Refinishing a Chinese SKS

When I first purchased this rifle it was caked in red laquer finish that seems to be slathered on as if the armorer got paid based on how much he could apply. The finish normally has a signature red color that can be closely replicated by Minwax Sedona Red stain if you like it, but I wanted to try my hand at a tung oil finish and this rifle was the perfect candidate.

For an average Joe who just wanted to improve over the horrible laquer that’s on a beaten military surplus rifle, I found this method pretty darn good. I wasn’t out to make museum display quality finishes.

Here is the rifle I started with:

Here are the tools I used for the project:

  • Citristrip Stripping Gel
  • Norton’s foam sanding block, and finer sanding sheets
  • Minwax Tung Oil Finish
  • Mineral spirits and 1″ disposable paint brushes

First I removed the stock from the rifle, removed the upper handguard and all the metal pieces such as the sling attachment.

I used Citristrip spray, but the bottle version can be applied with a paint brush and it works great. It makes the house msell like oranges, thus preventing the wife from complaining about the chemical smell of other finish removers. I prefer to use this method as it also doesn’t remove any wood like sanding does, preserving any cartouches on the rifle. I suspend the stock and just cover the stock in it, and let the goo drain into a container.  Let it soak for  several hours, then using gloves, scrub the and rinse the goo off, and the old laquer finish comes off with it. I found the SKS wood very fuzzy once the laquer was off so I used a coarse foam sanding block to get the fuzz off, and the finer grit sanding sponges to get the wood nice and smooth. I like the foam blocks and sheets over hard blocks as it tends to not round off any corners. Use a really hot damp rag to wipe the dust out of the pores and raise the fuzz between sanding

Once i had it stripped, dried and sanded, I suspended the stock again and applied tung oil finish thinned with mineral spirits. Apply a coat, let it dry for a day, then re-apply another coat, and reapeat. I did 5 coats on this rifle and I liked the final result much better than the original finish. You can stain the rifle before adding tung oil as well. I used Minwax Sedona red on my PU Sniper which is pretty close to the original Russian red color.

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