Refinishing an SVT-40 Stock

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The SVT40 was Russia’s equivalent of the M1 Garand during the Second World War: a hard hitting semi-automatic infantry rifle that would have exponentially increased the firepower of a soviet section. But they were never manufactured in high enough volumes to fully replace the Mosin Nagant, and so remained the domain of squad leaders and snipers for most of the war. These surplus rifles are widely available in Canada for under $500, and are a favorite of collectors and plinkers alike.

I picked mine up for $300 and was immediately enamored with it.

stock_svt_40

I noticed right away that the magazine had some odd paint blemish on it. Cosmetics? As far as I was concerned this was a shooter, not a museum display.

That was, until I botched the reassembly after its first serious cleaning. Being inexperienced and in a rush, I tried to use a pair of pliers to compress the finicky recoil spring in order to re-seat the dust cover, and clumsily scratched the stock:

svt-40-scratch

Not pretty. Knowing it was my own stupid fault didn’t help.

But that did open the door to a kind of project I’d never done before: refinishing a wood stock. Online research, and consultation with a friend more experienced than I in cabinetry and carpentry, agreed that linseed oil was the best choice for refinishing. From what we could tell, the stock was originally hand shaped and fit, which matches what I understood about the SVT’s manufacturing history. So we weren’t about to use any power tools in this process…

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Here’s what we did:

  1. Sand down the existing finish. Start with 80 grit sandpaper, and burn it up taking off the layers of cosmoline and what-have you.
  2. Follow it up with 120 grit paper, and then end it off with 220 grit to give it a smooth finish. Move with the grain of the wood.
  3. Wipe and wet the wood. Wait 24 hours
  4. Give any roughed up areas another pass with the 220. Because the SVT stock is Arctic Birch it’s “hairy wood”
  5. Find somewhere safe for your stock to dry and apply a coat of double boiled linseed oil. I used an old t-shirt, but any soft cloth will help avoid brush marks.
  6. Repeat till desired darkness. Waiting 24 hours between coats. I took 5 days and applied 4 coats of oil.

svt40_refinished_stock

Interestingly, as we sanded away the original finish, marks and stamps that had been previously invisible were revealed. Beyond the obvious identifier on the side of the stock, I found a subtle and detailed 5 stamp on the underside, as well as a few stock repairs and nicks. Perhaps if I were a dedicated collector and researcher there might be more to learn about this particular 1941 rifle, but I’m happy just having it to shoot.

That’s it! Slow meticulous work, but immensely satisfying, and a great way to spend an afternoon or two on the porch with a beer and some tools. I’m suddenly eyeing the other wood stocks in my safe, wondering if they wouldn’t benefit from a little love too.



Edward O

Edward is a Canadian gun owner and target shooter with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. Crawling over mountains with tactical gear is his idea of fun. He blogs at TV-Presspass and tweets @TV_PressPass.


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  • BattleshipGrey

    Looks great. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an SVT in the wild. I’ve been getting into some more wood refinishing projects and it’s fun to have a challenge to have a reason to work with your hands.

  • Major Tom

    Now you must find the elusive AVT-40 variant comrade.

    • Or the sniper variant, or the 1945 White Rhinoceros, etc. Like all milsurps there’s plenty to chase if you’re into collecting!

  • erik

    looks like an avt stock. does the safety switch to the left and right?

    • Nope! Just the one direction on my rifle

      • Joshua

        if it goes both directions that means it’s full auto capable, that requires some special licenses in Canada.
        After the AVT-40 project was discontinued the stocks were thrown into the assembly bins for the SVT-40s. so semi-auto rifles with AVT stocks are fairly common.

  • Spencerhut

    I’ve had and sold a few of these. A well worn one came into the shop with some “free” ammo and my wife and friend (who was an Army sniper) had a friendly iron sight duel with the gun. It was awesome, she beat him over and over until all the ammo was gone. She is a good shot, but it was beyond entertaining watch her repeatedly hand Mr Sniper his ass with that big ‘ol SVT.

  • John Yossarian

    Excellent pictures and a beautiful refinishing job. You know we envy you Canadians for being allowed the Russian and Chinese imports.

    • And we envy you for owning Kalashnikovs and being able to carry your handguns places.

      • Joshua

        and FN FALs, can’t get those here, M1 Garands, despite being designed by a Canadian they cost up to $5000 here, when you can find one. course a lot of SBRs from the US are legal here. Its one half dozen or the other for the most part.

  • WireguidedMarine

    I refinished my M1 Garand when I received it from the CMP. I was leery of using sandpaper so I found an alternative.

    One guy on the internet recommended using a citrus based stripper to get all the oil and gunk off of the walnut stock. I tried that in a bathtub with hot water and rubbed the stripper into the wood with my gloved hands. Did this a few times and let the stock dry out between cleanings.

    I never did a stock refinishing before this so what I read online suggested that tung oil was somewhat better than linseed oil; it dries a little faster and is a bit more water-resistant.

    I made a small 50/50 mix of orange oil and tung oil and did a couple of coats with that. The wood absolutely soaked it up! Then I added a few of more coats of pure tung oil. By the time of the last coat it took a week to fully dry.

    The stock now looks beautiful and if you do another coat once a year or so the wood should last indefinitely.

  • Kip Hackman

    Another good way to get deep gouges out of the stock is to soak a towel in water, put it over the gouge (prior to sanding) and place a clothes iron on the towel. The heat and steam will swell the wood slightly and bring the gouge out, making it slightly proud. Then you can sand it and make it even with the stock. Did that with one of my M44’s and it worked quite well. Just make sure the towel is plenty wet so you don’t burn the stock.

  • Joshua

    I got one not long ago, I really like the thing.
    I haven’t used it much, mostly just range trips for fun but I have no reason to doubt that it will do any job I ask of it

  • Lance

    What i’d do with any Russian rifle. sand off the shinny varnish, sand it smooth. then use if you choose some varnish to make it darker if the wood is too light colored. then use linn seed oil to heal the wood.

  • Just say’n

    Beautiful SVT-40. I found mine on the back rack of a pawn shop in Idaho. It was stashed in among the C&R rifles. Tag said “Mow-Sin 91/30 $125”. I talked them down to $100.

    (then I woke up……)