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Old 12-12-2006, 07:05 AM   #1
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Black Walnut Stocks

Is this an impossible dream or what?

On my late father's property (just under an acre in upstate New York) there's a huge black walnut tree. I would love to harvest this tree for the purpose of making several Rifle gunstocks. In part, this is inspired by Stephen Hunter's book "Point of Impact," in which he describes the Ten Black Kings -- 10 Winchester Model 70 Rifles with Black Walnut Stocks. But the strongest motivation is the fact that this tree is older than I am. It's a fixture of my childhood and a fitting memorial of my Dad and the thousands of hours we spent together reloading, shooting, hunting and building rifles from Mauser Actions.

My question is: What's involved in making a gunstock from a tree? How expensive is it? Who does it? Is such a project cost-prohibitive? You get the idea.

Any comments?

Tim in New York
Hittin' the A-Zone, not the Ozone
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Old 12-12-2006, 07:59 AM   #2
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Are you sure that the tree isn't more valuable to you standing?
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Old 12-12-2006, 08:06 AM   #3
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Tim,

Provided the tree doesn't have a fence grown into it or something, it is probably worth a considerable amount of money. I am not an expert but I would guess possibly in excess of $50,000. Making stocks from a portion of it is definately do-able. You need to talk to the hardwood timber dealers around the area and see who will pay the most for it. As part of the deal, tell them you want 10 (or more in case of screw-ups) stock blanks of premium quality milled and set aside for you. Then have the blanks rough machined by a reputable stock maker and finish them yourself or have a pro do it. The money from the rest of the tree should be vastly more than your costs to do this. I and my dad have personally milled with a table saw and finished wood from apple and other trees we cut down. It is really cool to take it from the tree and turn it into a finished product. Hope it all works out for you.

All the best,


Joe
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Old 12-12-2006, 08:19 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chubby Pigeon
Are you sure that the tree isn't more valuable to you standing?
It would be, Chubby, if we could keep the house. Our options are sell the house or develop the property. If the latter, then the tree would have to be taken down along with at least half a dozen hoary Maples.
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Old 12-12-2006, 08:26 AM   #5
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Then by all means, make some stocks!

Heck, I imagine there's more than a few people around here, myself included, who would pay good money to lay hands on a piece of that wood.
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Old 12-12-2006, 08:37 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fargo
The tree ... is probably worth ... in excess of $50,000. Making stocks from a portion of it is definately do-able. You need to talk to the hardwood timber dealers around the area and see who will pay the most for it.
Joe, although the tree is both tall and wide, I can't imagine it being worth 50 grand. But such is not my field, so who knows? I have no idea how to locate hardwood timber dealers.

Quote:
As part of the deal, tell them you want 10 (or more in case of screw-ups) stock blanks of premium quality milled and set aside for you.
I wasn't thinking of making 10! A brace would do it for me. But I love the "Ten Black Kings" chapter in Hunter's book.

Quote:
I and my dad have personally milled with a table saw and finished wood from apple and other trees we cut down. It is really cool to take it from the tree and turn it into a finished product. Hope it all works out for you.
That sounds way cool! Have you made gunstocks? There's one apple tree on the property and, as I mentioned earlier, half a dozen huge maple trees as well with nice, tall, straight trunks. But I'm pretty ignorant on the subject of stock-making. I know that Maple makes good furniture. But does it make a good stock?

The diameter of the Black Walnut trunk is at least 15 inches. I don't think I could mill it with a table saw. There are some rather long limbs of a diameter more than adequate for making a rifle stock though. It seems that I could harvest one of these myself and then bring it to a stock maker.

Since I can't afford to keep the house, my primary motivation is to own a rifle or two with stocks made from that Black Walnut tree. Sentimental value.
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Old 12-12-2006, 09:10 AM   #7
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Talk to custom furniture/cabinet makers in your area. The tree is worth some major dollars. Don't know if it would go $50k, but don't pay someone to take it down; have them pay you and then some.
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Old 12-12-2006, 11:39 AM   #8
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Tim, the 50K estimate i was talking about was based on the value of a black walnut that a friend was looking into selling out here. IRRC they were talking about 80K but it was also approx 4 feet think, easily the biggest walnut I have ever seen. I would call around to any sawmills specializing in hardwoods in the area and see if they would harvest it or find out who they contract it out. Have them all give you written estimates and go from there. I would think that you could easily get substantially more than the cost of getting the stocks made.

I have never milled a rifle stock. I have made knife stocks and various other small items like jewelry boxes and picture frames but I would think that you really need serious equipment/skill to mill out somthing like a stock. If you provided the rectangular blank, I am sure you could get a stockmaker to rough it in for you and even finish it if you wanted. Good luck and be sure to let us know how it turns out.

All the best,


Joe
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Old 12-12-2006, 11:47 AM   #9
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I know there are outfits out there, that I've run across before, that have stock duplicating machines.

Essentially, you take them a stock just like you want, and the blank. They throw your blank and the "master" stock in the duplicator, and what comes out is dimensionally very close. Of course, the new stock needs finishing and such.

The other thing I know is that the wood (as a blank) needs to be cured for a LONG time before it'll make a good stock. Then there's all the other stuff that I couldn't / wouldn't do myself - inletting, etc.

Don't ask me how I know. Oh, and one other thing: you couldn't pay me enough to try and undertake this project beyond cutting down the tree and handing over the wood for someone else to build the stocks.
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Old 12-12-2006, 12:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fargo
Tim, the 50K estimate i was talking about was based on the value of a black walnut that a friend was looking into selling out here. IRRC they were talking about 80K but it was also approx 4 feet think, easily the biggest walnut I have ever seen.
I do not remember the diameter of this Black Walnut. It may be as much as 2 feet thick. I'll make an estimate the next time I'm up there.

Four feet in diameter? Not even close. How tall is this tree?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bravo762
you couldn't pay me enough to try and undertake this project beyond cutting down the tree and handing over the wood for someone else to build the stocks.
This is kind of what I had in mind. As for inletting, etc., I may go to Gunsmithing School at the Colorado School of Trades at some point in 2008. Also I have some experience already, having made a brace of hunting rifles with my Dad, in caliber .30-06 from 1909 Argentine Mauser actions.

So it's possible, if not likely, that I'll do some of that work myself.

{sigh} A big project. But satisfying if I can do it.
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Old 12-12-2006, 02:57 PM   #11
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Tim,

You can contact a local mill that can cut it, dry it and rip it into the blanks for making the stocks. Most will make you a deal and do it for part of the lumber. If you decide to do it yourself make sure you have a place to store the wood while drying, Paint the ends to prevent splitting and pick up a moisture meter so you can tell when the wood is ready to be worked. If you need more information email me and I can send you a link to the wood working board I frequent.
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Old 12-12-2006, 03:26 PM   #12
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The big thing (IMHO) is to do lots of research and get lots of bids. Timer is big down here and there are theives who steal trees by undervaluing the market worth.

Cool project and good luck! BTW, I'd be interested in a stock myself.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:39 AM   #13
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Tim,

I worked in a flooring mill several years ago. We did run some black walnut flooring, but it was very difficult to work with. We were running almost 80% waste with all the knots, and it was hard on saw blades, but the stuff we managed to save was beautiful. I don't see any reason why it wouldn't make a good stock, I think the challenge will be getting a nice grained piece large enough to make a stock out of. I can't speak on the value of the wood in your area, but a nice straight log should be worth a great deal of money.

As far as the maple, we had an old gunsmith in my area when I was growing up. He would take the maple from start to finish, much as John described, air drying the blanks on his place. I was only about 8 years old when I saw one of his custom rifles, he said he could stain the maple or not, I much preferred the unstained almost blonde/white maple with a dark endcap on the fore end. I really wanted one of those rifles, but a few years after that the old gent's eyesight was failing him and he would only do repair work and not build custom rifles. The memories are a little blurry but I know my Dad trusted him 100% and thought very highly of the man, so I'm sure a good piece of maple would make a fine stock.

So good luck, it will take some patience and work, but I think it can be done, and your end product will be something unique and a source of pride.
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Old 12-13-2006, 04:02 AM   #14
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Got Wood?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzly
I think the challenge will be getting a nice grained piece large enough to make a stock out of.
Aye, that will be the trick.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzly
As far as the maple, ... I was only about 8 years old when I saw one of his custom rifles, ... I much preferred the unstained almost blonde/white maple
I've never seen such a stock. Sounds way cool.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzly
... your end product will be something unique and a source of pride.
Yeah, that's the whole point. A fitting memorial for my Dad.

As for caliber, I like .30-06 and 6.5 x 55. For the latter, a Swedish Mauser 96 action will do nicely. For the former, an Argentine Mauser action or German K-98 -- any large ring Mauser action. Guess I'd better start sniffing around for action(s) now!
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Old 12-13-2006, 04:16 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hunter
You can contact a local mill that can cut it, dry it and rip it into the blanks for making the stocks. Most will make you a deal and do it for part of the lumber.
I seem to recall such an outfit in the Blue Mountains, somewhere between Saugerties and Woodstock. Gotta track 'em down somehow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hunter
If you decide to do it yourself ...
Then I'm nuttier than a fruitcake.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hunter
If you need more information email me and I can send you a link to the wood working board I frequent.
Love that! I'm not saying I'll understand a word of it. But it sounds interesting. Send it along!

Oh, and good to see you again!
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Old 12-13-2006, 03:22 PM   #16
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Tim,

Just sent you a PM with the url, always good to see you.
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Old 12-13-2006, 06:52 PM   #17
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You might give this fella a holler. From cruising around his site he definitely knows his way around spectacular wood. I've spoken with him once and he was very generous with his time. Look around his place and give him a ring. Could be worth your time.

http://www.talaricohardwoods.com/

After I posted this I went back to his page to look around, it's been a while since I have done so. The first piece on the 'wood porn' section has a negative pattern for gun stocks layed out on a slab of English walnut. He really might be your man in Istanbul.
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Old 12-14-2006, 10:53 PM   #18
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I used to spend some time trying to harvest urban wood for the cabinetshop that i was trying to include in my business. I gave up.

Very few of the trees were ever usable. Most made the metal detector sing. Kids tree houses, Dog runs, rocks and other junk all seemed to end up in the wood. After having bought a woodmizer and then spending a fortune on new blades and getting blade whipped once when the blade hit a rock filled pocket some squirrel had deposited some years before, i decided that it was not worth it.

A 15 inch walnut is barely a harvestable tree. It probably has a couple of inches of sap wood on the outside and that means less than 12 inches of heart.

Many of the truly fantastic gun stocks you see are the products of orchard or grove trees. trunks that grow slowly, pruned to keep the trunk healthy and yet keeping the trees short enough to harvest easily. The big walnut trees that you hear about are trees destined for the veneer mills. When the dimensions are right, a veneer tree can and does go for big money. But again, they have to be of a size large enough to have enough heart wood that repeatable slices of tree can shaved off to cover the faces of sheet goods that are then turned into panelling and furniture.

There are rotary mills and plain slice mill, imagine a roll of paper towels and a deli meat slicer respectively. Where a tree goes partially depends on the wood and partially on who finds it.

I still have the wood mizer in the back yard, two years ago when the storms hit here in sept, I cut enough red oak to make up nearly 4000 bdft of 1 common and Sel & better, I still have about 1500 bdft of white oak and about the same of white spruce. I arrived too late at one yard and saw maybe fifteen trees getting chopped for firewood, all american chestnut, ARRRRRGGGH/$%(&#$%(*&$#@% they were worth maybe 10 K apiece for wood. All that was left when i got there was the crowns......maybe the only adult chestnut trees in the state, far enough from the east to be spared the blight.
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Old 12-15-2006, 04:54 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guntotin_fool
I arrived too late at one yard and saw maybe fifteen trees getting chopped for firewood, all american chestnut, ARRRRRGGGH/$%(&#$%(*&$#@% they were worth maybe 10 K apiece for wood. All that was left when i got there was the crowns......maybe the only adult chestnut trees in the state, far enough from the east to be spared the blight.
HOLY COW!!!!

Something like that is enough to cause one of those tics Chubby Pigeon was speaking of in the ugly gun thread.

Every since I went and learned how to build wooden ships and boats I look at trees in a whole different light. A walk through the woods is completely different with a little education on wood.
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