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Need help fixing staple holes in stock

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I am refinishing the stock on my cutdown Stevens 53B. Before the collectors set me on fire, let me explain that this gun was modified 60 years ago into what is now being marketed as a kid's or youth gun. The barrel was cut to 16 1/8", the length of pull was reduced for 6 year olds, the forend was shortened, sling swivels installed and Redfield target sights installed (probably worth way more than the gun). Me, two brothers and my sister were introduced to shooting with this gun (after the mandatory Daisy period).

I have scraped off the old finish and lightly sanded it. What I need are suggestions on how to fix the staple holes in the stock and what finish to use on it. I vaguely recall the staples held on something to insert .22 bullets in to keep kids from fumbling around in the box for rounds.

Here are two pictures, one showing the staple holes and one to give a reference as to size.

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I have been finishing cabinets for over 20 years. The best way I have found to patch small holes is as follows...

If you are going to use a stain, apply that first. Afterwards, apply one coat of your chosen finish. This will give you the true color. Colored putties are generally sold right next to the stains and clear finishes at most stores. Pick a color or colors that are close to your finish color and mix them together until you get a match. You may have to fill a hole or two to see if it's right. If it,s not quite right, use a pin to dig it out and try again.
Fill the holes-by pushing in the putty and try not to leave any residue around the holes. When you get the right match, apply one or more top coats over the entire stock.

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278 Posts
You may not be able to hide it completely. It looks like you have black stains from the tannic acid in the wood reacting to the iron in the staples. Those stains will go deeper into the wood than the length of the staples.

That's not necessarily a bad thing IMHO. I often scavange large pallets that sheet metal is shipped on. The stringers are often 3"x3"x12' and are all varieties of hardwood. Once the nails are pulled and the wood is seasoned the nail holes and resulting stains provide instant "antiqued" wood. I enjoy using that stuff because it provides great personnality to the workpiece.

In a firearm with such a family history that can be a badge of honor.

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654 Posts
Should have saved the sawdust from the sanding job. Mix the dust in a mix of wood glue and water with a drop of dish detergent. Mix dust into a thick paste Just use a little glue/water mix as you'll repeat. Apply sawdust paste and push onto holes. Let dry. Sand. Repeat. Once filled, finish stock.

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250 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Should have saved the sawdust from the sanding job. Mix the dust in a mix of wood glue and water with a drop of dish detergent. Mix dust into a thick paste Just use a little glue/water mix as you'll repeat. Apply sawdust paste and push onto holes. Let dry. Sand. Repeat. Once filled, finish stock.
Unfortunately that thought came to me after I dusted myself off. Any hint on what kind of wood glue would be appropriate?


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931 Posts
I worked in the exhibits/conservation department of a major eastern museum system for many years and I've worked on restoring antique furniture. For 30 years I've owned an antique auto restoration company part of which is restoring decrative and stuctural wood work in cars so that the repairs match the original aged wood and are not noticable.

If you want to hide the filled holes as much as possable, using saw dust and glue as a filler works as a filler, but it will always be darker that the non-saw dust/glue area surounding the filled areas.

The rust stains Nail Gun pointed out are exactly what he said, the natural tanic acid in hardwoods reacting with steel, will cause black stains. They will always show as dark bullseyes around whatever you fill the holes with and wood stain will not hide them.

If you want the holes to disappear as much as your able to do,...

1. Use Oxolic acid and Q-tips to bleech the rust stains out. You can get it at many hardware stores, or order on-line. Follow the instructions that come with it carefully. Let the areas dry compleatly after rinsing to neutralize the oxalic acid.

2. Since beech is a "blond wood", use a light wood paste filler. Over-fill each hole and carefully sand level, using a sanding block, after the filler compleatly dries (at least 24 hours).

3. Stain the stock to whatever color you've picked. Once the stain has dried,...

Now comes the part where the artist in you and what time/effort you are willing to put in, will determin how good the final job looks.

Unless you buy alot of proffesional wood refinishing supplies, whatever is used for wood filler will not perfectly match the wood grain (unless you get very lucky). Sometimes the touch-up sticks you can get in the local hardware store will be close, but when stained and coated with a clear finish, they can look totally different than they did. They are meant more to be use as a quick touch-up on already finished wood such as a scratch on a piece of funiture.

If the filled holes are lighter than the surounding wood, using a small artist brush dab additional stain on just the filled areas and let dry. Wet the areas with your finger dabbed in water to see how close the color matches.

If however the filled holes come out darker, gently rub/scrape some of the stain off the filled holes until it color matches the surounding area.

When your satisfied with the color match, wait at least 24 hours for the stains to dry before appling a finish, or you might get some color lifting.

Good luck


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2,514 Posts
Very nice write up Paul!


That black 'staining' will keep coming back to the top if you don't get most of it out with Oxalic acid (vinegar will work, but not nearly as well and takes many more treatments).

As far as fill, you might consider using toothpicks, cut them short and drive them in with just a touch of yellow wood glue. When fully set, sand down flush, I like using good nail files, they are easy to work with, flat but still flexible enough to follow a curve and come in lots of grit from 80 up to 2000.

You may be able to blend in the patches using a fine blade tip (razor or scalpel, an exacto isn't fine enough) to 'carry' the natural grain lines into the patch area, then rubbing some darker stain very lightly into the cuts. Look at the existing grain and try to duplicate the length and direction of the pattern. It does wonders to break up the edge of a patch which makes it much less visible.


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9,420 Posts
Wood glue vs Hide Glue

Pretty much what Airguy said with some stuff added. Did not see his post before I finished typing this but I ain't gonna delete mine anyhoo. More info is far better IMO and IME then less. So there.

Before I would go to a filler, I, personally would try this.

If I was sure that the hole was a nail hole and not drilled or gouged out where wood was removed, I would put water in the hole and steam it. Nails or in your case staples don't remove wood, they simply displace it and even if the hole does not disappear you are gonna draw a lot of wood fibers into the hole which is a good thing IMO and IME. If you still got a hole that ain't gonna be subtle then go to the filler. Try it a couple of time, putting in the water with an eyedropper and then a damp rag over it and an iron or a steamer. I would recommend any type of open flame. Heat guns are OK.

When you are making your own filler, glue and sawdust is great except that PVA glues, like yellow or white wood glues won't take a color, stain or dye, so you gotta color the sawdust first to minimize the difference in the color of the patch vs the surrounding wood. Even then the glue itself is gonna be the color of the glue and not the color of the wood. They also have solvents in them that spread to the surrounding wood and can make the patch area even larger. Operative word is can.

Look at the widgeon post on this thread. He recommends not putting the filler in until after one coat of the topcoat. Right on! The topcoat will minimize the chances of the solvents spreading and also will give you something to "color" to for matching. Ain't 100% but fixing stuff like that or scratches or gouges is an art not a science.

There is another glue to consider though and pointing that out is the purpose of my post.

That glue is hide glue. Yup the stuff made from animules. Since it is a natural glue it will take a stain or a dye, unlike the PVA stuff which are synthetics. That means, in a lot of cases you can color over any overflow and get a decent match. Comes in a kinda light brown and in a darker brown and Titebond makes the best. Will match, in strength, almost any consumer PVA product, if that means anything which it don't much here though. Only need the smallest bottle you can find and is sold at box stores like Lowe's, Home Depot and I think Sears. Maybe even Walley World but not sure there. Shelf life sucks though and after 6 months or so you should really throw it away. I make my own from flakes for my woodworking projects and only make enough for the project I am working on. It is the only glue I use on furniture projects.

What you do is take the bottle, plastic, and put it in a small pot with just enough water so's the container floats and heat the water slowly until the glue container is just hot enough so that you gotta take it easy picking it up. This will thin the glue quite a bit. If for some reason it don't float then simply add enough water to get about 1/4" below the neck. Make my own hide glue so don't have a bottle to test but I am pretty sure it will float.

Squirt some on a piece of paper or whatever and if it is still thick, like STP, then let it warm up some more. Should start to flow out as soon as you tilt the bottle with very little or even no squeezing.

Mix your sawdust with that and put it in the area you need to fix. It is sawdust to a drop of glue, not a drop of glue to sawdust. Unless you have mixed your own fillers a bunch, there is a real tendency to add way more of the glue than you need and you end up adding more sawdust etc. until you get a big glob of stuff. Mixing with a toothpick is great for small projects. Good for getting into small areas also. My personal favorite touch ups but that is just me. If you want to put the filler on after a single topcoat then you should color the sawdust before you add the glue and add the filler to the stock.

Will start to setup like really quick, maybe 6-10 minutes. Need to get everything ready but it it starts to set up you can get to amalgamate and rest with steam. Let dry overnight and you can sand etc. etc. A little practice, even without the sawdust on a piece of scrap wood is a very good idea so's you can get a feel for the timing on the hot hide glue. Hide glue is also "its own clamp" which means it will draw the wood fibers together by itself. Good for scratches etc.

Should always save sanding dust if you can but even if you forgot you can either sand again with dry automotive wet/dry sanding paper, like 400 grit and get a bunch. Dry is the name of the game. Sand of some newspaper and then brush the stuff into some type of small container. 35MM opaque containers that you can get for free at places that still develop 35MM film work good for that. If you don't want to resand but want sanding dust you can generally sand some scrap wood and get enough. Need more than you will figure cause the stuff really compresses.

I am gonna add my opinion on blending in stuff like this base on experience.

The biggest problem I see when people patch scratches that are too deep to sand out without screwing up the contours of the wood, or holes etc. etc. etc. is not so much the filler but the texture of the filler. Generally fillers are either pretty smooth or somewhat "pebbly" in which case they are designed to be sanded down.

If you "faux" grain em they blend much better into the surrounding area. Number of ways to do that. For pores, you can take a nail, and mash down the pointy to a flat end and sand it file it or whatever to a kinda rounded elliptical point, not sharp like a knife blade, and with a little trial and error on some scrap wood you got a punch that will dent in the wood pretty close to the pore patterns of the surrounding area. You just lightly tap in the Faux pores or "dents".

For grain you can do the same thing except you need a sharper point and you scratch it in.

I got piles of these things I made over the years and assuming I can remember where I put em use one or the other as needed.

The whole idea is to make a smooth surface look like a surface with depth. When you add the color that are in reactive topcoats, the "dents/scratches" etc. will hold more of the color in those types of topcats and tend to camouflage the difference in textures.

The other problem with commercial fillers is that you end up with a bunch of partial cans of those things that you ain't never gonna use again most of the time. Shelf life on that stuff is not good either. IMO and IME, colored sawdust is the way to go if you can.

No matter what you do you are still gonna be able to see it. Especially since it is your weapon and you did the work. The trick is to see it less.

Good luck.

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