by Paul Smeltzer,
Athens Gunsmith Service, Athens LA.
I have recently been brought an old Remington Model 11 to be restored. According to the owner he had just purchased it from a pawn shop for a very good price, and would like to use it dove hunting. He also has a Browning A5, and the Remington would go nicely in his “humpback collection”. He wants the shotgun to be functional and reliable, as well as, looking like a gun one would be proud to own. The metal is to be re-blued to a factory finish, the wood to be redone in a satin finished.
The initial inspection revealed an issue with the trigger function, unknown cause at this point. The original blue is still present but has developed that brown “patina”. That patina is a mix of dirt, grease, oil, and oxidation most likely covering up some pitting and other defects. The forearm has a small crack forming at the receiver end (not unusual for semi auto shotguns) and well worn checkering (non-pressed). The butt stock also has worn checkering and a medium sized chip on the end of the pistol grip. The recoil pad is old, ill fitted and in need of replacing. The forearm and butt stock are o be repaired and re-checkered. Instead of a new recoil pad the owner would like the old style bakelite butt plate installed.
All together a very typical working gun restoration from my perspective. From the owners perspective it is much more.
First things first – disassembly. First thing of note is that there is forty years worth of oil, dirt, and spiders inside. Under all that gunk I find a broken main spring, probably the problem with the trigger. All the parts not going to be blued are put into small plastic bags by sub-assembly groups and put into a box to be cleaned later. The parts to be blued are put into a zip lock.
With the preliminaries aside I can get after it. I prefer to start with the wood for a couple of reasons. For one, it will take several coats of finish and drying time between, time I can use to work on the metal. Secondly I prefer to have the wood done so when the metal is finished I can assemble and test fire, just a personal preference.
It should be noted at this point that I am not attempting to write “The Bible” of firearm restoration. What you read here is an explanation of how I choose to approach the work. I am not trying to convert anyone, discredit other methods, or suggest that my way is the best, it is just how I have settled into doing things. I am constantly learning, trying new things, and revising my methods.
With that disclaimer in place, lets start on the wood.
The first thing I do is clean the wood, I use a product called “orange crush”, it seems to have really good grease cutting ability and still be relatively mild. It comes in the typical spray bottle and I will spray it on and let it soak in a little. After it sits for about 10 minutes I will use a stiff brush and water to scrub the wood. If the wood is really gunky I will repeat a few times. Between each application I will spray it down with a hose. This process not only cleans the wood but will take most finishes off accept for the thickest of polyurethane.
At this point if I have to do any repairs to the wood I will do them now. With this wood the forearm crack has to be repaired, the pistol grip has a chipped corner and the recoil pad is to be replaced with an original butt plate.
To repair the forearm I will lay down some fiberglass mesh into the inside part of the forearm, lay in a layer of glass bedding material on top, and let that set up over night. I am going to fix the chip in the grip by sanding and re-contouring the area and will do that when I get to the sanding phase. I am going to deal with the chip in this manner because it is the least expensive and most natural looking. I could try to piece in another piece of wood and try to match the color, or I could use bedding material. Either will work, but takes more time, and the repair is going to be more noticeable that just re-contouring the grip.
Fortunately I have an appropriate butt plate from another Model 11 that I had replaced with a recoil plate (I don’t throw anything away). I will always affix the butt plate, or new recoil pad at this point. I want it in place so that when I am sanding the butt stock it will be a seamless fit. When fitting the butt plate the mounting holes are slightly off. I need to drill out the existing holes and glue dowel rods to give me a solid base to drill new holes for the butt plate. So with that done we will let that set up over night also. Good place to take a break until the glue dries, we will pick it up from here next time.
Look for Part 2 of this article soon!