken apart and inside from the wet, and dried out and oiled, or it became a rusted mess....

....So not only did it save labor and money to leave the insides of the wood products unfinished, and it was the traditional way to do it, even if our ancestors had tried to seal the insides, they didn't have the ability then, to even seal the outsides of the wood....

Bubba does get into guns here and there, but I'm not so sure antique guns are so delicate. I believe a careful and qualified takedown cleaning was the rare exception rather than the rule for surviving antique and other classic sporting arms. When it comes to labor and money, I believe this was an era of small shops hammering out rough damascus stock that require multiple more labor intensive steps to become barrels. Then, the gunmaker was just getting started with a pile of rough materials. Most engraving was trade work. It could be a consideration that the relative cost of labor was nowhere near as significant as it is today.

Best guns were a definite classification cut above, but compared to what's demanded today, fit and finish of classic guns is often expedient. Wood swelling, shrinkage and slight gaps around inletting seems to have been understood and accepted by customers. Very poor grain in the wrist of many modern best guns seems to be a modern demand of some modern concepts of aesthetics, and likely not what a trade worker might have done a hundred plus years ago.

New growth clear cut stumps rot away relatively quickly. Old growth logs can sit in a river for a hundred and fifty years, get drug out by a good old boy, and sawn into pristine stock that sells for a multi times premium over standard hardwood stock. I'm not saying I mind at all that someone decides to use modern sealers on the head of their stock, but if I can spot signs of it, that sends up red flags in my mind about why it was done and what else was fiddled with.

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