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  #31  
Old 01-14-2015, 05:44 PM
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Everything is great. I'm following and don't want to clog up the thread with small talk. Please continue.
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  #32  
Old 01-14-2015, 06:55 PM
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I'll add some of my opinions here, from the perspective of someone who started three years ago. SGW has already introduced a handful of new techniques to me here in this thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jfraz3 View Post
Question for you guys :

Would you start out on a flat hunk of wood to practice on?
Or dive in on a rifle stock that is just laying around?
First, I agree with SGW that trying to cut unfinished wood isn't so good. In my experience it just leads to a bunch of mashed up lines and bad words. I'd start on a flat board just to get a feel for the tools and see how spacing works and make some runovers, and get comfortable with it. Then move on to a practice stock. I don't think there's a single perfectly flat surface I've checkered on a stock yet, so you might as well get used to cutting over convex and concave curves sooner than later.

I started with a Dem-Bart starter kit and thanks to some generous folks acquired a number of different tools in addition to them, and now I use some of those Dem-Bart single line and short V cutters in addition to a Brownell style handle (with a Gun-line 3-row spacer) for laying out lines. The Brownell handles are best. I want to try these cutters but alas they ain't cheap... however I've heard you get what you pay for with them too: http://ullmanprecisionproducts.com/h...ckering-tools/

Lighting while you checker is very important. Most of the time when I'm at my bench I like lots of light- but when checkering, you want most of the light coming directly from your left or right so it casts a shadow over the lines you've cut. It helps you see the lines as you're cutting them and keep your tool level with the surface you're cutting.

One more thing... take breaks! I make most of my mistakes when I'm tired and trying to push myself, or get too "in the groove" and you know how going on Auto-pilot can do. It feels counter-intuitive, because I'd rather just keep working uninterrupted if I can and that was how I was raised- but that will just lead to mistakes in my hands. At least a couple breaks per hour help keep me and I try to get up and let the dog out or something to mentally and physically "reset" so my hands and eyes feel fresh when I return to the work.

If I ever screw up, or start feeling frustrated by something, I immediately drop the tools and walk away. I just dig myself into an even deeper hole in those situations unless I return to the work when I've calmed down and know exactly how I'll approach it to fix everything.

If you ever feel a sneeze coming while you're cutting a line, step away from the stock. Maybe a couple steps.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobSc View Post
Do you use a layout tool for laying out your Master lines to get the best angle for the diamonds? If so, which tool do you use? Been using a Dem-Bart angle template to establish the master lines, then I continue them with a section of measuring tape.

To keep the master lines straight, especially around edges or curves, do you use a straight edge to guide your cutter initially or do you cut by eye to the line? Straight edge to mark the line and scribe it in if I can, or I've learned now that a strip of scotch tape can work pretty well to help guide a cutter too. Either way, having any sort of guide is better than nothing there in my opinion.

On rifle stocks, do you use stock patterns or do you free hand your patterns for everything? I am referring to patterns like original Pre 64 Model 70 patterns or Model 52 Sporter patterns.

Freehand. I do try to use bits and pieces of other checkering patterns that I see and like (specific examples: how the rear border of the checkering on some D'arcy Echols and Dakota stocks includes a point that is aligned with the main points in the front, or traditional grip patterns that just touch over the top of the wrist) and try to incorporate it into my work, but I still have to be able to visualize and adapt it to the particular stock. I started out drawing some wild patterns and trying a taste of them while I was just practicing to start and realized sacrificing quality for style doesn't look nearly as good as a more simple pattern executed very well. So now I'm doing pretty traditional point patterns but that also has to do with the kind of projects I'm working on too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SGW Gunsmith View Post
1) Common, ordinary toothbrush. I use our old ones to brush out the sawdust buildup in the lines as the lines are formed. Keep your work free of dust so you can see what's going on. I have also found toothbrushes really cheap at our local "Dollar Store". Yep, these do the trick and cheap works here.

3) I use yellow, or white lead pencils (Brownells) to show me where my master lines are. Makes it easier to keep track of the number of spacing lines I cut, right and left of the master line. And then, when you start "pointing up " your checkering, the white or yellow will disappear with the fine sawdust you create.
I started with plain lead pencils and someone here sent me a soft white pencil and it blew my mind. Perfect D'oh! moment. You have to keep the pencils sharp too so they can follow stencils and straight edges closely.

4 & 5) These are sections from a measuring tape that was caught in a chop-saw. I'll not admit to anything. The curved face that has the numbers on it was covered with plastic electricians tape, so the steel tape section will not scratch any finishes. The over-hang of tape was trimmed off with an Xacto knife. These pieces of steel measuring tape are very flexible and will form around forearms very easily so that master lines can be scribed in place with my pen/scribe. These sections of measuring tape make for a superb straight edge even when they wrap around contours like the forearm. Pictures on how later.
I've been using the chopped up measuring tapes and they are great, but haven't lined them with tape yet. Maybe that will stop them from sliding around when you really don't want them to. The thinner strip of spring steel inside the tape measure is good too because it has no set- just flexible. I think both have their time and place. Going to try tape on mine now.

I use them to draw master lines and borders. It is very helpful to use them around curves where it would be near impossible to imagine a straight line but the tape shows the way- without bending. I also use 1/4" auto detailing tape for short sections and curved borders.


6) This is a little template that I also made. It's used to get the top line of the forearm pattern exactly 3/16ths of an inch down from the top of the stocks forearm, on both sides of the stock.
Huh, that is interesting. New to me. Same goes for the scribe in #2. While it seems simple, and it is, keeping that top line straight can be a real challenge. At least for me.

10) This is a section of "dressmakers" tape that I use to measure areas involved with the forearm where I want to place my checkering pattern. I will then transfer those dimension onto 1/4-inch grid paper and then sit in my recliner and contrive checkering patters on paper. The patters are not used for laying on the stock to actually do any checkering though because I can't see through the paper. At one time, I thing somebody came up with decals of checkering patters that could be slapped onto a forearm or the pistol grip area. I guess the idea was then to checker right through the decal until the pattern was wiped out from the checkering. I never could get that idea right in my head as to how that specific decal would work for the stock I was working on.

I'm looking forward to seeing how you do the templates.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SGW Gunsmith View Post
A couple of things. Don't waste your time and efforts with checkering crappy wood. American Walnut, Claro Walnut and some of the other more open pore, open grain wood used for gunstocks are OK to start out with. But consider this. Those open pore and open grain stock woods will absolutely need to have those pores and grain filled with finish that's allowed to harden up to the finishes full extent. Because of that wood being more course than some others, lines-per-inch (LPI) are best cut using 18, 20 and maybe 22 LPI cutters and then finished with a 90-degree finishing cutter. The more open grain wood will have the tops of the diamonds popping off if the LPI is any finer than 20 LPI. What I have done in some cases where the wood is a bit course, is to cut to 1/3rd depth and then add stock finish to strengthen the wood. That works MOST of the time, but it's not something I feel I can rely on. My preference when checkering is involved with the project is to ALWAYS use a finish that penetrates deeply into the stock wood. For that reason I use Permalyn gunstock finish and sealer. For stocks/grips that don't require checkering, a surface finish like lacquer works great and brings out the color and figure, if present, in the wood. Checkering a lacquer finished stock will have the finish chipping along the borders of your checkering pattern. and believe me, that is a real nightmare to try and fix.

I've cut over Tru Oil, spar urethane, and lacquer so far and I rank them in that order. TO seems relatively easy, spar urethane tends to feel gummy but still okay, and I'm in the process of learning about checkering lacquer the fun way. It is a BEAUTIFUL clear finish but cuts like bad ice- feels hard and glassy to start then gets chippy. Especially around the borders. In comparison, the cutter will just sink into Tru-oil and cut smoothly. I have yet to try Permalyn and Sea-Fin makes a finish I'm curious about too.

I agree on just sticking to walnut and ideally, the finer pored stuff too. All of my checkering from the start has been 20 LPI and I have yet to checker thin shell walnut (and can't wait to), only claro and black walnut so far, but can assure readers there's a big difference between checkering denser, fine pored wood and softer, coarse pored stuff. I tried a bit of birch and it was not good. I recently tried checkering some jet black gabon ebony and while my hands got tired fast- that stuff cuts incredibly clean and smooth. Saving the 24 LPI stuff for some English and Australian walnut.
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Last edited by ek-marlin-424; 01-14-2015 at 07:28 PM.
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  #33  
Old 01-14-2015, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ek-marlin-424 View Post
I'll add some of my opinions here, from the perspective of someone who started three years ago. SGW has already introduced a handful of new techniques to me here in this thread.





Freehand. I do try to use bits and pieces of other checkering patterns that I see and like (specific examples: how the rear border of the checkering on some D'arcy Echols and Dakota stocks includes a point that is aligned with the main points in the front, or traditional grip patterns that just touch over the top of the wrist) and try to incorporate it into my work, but I still have to be able to visualize and adapt it to the particular stock. I started out drawing some wild patterns and trying a taste of them while I was just practicing to start and realized sacrificing quality for style doesn't look nearly as good as a more simple pattern executed very well. So now I'm doing pretty traditional point patterns but that also has to do with the kind of projects I'm working on too.
It's interesting you mention D'Arcy Echols. I met him at a Safari Club International Convention in Las Vegas back in the early 90's. What a guy! Very subdued, polite and unassuming fella from Ogden, Utah. His beginning prices for a custom rifle started at $10,000.00. My shooting buddy Tim and his wife went to Vegas, along with my wife and I, because the NRA convention was being held there also. Tim kept saying show him your checkering pictures, show him what you do. I must have looked like a tomato, because my face and neck got so warm I thought I was gonna implode. OK, here's my pictures. By yimmy, he sorta liked my work, either that or he was drunk.
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  #34  
Old 01-15-2015, 10:43 AM
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I know that some of this stuff will be overwhelming at first, but thanks to JEE and a few of the "good" folks at RFC, they've provided a space where this can be stored. I will be repeating myself a bit from time to time, so bear with me, as repetition is the way many folks learn.

Now, if any of you folks following along with this thread get started with checkering, show us what you're doing with pictures, or ask questions. I promise I won't pick on you, or poke fun at those first endeavors. Well, maybe a little. But, if you don't mind, Evan and I, or anybody else who does this stuff, may inject a few pointers as to what may help, or get you to understand things better.

There are only two types of checkering pattern layouts. Fill-in, where the borders are first cut in, and then point patterns where the borders are created where the points abruptly end. The pattern involved with the grips above is what I consider to be a fill-in pattern. Same as this fleur-de-lis pattern on this shotgun forearm wood. Now, that pattern may look like it's been laid out onto the forearms surface, by some genius, but later on when I show you how it was done, there may be a bounty imposed on my hide because of the simplicity involved. Remember, I said I was lazy, so I do some things with as little effort as I can get away with.



Here is what's defined as a point pattern. All the borders are created from the intersecting of the points. The "arrows" in this pattern are from templates, or patterns of two different sizes, with fill-in checkering inside the arrows.



Looking back on my notes that I've kept over the years on all the things I screwed up while checkering, and learning this process, I did find, that, the Gun-Line brand of checkering tools, or I should say, at least the cutters will do a great job with checkering. The teeth are more course than the Dem-Bart cutters and won't clog up with wood dust as quickly. I don't like the handles on the Dem-Bart or Gun-Line tools, because they can cause the cutter to chatter, and that drives me NUTS. The W.E. Brownell handles with the bifurcated cutter holder works so much better, that I got rid of all the other handles I had. If your cutters have teeth close together, they will collect wood dust and then the danger is, they will jump off track and cut where you don't want or need them to. I would recommend that you avoid purchasing cutters that are called "finishing" cutters. They may sound like a good idea, but they make me use words that shouldn't be used around women and children. Those words will even have your cat racing for cover. The more open teeth on the W.E. Brownell cutters and the Gun-Line cutters will not clog up as readily and if they start to do that, a puff of breath or a couple of swipes with that toothbrush will get that wood dust out of the cutter and out of the way in your work.
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  #35  
Old 01-15-2015, 10:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfraz3 View Post
Well? You answered my questions already, still soaking it all in and watching for your list of "must have" tools to see if I'm even close, or if I'm going to have to sell a rifle or three to outfit myself properly!

Loving this so far, knew an older fella that built custom rifles back in the day (50's to 60's) and he carved and checkered, was too young and stupid to hang out and learn his craft...now I'm afraid I'm too old,stupid, and impatient to do any justice to a rifle stock...

I have finished several stocks for folks, done inlays, glass bedded etc. Just would like to be able to maybe checker a stock one day and have it at least be "presentable" or passable!

Learning something new is why I joined this site, and why I continue to visit several times a day!

Gets boring when the "click for new posts" only brings up half a dozen I haven't already read
Did you read post #24? There's some things in that post that you can make yourself that will help you a whole lot.
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  #36  
Old 01-15-2015, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by scooter22 View Post
Everything is great. I'm following and don't want to clog up the thread with small talk. Please continue.
Well, I'm not ALL about work, fun and "small talk" can help, even with others sometimes.
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  #37  
Old 01-15-2015, 11:17 AM
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I did read that, have quite a few of those in my arsenal down in the bat cave already. Mostly I'm researching cradles at this point. The Brownells 2x4 thing my wife spent WAY too much money on isn't near as sturdy as I'd like it to be, so I'm in the process of gathering supplies to build one
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  #38  
Old 01-15-2015, 11:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SGW Gunsmith View Post
It's interesting you mention D'Arcy Echols. I met him at a Safari Club International Convention in Las Vegas back in the early 90's. What a guy! Very subdued, polite and unassuming fella from Ogden, Utah. His beginning prices for a custom rifle started at $10,000.00. My shooting buddy Tim and his wife went to Vegas, along with my wife and I, because the NRA convention was being held there also. Tim kept saying show him your checkering pictures, show him what you do. I must have looked like a tomato, because my face and neck got so warm I thought I was gonna implode. OK, here's my pictures. By yimmy, he sorta liked my work, either that or he was drunk.
Fun story. I gotta get to one of the big gunmakers conventions one of these days. One thing is certain after meeting and communicating with a handful of the ACGG guys is no two are alike. Gunmakers are a unique bunch, in a good way. Most have been surprisingly helpful to me too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SGW Gunsmith View Post
Looking back on my notes that I've kept over the years on all the things I screwed up while checkering, and learning this process, I did find, that, the Gun-Line brand of checkering tools, or I should say, at least the cutters will do a great job with checkering. The teeth are more course than the Dem-Bart cutters and won't clog up with wood dust as quickly. I don't like the handles on the Dem-Bart or Gun-Line tools, because they can cause the cutter to chatter, and that drives me NUTS. The W.E. Brownell handles with the bifurcated cutter holder works so much better, that I got rid of all the other handles I had. If your cutters have teeth close together, they will collect wood dust and then the danger is, they will jump off track and cut where you don't want or need them to. I would recommend that you avoid purchasing cutters that are called "finishing" cutters. They may sound like a good idea, but they make me use words that shouldn't be used around women and children. Those words will even have your cat racing for cover. The more open teeth on the W.E. Brownell cutters and the Gun-Line cutters will not clog up as readily and if they start to do that, a puff of breath or a couple of swipes with that toothbrush will get that wood dust out of the cutter and out of the way in your work.
I agree there is a big difference between the teeth of those cutters and at least for laying out, I really prefer the Gun-line cutters too.

The only time my fine-cut Dembart single cutter comes out (the one SGW doesn't like) is for the absolute last cut for the most minimal amount of material removed, once the lines are already at full depth or nearly there. You should really have a couple cutters set up to cut on the pull stroke in addition to pushing too, since those will be your savior along borders.

Here's an article you wrote on the subject: http://www.gun-tests.com/special_rep...l#.VLfrOXu1XsY

Found a pic showing how I liked my lighting set up in my old workspace- a single 60W light to my left, shielded so it isn't in my eyes (too much). Just ignore the bad cradle.

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Last edited by ek-marlin-424; 01-15-2015 at 11:33 AM.
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  #39  
Old 01-15-2015, 11:55 AM
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Forum member FrankW posted some really good stuff in my first checkering thread and I'll copy them into here. He's the kind of helpful and generous person that makes this such a good place and deserves a LOT of credit in helping me when I was getting started. Dennis here falls under that category as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankW View Post
Hi ek-marlin-424,

I too was self taught using the Kennedy book. I was lucky to know Kennedy and he offered a lot of help over the phone. Someone who has never tried to checker can't appreciate how difficult it is to do top level work.

I have followed this thread and I could offer some suggestions if you are interested.

Here is a picture of my checkering cradle in Alaska.

Frank

Side note... The book Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks by Monty Kennedy is a very good one and worth being in your library: http://www.amazon.com/Checkering-Car.../dp/0811706303

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankW View Post
Hi ek-marlin-424,

Yes welding is very helpful in gun work. I made this cradle before I had my TIG welder so they are a little rough. The stock sits between ball barrings so the rotation is very smooth and controllable. I could turn the stock 360 degrees on its axis or 360 end to end with out removing the stock from the cradle. I have made several cradles and this was my most efficient. I was going to make one more with improvements but never got to yet.
Frank
Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankW View Post
Here is a picture of one of my early guns in 358 Winchester. I lost all of my pictures but a few. This is English Walnut with an over the grip checkering desigh in 22 LPI. Just so you know I use to be a pretty good checker.

Frank

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Originally Posted by FrankW View Post
Hi Oldblades,

That is a really interesting comment. You can't see it but there is a dental light mounted up just out of the picture. I bought three of them from a dentist office that was going out of business.

Frank
Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankW View Post
Hi Evan,

I had my cradle in the basement where my wife and I watched TV together. It was far enough away that I could look up and refocus on the screen. It worked especially well during the football season. I would listen to the game and checker. If there was a good play I could look up and watch the replay. I kept track of the time by when the TV shows started/ended. Not very scientific but it worked for me.

It is real important to have a light source that you can adjust the angle so you are always looking at shadow lines. You also need it to be far enough away from the subject so it is not just white with light and glare. When the light is just right it is a lot easier on the eyes. A metal swing arm light like pictured below is not bad but can be in the way sometimes. The best light I found was a used dental light like they use in a dental office. They have a long focus and you can keep it at arms length with no problem.

Frank

Swing Arm Light


I also found a OptiVisor to be helpful. Besides giving magnification it helped to block stray light from the top and side of me.
Also, for fun*... check this out...



*for fun and not as an example of technique
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Last edited by ek-marlin-424; 01-15-2015 at 03:08 PM.
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Old 01-15-2015, 12:02 PM
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Only because today, I'm sitting at the computer trying to get things installed and organized before opening day, February 15th. I'd much rather be at my checkering cradle doing that sort of thing and taking pictures, than rassling with software I haven't got the hang of...............yet.

Checkering cradles, at least the good sturdy kind, seem to not be a thing any company is interested in producing. Most every accomplished hand at checkering has made their own. Maybe it's time to publish some ideas on what works well. Thoughts?
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Old 01-15-2015, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by SGW Gunsmith View Post
Checkering cradles, at least the good sturdy kind, seem to not be a thing any company is interested in producing. Most every accomplished hand at checkering has made their own. Maybe it's time to publish some ideas on what works well. Thoughts?
I need to improve mine. I'm still using what I started with, just a thing I threw together with scrap lumber to start practicing and modified to work with "real" stocks- the "Red Green" approach (yes there is lots of duct tape on it). I think I know what you'd say if you saw it in person.

A limiting factor is the fact that I don't have the facilities to weld or do more heavy-duty metalworking. Frustrating, but are there plans that wouldn't involve a milling machine and welding?

When I feel chatter in the cutters, almost always the culprit is the stock getting loose in the cradle. Having everything tight and secure is critical.
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Old 01-15-2015, 01:06 PM
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Sweet! I have a couple of tools and some old stocks I can sacrifice. Funny when I first opened this I thought (just for a second) I saw:
Before



After


I thought...."where's all the in-between pictures"?!?!?

Last edited by Markbo; 01-15-2015 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 01-15-2015, 01:20 PM
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I gotta quit reading these things on checkering, lol. GREAT thread and now its gone and got me all fired up about starting on this journey. I guess it would be a natural progression since I like doing the stock work. So, yes on the info on a really good checkering cradle set-up. You can't do any work which is better than the foundation you use to work with. I don't usually subscribe to threads but this will be one to which I will subscribe. Thanks for making the effort and taking the time to do this. I know what it takes and greatly appreciate your, and everyone elses, efforts and contributions.
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Old 01-15-2015, 01:37 PM
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Yeah! What he said
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Old 01-15-2015, 02:07 PM
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I gotta quit reading these things on checkering, lol. GREAT thread and now its gone and got me all fired up about starting on this journey. I guess it would be a natural progression since I like doing the stock work. So, yes on the info on a really good checkering cradle set-up. You can't do any work which is better than the foundation you use to work with. I don't usually subscribe to threads but this will be one to which I will subscribe. Thanks for making the effort and taking the time to do this. I know what it takes and greatly appreciate your, and everyone elses, efforts and contributions.
azguy, I'm grateful that you chimed in, and in my learned opinion, trying to checker a stock or set of grip panels without having a smooth top surface finish and the finish penetrating into the stock, on the choice of good wood, is a huge mistake. As for me, a working gunstock not checkered, just doesn't look finished. To me, it would be like joining "E-HARMONY.com" and finding out that Janet Reno was the ideal hook-up.
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