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Old 07-23-2019, 09:25 AM
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ek-marlin-424
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Power checkering with a Titan



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A few years ago I picked up checkering tools and started down the long road of learning how to use them. You can see the process here.

Last year dbr65 (Doug) picked up a stock I'd made, and afterwards reached out me to see if there was a way he could help make my work more efficient, since most of it is done by hand. Checkering stocks by hand takes a long time, and I accept that the reward of sharp diamonds is worth the effort, but at the same time I realize cutting time out of the process would be helpful to me. I did some research on power checkering tools and decided on a Titan from Ullman Precision Products to be powered by a Foredom TX motor with a foot pedal control. Doug got the tool and I got the motor, and I want to thank him for his generosity. I wouldn't be doing this stockmaking work today if it weren't for the help I've received along the way from this community in various forms, and this is a shining example.

Anyways it didn't take long after ordering for the Titan to arrive. I got some tips from Mike Ullman over the phone about running the tool and couldn't wait to put it all together.



Zip zip. First impression after cutting in some initial lines on a scrap piece was wow, this thing cuts easily. Doesn't require any real hand pressure and it will eat up as much walnut as it wants. The Foredom TX is putting upwards of 1/3 hp on a maybe 5/8" diameter carbide cutting wheel, which basically means it'll make some lines as fast as you want and doesn't care about whats in the way.





Spacing is controlled by a guide with a knife edge to the right of the cutter, adjusted by a little screw. Pretty simple to use. The guide is spring loaded so you can keep it rested in the previous line cut while the wheel cuts in the new one.

Not a great pic here (prepare for more like that) but here it is after putting in some lines on a stock. I picked up a bunch of inexpensive Cousineau "B-team" 10/22 stocks for the sake of scratching up and here's the first victim. I wasn't trying to make pretty patterns either, just focusing on how to operate the tool.











Pretty rough. Being accustomed to pressing hand tools into the wood, I was pushing the Titan in just as hard here. I could keep lines relatively straight but was really chewing the stock up.

On to the grip patterns. More of the same.











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Last edited by ek-marlin-424; 07-23-2019 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 07-23-2019, 09:52 AM
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What's really different about the Titan compared to hand tools is simply how easily it cuts. Again I was used to having to press in hard with hand cutters and that isn't the case here. The other (more terrifying) consequence of this is that any slips of the tool outside the checkering pattern happen faster than you can blink. There is a margin of safety thanks to the spacing guide, which sits a little lower than the cutter and thus keeps it elevated above the wood when at rest- you have to press a lil bit for the cutter to actually make contact. As usual the handier the tool is the faster it can screw things up and this is no exception, but its all the fault of the user and not the tool itself. The Titan is an amazing thing and you just have to be careful with it.

I went back to cutting on flat blocks and came to the realization that, yes, very light pressure is all it takes to be in control of the tool. Practice led to figuring out the right balance between cutter speed and how fast to advance the tool.



Okay that's better. Now we'll try something with borders.



More practice just cutting lots of diamonds, working on keeping the tool consistent. About here is where things started to click and I realized running the tool was about finesse and not just power.



For fun I tried cutting a piece with the grain running sideways, and it still powered through no problem.



One problem I had yet to solve was how to hang up the motor with my checkering cradle plus have somewhere to safely hang up the tool. I went through a couple of dead end solutions before I realized all it took was a simple hook attached to the side of the cradle. With a ring zip-tied to the Titan I could hang it up with the motor too. Simple and effective.

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Old 07-23-2019, 10:21 AM
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Okay now back to a real stock.







Mucho better. Big improvement from the first go. Easy does it.





Tried scratching up a solid birch stock.













I still had some struggles keeping everything withing the borders, but I was feeling a whole lot better about the tool control and keeping the depth consistent and even. Started to relax a bit while running the tool and get into the "zen" state that happens when I'm having a good day with the hand tools and minutes melt by. Can't get the feeling if you are nervous because that will get in the way and distract your focus. However, with enough practice and sheer numbers of lines cut in, I started to get there.
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:36 AM
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It was about this time that Doug's Brno Model 1 stock that I'd been working on (completed rifle here, progress pics here) was ready for checkering. If you want motivation to not screw up, take a look at that wood. Starting the checkering on a stock like that is nerve wracking, but not unlike shooting a big deer- you've just got to focus on the target itself and not the big rack above it. Focus on the immediate task at hand and don't get wrapped up in the big picture. Aim small, miss small... right?

Master lines cut in by hand, ready for the Titan to take over.



Then... *deep breath*... here we go.





I realize I can do it after all, and I settle in to cut in lines and make diamonds as usual.





I still have to cut the lines in to the borders by hand, and complete deepening the lines by hand, but the power tool saves an incredible amount of time and energy by helping remove the bulk of the material.





We'll call that fore-end pattern a success. Cutting around the diamond in the pattern that borders the takedown screw escutcheon was a little tricky, and so was the amount of taper in the fore-end of this stock, but I am undeniably happy with the result.
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Last edited by ek-marlin-424; 07-23-2019 at 10:38 AM.
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:46 AM
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Great stuff Evan. Sherry Abrams from Kimber used to set up a table at large gun shows around here and use her power checkering machine to do checkering at the shows for demonstration and to make some money. I stopped by and watched her work and she could completely checker a Model 70 standard pattern in about 30-45 minutes and it would look perfect. Of course, she had tons of practice from her days at Kimber which is what it takes- just like any other skill. Looks like you've just about got it to that point....

Bob
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:47 AM
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Now for the grip patterns. I left a 1/2" wide strip down the middle of the grip and the patterns "kiss" over the top of the grip, so they almost wrap around the entire grip. Here's how they looked drawn out on the stock.



Now, skipping a few steps, here I am starting to go back over the initial lines cut with the Titan and make them deeper yet. You lay the lines out from the right to the left and then make them deeper going from the left to the right.



Pleased with the accuracy of the spacing and alignment shown here. When done right, the diamonds should stack up on top of each other in perfectly straight rows from this view.



Now cleaning things up with hand tools.







Finished with matte urethane same as the fore-end pattern.



Now we breathe a big collective sigh of relief. After several months of trial and error, and a pile of gunstocks, I consider the Titan to be tamed.
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Old 07-23-2019, 11:07 AM
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Now last but not least from me are some videos of the tool running. To be honest I don't really like having the camera running while I'm checkering because it is distracting and that's why there isn't any video of my learning process. While working on Doug's Brno stock I got comfortable enough to have Mrs. EK help record some.

Here's laying out the first set of lines on the fore-end.



Wrapping it up. There were some really long cuts on the fore-end, and here's some short cuts.



Now on the second pass, going over the lines with the tool to make them deeper and form sharp diamonds.



My view while cutting in the fore-end pattern. It wasn't gonna work to do that for much longer, but you still get an idea of how it works.



Now checkering the buttplate. This is the second pass over the first lines. It was my first time working with buffalo horn and it cuts much cleaner than I expected.

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Last edited by ek-marlin-424; 07-23-2019 at 11:09 AM.
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