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 ( 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 ( 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.