Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Widows Peak Anyone ?

It is no secret that I am not all that enthused about widow peaked recoil pads but over the years, per the clients wishes I have been requested to install quite a few of them. Red and 1 " thick seem to be the only option when looking for a commercialy peaked pad. When the client wants one in Black or Brown or in 1/2" or 3/4" thickness all bets are off unless you get creative. If the pad is to be covered in leather you can use about any reasonable material to form the peak that is then epoxied to the pad and filed to shape.

Normally the leather used to cover these pads is made from Goat or Pig skin and is pretty malleable. I have twice used remnant Elephant hide that I purchased from a professional boot maker and it is far from malleable. Two was enough thank you.

The enclosed pics are of Pachmayr Decelerator Black pad being fit with a Widows Peak that will be covered in leather by Dave Wilson. Dave for years has had the market cornered on some pig skin leather that when finished is quite unique to say the least. You could call it a Buffalo Hide effect and was precisely the look the client wanted. Knowing this I called Dave as he is a true master at covering pads with leather and as I mentioned he had the goods. My job was to install the peak and grind the pad to the proper OD and shape for Dave to do his thing.

The following process is what I use to install a peak on any pad of any color or thickness regardless if its covered in leather or uncovered.

For the best results you need to make the peak from the same hard black rubber spacer material that the parent pad is made of. In this case I'm using a Pachmayr black spacer made in the same Pachmayr facility. I prefer these pads to any other. If you don't adhere to this and you use a dissimilar material it's going to stick out like rubbish in the lilacs when its all fit and finished if the pad is not covered on completion.                          Go back and re-read that sentence.

More often than not I am accused of pole vaulting over mole hills. "He makes to many fixtures, he's  wasting to much time on jigs"  blah blah blah.  Maybe so but if you want to replicate something or a process for future use it pays to Jig Up. Holding the pad to drill out a larger cavity for leather covered plugs can be as simple as finding the visual center of the pad under a drill press and using an end mill to plunge out the cavity. I did this once, I'll leave it at that.

This holding block is aluminum and has the correct screw hole spacing for different pad sizes. It has been made to allow 2 short steel dowel pins to center the pad properly on the fixture face side up. The pins also allow me to locate the center line of the pad top and bottom based on the screws holes in the pad. This is important so the larger leather covered plugs when finished are visually in the true center of the pad. If you don't think this is important wait until you spend all that time covering one and get one hole off center.

With this block in my milling machine vise I use a wiggler to find the center line of the block off the sharpened dowel pin.

Once I've flattened the back of the recoil pad I slip the pad over the dowel pins. I use a tube cutters made from O-1 for what ever size hole I want to cut out of the pad. Yes, you have to make the cutters, as Larry doesn't sell these just yet.

The cutter and pad must be lubricated, I use Glycerin for this purpose. The cutter is pushed into the pad with the spindle on a low rpm. The cutter is pushed in deep enough to just touch the metal frame inside the pad. Remove the pad from the jig and use some needle nose pliers to remove the cut plug. Then spin the pad 180 degrees on the fixture and cut the other hole.

Once both plug holes are cut the pad is then turned upside down and slipped over 2 aluminum pillars that are have been made to size and to just slip into the plug holes on the fixture. Two 10x32 Allen screws and large washers are then bolted to the underside of the pad, through the pad, through the pillars then tightened on the block. At this stage I take the mounted pad and block out of the mill and with a height Gage and some basic math establish and then scribe a center line on the toe and heel area of the pads black spacer so its visible on the bottom and both top and lower ends of the mounted pad. Accuracy in establishing this center line on the pad is important as the widows peak should run in line with center line on the plug cavities. Trust me on this.

The tube or plug cutters you make up need to be in different sizes, the width of the leather to be used must be taken into account for the plug itself and the plug hole it's going into. If the pads is not to be covered you need a plug cutter to make a rubber plug slightly larger than the plug cavity hole. The plugs also need to be contact cemented in place when completed and some friction is required. So this means you will have to sacrifice another pad to get plugs of a slightly larger diameter. The cost just went up another $40.00

I then put the mounted pad back in the mill, its upside down of course and with the wiggler again I find the scribe center line at the heel position and in my case hit zero on the DRO. Then with a 1/8th inch sharp cutter I cut a cavity that .150 deep into the pad by .800 in length across the crown of the heel. The depth towards the top screw hole can vary but it's usually .200. Note the two extended cuts on either end the .800 long pocket. This to allow our insert we will make to drop in place with few fitting issues.

Next the widows peak has to be made. As stated it needs to be made from the same material as the manufacture uses for the spacer on that style pad. A .799 wide x .450 high block is then made in the mill, it must be squared off and be a slip fit into the .800 pocket cut into the pad. CARE MUST BE TAKEN THAT IT IS A SLIP, SNUGGY FIT

The .799 long block is then cut with a radius ball mill to whatever size widows peak you require. In this case I used a 1/2" ball mill. From the top end of the block I came down .250 and then cut into the spacer block the required amount, in this case the widows peak will also have a 1/16" radius on the center line and end of the peak. I will eventually file to shape the 1/16" radius peak, remember leather is fond of any radius. If this pad was not going to be covered you would walk the ball end mill into the material an equal amount on both sides towards the center line of the .799 block to give you a nice sharp peak.

Now you should also have .200 of base left that will fit nicely into your pocket on the pad and if you did the math correctly the  center of the widows peak will be in line with the center line scribed on the pad. Note the center line on the pads spacer. The bottom of the 1/4 " radius should be flush with underside of the pad spacer material that comes in contact with the back of the stock. The extended 1/8th " cuts should allow the peak block to stop at the correct depth. Life is now good

Then you need to epoxy the peak block into the pads cavity being damn sure you use black pigment in the epoxy and that the peak block is in as close a contact as you can muster with the pad cavity.

Then let it dry for 24 hours. Dress off the run over epoxy carefully with a dowel and 280 grit Wet or Dry paper wrapped around a dowel that is just shy of .500 OD when the paper is taught around the dowel.  Careful now easy does it. The peak and pad are now ready to fit to the stock. If you've done you layout work right and inlet the peak straight into the center line that you should have on your butt stock when the pad is finally fit and then ground the peak and the pad holes and plugs should all in line. The Newly inletted peak and will appear 100% seamless with the parent pad.

Now you know why I hate these things. Expect to bleed heavily when this invoice arrives

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Joel Schafer's The Final Touch


Finding any book written on specialized gun smithing techniques can be akin to finding a $10 dollar bill under your couch cushions. It can happen, but not all that often. When a book of this nature turns up I tend to put on a pot of coffee and migrate to a chair. All work for at least the time required to read the 1st two chapters is usually put on hold. If it's really well written the all bets are off. Anything that even resembles meaningful production comes to an abrupt halt for quite sometime.

Recently I had cleared my bench to get ramped up for a couple weeks of checkering. I was sorting through all my tools when a friend stopped by and noticing my next victim in the cradle he asked If I had ever read Joel Schafer's checkering book ? "No, I've never heard of it".  The next day he dropped it off and I'm glad he did. The Final Touch stopped most of the  production that day. Yes, I can checker, it comes with the job description but I'm always interested in other peoples techniques and this book had some slants on this subject I hadn't thought of and frankly I need all the help I can get.

The only other book I'm aware of that addresses this subject is Monty Kennedy's The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks and was 1st Published in 1952. When I entered gun-smithing school in 1976 it was the only book written solely on the subject of checkering gun stocks. It was and still is an educational piece of literature on the subject. I clearly remember one piece of advise in the book from Len Brownell in regard to preventing over-runs. His advise was pretty simple"when you come to the boarder, you stop" unfortunately I have not always followed that advice to the letter.  Kennedy's book gave a lot of people the guts to pick up the tools and learn the skill, it was all we really had.

I can say without any reservation that after reading Joel's The Final Touch from cover to cover twice that this is well worth the price of admission. 

Joel's easily explained manner of instruction has been well thought out. Composed of 101 pages and over 200 excellent color photographs it is hard to imagine how you could make a more comprehensive body on the subject. Broken down into 17 chapters covering every aspect that one could possibly address on the subject. There is literally nothing left out.

                                          It was published in 2103, so where have I been ?

I have seen both Jerry Fisher and the late Monty Kennedy lay out checkering patterns on fore-ends with little more than two master-lines and grease pencil diamonds applied as arbitrary borders. Then effortlessly develop the pattern one line at a time with a power tool. This type of free style skill is only achieved after checkering many acres of walnut. I personally do not have that skill set nor the bravery required to pull it off. I need a map thank you

So I was pleasantly surprised to read of Joel's method of using paper to determine and transfer the fore-end pattern based on actual volume of the fore-end as I have used this same method for almost 3 decades. The 1st time I was made aware of this technique was after a colleague had returned from a Phil Pilkington seminar with some graph paper already lined out with a layout diamond pattern ready to go. The idea did have some merit but did not adequately take into account the radical fore-end taper that was so popular at that time. I began to experiment with the idea but soon applied it in the same manner Joel addresses in this book. This method works extremely well if you spend the time getting the fore-end symmetrical to begin with.

The Final Touch also explores the use of power checkering heads. Early in my career I owned and used the MMC checkering tools on two different occasions. The only issue I ever had with the MMC was 50% my cross diamond layout on certain fore-ends had a distinct diagonal slant along the perpendicular length or line of the fore-end. As this anomaly always bugged the hell out of me I eventually gave up the MMC and continued to use hand powered push and pull tools and did not suffer that same diagonal effect. After reading chapter 16 & 17 I think I now know why I develop this cross diamond slant

As the quality of push spacing tools and finishing cutters is currently at an all time low I'm seriously  thinking about picking up a power tool once again. Having read the The Finishing Touch certainly has prodded me even further in this direction.

Joel's book should be in the library of anyone considering checkering a gun stock as a hobby or as a professional reference book for full time stock makers. Well, written and again filled with excellent photographs it may soon become dog eared with your other favorites.

The book can be ordered directly from Joel by calling 308-760-2805. The cost is $75.00 plus $3.99 shipping and handling. Listed on Amazon as well I'm told the actual deliveries are made directly from Joels location anyway so might as well shop direct.