>How much damage can you really do with 0000 steel wool and oil, anyway?
You'd be surprised. I understand that monetary value of the firearm might not be a big deal to you or your family simply because the shotgun has more sentimental value than anything else, but after you strip the original bluing and replace it with cold blue, the value of the firearm just received a swift kick to the mouth.
If you're going to try to restore your Grandpa's shotgun, do it right. Here's typically how I go about refinishing old guns.
To begin, you first need to strip the original bluing off the metal parts chemically so you don't inadvertently over-work certain areas of the metal with abrasives like steel wool or sandpaper; once you blue it, some areas might end up looking shinier or more dull than others. If you've removed the bluing successfully, go ahead and finish the metal however you want, but I recommend using OO-OOOO steel wool. Use long strokes, going from muzzle to breach on barrels, and from breach to where the stock mates on receivers. Just keep everything going in the same direction. For military rifles, consider sand blasting.
From this point on, you will not handle bare metal with un-gloved fingers.
After your material is prepped, you'll need to de-grease your parts. Not like, spray your parts with carb cleaner de-grease. Like, scrubbing everything with a toothbrush and fresh lacquer thinner until the lacquer thinner running off your parts looks like it's unused. These parts need to be *clean*.
Okay, so assuming your metal is all prepped correctly, let's talk about bluing. First thing's first on old guns with value, don't even think about cold bluing the parts. Cold blue is a really thin coating prone to scratching and corrosion. It's fine for little parts like screws and stuff, but it's no good for receivers, barrels, magazines, etc. Search google for "slow rust bluing", this will yield the best, and more importantly the most period-correct results. The process is too long for me to do a good write-up about it here.
So, if your metal is blued, oiled, and you're happy with it, let's move on to the wood. As a rule of thumb here, all wood finishes from Home Depot are garbage, but you can mix up some pretty good stuff with ingredients from Home Depot or Lowes or whatever. First, de-grease your wood like you de-greased the metal parts, you'll be surprised how much crap the wood has soaked up over the past 80 years. Just like with the metal parts, after the wood is de-greased, it is not allowed to touch your skin, so get some clean latex or nitrile gloves on. Now get yourself some 220 grit sand paper, and sand in the direction of t
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