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  #16  
Old 01-13-2015, 11:49 PM
SGW Gunsmith
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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?

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
My son had the only Sheridan Pellet rifle with a fully checkered wrap-around pattern in Racine, WI (the first home of Sheridan rifles) back when I was practicing on anything I could lay my hands on. My wife had a set of those olive wood forks and spoons that you mix salads and other stuff with that were checkered at 20 lines-per-inch. So, what I'm trying to impart here, is practice on something that has some of the contours of a rifle stock. I emphatically do NOT recommend that you practice any sort of checkering on unfinished wood. It's too dang frustrating because the cutters follow and wander off straight, unless you have a flat surface with a hard finish applied. I learned that long ago, so don't put yourself through that aggravation. Any type of wood can be checkered, even balsa wood, but, once again, apply a finish to not only seal the pores in the wood, but to have the finish penetrate into the wood so you get sharp, crisp diamonds as an end result of your efforts. Checkering and practice takes time, don't waste that time.
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  #17  
Old 01-14-2015, 12:05 AM
SGW Gunsmith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobSc View Post
1) 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?

2) 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
1) Absolutely. I'll be going over some of the aids that I use to lay out a pattern. Every single one of those aids I made myself, and once you see them, you'll see why I made 'em and so can you. When I lay out a checkering pattern I will use one of the templates that I will be having you make also. This will get to be more interesting as we go along.

2) I create patterns on paper practically "all of the time". I may be a bit strange with this stuff, but most all of my free time thinking involves firearms and how I can do things better with checkering and working on 'em. I will show you how to use a "dressmakers tape" to measure forearms, and get a rifle pistol grip pattern laid out so it matches on each side of the grip area. This will all be coming along shortly.

Keep in mind. Nobody can teach you how to do checkering. You will need to learn how the stockwood reacts to what your cutters are doing. I will impart methods that have worked for me for over 35 years, you will have the freedom to accept or adapt those methods so they work for you. I've gone through all the frustrating efforts to try to make my checkering look good, I'd like to save you all from making some of the same mistakes I made when learning, so you can get to doing the checkering you want to get done. My goal is to get you to the point where you can do work like this:

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  #18  
Old 01-14-2015, 12:30 AM
SGW Gunsmith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arrowhead View Post
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.

Arrowhead, if you have the skills to make 1911 grips, you're half-way there. I'll show you how to checker panels like this one, which is for a Ruger 22/45 RP, but I'm sure you get the idea.

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  #19  
Old 01-14-2015, 02:08 AM
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SGW while you are at it would you mind including some different quality (read Priced) starter tools and where to get them. I'm probably not the only one on a tight budget that would like to do this, and a schematic of your vise as well would be useful. I've played at it many years ago but all I had was a work vise to clamp it in and had to pad the heck out of it to keep from marring the wood. Finally gave up as it was so frustrating. Just about the time I'd get some good lines cut I'd slip and mash them. Over the years and many moves I've lost all the tools I had.
Thanks,
G-B

Last edited by Gabby-Bill; 02-01-2015 at 01:54 AM.
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  #20  
Old 01-14-2015, 04:46 AM
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Thanks for doing this.
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  #21  
Old 01-14-2015, 08:13 AM
SGW Gunsmith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabby-Bill View Post
SGW while you are at it would you mind including some different quality (read Priced) starter tools and where to get them. I'm probably not the only one on a tight budget that would like to do this, and a schmatic of your vise as well would be useful. I've played at it many years ago but all I had was a work vise to clamp it in and had to pad the heck out of it to keep from marring the wood. Finally gave up as it was so frustrating. Just about the time I'd get some good lines cut I'd slip and mash them. Over the years and many moves I've lost all the tools I had.
Thanks,
G-B
Different quality tools? I wouldn't do that to you. If you are going to embark into checkering, the best tools you can use are the W.E. Brownells, my opinion. My ONLY second choice would be the Gun-Line brand. We'll get into that more as this thread progresses.

I do not have prints or dimensions for my 4th checkering cradle. I spent most of my active working career as a toolmaker and I knew what I wanted, and how I wanted to do it, when refining the current checkering cradle I have in use.

Vise? Do you mean to hold the cradle. The vise I currently use is a heavy sucker and mounted as firmly as I can get it. If I could have found a 2,000 pound blacksmiths anvil to mount my vise to, I would have had the wife carry it into my shop.
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  #22  
Old 01-14-2015, 08:17 AM
SGW Gunsmith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabby-Bill View Post
If possible numbering your sessions in some way would make it easier to follow along too.
G-B
JEE (the moderator here) has been thoughtful enough to make this thread a "sticky" so it should be available for quite some time. Numbering sessions would be an added task, taking away from the meat of the information departed, and besides, I (we) hope that others who do hand-cut checkering will contribute some verbiage and pictures also.
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  #23  
Old 01-14-2015, 09:48 AM
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Templates and other handy gadgets

A question was asked if I use "templates". I sure do and I've included a couple in the pictures below.



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".

2) A scribe I made from an old ink pen. I substituted the tip and ink tube with a 1/8-inch section of drill rod with the tip ground to a sharp, tipped cone. This sharp scribe is used up against the sections of measuring tape to scratch through the stock finish and create the two, all important, master lines. A 60-degree single line cutter will follow that scribed line remarkably well. Just make sure you have the top surface on the area that you'll be checkering completely filled, no open pores or grain. DEADASS flat and smooth.

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.

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.

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.

7) Here's another little template that I also made. It's only purpose is to create a fancy little touch to the grip of a rifle stock, just above the grip cap.
As shown here.


8) Once again, another template with a single purpose. This template was used at the top and bottom of the A54 grip panels as shown above in the initial pattern layout.

9) Here's another template that I make. I know, there are templates available that have been die-cut with 3 to 1 and 3-1/2 to 1 half-diamonds for laying out master lines. The problem I have with those is, I can't see through the opaque plastic that these are made from. I want to be able to see the yellow, or white centerline that I've drawn on the surface of the stock or grip, and the clear plastic template, with the centerline added will allow me to match those lines up. So, you can get some sheets of very thin, clear plastic that I was using to produce over-head projector pictures and such when I was teaching firearms training. I get these clear plastic sheets from our local "Office Max", "Office Depot" or whatever the name is they use. I have also provided my attempt at a drawing of ratios for those interested.



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.

The above pictures do not show all the templates and gizmos that I've made up over the use for one specific purpose, but if time and space allows, and there's enough interest, I'll try to cover what I've made. Many of the templates that I make are from plastic dividers that come out of those three-ring binders used to separate pages of information. They are easily cut to shape with scissors or razor knife.
As, and if, you get into trying out your hand with hand-cut checkering, please feel free to come back to this thread and post whatever issues you encounter, or questions you have.

Last edited by SGW Gunsmith; 01-14-2015 at 09:56 AM.
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  #24  
Old 01-14-2015, 11:25 AM
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Wood types for checkering

I am currently making 28 sets of grip panels for the Ruger Mark pistols, so just as I picked up my spacing cutter, another thought popped into my head. When I first started checkering there wasn't anybody within 1000 miles that I could consult. Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet, and I was basically unaware of anything written on the subject of checkering. So, I learned right off that soft wood was too frustrating to even deal with. That's when Pete's pellet gun with its American Walnut stock started looking like an unwilling candidate.

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.
My all around favorite gunstock wood is English, or California English wood, even in the low-end price range where there's little figure involved. Flame shell and fiddle-back maple makes for a gunstock that takes fine checkering up to 26 LPI. Bastogne walnut can have some awesome figure because it's a cross between Claro and English walnut, and Bastogne will take 22 or 24 LPI checkering very well. I have seen gunstocks checkered to 28 and even 32 LPI, but the checkering is so fine that when you pick the stock up, you need to squint to see that fine checkering, which is more cosmetic than functional. So, what I'm trying to impart here, is get some hardwood that won't have you throwing your arms up in despair. Checkering is supposed to be fun and rewarding to learn, not something the "principle" has inflicted on a naughty student.
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  #25  
Old 01-14-2015, 01:50 PM
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Starting a new row of lines

The line spacing is going along pretty well on this. left side grip panel. Here, you will notice that the lines on the bottom, near the border, a not quite to the border. This view shows where I started cutting those new spacing lines. Where these "Full View" handles come in real handy is, you can see where the border is when you're spacing these lines. Many of the border line over-runs occur from the back end of the cutter, when they inadvertently get placed over the border line and put a nick, or worse yet, a line where we don't want to have a line.


I will next rotate the checkering cradle 180 degrees and finish these 12 lines.



In this position I now have the unfinished line up at the top. The first thing we need to do, is get that outboard line to the left cut to the border. How I do this, is to first lay my tape backed section of measuring tape along that very left line and then, using my scribe, scratch a continuing line into the border. then cut that line using the 60-degree single line tool. From that point the other lines are finished to the border with the two-line cutter.

Same thing for the unfinished lines on the other side.



An important thing to remember when spacing, or laying out, the lines that will eventually be cut to the shape of diamonds. Keep you eye on the front end of the cutter as long as it's in the wood. If you must look elsewhere, remove the cutter from your work, or you WILL cut a crooked line. It works well for me when I focus on the row(s) of teeth that are guiding and watch how they stay where they are supposed to be. In the previous cut lines. The row of teeth not guiding will cut a new line alright, as long as you keep the guiding row in that line last cut. Blow or brush out the cutting wood dust you've created often.

Here's another BIG reason I like the cutters I now use. They don't clog up with wood dust like the Dem-Bart cutters are prone to doing. Gun-Line cutters are a close second, as far as dropping the wood dust and having no clogging issues. When cutters, especially those that have shallow cutting teeth, get clogged up with wood dust, they will often jump out of the line you're in and that is absolutely NOT a good thing.

Last edited by SGW Gunsmith; 01-15-2015 at 01:27 PM.
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  #26  
Old 01-14-2015, 02:55 PM
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I am learning already

Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to the next part.
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  #27  
Old 01-14-2015, 03:16 PM
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SWG, This is an interesting thread. I just may try my hand at doing some grips. Like you I started with the Herter's tools and quickly decided I wasn't going to get anywhere so ordered some made by Dembart. I pretty much had to teach myself as there was very little how to info I could find. I got to where I could do a passable but not professional job but there was always a boo boo, or two, and maybe three, and I decided the frustration wasn't worth the effort. I thought I could do checkering to relax from the stress of my job but it didn't turn out that way. Now you have me interested again.

IMO 1911 grips are the easiest of any handgun grips to build. Just three straight sides and a little curved one at the top and you basically have a grip. I make a lot of my tools and I made a couple of aluminum patterns. One for a regular sized grip panel and one for a full coverage panel. Ground a special bit to drill the holes with. Just a little bandsaw and drill press work and you are ready for the rasp, file, and sandpaper. I think the checkering will take longer than the building.

I think the WD Brownell tool will be a big improvement over the Dembart. Not having paid the least attention to what was available for checkering for a long, long time I had no idea there was even anything like this available. Now I just need to know where to buy them if I do decide to try my hand a checkering again.
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  #28  
Old 01-14-2015, 03:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arrowhead View Post
SWG, This is an interesting thread. I just may try my hand at doing some grips. Like you I started with the Herter's tools and quickly decided I wasn't going to get anywhere so ordered some made by Dembart. I pretty much had to teach myself as there was very little how to info I could find. I got to where I could do a passable but not professional job but there was always a boo boo, or two, and maybe three, and I decided the frustration wasn't worth the effort. I thought I could do checkering to relax from the stress of my job but it didn't turn out that way. Now you have me interested again.

IMO 1911 grips are the easiest of any handgun grips to build. Just three straight sides and a little curved one at the top and you basically have a grip. I make a lot of my tools and I made a couple of aluminum patterns. One for a regular sized grip panel and one for a full coverage panel. Ground a special bit to drill the holes with. Just a little bandsaw and drill press work and you are ready for the rasp, file, and sandpaper. I think the checkering will take longer than the building.

I think the WD Brownell tool will be a big improvement over the Dembart. Not having paid the least attention to what was available for checkering for a long, long time I had no idea there was even anything like this available. Now I just need to know where to buy them if I do decide to try my hand a checkering again.
I will dig out an address I have somewhere around here and post that tomorrow. They have a sheet of all the cutters and handles that are available. I will cover tools later on, with basically what you might be able to get by with. A minimum set, sorta. Well, I've just been informed that the man to see at W.E. Brownells is out of town. Now, don't get these San Diego dudes confused with the folks at THEE Brownells, who sell all sorts of gun repair stuff, it's a different deal altogether.

Last edited by SGW Gunsmith; 01-14-2015 at 03:49 PM.
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  #29  
Old 01-14-2015, 03:57 PM
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Well, I see we've had 342 views as of today, but with only 29 posts (most are mine ) , and I'll bet at least two of those views are from the two "DOOBIE Brothers" who hang together and lurk around here often. Come on you viewers, let's read from you.
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  #30  
Old 01-14-2015, 04:30 PM
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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
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