I have some walnut available, and I would like to explore cutting gun stocks, but I do not yet have a mill.
Two questions: It appears to me that a swing-blade mill would be more versatile in making the cuts needed for gun stocks than a band mill. Is that the case? How does one go about cutting gun stocks from the log? I have a number of logs with large limbs joining the bole. My presumption is that the forearm of the stock would come from the limb and the cheek end of the stock from the bole, with the pistol grip about where the limb joins the bole. Am I off base?
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
I think you are off base a bit, although I have never even looked into cutting gun stocks. The wood needs to come from the trunk only. There is no reason to use a branch in any of it. If I'm not mistaken, the nicer stocks come from the root ball of the walnut as well.
You will get some fancy grain where large limbs were cut of the trunk and also there will be extremely fancy wood in the crotches. If the logs were cut just above the crotch you will only be able to get two-piece blanks from the crotch area. There is usually fancy wood in the root ball but it is usually a lot of extra work to get it.
After the wood has air dried it must be put into a kiln and dried to 6%-8% - gunstock blanks must be dried to this percent. After the cants are kiln dried then they can be cut into gunstock blanks. The blanks should be kept in a controlled area so they do not acquire any moisture.
Comment from contributor E:
As a gunsmith and sawmill worker I have sawn a few blanks and shaped a few stocks from blanks. You will definitely want to excavate the stump which is where most of the burl is. This wood is the most highly sought after in the stock making trade.
Pressure washing the stump will clean most of the debris off and then a chainsaw will finish that task. You can quarter-sawn the stump or slab cut it. I prefer to do all this within a week. I cut my blanks three inches thick and strive for 14 inch wide planks 34 inch long. You must have at least 2 and half inches if you want a cheek piece on the stock - two and quarter minimum for a non cheek piece. The goal is to have 6 and a half inches minimum at the butt and 2 and a half at the nose cap. More is better for the elaborate cheek pieces and high Monte Carlo style combs. You can get from other areas of the tree.
If you have a large limb going to the butt log you will probably get a nicely figured butt-stock. Two pieces are easy to get a high yield but try to keep them paired or else the grain won’t match well. Sapwood is a taboo sometimes it looks great and sometimes it doesn’t. As for drying every experienced stock maker I know will not use a blank unless it has air dried for 7 years minimum. You do not want to kiln dry gun stock lumber wet off the saw. These gunsmiths don't want to see a moisture meter reading they want to see a dust covered blank with an old magic marker date on it. They like the wood to be tempered by allowing it to be cooled and heated by nature’s seasons. Definitely seal the ends to slow the drying and reduce checking and splitting. I personally have shaped stocks from blanks that were 4 year old cherry blanks that were dehumidified, kiln dried and metered at 10 percent. These stocks have not warped or soaked in the finish whatsoever. But most other accomplished stock makers won’t take the risk of having a thousand dollar plus piece of wood along with a couple hundred hours of inletting, shaping, finishing, and checkering go awry to premature stock blanks. It is a lucrative market if you have the time and means to do it. Then it could produce some extra income.