Written by Sierra Ballistics Technician Paul Box
Back in the day when I owned a gun shop, one day a guy walked in with a gun stock blank that changed my life. It was nothing more than a blank and actually looked more like pine. He said it was maple and when you looked very close, you could see just a hint of birdseye grain scattered here and there. It was an understatement just to call it plain.
We talked a short while and it was clear to him that I wasn’t very interested in it. After a bit he made the remark “I’ll trade it to you for two boxes of .243 brass.”
Since I’d always wanted to try making a stock, I decided to trade with him. You couldn’t beat the price and the wood looked so plain even if I messed it up it wouldn’t be any huge loss and I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.
It took forever to turn that hunk of wood into a useable stock mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was taking things very, very slow. The old saying by carpenters “measure twice, cut once,” I took this a step further. I’d measure three times and only remove about half the wood.
In time I had the action inletted to the point that the barreled action fit proper. I had confidence now because I knew that shaping the outside would be far easier.
It was during the shaping of the stock that I got my surprise. The deeper I cut, more and more gorgeous grain started appearing. Since I had plenty of “meat” to work with I had decided to give it a roll over check piece. This was a little challenge but nothing serious. By now the grain was showing everywhere. I just had to get a peek at what it really would look like, so I put a layer of tru-oil on the butt of the stock on the bolt handle side and stepped outside into the sun. I nearly had my breath taken away. This piece of wood was simply loaded with a combination of both birdseye and tigertail grain pattern. Turning the stock so that the light hit from different angles made the grain “dance” with some grain disappearing and other sections coming more into focus. I must have spent ten minutes out there just turning the stock and watching the grain come and go.
I finished shaping the outside and it was now ready to be finished. It was so tight grained that two heavy coats of tru-oil sealed it totally. I put a total of fifteen coats of tru-oil on it working it down slightly inbetween coats with four ought steel wool. When it had cured for a week it was then worked down with Brownells three F rubbing compound and touched off with a little rubbing with five F compound.
This gave it a finish that had a soft sheen to it that simply said, ‘touch me.’ Editor’s note: Paul isn’t exaggerating, the first thing I involuntarily did upon seeing the rifle was ask, “Can I touch it?” It looks like it is made of soft velvet. I sent the rifle years later to Ray Montgomery in Colorado and had him install a Hart stainless barrel and chamber it in 25-06 Ackley. It now shoots as good as it looks. You never know sometimes how far two boxes of brass will carry you.