Refinishing an SVT-40 Stock

Edward O
by Edward O

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.

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:

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…

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.

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 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.

More by Edward O

Join the conversation
2 of 17 comments
  • Lance Lance on Oct 07, 2015

    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 Just say'n on Oct 07, 2015

    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......)