Tips on building a stock from scratch

Discussion in 'Technical Questions & Information' started by midnight_cougar, Dec 20, 2007.

  1. midnight_cougar

    midnight_cougar New Member

    Sep 2, 2007
    Upstate, NY
    I have a Marlin .22 mag bolt action, it has a normal stock I have not been able to find any aftermarket stocks. I have a skeleton stock on my saiga .223. I would like to make the skeleton stock on my marlin. I would also like the pistolgrip on it to have a thumb indent and a sniperbase on the bottom, a raised cheekpeice, maybe even a third leg on the rear on the stock for target shooting. Also thinking maybe a beavertail attached to a bipod, but i want to keep the front light. With my scope and accessories on it now it is front-heavy. My dad also just received a hammerless double barrel ithica made i think in 1892. It has a cracked rear stock, It has been passed down the family.

    I am just wondering if anyone has any ideas or experience doing anytype of stockwork. As in the type of wood to use, he is planning on using walnut on the ithica, which won't be that much work it is 2 rather small easy pieces. On my marlin stock i am almost thinking walnut also. But I was thinking it would be nice making it out of a log. I am not sure what kind of tree to use, if it should be a recently fallen down tree or a tree that fall down about a year ago and is already seasoned. What does everyone think would be better. If i used a tree that recently fell down would i have to let it sit or could i just start cutting it? It is going to be done with a saw, drill, dremel, hand tools, files, chisels and a whole lot of sandpaper. I know this is going to be a ridiculous amount of work, but in the end it will be worth it. If i am going to take that much time on building a stock i figured i might as well have all the lil extras on it.

    I already have all the drawing i just need help deciding on the wood to use and figure out some measurements. I would like it to be very durable but not extremely heavy. When I start customizing it i may have to take a few pictures. When i start it i will let everyone know how it is coming along and i may need a few ideas to help me out. The first step is to figure out what wood would be best, let me know what ya'all think. I greatly appretiate your help, and thank you in advance.
  2. justdoug

    justdoug New Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    I can't offer much information on stock making as I'd like to make a few myself. I'm waiting for a particular piece of wood. My mechanic doubles as a sawyer. He has one of those portable saw mills that's a real trick and he knows wood. He recommended that the log be dry/seasoned/cured before any cutting be done. Opposite of George Washington, my dad cut down the big apple tree (about 18-20" at the base). I've been waiting for 3 years. Charlie (mechanic) cut in half last month...still wet. He told me if he went any further, it would just crack all to $(!). Charlie has made a few very beautiful stocks and the dimensions are as follows:

    A true 2" x 6" for stocks like say the Ithaca

    A true 3" x 6" or even 8" for thumbhole

    He aslo carved some nice pistol grips out of a 5" piece of Dogwood that fell several years back.

  3. midnight_cougar

    midnight_cougar New Member

    Sep 2, 2007
    Upstate, NY
    I found a really nice tree that partially uprooted about a year ago, and i cut it down with a handsaw and it split right down the middle (i was very unhappy) It was about 10-12 inches, and really hard wood. I could use the peice above where it split but there is a few big branches that come of it and it is only about 9 inches. I think the branch being in the rear of the stock might be a bad idea, but i have no idea. I am going hunting in the morning with a friend so i will have to look for another one. I really don't want to wait for one to season. I will have to find one and cut it down and buy a piece of wood to work on while i wait. My biggest thing is that everything has to be perfect, so i wanna make sure i am doing it the best i can and not have a tool slip and screw everything up.

    I was thinking i would start with a 3x8or9x40 if i buy one it will just be a 2x8 but if i find a tree i like i wil go with a 3x9, cause i want an open stock not just a pistol grip and i want it to be strong and last forever. the hardest part would be getting the stock to fit the barrel. A bull barrel would be easy, but mine is plain. Do you have any suggestions on how to fit the barrel? I am thinking about using a saw or drill to get somewhat of the shape, then a dremel, then a file and finish it off with sandpaper. If it comes out really nice i would like to send the stock somewhere and get some duplicates and maybe get a design or something etched into it. I am open to any suggestions.

    Thanks alot doug
  4. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs Well-Known Member

    Apr 7, 2006
    If it has to be perfect, I suggest buying the wood. Why would you want to use a log out of the woods? There are places that will sell you a dried stock blank.
  5. stash247

    stash247 New Member

    Oct 18, 2003
    Central Texas
    Cougar, start with truly dry wood, from whatever source, but wood at below 7% moisture.
    Plane smooth the 'top line', and locate the stock screws, then drill the holes for them, and use over long screws, to locate the action, over the wood. Scribe the waterline dimensions, on the top line of the stock,and cut away all the wood that interferes, until the action is totally in the wood, without a gap, anywhere, to the waterline, then do the outside shaping, to your specs.
    I like a Urethane finish, reduced with Tung oil, to seal all surfaces, as the wood must be protected, inside, and out from moisture intrusion, as a defense against warping.
    I move the wood with chisels from Jos. Henkels' "Twinworks", because they are the best I have found, anywhere, but they are not cheap; expect to pay 20-30 dollars, each, for tools of this quality, and have or buy a buffer, to keep them razor sharp, as they are useless in lesser condition.
    If there is a gunsmith, or stockmaker, in your area, the 'time efficient' way is to use a 'stock duplicator', to move most of the wood, then finish with the chisels, using the original stock as the 'model', having added what you want, in dimension, with 'bondo', to it's exterior, then copying it, on the machine.
    Some will turn only the wood they supply, some, your wood or mine; ask first, and play it by ear!
    If you are going 'whole hog' into the business, buy such a machine, and maintain it well; the best out there, IMHO, are those from George Hoenig, in Minnesota, offering accuracy in the .005" range.
    Good luck, and Happy Holidays!
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2007
  6. midnight_cougar

    midnight_cougar New Member

    Sep 2, 2007
    Upstate, NY
    Bill it would be more for an accomplishment if I made it from scratch. Just to say Yes I made that from a tree.

    Stash that is exactly what i wanted. Thanks alot. I don't really need expensive tools because i will probobly never use them again. Its just for my own gun, but i know a couple people that want the same stock design i do. I want to keep my original stock.
  7. LongRifles

    LongRifles New Member

    Might try to call Ward at Dakota Arms, Inc. (605) 347 3220

    See if you can buy a blank there. They have many ranging from single X Claro Walnut all the way up to several thousand dollar pieces of Special Select Turk Walnuts.

    The trick with stock woods is the moisture content. Just cutting a tree into usable pieces doesn't get it. You cap off the end grain and then put it on a shelf in the garage for about fifteen years or so otherwise its very likely to shrink unevenly and this is what causes splits and cracks. Wax was/is the old world way to cap off a blank, but they are also done with epoxy now a days. Unless its kiln dried (BAD) the stock pieces you buy today are likely to be 10-20 years old from the time they were cut.

    Expect a bargain basement price of about 150 for any type of walnut thats above "sap wood" in color. Sky is the limit from there. There certainly are exceptions to this price, but that's what I've seen as of late. Premium walnuts are becoming more and more rare. Especially since the nicest ones actually come from northern Iraq/Kurdistan.

    Imagination and Visa card are your only limits.

    Good luck
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2007
  8. midnight_cougar

    midnight_cougar New Member

    Sep 2, 2007
    Upstate, NY
    Well i don't have the money to buy a nice chunk of wood anytime soon. I didn't think there would be so much to it. I just though any dry piece of hard wood would work (i was very, very wrong)

    THANK YOU everyone for your help. I am glad i am on this forum and asked ya'all before i started it and failed completely.
  9. TheJakster2

    TheJakster2 New Member

    May 6, 2007
    As someone who has spent a lifetime in the lumber business let me add my 2 cents. Yes some woods can take up to 15 years to air dry to a usable moisture content. These are usually harder woods some of which are dried in large sections. The larger the piece the longer the drying time. Boards cut into smaller pieces will dry faster. What is important to remember is you don't want them to dry to fast, that will cause checking and cracking. You do as mentioned want to cap the ends, if not the boards will dry faster at the ends and crack or warp. In the case of this stock you want for your rifle and shot gun, you can achieve a moisture content that is stable in less than the 15 years mentioned. Since you mentioned you know of a downed tree that has been down a year, you could start there. Cut a couple of sections large enough to yield 3 or 4 pieces each of the sizes you require. More is better here, that way you increase the odds of getting usable pieces at the end of the process. For a stock I would recommend 2" net by 7" net in the length you need. Once you have them rough cut, cap the ends is mentioned. Wax is better. Stack them in a dry location approx. 2-3 feet off the ground is better. Outside will be fine to start, stick the pile(meaning use spacers between each row and gaps between pieces) you want as much surface area exposed for drying. If this tree has been down a year the moisture content depending on diameter should be in the 30-35% range. Allow the stack to sit for 45-60 days, moisture content now should be in the 15 to 20 % range. Rotating the pile will allow the drying to work better moving the interior pieces out and vice versa. Another 15-30 days should have the moisture content to the 12 to 15% range. For wood dried outside depending on your location that is the best you are going to achieve because of the relative humidity in the air. For lower moisture contents you will have to continue drying inside a conditioned space. Inside you should be able to achieve 7-10% which will work fine for your purpose. I have done several repairs on stocks where I have replaced a section on the back and I haven't had a problem with checking or shrinkage. My latest was the Krag I posted pictures on this site. The log I used was cut into smaller pieces and had been drying in the rough approx 8 months, moisture content was 25% when I rough cut to 2-1/2" x 7" rough 30" long. 30 days later content was 15%. I rough formed let set a few days and rechecked content was 12%. Rough fit and attached let set 10 days moisture content was 10%. Now this was a smaller piece and once sized had a large surface area compared to overall size which aided the drying process, but you get the point. On a one piece blank you should be able to achieve a usable moisture content in about six months. Longer is better, I'm lucky because I have a moisture meter to help me in checking. If you have a real lumber yard or a hardwood dealer in the area they should have a meter. If you go in with the blanks they will probably check them for you. Key here is not to be in a hurry in the beginning. All the information in the other post have been correct for certain woods, different woods dry at different rates, thinner boards dry faster than thicker boards. As I mentioned go the extra step and rough cut several blanks in each size you need. The worst that can happen is you'll have to cut more. the best is all dry evenly and you'll end up with extras. Believe me I'm not an expert at making stocks, but I do know wood. Worst mistake to make in fabrications is in the finish(been there done it on my first try). Once you've finished fabrication, make sure the entire stock is sealed. Some people don't think about the butt end and the area that the barrel and action are let into. If you don't seal them the wood will continue to dry or in some areas take on moisture cause shrinkage or expansion. Which translates into poor fit. I learned the hard way on my first. I now stain and seal the entire surface of the stock, most times with a minimum of three coats on the inner surfaces.

    Another hint cut thickness to 2-1/2" that way minor surface checking can be removed with a planer and still have a usable blank.

    JMO, hope this helps

  10. midnight_cougar

    midnight_cougar New Member

    Sep 2, 2007
    Upstate, NY
    What do you all think of making a mold roughly bigger then the size i need out of wood or metal. Then melting down plastic (one of our plastic lawn chairs broke, so it would be a hunter green stock) making sure there is no bubbles and fill the mold, then start cutting and sanding it to what i want? Good idea Or bad idea and why?

    I don't have a job right now so i don't have any money,which means i have alot of time on my hands.
  11. Patman1951

    Patman1951 New Member

    Aug 26, 2006
    If you go to and go to the 10/22 section, then to the 10/22 stock finishing and building section. There is a "sticky" up at the top of the page about building a complete stock from scratch.
    I hope this help you out and good luck.
  12. stash247

    stash247 New Member

    Oct 18, 2003
    Central Texas
    Cougar, I worked for several years, as a tool and die maker, so, must ask, have you any idea what you are 'buying into'?
    Having spent a week or more, of 8-12 hour days, to fabricate a mold, for relatively simple, but, 'high production' parts, let me offer some advice; save the effort, buy the material, and do it by hand!
    The 'mold' will take at least three times the effort, and then you must fit the stock to the action, in every case; unless you are talking thousands of stocks, the labor for the mold is immense.
    Since we are talking about a single stock, you will never recover the cost, in time, and money, of your suggested approach.
    For the effort, and expense, you could buy a room full of nice to excellent wood.
    Just my thoughts. Terry
  13. Tom Militano

    Tom Militano New Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Jacksonville, AL
    I used to have a custom stock making business and everything you've been told is true. I would highly recommend buying a blank if you insist on making a stock. I quit making stocks because people don't want to pay the money it costs to make customs stocks. Good wood is expensive and presentation grade wood can run into really big money. I also built molds in the past and listen to what Stash said. Your talking about a .22 mag bolt action Marlin, is it really worth all the time and money your talking about? Why not just buy a Ruger 10/22 and go from there. You would probably come out a lot cheaper, there is a ton of stuff out there for them. Stock making isn't as easy as it sounds.
  14. The Big Dog

    The Big Dog New Member

    Sep 5, 2005
    Tacoma, Washington
    Hi Midnight_Couger,

    If you want to make a stock from scratch, you might want to start with a piece of 4" Wide x 8" Deep x 34" long fir or hemlock to practice on. Nothing will piss you off more than spend a lot of money or time to get a real nice piece of wood only to screw it up. Practice on a cheap piece of lumber and then when you feel comfortable enough with what you want to build, then use the good stuff. Fir and hemlock is a lot softer wood and easier to shape than a hardwood. If you're going to make a mistake, make it on the cheap wood.

    Catch you later,

    The Big Dog
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