Tips & Tools with Fred Stutzenberger – Part 6
A Place to Work
In Part #5 of this series, I promised you that we would have that barrel into the stock in part #6. That statement was a bit premature. So let me back up a bit. Before the first timer gets into the nitty-gritty of rifle building, he has to have a place to work. If you have a friend who has a large machine shop and is desperate for company who doesn’t always know what he is doing, you can skip the rest of this chapter.
For the rest of us, we must have a place to work. Now I know most of you have heard of the guy who built his first rifle on his kitchen table. To me, that sounds like the same guy who built a rocket in his back yard and is now selling moon rocks for a living. Metal filings and wood chips on the kitchen table is not a recommended path to ensure domestic tranquility. If Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.
Some sort of a working surface is essential to rifle building. A good working surface has three characteristics: it must be sturdy, it must have a mechanism for holding the rifle assembly immovable, and it must be versatile enough to accept a variety of fixtures like a vise or other supports. The part of my workbench where most of my activity is concentrated has a swivel-base vise and adjustable supports on each side (Fig. 1). The vise has leather-lined inserts (made from pieces of 2×4, Fig. 2) that protect the stock from being marred by the vise jaws. Note also the cloth on the acme screw housing. That protects the stock against injury in case it falls down from the jaws. Clamped tightly in the padded vise and firmly supported by the side supports, that stock is not going anywhere even under frenzied pounding, planing and rasping. Check out my article (Muzzle Blasts, Vises and Virtues, Sept. 1996, page 49) for more ideas about vises.
Many of the old timers did a lot of their rifle building outside, particularly in the southern Appalachians (Fig.3, Muzzle Blasts, May 1992, page 6 by permission). The light was better, the air was cleaner with less smoke from the forge and space was practically unlimited. If you live in a house or apartment with a deck, you can take that concept into your rifle-building future. Just find a sturdy board (a 2×10 or 2×12 x 6 feet long is good) and some big C-clamps. Attaching a vertical support underneath will keep it from flexing. Cover the top surface with cloth, or better yet, indoor/outdoor carpeting. Clamp your work surface across the corner of your deck (Fig. 4).
The arrows indicate the clamps holding the board to the rails and the rifle to the board. The triangulation provides a stout surface for rifle work. Refer to Muzzle Blasts, Building your Rifle in your Back Yard. May 2001, page 69, for additions that will make your primary working surface more versatile. If you don’t have a deck, sink a couple of 4×4 posts in the ground and mount the work surface on those. If you attach a capping board on each post, you can clamp your work surface to those then take it in out of the weather when you are done using it.
In Part #7, we will get that barrel into the stock. I promise.