Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tips and Tools with Fred Stutzenberger- Part 4

A Few Words about Stock Shaping by Fred Stutzenberger

In our joint rifle building back in the ‘70s, Tom Harbin and I bought large planks (walnut, curly maple and some cherry) and sawed out blanks using plywood patterns as templates. After inletting the barrels and buttplates while the stock was still “in the square”, we rough-shaped them with mallet and gouge (Fig.1).


Roughing out the butt with mallet and gouge.

Later, Tom built a buttstock duplicator (Muzzle Blasts, Oct. 1979, p. 11). We gradually extended the number of stock “masters” (the three-dimensional forms that guided the follower over the stock contour, Fig. 2). At one time, we had 13 masters that ranged from two Jäger styles from the mid-1700s right up to a “hardware store” master suitable for a back-action lock of the 1860s. Tom’s duplicator shaped the buttstocks up to and including the lock panels. The rest of the machine work was done on a milling machine or via a router-based jig (to be described in another chapter).


Shop made buttstock duplicator in use.

Nowadays, there is a wide range of styles of pre-shaped stocks that are profiled on what I call “gang duplicators” (Fig.3). If I remember correctly, Fig. 3 was taken at Pecatonica River Long Rifle Supply Company. Dick Greensides will work with the builder to put together a parts assembly compatible with the level of his/her skill and experience. Some stocks are available as “semi-shaped” (barrel inlet, ramrod channel, shaped butt and fore end, but no lock or trigger mortises). Others come in “kits” in which 95% of total wood removal is done for the customer. Kit used to be a derogatory term for an assembly of parts to be used only by people of limited talent and enthusiasm, but not suitable for “custom rifles”. Not so today. Many kits, such as those produced by Jim Chambers, are high quality assemblies composed of appropriate compatible parts that go together in a few hours with a minimum of frustration. Their only limitation is that the range of styles is of course limited.


Gang duplicator at Pecatonica River Long Rifle Supply Company.

I have not had much experience with the range of kits that are now commercially available, but the two rifles I built, carved and engraved from Chambers kits sold for several thousand dollars each. Two kits from another supplier were returned for refund after much wasted time and effort. A little money might be saved by purchasing a cheaper kit, but what is saved will likely be overspent in time and disappointment. One of my friends has had such a disappointment sitting in his closet for at least ten years.

In the next chapter, some alternatives for inletting the barrel will be discussed.

Fred Stutzenberger

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