By Shawn Strasburg
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me a beat up VZ 52. Doesn’t make much of a holiday jingle, but it made my day when my wife said I could have the old gun for Christmas. It is not every day when you find a real project gun that merits 40 plus hours of restoration. Yet I found a CZ, VZ52 for $100 off, now that is a deal (of sorts). Cabelas purchased it in June of ‘08 and they hadn’t been able to sell it, until I appeared like a knight in shining armor. I tried to talk them down further, but being a chain sporting goods store the employee claimed not having that kind of authority. I was slightly nervous buying a gun I knew little about, yet I fell in love with the relic. It also helped that my wife was willing to fund it as an early Christmas present. It was to be a great project for Christmas break, but as usual I burned the midnight oil the week before finals, and had it finished the day of my last final.
Disclaimer! I am not an expert; however this gun was by no means anything close to being in collectable condition. This gun was a shooter or hanger….I’d rather shoot. It had a nice patina, as if it had been browned, yet that was not the case. I figured some steel wool would remedy the rust and give me a good workout at the same time. The stock was ugly, abused to no end, and cracked like several others I have seen (through the wrist area).
I Inserted this picture, as I forgot to take a before photo, as a representation of the abuse the rifle had taken.
The bore seemed to have sharp rifling, yet I could not tell it’s true condition due to dust and powder residue. The bolt action was slow, sticky, and would not close by itself. The magazine was brown with several areas of active rust. The magazine follower stuck when pushed down, and I feared it may be unreliable. The VZ52 was only out classed by one other gun in abuse and condition. The winner was an M1 Garand that looked to have been brined and then boiled in cosmoline. I couldn’t even think of adopting it for $650 due to it’s hideous nature. An employee at Cabelas claimed the M1 Garand was imported from Korea after living for decades in a cave.
I started the restoration process two days after I brought the VZ 52 home, because I had to get some studying done. What agony it is to study when a new gun was calling out, begging for attention. The first thing I did was strip it down, all the way. I lucked out in my opinion; everything came apart with ease including those pesky nuts on the rear sling bolt and the stock support bolt. I have never had much luck removing these on my Mausers.
With the simple part done I began to clean. This gun appeared to have been used in a sandy region. I scraped and dug at least a tablespoon of cosmoline, sand, and even gravel from every nook and cranny. I used a can of WD 40 to flush sand and loosened crud. Problem: WD doesn’t cut this crud, soap and water doesn’t work, G96 doesn’t work, Rem. bore cleaner and steel wool doesn‘t work. Answer: toothpicks, really small screw drivers, dental picks, Q’tips and a lot of patience. What kind of cooked in compound is this? I felt like a dental hygienist cleaning this junk.
The next time I worked on it the WD 40 had dried and I found more crud as it had lightened in color and was easily seen. Another few hours and I was ready for steel wool. I could have used muriatic acid (I prefer the buffered type) but I felt it was not needed. And I have found Remington bore cleaner invaluable for removing rust, so I chose this method. With a Q’tip or cloth (and a bit of elbow action) it will remove rust from guns and do little damage to bluing. On this gun I really wasn’t worried about original finish and with large areas to clean I used “0” steel wool saturated in Rem. bore cleaner. I didn’t worry about getting it perfect, as that was not the purpose.
Many guns have rust issues at some point in their life. I have tried several methods of repair and find that the above mention method of using Rem. bore cleaner works well. After removing the rust, I find that using alcohol to clean the part and some Birchwood Casey paste gun blue will touch up the affected area. I do this about once a year on my friend’s guns to remedy the rust their guns grow on the farm.
On this gun I scrubbed the parts with dish soap and hot water multiple times. I then heated the oven up. This serves two purposes; it dries the gun and it heats the metal. I really like BC paste blue because it is fool proof (that means I can safely use it). I don’t like the other bluing agents I have tried, because of time constraints, and the trouble I had with new coats stripping off old coats of blueing. I have never found the BC paste to have these issues and with one coat is usually dark enough to match.
With gloved hands I took the part from the oven and give it a good coat of the bluing paste. Once the part is covered I drop it into a container of hot soapy water. This way I can blue all of the parts really fast. I then scrub them and spray them off with the kitchen sink sprayer and then soak them in WD until I have finished all of the bluing. After that I clean them with cloth or paper towel and use my G96 triple action gun treatment to finish oil them. G96 works really well as a rust inhibitor; I use it on all of my guns in storage and have no issues with rust development. Some of the guns at my family’s house only get cleaned when I have a chance, which is once a year, and they all stay rust free.
Next came the nasty stock remodel and it was dinged, gouged, cracked, carved on in three places and generally saturated with cosmoline. I gently heated it in the oven (door open, lowest setting) to remove cosmoline, and scrubbing with soapy water in between warmings. Then I scraped, ugh, yes I scraped the stock, as the wood still contained a lot of oil which fouls sandpaper rapidly. The end grains in areas such as finger grooves and the wrist area produced the most grease while baking and took the most focus when scraping. Yes I did remove the initials thrice placed and as many of the uglies that I could without causing problems. The one area I couldn’t do much for in way of dings and gouges was right near the butt because I risked having the metal protrude beyond the wood. I actually lengthened the finger grooves to get to cleaner wood and was forced to leave much of the darkness in the wrist area.
How to fix that crack? Well with a bit of mental engineering I decided to bolt it together. I would have preferred gluing, yet with the fear that grease contaminated the crack and with the inability to get glue into the crack, I chose to bolt it. If I had glued the stock, I would have still mechanically secured it for back up. How to bolt? This answer was pretty easy; I created a pocket behind the receiver and drilled an angle through the pistol grip. The bottom of the wrist had a gouge about 3/8 of an inch deep, and was ugly to start with. So I layed out my drill line with a pencil on the side of the wrist and drew a center line on bottom of the wrist area and on top. I connected my lines on the bottom for a center reference as to where the bit would emerge. I started my hole centered with the receiver bolt, where the vertical wood meets the horizontal wood. I used a bit that was 12” long and this allowed me to sight down it like an arrow. I could sight down the angle line I had drawn on the side of the stock and along the center line on top of the stalk. I also employed my son (who is a perfectionist) to back up my perspective and sight from the back side. I drilled this with an 1/8” bit and went slow at first to get a true hole started and then it was just a matter of keeping the bit cleaned. I came out perfectly centered and just a tad “muzzle” from my original layout, but it was close enough.
I bought a brand new brad point bit to drill the hole on the bottom of the wrist to accept an oak plug, yet it tore the wood up on the bottom of the pistol grip, so I got on old spade bit and did it did a better job. This is where trial and error comes in brad point bit = great on flat surface, but hell on a rounded area. It might have worked in a drill press, but I spent my drill press money on college. Just a little more insight, the spade bit worked great in the receiver area. My recommendation is to practice before you drill anything even if you have to make a simulated rounded area, I just have a bit of a “go gett’em” personality, so I sometimes cause myself headaches. So after you have the initial hole and the counter sunk holes in place I bought a #10 drill bit and opened the hole to the bolt size. I used a stainless steel #10-24 3” machine screw; I used #8 washers and one nut. The washers nicely fit in the ½# hole (#10 would have been to snug). The nice thing about the play with a #8 washer is that it is hard without a press to perfectly center countersink holes. And with a spade bit unless you countersink, then drill, at which point you have to perfectly drill from A to B or once again you are out of center. RECOMMENDATION; be sure to counter sink the upper hole enough to allow proper seating of the receiver block. Also I would use a longer machine screw around 3 ¼” if I do it again and counter sink less than need as tightening things up draws the washer into the wood. The idea is to get as much wood as can be sandwiched between washers so you have a strong stock. I finished counter sunk holes off with wood glue to strengthen end grains and seal the wood from oils. You may choose to use lock tight on the machine screw, I didn’t but I made sure it was torqued.
It all worked out in the end, I got it done….and I had the privilege of practicing my inlaying skills -still lacking- but all in all it really looks pretty good. I had troubles matching the grain, another area to practice in, and I didn’t have access to white oak, which I believe the stocks are made out of. One problem I saw before staining (besides red oak clash) was that the new wood lacked the years of oil staining that plagued the surrounding area. I tried some graphite to darken the new, pre-stain, but it may have just rubbed off with my staining rag. Anyway other than the fact the grain just doesn’t match and the inlay is a tad small, I think it looks good enough for this gun.
A little insight so far into inlaying. I cut the stock to match my piece, but my piece was too big, and then when it finally fit it was too small. It is an art I need much practice in, and inlaying on a rounded surface is hard to say the least. You must have patience, and making and staining a trial piece would be beneficial. I ran the grain the same way, my grain was just too big and not right, maybe it is the difference in wood types, I have never worked in white oak.
I chose Varathane red oak wood stain, I love the color, yet I wish I had bought the cabernet and mixed in 25-50% so that the stock would be redder. Surprises? Yes the end grain areas that had black grease stains turned the reddest. The wood also has so much more depth with this stain than the original. I chose to use a wax finish, I thought about Tung oil, but as I had never finished with wax I decided to wear out both arms shining it up.
Here are some pictures showing the stock.
It looks shallow but I think it will hold up…use your own judgment on the applicability of drilling.
Next is the inlay where I drilled into the wrist from the bottom, and the receiver drill area.
Next are the finger grooves where I scraped and sanded about an 1/8 inch of blackened wood away, and the finished stock.