Tuesday, December 10, 2013

You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

In my last post I mentioned we had just received a Fisher Barrel Vise. Well, today we actually had to put it to use. We had been shipped a very clean Pre-64 Super Grade 375 H&H to do some minor work to. Unfortunately the rifles bolt came loose in the case and the US Postal Service must have used the gun case as a temporary truck ramp while it was in transit and some serious cosmetic damage occurred. As the barrel needed to be removed Brian went through the normal SOP with our current barrel vise that has been a mainstay in my shop for over 24 years.

Throughout the years we have run into a few barrels that the only way we could remove those barrels was to place the barreled actions in our lathes 3 jaw chuck and by using a parting tool right up against the receiver face cut a groove to the minor thread diameter into the barrel. By doing so this reduced the shoulder tension and allowed the barrels to removed but this method destroys the barrel. Fortunately all those barrels were to be replaced anyway.

The circumstance we faced this morning was quite different, this barrel had to be removed, re-blued and reinstalled. All Brian's attempts did not break the action free from the barrel. He finally threw up his hands and backed away from the task to re-group, an uncommon occurrence I can assure you. What I saw was a perfect time to remove our old vise and set the Fisher in place. This required a trip to town for some additional hardware and the relocation of a mounting hole. In short order the Fisher was in place. The Winchester barrel shank OD was approximately 1.245 and the bushing that Jerry had sent along had an ID of 1.250. I found and placed a .004 thick piece of card stock around the barrel shank, slid the bushing halves over the card stock then transferred the barrel and bushing into the vise. Since the upper jaw is spring loaded the installation of said barrel was painless.

Then I snugged down all four 3/4" bolts that lock down the bushing and barrel. This was done with a socket wrench. My old vise only used two screws to hold down the top vise jaw. The action wrench was then re-installed. I gave the action wrench a smart thud with a dead blow hammer and the action spun free from the barrel. It was just that simple. The vise is now paid for.

                                         Now tell me, who writes these scripts ? 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Jerry Fisher Barrel Vise Arrives

I picked up my new Jerry Fisher barrel vise at the Post Office today and later in the afternoon I opened the box and gave this tool the hairy eyeball. Visually it is apparent the vise was made by a talented machinist. The exterior and interior finish is excellent, the tolerances are tight. A class act in anyones book.

One noticeable feature is the upper jaw of the vise is spring loaded and as you release the tension on the four 3/4" hex nuts

The upper jaw rises approximately .150 away from the lower base jaw. A damn handy feature when you're assembling a newly blued barrel and action as it gives you an ample margin of clearance to install and remove these freshly blued components without requiring a third hand to prevent marring the parts in the procedure.

A selection of aluminum barrel shank bushings are available from Mr. Fisher in a variety of common barrel shank sizes. Or you can make your own from standard 2" Aluminum or Micarta round stock.

The cost of the vise is $575.00 which I think for a one time investment is not expensive at all over the length of ones career. Good tools demand a fair price and are made to last. I have little doubt this vise will be a good addition to the shop.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

458 Lott Legend And The Trijicon RMR06 Sight System

Over the last year we have had a number of inquires in regard to the Trijicon RMR sights and if they could be applied to our rifles? The questions we had seemed to work themselves out and I modified 2 Trijicon RM62 gunsmith bases that we finally acquired after quite a bit of effort to locate. The height of the stocks comb in relation to the height of the sight itself is as important as any other sight system. The Legends stock design and the RMR06 do work well together.

Anders arrived in Utah to hunt Mule Deer as well as have further work done to his Legend Heavy Sporter chambered for 458 Lott. This rifle has been used on one Elephant hunt already where he used both our Peep Sight and a S&B Zenith mounted in a set of our 30-mm rings. He did in fact use both sight systems to take two different Elephants. In short to try them both under field conditions.

One of his latest desires was to install the RMR06 as yet a third option. As we keep detailed records of scope mounts we make for each project I was able to duplicate the same radius that Brian had surface ground on the front ring to the underside of the RMR base, locate and drill the counterbores for the 8x40 screws and then have the base blued and ready for assembly when he stepped off the plane from Sweden. It took longer to drive to the range than it took to zero in the RMR06. He shot approximately 20 rounds to zero and test the system. He plans to use this rifle this winter in Sweden to add some wild boar to the menu for the holidays.

The Union Club In New York City Echols & Company Presentation

Last week I gave a Power Point Presentation to the Union Club In New York City. This presentation gave those in attendance a behind the curtain view of the construction process used to build both our Classic and Legend Rifles. My host Richard Turnure, club members, invited guest and the staff at the Union Club were most gracious and made my short stay quite memorable. This institution is steeped in history and it was an honor to be there. I have given these presentations all over the country for 20 years and find these engagements very enjoyable.

The last time I was in Manhattan was in 1979 when I applied for a position at Griffin & Howe. At the end of a two day interview I was offered a job but ultimately declined the position.

I would like to thanks those that were in attendance and hope the material covered was of interest to everyone.

Photo credit thanks to Wikipedia

Friday, November 15, 2013

The 2013 Mule Deer Season So Far

This has a been a good fall for some of our clients and friends. Lighting struck twice in Utah with LB's buck taken with Bucks and Bulls, Guides and Outfitters. LB's guide was Travis Adams and on a lease they have had for years. The buck was shot just at dark as he moved out of an Aspen patch to feed. The rifle used was made by Gene Simillion and chambered for 7mm Dakota.


The second buck was also taken in Utah again with Bucks and Bull Guides and Outfitters by a client of ours from Sweden. Anders had purchased a management tag and was to help cull some older breeding bucks that would never be considered by a trophy hunter. I was Anders guide on this hunt and I may have over-shot the protocol on this buck as I never saw the crab clawed fourth on the main beam. I will likely being clearing trails and mending gates this summer as disciplinary action for the oversight.  Anders made the comment that he saw more game on the first 2 days of the hunt than he might see in 2 years of hunting in Sweden. His shot was taken at 330 yards with a Legend 300 H&H Standard Sporter.

.This third buck was taken in Alberta by Chuck Nelson on a self guided hunt. Chuck said he past up 97 or 98 bucks before he had to be talked into shooting this bruiser, talked into? This buck was taken with a Left Handed 7mm Mashburn just shy of 300 yards. Chuck assembled the Mashburn with a LH Legend Stock and the help of some better than average Gun-Smithing talent in Canada.

      Talked into indeed. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Professional Stockmaking, By David Wesbrook

Recently I acquired a copy of David Wesbrook's book on stockmaking. I had been aware of this book for a quite some time and had always meant to pick up a copy. Dave had one of the older copies in his possession and was kind enough to let it go. I first met Dave while on a pilgrimage to visit Fred Wells shop almost 30 years ago and we have kept in touch ever since that introduction all those years ago.

I enjoy reading right around dawn with a strong cup of coffee when the house is still quiet and the day full of possibilities. I usually read 10-20 pages and then head to the shop. I finished this book in two mornings and have since gone back and re-read a few select chapters. As a professional in the trade I found the text concise and very well written. The pictures are simply superb. If I were a budding hobbyist or journeyman the pages would be dog-eared and covered finger prints within a month.

Anyone interested in stockmaking from the casual observer or the seasoned practitioner will find this book an excellent addition to their library. Two thumbs up !!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Final Stretch, Finished With The Finish

Like they say about the Fat Lady singing? The same applies with checkering as it's only talk until you apply the finish. I apply at least 4 soaking coats. Then rub the stock out one last time with finish and rotten stone. Laps time from start to finish was 52.5 hours.

Remember the previous post entitled Into The Void? Below are some pics of those same voids that fell into or on the edge of the pattern. Had these voids been filled with glass only and not carefully fit with dutchman's the voids would have likely shown up as a less than stellar repair. In the end it's all about the details on the journey.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Final Stretch, Grip Layout Continued

The task of bringing all the lines to depth at the grip must be done with the same care as the forend. Additional care must be taken in the curve of the grip to keep the deepening cutter from skipping out of the groove, the length of the cutter comes into play in this area and the shorter the better. Care must also be taken to keep these lines a parallel as possible. Due to the geometry of my grips and the style of this border some additional tooling is required. There are 6 of these tools, the 2 curved and modified rifler files, 2 engraving tools and 2 dog leg tapered chisels for trimming and cutting into the V's on the borders. I like to use a 3/32" square engraving tool sharpened on an angle to allow me to cut the diamonds to depth in this tight area. I also use a # 2 curved rifler files that I have surface ground to the same approximate width of my border to smooth out my initial chisel cuts. Where the border at the rear of the grip makes a radial up-hill curve I use another 3/32'' square engraving cutter with more heel ground onto it's cutting face instead of a veiner to establish this tight corner. With the pattern cut to depth I then begin to cut in the angular border flats on both sides of the grip. Time is now spent cleaning up the borders and looking for any diamonds that are still slightly flat topped. Apply finish is right around the corner.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Final Stretch, Grip Layout

The layout of the checkering pattern for the pistol grip of any stock for me is fraught with "what if's". With a point pattern the master line layout from one side to the other dictates the whole composition and balance of the patterns final shape. Extreme care must be taken to insure the angle of the master line triangle is positioned in the same plane on both sides of the grip. I first lay out the border at the bottom of the pattern parallel to the grip cap flat. I then lay out the border that runs between the two panels from the leading edge of the grip cap to the back of the trigger guard. This line is first drawn in with a white pencil. When I have the two borders parallel I cut both lines in with a Japanese 70 degree veiner to about 1/4 depth. Then using a compass I establish the border around the tang and the radius on either side of the trigger bow. These curve's are then cut in with the veiner. Then I try to position the intersection of the master lines so this major intersection point lays visually in the center of the grip.

I always lay out the cheek piece side first so the rear tail of my point pattern allows for the termination of the cheek piece. To do otherwise is just asking for trouble as the end of your pattern may cut into the end of your cheek piece if done from the other side first. I cut in both master lines on both sides of the grip once I am happy with the looks and position of this intersection. I do not establish any other borders but rely on the lines to be cut in eventually to determine the end or border of the pattern. Like the forend I will lightly scribe in some reference lines to keep me honest as the lines wrap around the curves of the grip. Many people comment on how "straight" the lines appear on good checkering which I find quite comical. What you see in a good pattern is well spaced parallel lines that are then following a parabolic curve in most cases, straight? Not hardly. I also place two layers of tape on the back side of the grip panel to prevent any cutters from accidentally scratching the stock behind the pattern in this tight area.

I lay out both sides of the grip and then as with the forend establish the ends of the major points so their lengths are optically pleasing. Then I cut in the borders except for the shortest borders on the leading edge of the pattern, don't ask me why I save those for last as I'm not sure I could tell you. Then starting with the 75 degrees cutter I deepen the pattern on both sides with two passes. Once this is done I begin the final deepening with a 90 degree cutter. In tight corners I use a short corner cutter or the veiner. At this stage of the process I have 42.5 solid man hours in this checkering project and I'm are not done yet.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Final Stretch, Finishing Up The Forend Checkering

Once all the lines in both directions are spaced I make sure the pattern as a whole looks balanced. I will add a line to extend the tail on one of the major points if it's to short, extend one of the top border lines to match it up with the corresponding border on the opposite side. The pattern must appear to be geometrically pleasing. The final lay out must be done with thought and care so as not to create more work than is necessary. When I'm satisfied with the overall pattern I then lay out and lightly cut in the borders.

The next step is to deepen the pattern and bring the diamonds up to points. I start with a 75 degree cutter and make at least 2 passes in both directions over the entire pattern. In the corners I use a short corner cutter and a V tool. Then I make two more passes using a 90 degree single line cutter. Care must be taken to stay in the track and not plow a line out of the groove and start another unwanted line. In the words of the late Len Brownell when you come the border of the pattern you "stop"the cutter to prevent over runs. Then I use a Super Fine 90 degree finish cutter to point up the pattern and make all the grooves appear to be the same depth.

The typical Mullered border uses a radial groove that lays between the main pattern and outermost line of the border. The Border I use I shamelessly borrowed from Monte Mandarino and Monte robbed it off and early Haenel stock. For me it was love at first sight. Some call it a Window Box effect, others a Shadow box, call it what you want it's not all that hard but does take more time to execute. I cut this border in on angle that drops away from the outer edge of the border and falls towards the base level of the diamonds. This is done with a narrow razor sharp chisel, a file and a set of dog foot chisels to establish the corners or tails of the points.

With the forend finished I move to the grip.

Friday, September 13, 2013

New Mexico Two Step Part 1

I have once again had the pleasure to guide 2 more Antelope hunts in New Mexico and as usual it was a grand time. The event took place on a ranch in the North Eastern part of the state that I have been guiding on for many years. The hunt was arranged through Kim Bonnett owner of Bucks and Bulls based out of Lindon Utah (www.bucksandbulls.com). The first hunter to arrive was Grant Bledsoe and our mutual friend Gary Merrill tagged along as an observer. This was Grant's 3rd hunt on this ranch and Gary's 2nd time to insure crowd control. We spent the first 2 days of Grants 3 day season looking over many mature bucks. At close to 100,000 acres this selection process can take awhile. At dusk on the 2nd day we found a buck that Grant wanted to try and take and the stalk was on. We lost the buck as the sun set but felt he'd be same pasture at daylight. True to form we found the same buck right at dawn the next day. We watched the buck from roughly 1200 yards until he bedded down on a low ridge line that allowed him an unobstructed panoramic view of the short grass prairie and allowed us no topography to use as cover for a stalk. Gary suggested an air strike, Grant was looking up the number at Cheyenne Mountain, I decided to go deep and prepared to throw the bomb.

It was time to deploy the Trojan Cow. Both Gary and Grant gave me an instant fish-eye and the good natured ridicule began. Grant however has hunted with me before and has learned to unclip the leash and let me run so he grabbed one side of the bovine silhouette and did his best to bite his lip and endure the laughter coming from Gary as we "grazed" towards the bedded buck. We covered about 1000 yards in 45 minutes. The buck finally stood up as I moved Bessie away from Grant to allow him a prone 223 yard shot. I haven't heard anymore disparaging remarks about the flat cow since the buck hit the ground.

Grant was using what was to become the first real prototype Legend. Made on a Left Handed Remington 700 and chambered for 280 Remington this rifle has traveled the world and has always delivered when called upon. After very little load development Grant settled on a load of IMR-7828 and a Swift 160gr A-Frame. Grizzlies, Sheep, Moose, Leopard, Elk, Waterbuck, Kudu, Sable, herds of Impala, etc have fallen to this rifle. This was Grant's 3rd Record class antelope taken on this ranch with me and they all look quite different. This one carries 19 extra points around the prongs on both horns giving mass a whole new definition.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bob And Old # 52

Bob Bledsoe took up big game hunting later in life than most people I know. With a ranch and cattle company to run and a family to raise time was always an issue. We became acquainted while I was trying to ferret out a place to hunt Whitetails in North Eastern Colorado many years ago. As a result of that introduction his son Grant, then 18, acquired what would become the first Legend prototype and Bob's interest in that process kindled a spark that I think even surprised himself. With his interest peeked Bob placed an order for a Classic 375 H&H, a bold step for someone that only shot at coyotes on the ranch. Still unsure of just what to use it for I suggested he speak with another close friend of mine and shortly there after Bob arranged his first Safari with John Oosthuizen of Hunters and Guides Safaris (hunters@huntersandguides.co.za) John planned the first of what where to become many Safaris to take place in Tanzania, as the saying goes the rest was history.

Over the years Bob and his wife Becky have shared many campfires with John and together the three of them have covered most of southern and eastern Africa. In the ensuing years Bob complimented his 375 H&H with a Legend 300 H&H and continued to hone his skills with these rifles. Both rifles have led to taking the Big 5 again with Johns expertise and knowledge on each and every trip.

Bob, Becky and John have just returned from Mozambique where John pulled together yet another memorable safari. From the first trip Bob immediately fell in love with Buffalo hunting and over the years has crawled through swamps, tip toed into thick jest and followed John where ever John felt the next big buffalo bull might me hiding. This trip was to be no exception. Old # 52, as Bob now refers to the 375 and the 300 have returned to the shop for a well deserved strip, clean and oil.  This occurs about every third safari. The stocks and metal have taken on that unmistakeable patina that only comes with time and sweaty hands. Each dent, ding and scratch representing a memory and place. As a Rifle-Maker there is no greater satisfaction than seeing your work from the past re-enter the shop in this condition.

                                                           I tip my hat to the team.