The origins of fine stockwood

HuntingGold

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Having been brought up in a mill family, and having worked in lumber mills while going through college; generally I know what it takes to get the trees from the forest to having the wood that built my home. With that knowledge, I thought I had an idea of what it took to find and make a gun stock. I was wrong and have learned I am still on the shallow end of the learning curve.

I am an avid turkey hunter who has turned that love into hand-crafting turkey calls for friends and family. When my wife and I moved back to our home town of Klamath Falls, she found a specialty wood dealer and told me I should go take a look. Being a bit stubborn, I ignored her until she started bringing home beautiful pieces of exotic wood species for me to incorporate into my calls. Needing a certain species and a certain grain, I drove down to Cook's Woods, walked in and felt I had found woodworkers heaven. He had wood from species I had never heard of. If I had heard of the species, I certainly didn't know what it looked like in lumber form! While walking around this little slice of wood workers heaven, I found the gun stock blanks. Oh did I fall in love.

Over thirty years ago my beloved .270 fell from a tree stand to the forest floor. It was my own fault for not honing my knot-tying skills in cub scouts. It was in sheer horror that I watched the knot give way as I was pulling my rifle up to me into that tree stand. The resulting fall snapped the stock at the wrist. Fortunately there was a man in my college town that could make the repairs with high grade epoxy and he did so. Ever since, I have known that I would need to replace the stock but have not found a replacement.

During one of my subsequent visits, I found a stock blank that I really liked and put down some money to buy it. Further, I had seen Larry from MidwayUSA giving a demo on how to build a pattern stock and had decided to go custom. As many projects do, this sat for awhile. During that idle time, I would occasionally check in at Cook's Woods and sometimes another blank would follow me home. Oops.

I made a post here a few days ago about choosing which blank should go on the .270, and with your help, and my wife's help, I have decided to go with a piece of Tiger Myrtlewood over the original claro Walnut piece I bought years ago.
DSCN0188.JPG
20190223_094148_HDR.jpg



Having made that decision, I must finish my perfect pattern stock and put this project to rest. In the meantime, I had little rifle built for my grandchildren and decided it would be wrong for them to be introduced to shooting with a soul-less plastic gun. The 6X45 caliber was suggested right here on this forum and once re-stocked, it will ride with me to the Eastern Cape to hunt impala, duikers, and jackals. Here is the wood that was dropped off at the duplicator just last week:
gun stock.jpg


Speaking of the wife, she is home and wants to go to lunch. I shall return with more once I return.
Randy
 

HuntingGold

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With all that above said, I met with Chris Cook today to discuss gun stocks. In so doing, I was given a pretty good education on the business end of making and selling stock blanks. I will not mention the names here, but Chris supplies wood to some of the high end gun makers in the states. Some of the wood you see on those ultra fancy custom rifles and shotguns at one time rolled through this mill. In fact, during our tour we walked into one of the building and I immediately could hear a small saw and could smell the aroma of walnut. It was then that Chris told me they were cutting scales for pistol grips for a large and well known gun company.

We walked out into the yard and there were rows of walnut aging and waiting their time, as a fine stock blank also takes time to properly dry. On the rack, ready for the saw was one walnut log with three crotches. Chris told me the log was an expensive gamble. He paid $8000 and until he runs the saw through it, does not know if he will see a profit or a loss. Through the years he has picked up the nuances of knowing what might be hidden under the bark of a log, to know if it may be worth a higher than average price. He told me he must be very careful not to tip his hand that he believes a particular log might hold the treasure of an exceptional grain as the price could double on the spot if the broker picks up on the clues. He told me he has seen this happen many times. Even with his years of experience, there may be hidden trouble. Someone may have used this particular log to hold a target to sight a rifle or there may be a forgotten horseshoe left in a crotch that the tree had grown over and around. There may be rocks, glass, or any number of items that immediately ruin an expensive saw blade. All of this cuts into any profit and may be the difference between an exhibition grade gun stock and... firewood.

On the sales floor was a slab for sale. The slab was large and may ultimately end up as a table. In the middle of the slab was an exhibition grade feather crotch. However, there were checks and cuts that rendered any chance of becoming a stock as lost. Below are photos of that slab. The top photo is a close up and the bottom photo is the large view. The slab is over 7 feet tall. Pics are loading sideways for an unknown reason.
20190225_115758.jpg
20190225_115813.jpg
 

HuntingGold

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An expensive log. Will any of it ever be fitted to a gun stock?
20190225_122004_HDR.jpg


Chris making a close up inspection of the same walnut log, explaining the nuances of log buying. As a side note, Chris hunts elk with a .375 H&H and has been taken game in Africa.
20190225_121154_HDR.jpg
 
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Hogpatrol

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Understand what Mr. Cook is up against with the crapshoot on wood. I've burned tons of walnut. It was usually from old pasture land and the wood could have barbed wire, nails, old metal signs, pipe, stones and other fod embedded and unseen until cut. Never gave a thought of shipping it to a mill and tore up a lot of saw chain cutting it up for firewood.
 

HuntingGold

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I must apologize as I have interrupted multiple times while writing this. I am off track and will try to climb back aboard.

So with the gamble of buying logs, some of it makes it through. Some of it is figured and some of it is heavily figured.

I went to the bins of gun stock blanks and played. I sorted and looked and moved my stock outline stencil to and fro. I found some pieces that were solid, working class stock blanks but somewhat boring to look at while I also found blanks that made your jaw drop. Some had excellent potential then you would find a check or a knot and then it would be back to digging through the pile again.

I found one and found Chris who had gone back to his business and asked him about the blank. I had seemingly found one of his exhibition grade blanks. He told me this would potentially be one of the blanks he would send to the high end rifle makers. For me, it was hard to see in its current form but it was clear Chris knew his business.
20190225_120018.jpg
 

HuntingGold

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I need to end my endless blathering about wood. I have been interrupted many times in the last few minutes. I must post some final pics and go.

Understand what Mr. Cook is up against with the crapshoot on wood. I've burned tons of walnut. It was usually from old pasture land and the wood could have barbed wire, nails, old metal signs, pipe, stones and other fod embedded and unseen until cut. Never gave a thought of shipping it to a mill and tore up a lot of saw chain cutting it up for firewood.

Chris told me that he hits rocks, insulators, fence staples and that it takes its toll on equipment!

Here are some pics of a few other pieces of stock wood I saw while I was there. These are a few of those that made it through!
20190225_122547.jpg
20190225_122614.jpg
 
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Red Leg

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Having been brought up in a mill family, and having worked in lumber mills while going through college; generally I know what it takes to get the trees from the forest to having the wood that built my home. With that knowledge, I thought I had an idea of what it took to find and make a gun stock. I was wrong and have learned I am still on the shallow end of the learning curve.

I am an avid turkey hunter who has turned that love into hand-crafting turkey calls for friends and family. When my wife and I moved back to our home town of Klamath Falls, she found a specialty wood dealer and told me I should go take a look. Being a bit stubborn, I ignored her until she started bringing home beautiful pieces of exotic wood species for me to incorporate into my calls. Needing a certain species and a certain grain, I drove down to Cook's Woods, walked in and felt I had found woodworkers heaven. He had wood from species I had never heard of. If I had heard of the species, I certainly didn't know what it looked like in lumber form! While walking around this little slice of wood workers heaven, I found the gun stock blanks. Oh did I fall in love.

Over thirty years ago my beloved .270 fell from a tree stand to the forest floor. It was my own fault for not honing my knot-tying skills in cub scouts. It was in sheer horror that I watched the knot give way as I was pulling my rifle up to me into that tree stand. The resulting fall snapped the stock at the wrist. Fortunately there was a man in my college town that could make the repairs with high grade epoxy and he did so. Ever since, I have known that I would need to replace the stock but have not found a replacement.

During one of my subsequent visits, I found a stock blank that I really liked and put down some money to buy it. Further, I had seen Larry from MidwayUSA giving a demo on how to build a pattern stock and had decided to go custom. As many projects do, this sat for awhile. During that idle time, I would occasionally check in at Cook's Woods and sometimes another blank would follow me home. Oops.

I made a post here a few days ago about choosing which blank should go on the .270, and with your help, and my wife's help, I have decided to go with a piece of Tiger Myrtlewood over the original claro Walnut piece I bought years ago.
View attachment 270496 View attachment 270497


Having made that decision, I must finish my perfect pattern stock and put this project to rest. In the meantime, I had little rifle built for my grandchildren and decided it would be wrong for them to be introduced to shooting with a soul-less plastic gun. The 6X45 caliber was suggested right here on this forum and once re-stocked, it will ride with me to the Eastern Cape to hunt impala, duikers, and jackals. Here is the wood that was dropped off at the duplicator just last week:
View attachment 270498

Speaking of the wife, she is home and wants to go to lunch. I shall return with more once I return.
Randy
I wasn't part of the original discussion, but if you have access to walnut of that quality, Juglans Regia is what should go on a fine gun. Myrtlewood is interesting - maybe as inlay on a country cabinet or sideboard? But for a rifle that may carry your spirit among a child's or grandchild's generation .......... Only English Walnut!
 

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To a very large degree I agree with you! This piece of myrtlewood is spectacular and its beauty seemingly cannot be captured in a photo. The .270 will get the myrtlewood and the walnut will go on the .280 (when it's done). I also have a piece of maple that I will put on a .22 (which reminds me ends on gunbroker in a few hours). I better go get my bid in...
 

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To a very large degree I agree with you! This piece of myrtlewood is spectacular and its beauty seemingly cannot be captured in a photo. The .270 will get the myrtlewood and the walnut will go on the .280 (when it's done). I also have a piece of maple that I will put on a .22 (which reminds me ends on gunbroker in a few hours). I better go get my bid in...
Well ok then. That will definitely work! (y)
 

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Really interesting thread, and I love your obvious passion! I get a kick by how the entire look evolves as the blank is shaped. I am looking forward to seeing how yours turns out
 

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For my 11th birthday I was given a .22 rifle. That rifle is sacred to me as it was originally given to my grandmother by my grandfather allegedly for her to fire at birds raiding her garden. In the last 39 years I have kept in in its original condition, firing it only with iron sites even when not practical. Tonight I won a bid on gunbroker for an identical .22 rifle. This rifle will be the one I experiment with and will, in time wear a new piece of stock wood that followed me home from Cook Woods about two weeks ago. It is a maple with some light fiddleback. It is just fancy enough to be appealing but not so fancy as to scare me from making mistakes on a first time checkering attempt. Cant wait to start this project.

Thanks for enjoying this little thread. I had fun writing it.
Here is a pic of me shooting the old gun.
Prone 2.JPG
 

Von Gruff

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Have enjoyed your musing on fine wood @HuntingGold I am also a "wood guy" and love looking at the lovey grains and colours of the various woods we have been blessed to see and sometimes work with.
 

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Thank you for the feedback. My knowledge on this topic is limited but slowly growing. The idea for the thread was born out of rummaging through the many blanks and seeing some exceptionally beautiful pieces harmed by cracks, knots, or other seemingly unexplained damage. While "playing" in the wood pile, Chris showed me the beautiful feather crotch slab that had too many imperfections to even attempt pulling a blank out of. He then told me even with all his knowledge of judging and buying logs, he cannot know what he will find until the day the log is cut. Some days are diamonds and some days... well not (knot) so much.

Finally the risk does not end at the blank stage, some blanks still hold mysterious weaknesses that are uncovering in the stock making process. The old and experienced stock maker can repair some of the issues while others are lost.

Another friend of mine who has his connections fairly deep in the west coast gun world told me about a particular gun he bought and noticed a slight irregularity with the stock. If I remember the story correctly, the stock dimensions were not standard to that particular make and model. He happened upon a gent he knew used to build stocks for the company that made the gun and asked about it. After all these years, the stock maker immediately knew that particular rifle as he had worked on it! The retired stock maker then explained all the issues that had to be overcome. Other than the slightly noticeable (only to a collector) dimensional difference, one could not see the other issues that were repaired before sale.

Fun to hear these stories.
 

ChrisG

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For my 11th birthday I was given a .22 rifle. That rifle is sacred to me as it was originally given to my grandmother by my grandfather allegedly for her to fire at birds raiding her garden. In the last 39 years I have kept in in its original condition, firing it only with iron sites even when not practical. Tonight I won a bid on gunbroker for an identical .22 rifle. This rifle will be the one I experiment with and will, in time wear a new piece of stock wood that followed me home from Cook Woods about two weeks ago. It is a maple with some light fiddleback. It is just fancy enough to be appealing but not so fancy as to scare me from making mistakes on a first time checkering attempt. Cant wait to start this project.

Thanks for enjoying this little thread. I had fun writing it.
Here is a pic of me shooting the old gun.View attachment 270567
Checkering is really a very simple process and if you are a hands on person at all (which it definitely sounds like you are) you will catch on very quickly. What I can tell you is tremendously handy while checkering is an illuminated pair of these:

 

steve white

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I hate to say it, but the above pictures do not in my opinion show knowledgeable harvesting/treatment of walnut. Having personally cut thousands of blanks, I am horrified to see that most all of the logs were cut at ground level, thus missing all opportunity to utilize the turn in grain from horizontal root wood to the vertical trunk. What a shame! Dig out that stump! The cuts have to be laid out squared through the roots, and then you have fan shaped fiddle in the turn of the quarter sawn wood, where it turns from horizontal roots to vertical trunk and perfect turn through the wrist. You cannot just slab it up and hope for the best--the layout comes from the direction of the cuts. ALSO--down the trunk through the crotch is not usually the best layout for a blank. None of the logs shown have any of the wood above the split left where you could run the cut "up the limb" and have the crotch figure in the butt, yet still have the right turn of grain through the wrist. THE VERY WORST part of what was pictured was no sealing of the figured wood with hot paraffin, or other sealer--not even the ends were sealed, causing disastrous cracking as that shown in the crotch grain cut. The graying of that blank proves it was never sealed--and it must be, with the blank then forced to air out through the sides (or anywhere besides though cracking of the figure.) The ends must always be sealed or they will begin splitting there. That was not a crapshoot--that was caused by ignorance of how to preserve the blanks!! He could up his successful cuts by 90% at the very least. I only wish I had charged what people charge today for blanks--it would have paid for a safari. It was never a crapshoot--but it was a marvelous TREASURE HUNT! (don't mean to offend anyone--even if they do need the advice)
 

CAustin

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Very interesting thread and some great looking wood.
 

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A couple photos of my Aussie wood.
My 45-70 Rolling Block


Remington 40X rimfire

A small ring mini mauser in 220 Russia.


458 Lott on a VZ24 Mauser


7X57 on a Mexican Mauser with double square bridges


A few of some that I've had made over the years.
 

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