Some things are too important to part with…

W P Bryant's Straight Razor
I found this straight razor in some old family stuff. It’s German made and pretty nice quality, even if in rough shape. I cleaned it up a little and photographed it to sell. However, when I processed the photo in Photoshop, I saw in the enlarged image a name faintly inscribed in the tortoise shell handle. So I got out my trusty magnifier and found the name “W P Bryant” very nicely (and lightly) inscribed in a fine script.

I immediately realized that this razor belonged to my great uncle.  W P stands for Walter Paine, and Bryant is the family surname for which I am named. Now Walter was a sad story. He was my grandmother’s brother and a dreamer and want to be entrepreneur.  Unfortunately, he killed himself in 1908 when he was about 26 years old (as I recall). If anyone in the family every knew why he did it, it was never discussed.  He spent an evening with friends, went home and shot himself.

So, I won’t be selling the razor. I’ll just add it to a shelf with all the other stuff I can’t bring myself to part with.
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Restoring a WWII Vintage Lee-Enfield Rifle – Part 3 (Bayonet)

I bought this WWII vintage Enfield Bayonet to go with the rifle, because… well… who doesn’t want a bayonet?  This one is date stamped 1943, so it was made three years after the rifle, but it’s period correct and close enough.  Besides, it was never used and still caked in 70 year old cosmoline.  As you can see below, while the bayonet was in pristine condition, the scabbard looked pretty rough.

Enfield Bayonet, c. 1943

Enfield Bayonet, c. 1943 ~ Before cleaning

As I’m prone to do, I researched how best to clean leather scabbards, and of course came up with a whole lot of opinions that varied considerably.  In the end, I decided to use saddle soap.  The scabbard is 70 years old and will never again see a hard life, so I don’t think saddle soap is going to do it much harm.

Starting with the bayonet itself, I used mineral spirits with a cotton rag and toothbrush to clean the cosmoline off the metal surfaces.  Using a non-abrasive brush ensured I didn’t scratch the bluing, which is absolutely perfect.  The cosmoline melted right away and I was quickly rewarded with a stunning mint condition WWII vintage bayonet.  If the wooden scales ever had any finish on them, it was long gone, so after everything was dry and wiped clean, I rubbed them down with some of the linseed oil finish I’ve been using on the stock.  The rest of the metal surfaces got a wipe with Kramer’s Best, which is a linseed oil, turpentine, and vinegar based solution that is an outstanding wood and metal conditioner.

After cleaning and conditioning

After cleaning and conditioning

The scabbard required some additional care since most of it is comprised of hard leather.  I cleaned the metal surfaces first, removing the cosmoline and leaving the natural patina of the metal.  Then I went to work on the leather surface itself using the saddle soap.  It was a very slow process with little apparent progress at first.  After a half dozen or so cycles of applying it, wiping it off, buffing it out, I felt like I had reached a point of diminishing returns.  At this point the leather was sufficiently clean, but very dull in appearance.  So I went out on a limb and rubbed it down with shoe crème (not shoe polish).  The shoe crème has always been recommended to me by the place that sells Allen Edmonds.  It’s basically a leather conditioner with some black dye.  It has no wax so it lends itself well to subsequent treatment.  I also doesn’t shine like wax, which is perfect in this case.

The result, which you can see in the image above as well as below, is pretty remarkable.  It’s hard to see in the photos, but the leather looks like it’s brand new.  Yours truly is a happy camper, and I’m looking forward to seeing my boys’ reaction to the transformation.

I’m cycling through the daily application of oil on the rest of the rifle’s furniture, and in fact think today is probably the last one.  I may just go ahead and reassemble the whole thing tomorrow and make sure everything fits properly.  I only wish I’d done a better job of labeling all those parts on my work table.

Bayonet and Scabbard completed

Bayonet and Scabbard completed

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Restoring a WWII Vintage Lee-Enfield Rifle – Part 2

It’s been a couple of months since I first wrote about restoring the old 1940 vintage Lee Enfield no. 1 MKIII rifle.  (See the earlier post)  I managed to source all of the missing parts, including a new forearm and hand guard set.  I found an unused set of unknown date, but I figured I’d be better off fitting a new stock than buying an old one and hoping it would fit properly.  Enfields, especially the no. 1, are notoriously finicky when it comes to proper stock fit.

Relacement Wood

The Enfield with original furniture in place, just before disassembly

In the photo above, you can see the rifle in its original, butchered forearm.  The lower forearm was cut off and the hand guard discarded, along with the entire nose cap assembly.  The new replacement stock, forearm, and hardware are shown above the rifle.  The new wood appears darker in the photo, but once I work on the buttstock a little and the oil finish is applied, I think it will look okay.

After removing the entire lower forearm, I found that the action in excellent condition.  There was a couple of traces of light rust, but nothing of any consequence and no corrosion damage.  I tried to remove the buttstock, but the screw that attaches it is deep inside the stock itself, and requires a very long screwdriver. Unfortunately, the screw is locked up pretty tight, and rather than risk buggering up the slot, I decided to just leave it on and refinish the stock in place.

The first order of business was fitting the new stock. It wouldn’t seat at all on the first try and required some fine tuning to get it to slide over the receiver.  Going slow, I had it properly adjusted and fitting like a glove in short order.  Moving on to the upper hand guard, I had to take a little off the inside of the ears to get it to slide easily into place around the rear sight.  This is not supposed to be a tight fit, and I may have to take a little more off after it’s finished.

Enfield New Stock Fit

The new stock slides right into place after fitting

With everything looking good, I put both forearm and hand guard in place and slipped on the nose cap for a dry fit assessment.  As you can see in the photo below, the upper hand guard sits too high for the nose cap to slide on properly. Using some folded paper, I was able to determine that I had about 0.5mm of surplus height within the hand guard to work with.  By sanding the bottom edge of the hand guard on my trusty flat granite sharpening surface, I reduced the height enough to let that nose cap slide into place.   Everything looks good at this point, so onto cleaning the action and applying the finish.

The hand guard sits too high for the nose cap to slide on all the way

The hand guard sits too high for the nose cap to slide on all the way

All of the wood on this rifle was stripped at some point in its past and scrubbed with a heavy wire brush, leaving a lot of marks in the wood.  I lightly sanded the worst of these marks, but didn’t want to lose all the character of the wood, so I really did just enough to open the grain a little for the new finish.  At this point, I went ahead and cleaned the action and barrel thoroughly.  There was some crud, but not as much as one might expect from a gun this old.  Thankfully, I think the gun was cleaned after it was last shot, so it didn’t take a whole lot of effort to get it looking good.

Action cleaned up.  I'll lightly clean and oil it again before final assembly to remove any dust or grit that accumulated during finishing

Action cleaned up. I’ll lightly clean and oil it again before final assembly to remove any grit that accumulated during finishing

I decided a while back to use the original type of oil finish that was applied when this gun was made (or as close as I could reasonable come).  In WWII and earlier, most military gun stocks were finished with linseed oil, or something close to that.  Although not very effective against the elements, it is very easy to maintain. Rather than use Boiled Linseed Oil common today, which is modified with petroleum distillates to speed drying, I’m using artist grade linseed oil, which I assume is basically raw oil.  I happened to have an unopened can that is about 35 years old and it doesn’t specify.

Starting with a 50/50 ratio of oil to turpentine (to help it dry), I began applying coats with 4-0 steel wool.  I really hate steel wool.  It just makes a mess with steel wool fibers everywhere.  I abandoned the wool after the first application and just rubbed it on by hand after that.  Using the old adage, once a day for a week, once a week for a month, and once a month for a year, I’m on day three and the wood looks fantastic.  I don’t think I’m going to go for the full seven applications.  This morning I upped the ratio of oil to turpentine to about 70/30.  If it doesn’t dry within 24 hours or so, I might add a little japan dryer to the next batch.

The stock and hand guard with 3 coats of oil applied

The stock and hand guard with 3 coats of oil applied

The next update will cover cleaning up the 1940s vintage bayonet I found for this gun!

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New Address: www.virginiatoolworks.com

Virginia Toolworks can now be accessed directly through the domain name virginiatoolworks.com!

It’s a humble achievement, I know, but it reflects the growth and increasing popularity of this site.  Thanks to all who visit, and a very special thanks to those who follow this blog and the Virginia Toolworks Facebook page.

Thank You!

Stanley Bailey no. 60, Type 2, c. 1901-04

Stanley Bailey no. 60, Type 2, c. 1901-04

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