Building A Gun Stock

I thought it would be fun to document my progress as I built a custom gunstock for my wife. I decided to post the step-by-step process I will take in completing this project. I'm estimating several months, so please be patient, I will try to update this page as I go. To give a little background about myself, I am an avid woodworker. I have built everything from cabinets to fine furniture to crafty things, you can see some of the things I have built on the woodworking link on my home page. I recently refinshed my wife's Beretta AL391 20ga shotgun. I was pleased with the results of the finish, but the wood wasn't as nice as either of us really wanted. Since her's is a women's/youth model there weren't many of them around to get picky on the wood selection. So I decided her gun would be the guinea pig for this project. I'm guessing I won't hear any complaints about that from her :)

First I needed to buy a wood blank (set). One of my friends is a gun maker and told me to buy the nicest piece of wood I could afford. He said if I buy a cheap piece to practice on I'll put many hours into it and when I'm done I'll regret have a crappy piece of wood. I bought this set from him and think it will produce an excellent finished gunstock.


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The next step was to layout the stock. I started by planing the two flat sides and squaring the top with my jointer. I sketched the layout on the blank and determined where to drill the hole for the mounting bolt. The hole to be drilled needed to be 18" long and 3/4" diameter and it needed to be perfect. The last thing I wanted was for the hole to poke out the side. Using the old stock, I marked where I wanted the drill to enter and exit. I mounted an 3/16" x 12" drill bit into my wood lathe. I made a bed for the blank to sit on so the tail spur would mount on the to-be exit hole. Being the two points on a lathe are perfectly matched, as I fed the stock into the spinning drill bit it should drill straight to the tail spur. I drilled halfway through the stock and turned it around. I did not want to go the whole length fearing the bit might flex. After I turned it I drilled the rest of the hole. What do you know, the holes matched up perfectly. As I said, the hole needed to be 3/4", but the 3/16" was just a pilot hole to help the big bit. I repeated the the drilling process, backing out and clearing the drill bit often.

Once the 3/4" hole was through, I had to bore out the butt end to fit the Beretta shim system. I wanted to retain the ability to use the shims in case I needed to make adjustments later on. Using a 1" forstner drill bit, my drill press and a jig I made to hold the blank square (hole parallel to the forstner bit) I bored two overlapping holes to make an oval that the rear shim sat on. After an hour or two of fileing it all fit.

The next step was to fit the blank to the gun. this was done using a bandsaw, dovetail saw, chisels, carving tools and several files. the easiest way to describe what I did is remove the wood that was in the way of the metal. Sounds simple, it is. I used the original stock for measurements, marked it on the blank and cut leaving plenty of room for error. then I fine tuned the cuts with the files and chisels. This is time consuming, but very do-able if you just take your time. After several dry fittings, it finally fit snug. I mounted the blank on the gun and called it a day after I sealed the bare wood with shellac.



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Last night I took all the measurement of the old stock (which fits Melia pretty closely) and drew a template. Using the template I laid out the outline on the blank. And cut it out a bit closer to the actual size to save some work. I cut it out on my band saw leaving myself a good extra ".
Today was a productive day. I spent the evening working on the stock. I fitted the recoil pad onto the blank and started filing. I mainly used 3 files, for extremely rough work I used a 14" hoof rasp, medium to light work I used a Nicholson #48 and #50 wood rasp. Don't try to use a cheap rasp, they don't cut and they leave a rough finish, a Nicholson will run about $35-$50 but it will cut well and leave a smooth finish.
I filed for about 4 hours and called it quit for the night. I managed to get a lot done. The pistol grip is giving me problems, I'm having troubles getting it to look right. While I was filing, I made sure I new how deep I could go without hitting the bolt hole. I also left enough wood for a palm swell and to fit the gun to my Melia. I assembled the gun and tested the fit. Its pretty close, I think she'll have to pattern it to get any closer. Anyway, here's more pictures, I'll update again soon.


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The stock is coming along great. I'm finished filing, and rough sanding. I have fitted the palm swell to Melia's hand and the stock is nearly fitted to her with a higher comb, more exaggerated toe out, and angled down-pitch butt. The Monte Carlo shape fits her much better than the factory stock and gives me extra wood to fine tune the fit at the range. I re-fitted the kick-eez recoil pad for the stock fitting changes, now all I have left is finish sanding and checkering. I order a checkering set from Brownell. I hope to have it next week and then I can start checkering and finish the stock.


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I went the the MNH&H club and patterned the gun. It was shooting high and straight on at 20 and 30 yards. I shaved a bit off the comb and made a slight adjustment to the cast by removing wood to allow her face to get lower and closer to the stock and aligned her pupil with the bead of the gun. We tried this several times and we finally got it right. We went back and tested it a couple more times and we did it, perfect patterns. The last visit we went to the gunsmith/instructor and he checked it over and gave the final OK. I applied 14 coats of an oil finish on the stock. The last thing I have to do is checker it.

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After a lot of practice with my checkering tools, I decided to send the gun out to get checkered. Ahlmans in Minnesota checked the stock for $25. I just got it back and it looks great. Here are the latest photos of the stock.

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I started working on my forend. After examining what needed to be done, I decided to have it set out to be inletted. I received it back and it looked pretty close. I liked that the inletter left about 1/4-1/2 inch extra all around the forearm to let me make the shape I desired. The final fitting and shaping of the forend took about 6-8 hours. I needed to be very careful with the wood removal because this forend is only 1/8"-1/4" thick. The barrel inlet was quite a bit off and required extensive sanding with a wooded down and even my spindle sanded. After the fitting and shaping was done I sanded it down to 400 grit and started to finish it. I used the same finishing technique I use on my other stocks My Finishing Page. Here are some pictures of the forend after it came back from the inletter and while I'm finishing it. The finish should be done and rubbed out in a week or so and then I'll get it checkered.

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Two Months later I finally finished this project. Granted there were weeks of down time, but I'd say my total time into this was 75+ hours including finishing. It was a fun project and My wife really likes her new stock. Now I'm jealous and will make one for Browning XS and Beretta 391. Here are some picture of the finished product.


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