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Back from the Brink: The Gunstar Renovation Challenge, S2 Ep.3



Part three - the penultimate episode.

So last week we tackled the barrel, action, and this week we're gonna be tackling the wood. The love-hate relationship with this gun is definitely swinging in the balance towards hate - I'm not entirely sure whether this week's gonna change any of that. Anyway, enough talking, to the bench! 




So before we start on the wood I'm actually putting some of the metal bits back in place so that we do sort of finish them together or else you end up with that really awful wood to metal fit, but to be honest you’d completely expect that on a gun like this! First things first we’re going to start with some 240 grit and we’re going to rub it all over the top of this wood until it's nearly finished and when it's nearly finished, we're going to back off a little bit. 


So there we have a really quick go over the top and that's going to reveal dents, scars and everything just a little bit better; everything becomes apparent and sort of allows us to know what we're dealing with and the answer is, certainly on this side, nothing too tasty. Before we go any further I'm going to fill this hole, fix this crack and once that's dried fill this crack too. You know actually it really isn't too bad in terms of structure, we just need to stop the crack going any further and fill it with some kind of resin - I've probably got just the tool for the job, but first, let’s go and get some glue.

It’s a bit of a difficult one, however with all things, you've got to make it a little bit worse before it gets any better so I'm gonna flatten off the sides…


God, I forgot a hammer; I'm going to go downstairs and quickly shape up a bit of wood; back in a sec!




So here we have a nice piece of wood and what we're going to do is grip it. Grip the wood very, very firmly…




jonny's quotes


My workshop is constantly filled with these little baggies full of brown dust - it's nothing suspect - it's just various colours of sanded walnut… they come in handy when doing little jobs like this! So we just made up this tiny little bit of wood, and hopefully it’s about to sit in that hole just lovely, and the answer is yes. It’s obviously just massively oversized, so I'm just going to place it in there, scribe it, go chop it out!




I’m happy with that, that's a good fit. Let's go cut that out!

Not a firm enough grip on my wood there. Fingers crossed it’s quite a nice fit. Alright, so all I need to do is drill a little pin into the bottom there, a little pin into there and actually bond them together. I'm not gonna bore you with that, let's get on with making a mess of this gun - you know, it’ll be ready in “three two one”.


measuring the stock


[Jonny clicks his fingers] 


And we're back - sanding off the hardened stuff some hours later. As much as this looks awful now it will look better, fingers crossed. Maybe I should’ve just inlet a piece of highly coloured acrylic in there, that’ll wind people up and looked absolutely awful.


Sasha: “Has Baikal got back to you yet?”

Jonny: “No, unfortunately not I did get something from Bosses but apparently Sash couldn't come with me and that was a deal breaker... 


Okay, so Sash just asked what's the plan because it’s a very different colour, as you can see here the wood in the white is actually quite light. I'm going to dye this and specifically dye this area quite a bit darker than the rest of the gun, because I probably should’ve spent a little longer selecting the correct piece of wood. However I didn't.So…




Look at this, if we wash all that away, have a little look and that's been just smacked with 240 grit. I never would’ve thought the stock was that bad underneath. Again going back to what I said before, think of the stories that this stock could’ve told, how many the gun could’ve told and it just gets more and more evident that it’s had a pitiful life or really great one, take your pick you know. So it really does seem a shame to remove too much of that, so I’m - I think - not going to go quite as whole hog with the wood. A bit like the metal it needs to retain character, it really does need to retain character. ‘Vivre La France!’. 


Ah if only I had some French inspiration?!


[French Singing] 

“Do you hear the people sing? singing the song of angry men, it is the music of the people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart, matches the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!




100% I should’ve soaked this because all of the crap that came out of this wood is intense. I should’ve given this a proper bath. But it’s too late now we've committed!

Okay so now we’ve come to the hands-down most tedious part of this whole project; checkering. I'm thinking two very plain patches running the length of this back part of the tang because that's where your hand goes on one side and your hand goes on the other. I think I'm gonna keep it really simple because I've been creative enough already as you saw in the last episode.


Okay before I start, let’s cue some motivational music.




getting rid of the checkering


So I’m in a state of absolute misery. My initial design that I thought might look alright, looks like an absolute s***. I could do it a bit like the engraving and cut it all off and start again, but I’m committed now.


Sasha: “I for one am very impressed!”

Jonny: “Yeah but no offence mate, you don't count.

Sasha: “Why?”

Jonny: “Well if we’re talking about cameras and pictures and stuff yeah, but this is... well it just looks s*** is the answer. You know the diamond angle is wrong and I should’ve thought about it upfront and actually spent a bit of time on it, as opposed to just kind of gone for it. But you live and learn - we'll make up for it on the other side.


[Starts work on the other side]


This really is crap I'm sorry and I really should say this is no indication of my professional standing because this is kind of free handed, in a bit of a rush and just crap.


Sasha: “Should we play the blues?”

Jonny: “Yep!”




I might have cured the design issue, let me finish this checkering block and I'm just going to put a little filler in there, that might just kill my sadness…




I genuinely feel like I made a huge mistake there. That tiny little infill makes me feel a bit better about the whole prospect. A) the diamond’s in the right sort of grade and B) it makes the whole checkering affair look ok... let's flip it over, forget that side and let's move on to the other side and they may bare zero resemblance of eachother, but nobody will notice.


Sasha: “Does that mean the Blues can stop?”

Jonny: “The Blues can stop, we're over it, we chalk it up to experience of ‘Jonny please stop rushing, Jonny please drink the tea that you got about an hour ago’ - which is miserably cold - and ‘Jonny try and remember the base principles of what you do for a living’. And as such don't rush checkering; think about checkering, lay it out, scribe out and do a decent job in the first instance, because if I struck all this off and started again, yes nobody would notice but I’ll notice…

That is beautiful, I love a little bit of contrast, me! Anyway, so checkering panel number two, the redemption side. I've never done checkering that bad since I started. I don’t think I've ever done checkering that bad. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna redeem ourselves. Let’s come up with something good shall we? 


So my current thoughts are very much along the lines of a fleur-de-lis; I'm going to keep the French theme, just prep it and then sketch something out I guess.




Sasha: “Looks to me like you're about ready to chop your ear off!”

Jonny: “Just about ready to chop this gun up!”




Do you ever sit and think that you just shouldn't be doing something in the first place and you should just have left it well alone? Because I think that regularly. Right now there’s no plan, I have cramp, my tools are blunt, my tea is cold, all for the sum total of about two minutes of entertainment! We shall crack on.

Yeah, this is hands down the hardest wood I’ve ever checkered. I think just where it's been battered and battered and battered over the course of its life, it’s super dense. I mean there are certain spots that just glide through so it's not that my tools need to be sharper - although they could do with a replacement after this job - it's just the fact that this wood is dense as you like!




[30 Minutes Later…]


jonny taking a break


So I just took a quick break and I’m in such a quandary, because that little fleur-de-lis checkering - although it's a bit of a piss-take - I'm quite happy with it, it's a nice addition to the gun. That first bit of checkering I did was just so badly planned and then fairly quickly executed and that for me kinda takes away from the overall point of the gun. I know it's not supposed to be a display of gun making art, but that does offend me, I want to get rid of it. Sasha thinks it should stay, so we’re bringing out the coin.


Tails the checkering’s coming off.



[Coin lands on tails]


Let's get the files out!

All right time to undo a significant portion of my life, let's go.


Sasha: “Every moment I’m losing a part of my soul.”

Jonny: “But it's the bad part, the part that decided to make cross-hatch checkering by some kind of ridiculous idea.”

Sasha: “I’ve been filming this for four hours…”

Jonny: “Yep and you're going to film it for another two, whilst I take this off and make it look pretty. It was an abomination, it really was an utter abomination. Again, everything I do I have to imagine I'm reviewing it somehow, a bit like the engraving - what would I say about that! And probably what would I say about this, so it's coming off. 



So I’m pretty sure I'm gonna replace that nothing. Because actually as much as it would be beautiful to replicate this side and join them up at the top, “ain't nobody got time for that!”

Well it's immensely satisfactory to spend a lot of time doing something and then essentially get rid of it, but doesn't it look a lot better without that monstrosity on there? Yeah and now that side actually looks really nice and it's not overshadowed by... well it was a mistake and we all make mistakes, it's almost worth making that mistake to get that pleasure of getting rid of it.


Time to apply a little bit of oil then. Cracks are fixed, holes are filled, checkering done (checkering undone) and if you thought it was a waste of your time, imagine how me and Sasha feel... let's go.

First coat of oil and see what lies underneath that battered woodwork. I said I was going to darken this down, didn't I? Well, I lied.


oiling the stock


What a pretty bit of Walnut, eh? It's been pretty intense so far, we're going to leave that to dry and whilst we do that we're going to brown that barrel. Short of making a proper cradle I'm just knocking up something temporary so I can heat this barrel up without touching it and you know the score. 


[Reading instructions on browning fluid] 


“Harmful or fatal if swallowed, may damage the digestive tract, vapour may be irritating, use in a well-ventilated area, do not allow the solution to dry on flammable materials if in eyes flush through with water for 15 minutes and seek medical attention, if swallowed do not induce vomiting.” Do not try this at home. 


Look at the cool colour of the flame - I feel like that definitely should’nt be going green.

All right and now we're just going to let it cool down. I did get a tiny bit on my fingers so i’ll wash that off and just let it cool. My patience has never been a strong suit.

So I have browned guns on numerous occasions with the same material I've just used. Never have I had one come out in rose gold and never have I had one turned quite this black. Now if we spray some oil on it usually it changes colour a bit, but I mean you’d get away with telling someone that they just had their gun blacked. I don’t really know there's a bit of brown under there but my guess is the steel that this was made up of, the original action is very different to the steel of whatever this bit of scaffolding the Belgians put on the front is.

I'm really looking forward to bottling it together. Well, that's somewhat exotic if you like. You couldn't have done that if you tried to make a rose gold action with a barrel that has a browny-black effect, so we’re gonna leave it as it is! It adds to the story of the gun. 

Barrel done! There might be a little treat in store for the beginning of next week. And this is coming together nicely. That oil has really darkened it back down a bit which is positive and look at that, this really is a beautiful bit of wood. And for the sake of a few hours of doing and undoing some work to it, I'm very, very happy. It was very worthwhile. So about 20 more coats of oil, a bit of polish and this will be ready for reassembly. And we're almost ready to take it out into the field at that point however, there are just one or two little jobs I'd like to do just to finish it off. 


For now - Au Revoir!



The Gun Shop Botley
Professional Gunsmiths and RFD
Published on 14-10-2019
Located inside Botley Mills, Hampshire, The Gun Shop has a fantastic selection of items on display; including air pistols, air rifles, shotguns, slingshots, rifle ammunition, shotgun cartridges, pellets, clothing, optics, and knives - as well as all the accessories you may need.