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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
With all the beautiful walnut crotches I see on this forum, I thought it would be nice to have a thread showing how to turn them into gunstock blanks.

I've stocked guns for 25 yrs. as a hobby and have averaged about one a year. I've cut 5 walnut trees with crotches and dug 2 walnut stumps, turning them all into gunstock blanks. I don't mill wood myself but paid others to cut the slabs for me. I've learned a lot from trial and error and will share what I know.

It took me a while to figure out there are two main types of crotches. The first type is wide and one upper branch comes out at a low angle. These are the best for stocks. The other type is the narrow V which is more common. The wide crotch results from a primary sprout getting pruned when the tree is young. The secondary sprout grows below the pruned sprout at a lower and better angle for gunstocks. Below is a scan from a pruning book that shows the way the sprouts grow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Below is a drawing and some pics of the wide crotch. Drawing 1A is the wide crotch. The red lines indicate where the stock blank will come from.

Pic 1B is a walnut tree with the wide crotch.

Pic 1C is a gun stocked with wood from a wide crotch. I got this pic off the internet and didn't do this one myself. You can see that the feather covers the butt and the grain of the wood flows upward throught the grip and meets the edge of the receiver at a near right angle. You can't get much better than this one. While the beautiful feather gives beauty, it's the grain through the grip that gives the stock its strength.
The idea is to get the feather design in the butt while at the same time having relatively straight grain in the grip.
The red arrow points to the only flaw on this stock. The grain hits the lower pistol grip at an angle instead of straight making for a weak corner. The metal grip cap has solved that problem, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The drawing 2A shows the V type crotch, which is by far the most common I've seen and cut up. While not quite as good as the wide crotch, you can still get good blanks out of them. The red line shows where the blank will come from. "Top" means that will be the top edge of the stock when it is on the gun.

2B shows the typical V type crotch. (For Daren...location Todd's Point Cemetary)

2C is a blank I cut that came from a V crotch. It has great layout and the grain curves the correct way up through the grip. The left edge of the blank in the pic will be the top.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Dealing with the pith and cutting slabs...

Walnut has a 1/4" pith that runs right down the center where the feather is. Since I didn't slab my own wood, I didn't really have much control dealing with avoiding the pith. It's a wood waster, I know that.

Having pith in a gunstock blank is a deal killer. Especially a fancy feather crotch blank. It's just not done. I've never seen a stock from any of the old gunstock companies like Fajen or Bishops send out a stock with pith. You have to avoid it like the plague if you want a stock blank worth good money.

Daren came up with an idea to avoid the pith. You shim up the crotch in your saw so all 3 piths are in the same plane. Then measure from the pith up and mark the wood for your cuts. As you cut slabs and get to the pith line, you would theoretically cut through it and eliminate it.

I think this might work even better if you cut a 1" thick slab right at the pith level. I made a drawing of what Daren explained.

Also attached are two blanks with pith. They're junk. I layed them out and cut them 25 yrs. ago in the first batch I did. Didn't know better. In the second one, you can see that the pith is just below the surface. Both of these will make someone some fine ink pens or bowls.:blink:

Thickness...I've thought a lot about this. Everyone always tell you to cut gunstock blanks 2 1/2". I don't think that's enough. 2 1/2" should be the absolute bare minimum after the blank is sanded to 100 grit. You have to sand all the saw marks out of it to sell it anyway, so having a sanded 2 1/2" blank would be nice. I think to get 2 1/2" sanded thickness, you'd need to adjust your saw to some odd fraction. So, why not cut the slabs 3" and be done with it. If you're processing a crotch to get feather crotch blanks, the top of the line in American grown gun wood, sanded and properly dried, why not make a premium blank a premium size.

A 3" slab would cover everything. Rifles with cheekpieces that take a bit more wood. Automatic shotguns that have large forends. And probably most important, the guy that runs the duplicator machine won't ruin your wood. Most blanks are sent to someone who chucks it up in a duplicator and copies off an original stock. If the blank it a bit too small or the operator puts it in a bit off, you end up with a flat spot in your blank. Pic of duplicator below.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Templates...You have to have a couple of these. I made mine from 3/16" or 1/4" plexiglas. My shotgun (2-piece) template is 18" long by 7" by 3 1/2". I couldn't find my rifle template the last time I went to use it so made one out cardboard. I made it 35" by 8" X 4" and cut out the center in the outline of my Ruger factory stock. It worked for what I needed. For a shotgun forend, I make them 12" long and square, whatever the thickness of your slab is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Forends are easy to cut out of crotch slabs. I learned to lay these out looking at some of Fajens forends. They are invariably done the same. In my drawing, Forend 1, you could get two forend blanks. I'll call them left and right. The idea is to get the feather into about 1/2 the blank, maybe a little more toward the butt end, so say 2/3. Leaving a little straight grain helps with contrast and matches the forend with the buttstock, which will also have some straight grain in it. The straight grain will be toward the front of the forend and towards the top.

The pic Forend 8 would be the same as the left drawing in Forend 1. Both the blank I cut and the finished forend from Fajens are laid out exactly like the drawing.

The pic Forend 7 are the same ones flipped over and would correspond to the drawing Forend 1 right.

When you lay them out this way, the bottom of the forend, which is what you see when the gun is in a nice gun cabinet, turns out really nice. Pic Forend 6. What you are seeing is the feather turned 90°.

The drawing in the lower right corner would be a forend that is totally feather. I think you could probably get away with doing this but I'm not sure. I always leave a bit of straight grain. You for sure don't want to do this on a buttstock blank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The last pic I have is from a gunstock blank off the internet. Like so many things on the internet, this is just wrong!
They laid this feather crotch blank out with the entire stock covered in feather. It sure looks nice!:no: First, if this wood were stocked on a gun that had heavy recoil there is a good chance the wood would split. And worse, I would not want to be the guy that tried to checker this thing.

Good luck making some beautiful stock blanks! Gary
 

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Great write up, thanks a bunch for taking the time. I'm sure it will help many people who read it :thumbsup:

2B shows the typical V type crotch. (For Daren...location Todd's Point Cemetary)
Yep, I know right where you're at. I even mentioned the same place in another thread about some catalpa logs, just did not give the name...
Come to find out these trees came from a very old country cemetery where my great great grandma is and several other family members from 50-75 years ago. So I "know" these trees, I have seen them standing my whole life.

.
 

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Homebody,
Been out of town or would've wrote earlier. That's a great tutorial.
Looks like your using those talents the Lord's Blessed you with.
Thanks for the tutorial and have a Blessed evening in Jesus's Love,
Tim
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Homebody,
Been out of town or would've wrote earlier. That's a great tutorial.
Looks like your using those talents the Lord's Blessed you with.
Thanks for the tutorial and have a Blessed evening in Jesus's Love,
Tim
Thanks everyone. Tim, it was your beautiful walnut crotches that motivated me to post the pics. Keep up the good work. Gary
 

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Great post, It opened my eyes to a possible source for material for the waist door on a tall clock.
I am still looking for another piece of Walnut similar to the attached pic.
Wood stain Wood Door Furniture Room

If anyone can help me find a similar piece----well,ya can't have my first born but pretty close.
tom
 

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Great work!

Great work! I am just getting started. Any advice you can give on getting started is greatly appreciated.

With all the beautiful walnut crotches I see on this forum, I thought it would be nice to have a thread showing how to turn them into gunstock blanks.

I've stocked guns for 25 yrs. as a hobby and have averaged about one a year. I've cut 5 walnut trees with crotches and dug 2 walnut stumps, turning them all into gunstock blanks. I don't mill wood myself but paid others to cut the slabs for me. I've learned a lot from trial and error and will share what I know.

It took me a while to figure out there are two main types of crotches. The first type is wide and one upper branch comes out at a low angle. These are the best for stocks. The other type is the narrow V which is more common. The wide crotch results from a primary sprout getting pruned when the tree is young. The secondary sprout grows below the pruned sprout at a lower and better angle for gunstocks. Below is a scan from a pruning book that shows the way the sprouts grow.
 
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