Following are quite a few paragraphs
of depressing realities as they relate to figured wood and gunstocks.
BUT!!! There is hope
at the bottom of the page.If you must - read that part first - then brace for
the truth of the text above as we discuss what goes into the making
of a figured stock.
added 1-23-03 - There's
a part that everybody forgets when discussing the cost of stock
wood. That's this: Somebody
has to take the blank and MAKE it into a stock.The prices I charge INCLUDE this highly
Therefore; when you find a chunk of wood on the net for $500,
you get just that ... A CHUNK of wood ... period. Then, all you
need is a highly skilled craftsman with a shop full of tools and
the time/skills to design, profile, inlet, shape, grind, sand,
and finish your chunk into a stock. When you see where I've
listed an optional stock at $500 .... the skilled craftsman, and
the tools, and the time are INCLUDED. Additionally; if I've
told you I'll use your own blank for a surcharge, that's for the
skilled craftsman, tools, and labor. It's the DIFFERENCE between
working a softer pc. of predictable straight grained walnut and
working a temperamental blank of unknown origin.
There's a heck of
a difference between a "blank" and a "stock".
No matter the industry you are in,
there will be an issue which comes up constantly which is difficult
to explain to your clients. After you've explained it ...... it
won't matter. It will continue to come up on a regular basis.
If you are in the home improvement
business, it will be "homeowners who want to help".
If you are NASA, it will be Rock Stars who want a ride on the
Space Shuttle. You'll immediately know what your issue is. If
you make rifles, it will be "gunstock blanks". Obviously
... every rifle has one. However; what it's made from is not a
Ahhhh ... the internet. You can punch
up sites all day which show pretty pics of knock 'yer eye out
grain and color. No ... those are not priced ... it's POR (price
on request). And, if you e-mail or call, you are likely to get
nowhere. The prices actually listed (blanks not shown) go something
like ... Grade Super Duper ... (excellent color and grain throughout)
... $100. Permit me to laugh. Just isn't true.
Sites will vary from those with pics
that look like they were shot through a pr. of pantyhose, to those
with color straight from Disney. You'll go nuts trying to determine
if these are actual serial numbered, inventoried blanks or if
they are "representative" of blanks they think they
can match (or once had). And, then who's problem is it when the
blank arrives with serious flaws, or is otherwise not as represented?
When I explain the nature of figured
woods to folks, it's much like explaining the nature of a high
maintenance blond to an 80 year old multi-billionaire. Still,
it's true. Like the blonde ... the more highly figured ... the
higher the maintenance. ;?)
But ... back to wood ...
The figure is caused by a tortured
grain structure. This means it's under stress.
But ... back to wood ...
When you machine figured wood, it will
stress relieve. That can mean warps, cracks, twists, splits and
shrinkage. What you machine today can be banana shaped tomorrow.
You must sneak up on the blank veeeeery carrrrefully. Machine
it some and then run away (hoping it didn't see you) and then
let it "normalize" for awhile. I'm quite serious. If
you plough a deep groove the length of it, and grind it down to
profile, and you'll never get the action in that long winding
groove a week later.
About this time, you're probably wondering
... "what's the matter with this guy? .... doesn't he like
pretty stocks .... I just want a nice stock ... good grief..."
Right ... I understand ... I'm explaining what that involves.
Please understand that since wood is a natural product - every
pc. is different. One thing that's universal though ... the blanks
which everyone want, are an absolute nightmare to work.
I'll hit you with the
punch line here 'cause some are fading now. I'll explain more
on the bottom of the page. Here's
the deal: I'm regularly sent url's from folks who find
them. They hope they've solved all my wood problems. I appreciate
the thought, but it hasn't been that way so far. However; if you
must, go ahead and buy your blank and send it to me. I'll charge
you a flat fee to use yours. $450-750, depending upon what it
is, so budget that in. Why on earth? I have to use a pc. of wood
anyway ... why not just use yours?
Reason: Because it's not a simple swap
out of wood for wood. It's complicating this stockmaking phase
of the project ten fold. That's dealing with the initial blank.
It is flawed, is it dry, does it fit, is it cracked, is there
bug damage, even ... is there foreign matter into it? The fee
is to cover having the thing in the way for all the endless normalizing
sessions during machining. It's for the repeated set-ups because
I'm not going to let the blank on the machines for weeks on end.
In short ... it's for the pain of the whole thing.
Now ... I am highly qualified to work
the blank (28 years professionally and many more before that working
woods). However; ... if the blank has flaws in it, cracks, worm
holes, voids, etc. Or; if the grain runs across the wrist, or
pops out when machined properly with extremely sharp tools ...
Or; if the whole thing twists into an unusable state after machining
... it's simply a loss. Sounds cold but ... what else can I do?
I didn't grow the stuff.
Let's continue with
the "Whys?" for those interested.
The old timers looked for the lightest,
strongest, straightest wood from which to make stocks. It's stable
that way. You can shave it with planes and hand cutters. Woodworking
101 tells you to never run a cutter "against the grain".
Figured woods have the grain running every way to Sunday. You
can't run a cutter any way "but" against the grain in
figured wood. Tools must be extra, extra sharp. Spindle speeds
must be exactly right or you'll pop out chunks of wood where the
figured grain changes direction. Clamping must be done very carefully
or you'll break hollow areas.
Some figured woods have all the structural
integrity of an oatmeal cookie. They'll break, unless you have
them stabilized (turning them into plasticized wood fiber). If
you read the print on the wood net sites, they'll tell you the
same thing. You must allow the wood to "normalize" between
operations. You sneak it down to the final size and profile. You
machine it some and then let it go ahead and warp. You true it
up about a week later from the oversized waste you left in place.
You machine it some more and let it warp again. Sound like fun?
You machine a groove (praying all the while), and then slowly
back away and let it "normalize" again. Of course, you
take it out of the machine and trip over it for a week in between
each operation. It goes on like this. You do "nothing"
as you would when working with a regular straight grained blank.
Every edge or corner is just waiting to pop off. But ... it sure
is pretty, I can see that.
Just to drive you over the edge with
a final example ... we're gonna mow your yard in the same way
you make a figured stock. It's Monday. Let's get the mower out.
Ok good. Whoaaaa there .... that's it for today. Just let it "normalize"
now. Wednesday ... we fill the tank with gas. Nope ... let it
sit. Thursday ... nope. Fri-Sun... nope. Monday again ... we trim
around the trees in the yard. Wait!! We'll come back Friday and
start up and down the flat areas. That's unless you want all the
trees to die ... they have to "normalize" ya know. Friday
... now, put it in low, low forward and run the engine really
fast. You go about five yards down the lawn, make a sharp left,
go three yards, double back, stop, reverse, then left ten yards,
now turn right and stop. OK ... let it there - it has to normalize
again. Well, you can't just mow along in high gear right across
the grain ya know. You'll have nothing but splinters and mulch
behind you. And we certainly can't finish before dark ... no.
You get the idea. I know ... I'm no fun at all. People just want
a nice stock and I'm being truthful again. I apologize for it
being so. But, I can't turn it into a cake walk just because everyone
wants a it to be.
Yet ... there's
hope! ..... Finally!!!
A couple of times
a year, I hand pick a bunch of stock blanks. I have to sort through tens of tons of planks. I choose
what I think I can work. I offer them, when I have them. I don't
deal with some mill that's in the business of churning out blanks
for the net. You'll find that you actually pay about a grand for
the ones you think you want there. But then, you might want to
go price custom trophy stocks on the net too ... that will clear
My trophy wood stocks will cost you
about another $500-1,000US BUT ...
that INCLUDES making it!! That's
NOT just a chunk of wood.
I've made some stocks with gorgeous
grain. The people were pleased. I can't duplicate any given stock.
That's why I have no simple answers for everyone and no simple
add on accessory item listed. It's also why, I can't tell many
folks what I'm going to have in inventory three years from now
when I'm building their rifle. I usually have some inventory.
If not, I'll go get it.
Understand too please: I'll spend hundreds
of hours on your rifle's steel parts. I sweat bullets (pun intended)
to make sure the thing is safe, accurate, dependable, etc. That's
the rifle. That's the living, breathing soul of the thing. I have
no idea what sort of blank someone is going to sell you to send
to me. And, I strongly discourage you to dig thru the pile, under
the rotted tarp, next to the old shed. Not having seen it, I can't
judge (in advance) if a blank is gonna have problems, be annoying
to work, really annoying to work, really-really-really annoying
to work, etc. I can't have a price for each bracket. Also, every
time I add on another long phase to your project, I have to cut
into the time of the next guy on the ledger. This is happening
more and more. Everyone must be patient with that. So, if you
have your heart set on something like a trophy stock blank someone
sold you, I'll have to be paid to use it and I can't guarantee
the results. Those that I offer - I feel better about - I picked
I know it sounds grumpy and it's not
fun. You'd just have to spend a few weeks fighting a blank of
wood to gain an appreciation for the whole topic. Anybody can
wax the thing after it's finished. It's been 29 years since I
expected figured wood to co-operate. ;?) However; I will tell
you what I have in inventory. I will make a great stock for you.
I will charge you for the fun. ;?)