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  #1  
Old 01-13-2015, 02:25 PM
SGW Gunsmith
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CHECKERING: Who would like to see how?



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I've collaborated a little bit with Evan about he and I starting a thread to show how he and I get through a hand-cut checkering job. Now, please, don't post any You-Tube stuff here, as I've seen some of those also, and it gets very annoying when the camera goes out of focus or the guy gets one of his fingers (the size of a hotdog) in the way and you can't see what is going on.
What I'd like to do is cover checkering tools and why I use those that I do. That doesn't mean they are THEE only tools to use, but these have worked very well for me and I've tried many different brands during the almost 35 years I've been learning to do hand-cut checkering. I would hope, that if this thread gets support, that others who are actually now doing checkering, will come forth and help with passing along this dying art form. So, I can see this thread becoming quite extensive if the support I anticipate comes to fruition and the main subject line stays on track. If the interest is there, let us know by posting here. So, as long as I'm still with RFC, I will try to pass along what I feel will get you started on the right path. Your thoughts..................please.

Last edited by SGW Gunsmith; 01-14-2015 at 01:13 AM.
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Old 01-13-2015, 02:33 PM
ditto1958
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I'm interested in learning about it. I hope you and others can pass along some good information.
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Old 01-13-2015, 02:34 PM
Daemon2525
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Yes, please. I am working on a project now that might end up being checkered by me.... I was just going to try and wing it.
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Old 01-13-2015, 02:37 PM
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I made a promise to myself long ago to never pick up another checkering tool and so far I've kept it. However, I'm always interested in seeing how someone does something that requires skill and dexterity. Also in my old age and boredom I may break my promise to myself and see if I can still cut a straight line with a little practice.

Last year I started to build 1911 grips just because. So far I've done some carved, inlayed, and stippled grips just playing around. Checkering a few might be something I decide to try this summer when it feels good to be under the air conditioner and additional knowledge can't hurt.

I would enjoy seeing whatever anyone wishes to post.
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Old 01-13-2015, 02:41 PM
scooter22
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That would be great! I,ve thought about trying it but didn't want to have to sort out how to start and what I need. Thanks for the offer and look forward to it.
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Old 01-13-2015, 03:31 PM
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Heck yes! Have the master set from Brownells, but not the cajones to try to use them!
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Old 01-13-2015, 03:36 PM
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Thank you all for your responses, it's encouraging to read and hopefully, we' ll all learn something worthwhile from this. Here's a set of panels I'm just finishing up on, but we'll cover all the steps and tools involved with getting where we want to be as this post grows and hopefully, others will get involved.



The above is the left side panel for a Ruger RST4 or 6 with the A54 grip frame. The two yellow lines depict what are called "Master" lines. From these two lines, all of the spacing lines will be cut, so it is extremely important that these two lines be cut as absolutely straight as they can possibly be. Lines-per-inch are pretty much dependant on the type of wood you will be checkering. The grip panel above was hand shaped from some American Walnut that I have in block form. This wood has a somewhat open grain with pores that need to be completely filled. Before I begin any checkering, I want to have the top surface, and any pores or grain, filled so I have a very flat and smooth surface to work with. The finish will also harden up the wood that's being checkered which is very important also. WHY? When laying out your master lines the surface must be smooth or the single-line cutter used to cut those master lines in place will be diverted by any open pore or grain that the cutter encounters. A smooth flat surface is always better to work with when you checker.

Here's the right grip panel fully spaced at 20 lines-per-inch and cut at 90-degrees. This panel only needs to have one more coat of finish applied to the checkering. Usually two, or three coats is enough.


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Old 01-13-2015, 03:47 PM
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For SGW, here's some of my different tools I use in checkering.

The lineup...




The spacer tool in action.






Single line cutting tool.




Veiner chisel.


Don't have any pics of the short V cutter tool in action- yet.
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Old 01-13-2015, 05:58 PM
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Thanks Evan, was hoping you'd jump into the fray.

One of the most important items you could EVER employ in your set-up to do checkering is an absolutely steady work station. There is nothing more exasperating than having your work in a vise that "shakes like a chihuahua crapping peach seeds". My checkering cradle is actually the fourth version from what I started with. The first one I bought was made from wood and it was so frustrating to use it wound up in a bonfire one 4th of July. The second cradle I made was from steel pipe and steel brackets that was heavier than a loaded Howitzer, and a real bear to shift around in my vise. I now use a cradle I made from aluminum square tubular stock, so there's no worries about a hernia happening.



The vise I use is mounted to a support tied into a beam where the roof trusses sit on. This vise is rock solid and holds the cradle firmly. I've seen guys at gunshows checkering butt-stocks in their laps, but it's beyond me as to how they get by with that. This cradle that I now use, allows me to rotate the grips or stock so that the line being cut is always on top. Why is that important? It's always better to rotate your work to your hand using the cutter. If you try and rotate your cutter holding hand around your work, you're gonna end up with lines that look like snake tracks in sand. Always rotate the work to the cutter.

On this grip panel, I've laid out my master lines and then cut six spacing lines to the right and then the left of each master line. Why SIX? I just chose that number so it becomes a habit for what is done next. It doesn't matter whether you cut 5 of 7 lines, just be consistent. Then I rotate the cradle in the vise 180-degrees. WHY? Well, I just cut 6 lines on each side of the master line. If I, or anyone else continues to cut more lines from the same direction, your lines are gonna wander, most likely to the right if you are right handed. Even after just cutting six lines, they will wonder a little bit, so to correct that, we rotate the work and then cut from the opposite direction.



Now, with the work pointing opposite of what it was, finish those lines, like those in the left, top now in the picture. Always finish the lines you cut, all the way to the border before moving on to cut more lines. Once all your lines have been finished to the border, cut six more lines on each side of the master lines, just like you did when the stock or grips were rotated the other way. You will find your spacing lines will stay pretty darn straight when you do things this way.

A word on checkering tools, I've tried every brand from every maker out there, including a very dismal set that was once sold by Herters. That set of checkering tools now sleeps with the fishes in Lake Michigan, off shore of Racine, WI. I almost gave up checkering at that point, but stubbornness prevailed and I bought another set of tools. Those tools were made by Dem-Bart, and while some folks get along fine using these tools, there was one thing they didn't do, that I fell there is a need for checkering cutters to do. That's to cut on the back stroke. So many over-runs are committed by tools that only cut on the forward stroke, like the Dem-Bart tools do, unless you reverse the tool in your holder. Way too much for me, I'm not that patient. After my very first visit to Reno, NV to attend the "Custom Gun Makers Guild" convention, I met gunstock artisans whose checkering literally blew my mind. I never showed anybody there, the pictures of my stock checkering that I brought along. I went back home with my tail between my legs and vowed to learn "more better". I certainly did ask at least a gazillion questions about stock checkering with some of the Guild members there. One guy, Maurice Ottmar, had a huge friggen magnifying glass next to his checkering work, for any naysayers to inspect, under power. I was too embarrassed to use that magnifying glass, because just with my nekked eyeballs his stocks and checkering were simply awesome looking. The choice of practically all these stockmakers involved the use of the W.E. Brownell cutters and bifurcated handle. I'll post an address for these cutters the next time I show up.


Why are these cutters and holders so popular with the pros who make their living making custom rifles. Several reasons. The cutter head is adjustable so you can tilt the cutter to get into areas where an non-tiltable cutter suggests that you stand on your head to get in there. Then, you can cut right up to any border involved, tilt the front end of the cutter up a bit, put that front end of the cutter into the border and then cut backward to prevent any border over-runs. Another handy aspect, these cutter are sharpenable by using a knife edge file. then, when the cutter teeth get sorta thin from sharpening, you just turn that sucker around and start cutting line with the other end. What more could an old fart from Wisconsin ask his fairy godmother for?



Another thing to keep lines cutting straight. Most all checkering cutters have spacing cutters with 60-degree cutting teeth. Some instructors will have you cutting your master lines with a 90-degree single line cutter. Now come on, whomever gets this right will get a free Mars Bar from yours truly. I always use a 60-degree single line cutter to cut my 'all important' master lines, ALWAYS. Then, I'll use a two-line cutter with one row of teeth in the master line while the offside cutter creates a new line that just as straight as the master line. Rocket Science, eh? Then, what do you think this Irish crazy man does next? I pick up my three-line cutter with two of the rows of teeth in the previously cut two lines as guides, and then cut the next line which is gonna be just as straight as the first two. Oh my lord, how does this get better? Sometimes I'll even use a four-line cutter with three rows of teeth guiding and one cutting, as long as the area has enough room.

OK, common now, there's gotta be some questions.
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Old 01-13-2015, 06:20 PM
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Diggin' this already! Trying to wire some lights in my basement today, don't think its suppose to spark like it did! called my buddy the electrician, coming by on his way home! If work gets cancelled, I plan on starting to scratch on some old practice stocks tomorrow! Keep it up guys, very informative
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Old 01-13-2015, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SGW Gunsmith View Post
Your thoughts..................please.
I don't know that we'll go as far as say a sub-forum, but I like were this is going and I'm all for sticking it.

Excellent posts and pics so far fellas.
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Old 01-13-2015, 06:51 PM
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Outstanding you guys! Thanks
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Old 01-13-2015, 07:19 PM
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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?

I know Therocky on here got started a couple years ago on a rifle that he donated to a friend, it looked great when I seen it
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Old 01-13-2015, 08:36 PM
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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?
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?

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.

Thanks for the tutorials on this. I've been wanting to get back into trying checkering for a very long time now- just for some stocks I have now and I'm planning on building.

Bob
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Old 01-14-2015, 12:47 AM
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I am following this thread for sure!!! Thanks!
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