I have been making my mekugi from bamboo chopsticks. Not wood ones, but real bamboo. Just split them with an x-acto knife and you will have a long piece of bamboo that will be small at one end and larger at the other. Then pick the section that best fits. The only problem that I have had is that I have been removing and reinserting the mekugi to remove the barrel and bisen for easier cleaning. After a few times, the mekugi becomes lose. Will have to make another next time I remove the barrel.
For the wood would recommend just a good polishing wax. I just used very fine steel wool on the wood which removed years of dirt and grime. Found this product from Magnolia Chemical, GLAZIT, which is basically an aerosol wax spray, but I think any good waxing product will work.
The thing is that I'm in Japan, so I need to find stuff available here. Fortunately though that means I have access to some more traditional stuff! I used lemon oil a lot in the US on my other firearms seeing as it's what the NRA museum used, and loved that stuff to death!
Thanks for the recommendation though! And good heads up on mekugi shrinkage!
Teppo kaji, you need to graduate to smoked bamboo. Make it smooth, round and tapered. It is as hard as nails (tough to work) and will keep its shape for years, indeed you'll probably lose it first.
There are conflicting ideas on how best to preserve wood stocks. Some people like to clean them up, others like to keep as much of the age-related grime as possible. These two camps can be diametrically opposed. Within our teppotai the members from Takahashi City used to make their guns shine, and polish up the brasswork, and they really looked great. Unfortunately they also dropped in value, and at some point they started to lay off the shine.
Personally I have to clean the guns each time I use them. When finished with the barrels and locks, I use the leftover oily rags to wipe the insides of the stocks, just lightly. That gives them some rejuvenation, but not too clean.
PS I have tried many things on the outsides of the stocks, but there is nothing I have yet found that I can swear by. Lemon oil, olive oil, linseed oil, renaissance wax, camellia oil, even clove oil, depending on the surface. A case could surely be made for each.
Traditionally Arthur, the stocks were lacquered on the outside in different ways according to area. Since they were made from seasoned wood, it is possible that no oil was used inside, but of this I cannot be sure.
My sword teacher is also a member of our teppotai, and he loves wood and the patterns within. Today I went round for a chat and we discussed gun stock preservation. He said that they should be kept "as-is", neither cleaner nor dirtier than we find them. On the outside he felt that the original lacquer should be doing its job, i.e. should be cleaned/wiped the same as lacquer bowls etc. Internally if there are signs of shrinkage or splitting he agreed that the wood is asking for help. In his case he brought out a can of J-Wax Mitsuro 蜜蝋 that he bought off the Japanese internet. The ingredients are beeswax and flax/linseed oil. The smell is to me linseed, which I believe is called flaxseed oil in North America.
The smell of linseed/flaxseed oil takes me back to my childhood and cricket bats. In this sense, although recommended for inner stock wood by my sword teacher, and called Amani abura in Japanese, it is not 'traditional' per se, but again... we run the danger of becoming too precious here.
I have a bag full of different bottles of gun oils, each claiming to give you special benefits, but I tend to use my nose, eyes and instinct for each job.
Our teppotai leader uses a proprietary spray oil with rust-inhibitor for the gun barrels, after the usual hot water and scouring off of black powder reside. Wipe the barrel thoroughly, and a nice understated black look should within weeks gradually form along the surfaces of it, with luck. These winter months are the best as red rust tends not to grow so much in the dry cold of Japan.
Arthur, do you live near the shop? They may be unused to taking photos of guns and unsure what you want. It might be an idea to phone them, or just go round and tell them exactly what shots you want, on a simple 1-10 written list for example.
They probably need pestering in this case. It's called 'saisoku', but since you are now their treasured customer they are, under normal rules of the game obliged to go out of the way for you. That is why I suggested a written list, so they can do it later if not immediately. Keep smiling and they will love you!
Arthur, I have been checking the Sesshu smiths, and there are over 50 Tanaka smiths, so we can guess it was a big family line/web.
The smith who made your gun is listed among them, but sadly there is no further information about him. There were five "Nihei" smiths, and the one with no last name could be the founder of that forge.(?) A 3.5 Monme gun is listed for that smith dated 享保元年 1716, which might make your smith 武明 later down the line from him. In other words, your gun is likely mid to late Edo. He also may have used at times both written forms ニ兵衛 and 仁兵衛 to express Nihei, according to this book, although you can also read the latter as Jinbei/Jimbei.
As a project you could maybe dig around for where exactly in Settsu the Tanaka gunsmiths' forge was, and whether there is any record or remainder there today.