Tips & Tools with Fred Stutzenberger – Part 8
Tips & Tools #8. Inletting the Breech and Tang
So now you have the fore end channeled so that the barrel is just an easy press fit with no unsightly gaps. The only barrel inletting left to do is the breech/tang.
It is very important to inlet the breech carefully so that the back of the breech plug makes full contact with the shoulder of the stock. Using a very sharp ¾” chisel, cut down across the grain as shown in Fig. 1. If the wood is hard and the chisel is sharp, you will get a clean cut with no grain separation at the shoulder. Weak wood will collapse a bit on a deep vertical cut. It can be reinforced with a bit of AcraGlas gel (Brownells.com). Under the recoil of thousands of shots, a badly inlet breech will pound itself back into the stock, causing a split in the stock at the end of the tang. Also, bad inletting may actually contribute to poor grouping of the finished rifle if the barrel is allowed to shift back and forth (more on that later).
Once the inlet is square with the back of the barrel, clamp the barrel down into the inlet with the tang pressing firmly on the wood (Fig. 2). A properly shaped tang will be undercut with a bit of draft to provide a wedging effect as it is let into the wood. If your tang is square, now is the time to shape it to facilitate inletting by filing a bit of draft tapering toward the underside.
Using a sharp knife, cut closely around the tang and remove a layer of wood. Cut again and remove another layer and another and another until the tang is level with the wood (or perhaps slightly below) and there are no large wood-to-metal gaps (Fig. 3). Use some form of inletting black to check contact of the back of the breech with the shoulder of the inlet. Remember, it is functionally more important to have the breech in firm, even contact with the wood than to have the tang pressing against the back of its inlet. You might even want to take off an additional sliver of wood at the rear of the tang inlet to keep the wood from splitting out (you see little checks like that around the tangs of some of old rifles).
There, you see? You’ve done it! The hardest single part of rifle building is behind you. Your inner self—where fortitude and determination lie—deserves a treat of its choice as a reward for a job well done. If you want to coat the nicely cut inlet with epoxy bedding to reinforce the fragile fore end and seal it against the ravages of moisture, tune in for Tips & Tools Part 9.
Regards, Fred Stutzenberger