“Tenite Gun Stocks”

Someone came by looking for “tenite gun stocks.” That brings back some unpleasant memories, and not just of gun stocks.

For a little history, tenite is a cellulosic material chemically similar to rayon fabric. Tenite was a “wonder plastic,” glossy and easily moldable when Eastman introduced it in 1929. By the mid 1930′s demand for art deco objects had made tenite the “go-to” plastic for a variety of objects.

General Motors used immense quantities of tenite at their Portland, Indiana steering wheel plant. And after a couple of years the complaints started. Get tenite hot, or expose it to direct sunlight, and it would “alligator,” and then soon crack down to the metal frame of the steering wheel. By the end of WWII there were a great many luxury GM cars on the road with nothing but the steering wheel frame left.

Despite the miserable long term performance, the post WWII walnut and birch shortages impelled Savage to try tenite on its Stevens line of firearms. The first guns I saw with tenite stocks were on dealers shelves in 1946, largely side by side shotguns and .22 rifles.

By 1950 many of the early production guns stocks were showing deep cracks, and were generally in sad shape. I suspect there may be some tenite stocks on closet queens that have seldom seen daylight, but I have not seen an actual tenite stock in many years. And given how sharp the edges of a shattered tenite item are, I definitely would not want to fire one of the shotguns.

If you have an old Stevens with a Tenite stock, I would suggest replacing it with a wooden stock. Most of the Stevens were identical to Savage models from the same era, and semi-finished stocks seem to be available for all of them.

If you still want the original look, add some dark reddish brown colorant to epoxy paint for the high gloss look, and add black streaks before the epoxy sets. You will come up with a very good approximation of the original look, with a finish that will outlast your great grandchildren.

Stranger

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