Rhino's Russian Red
First a word of warning. This procedure with gloss Tung oil will produce a high gloss deep shine. It is more of a fine furniture finish than an authentic military finish. Please keep that in mind. Also, I ripped some of this info off from other sites and called it my own. It's not, but I don't care. Live with it.
For mixing the red color of the above handguards, I used the following procedure: (A good portion, about 95%, of this is from Ironwood Designs, so kudos to them for the procedure...)
Wood prep is critical! I recommend following the instructions on the Ironwood Design website for sanding the stock set before even thinking about applying the finish:
I highly recommend practicing on a piece of scrap wood to get an idea of what your finished project will look like. Once the dye is on the wood, you will have to bleach the wood to remove it.
Dyes: I used Rit liquid dyes for this process. They were a little more expensive than the powder (about $0.50), but the bottles can be capped and reused. The cost for both dyes was about $5.00.
The materials used were:
Rit Scarlet Red #5
Rit Yellow #1
Alcohol (see notes below)
Minwax "Special Walnut 224" oil based stain
Ace Hardware Gloss Tung Oil
Cheap Foam Brushes
Lint Free Rags
Plastic Mixing Cups
0000 Steel Wool
I mixed the dyes in a plastic cup in the following ratio:
1 part yellow : 1.5 parts scarlet : 9 parts alcohol
Wear gloves and mix well...
The dye was applied using a cheap foam brush. The first coat was extremely thin and produced little color. I allowed time for it to soak into the wood and used a hair dryer to speed up the drying time. Additional coats of dye deepen the color. The wet color you see when applying the dye is what you will get when you apply the oil. Apply additional coats of dye to get the shade that you desire. I wound up using around 6 or 7 coats of dye to get the red that I liked.
The dye will leave the wood a tangerine color when it dries. Don't worry about it. It will change back to red when the stain or oil is applied.
When the last coat of dye had dried, I applied a coat of the oil based stain. I put on a heavy coat of stain and allowed it soak for a few minutes. I wiped off the excess stain and looked at the results under bright light. I was satisfied with a single coat of stain, but additional coats will add a lot more brown to the finished product. What you see is what you will get.
Allow the stain to dry. This is where I messed up. I didn't wait long enough for the stain to dry and wound up wiping most of it off when I applied the first coat of tung oil. Give the stain a chance to dry, possibly overnight. I would have liked a little more brown in the finished pieces, but I'm starting to like the more reddish tone.
I used a foam brush to apply the first coat of tung oil. Unfortunately, this helped pull some of the stain off the pieces. I also had some dirt and dust problems when using the foam brushes in the following coats of oil. Use a lint-free rag to apply thin coats of tung oil. Allow the oil time to dry per the instructions before applying additional coats. Again, what you see is what you get.
When the coat of oil has dried enough, buff lightly with 0000 steel wool. Don't scrub the finish, as you will easily remove oil, stain, and dye. You only want to dull it down so the next coat will have something to cling to. Apply another coat of tung oil with a lint-free rag and allow to dry. Buff with 0000 steel wool and repeat until desired depth of finish is achieved.
Multiple coats of oil will produce a much deeper shine and can fill in some small flaws in the wood. I have put a total of 8 thin coats on the stock set now and I finally have it where I want it.
The how-to on the Ironwood website has some alternative oil and wax finishes that will produce different sheens on the finished product. Consider these before using the Tung oil.
The dyes are mixed with alcohol to dry more quickly, reduce raising of the wood grain, and thin the color. I grabbed the bottle of Isopropyl alcohol from my medicine cabinet and used that in the first batch of dye. BAD idea! Isopropyl alcohol does not like to mix with water. The dye separated from the Isopropyl alcohol like oil and water. So, I decided to use the other source of alcohol that I had in my kitchen. I used Vodka. It was the only other alcohol source that I had available, and the hardware store was closed by the time I started the project. Laugh if you want, but the Vodka worked fantastically. The Ironwood website includes Denatured Ethyl Alcohol in the materials list, but use whatever floats your boat. At least with the Vodka, you can pour a shot into a Coke while you're working...
You can mix stain with the Tung oil to produce additional layers of color. I did this successfully on a test piece, and the results weren't bad at all. Just pour some Tung oil into a glass jar and add a small amount of stain. Don't add a lot of stain or the mixture will become opaque. You just want a little tint of brown in the oil. Apply with a lint-free rag.
Tung oil dries fairly quickly, especially in thin coats. At least the Ace Hardware stuff did... Use enough oil on the rag to keep a wet edge when working with the pieces. Different brands of oil may dry at different rates, so take that into consideration if you're working with a large piece.
Piles of oil soaked rags and brushes can spontaneously combust. I threw all my used rags into a large coffee can with a strong solution of water and liquid detergent to prevent a fire hazard.