Relevant Information

A Summary

We are indeed fortunate to operating this business in an area where an enormous variety of walnut is to be found. Here in California walnut may not grow in the total volume found in the East or Midwest, but it grows in much greater variety and diversity. Walnut has been grown and harvested as a crop here for centuries. Nuts from around the world have been planted here. Some walnut has grown wild. Some has cross-pollinated. So there's much to choose from. However, with such a bewildering variety of trees found growing here, it's easy to see why identification can sometimes become difficult, and the terminology used can sometimes become confusing. To organize our product line and simplify our pricing, we have two categories of walnut gunstock wood. The first group is walnut that is generally brown in color and of the black walnut family of woods. The second group is walnut of the English "thin shell" family of stock woods.

Black Walnut family of stock wood

There is a species of walnut named Juglans Negra. This species grows throughout the United States. It is principally concentrated in the Eastern U.S. and the Midwest. However, there is a sprinkling of this walnut in the arid West, and there is a moderate amount found along the West Coast. Junglans Negra is commonly referred to as eastern black walnut. It is also called American walnut, or Black walnut, and here in California it is often called California Black. This species of walnut has dark brown bark. It grows with brown heartwood and a narrow outside sap wood ring. It produces strong sharp tasting nuts, and it grows wild; i.e. it is not a domesticated orchard tree. It is well regarded as a suitable stock wood, and is the gun stock wood most commonly used for factory issue stocks of American made firearms. This species produces a moderate amount of fancy wood, and a predominant amount of plain wood. There is another species called Claro Walnut (Juglans Hindsii). This kind of walnut originated in the north central part of California and today it is found growing throughout the West Coast of the United States-from British Columbia, Canada, all the way to Mexico. Some of it grows wild like other trees, but mostly it is domesticated-to the extent that it is the most common rootstock found in walnut orchards.

English Walnut family of stock wood
English thin-shelled Walnut is the most highly prized and most sought after gunstock wood. It is also the most expensive, with some extra fine rifle blanks selling for enormous sums of money. Juglans Regia is it's name (Regia is the Latin word for royal.) It is also called French walnut, Italian walnut, or European walnut. This species probably originated in the Far East or in Asia Minor, and was brought to Persia-where it was later found and introduced to Rome by Roman conquering armies. Eventually it spread throughout Europe. Its wood has good firm texture, and it usually has small pores. It has white bark, produces a sweet tasting nut (the ones commonly found at the grocery store, or in pastry). English Walnut grows an outside sap ring. Within this sap ring is a barely distinguishable ring of light (or bland) heartwood which has not yet darkened, and within the light heartwood ring is the dark heartwood core. The dark heartwood is the center of the tree. This dark heartwood area has the 'Mineral Streak', or what is sometimes called 'Water Marks'. These are the dark lines that give English walnut much of its appeal. We do not have complete scientific understanding of what causes mineral streak in hardwoods; ferrous minerals in the soil may contribute to its occurrence. Mineral streaking occurs in all walnut. Some times in a variety of colors. However, in English walnut, the amount of mineral streaking determines the grade-the more streaking, the higher the grade. English thin-shelled Walnut grows throughout the world. It varies somewhat in appearance, color and texture from one region to another. Variables such as climate, soil, husbandry, etc. will affect the wood. The origin of the wood will in some cases determine if the wood has a different name. So we have walnut referred to as Circassian, Moroccan, Turkish, East-Indian, etc.. Technically speaking though, it's all Juglans Regia, the English thin-shell walnut.
Graft line

This is a name applied to blanks that show a graft line. This would be a piece of wood that is Claro at one end and English at the other, with a distinct graft line at the juncture of the two species. This is a novel feature, for sure, but some very interesting custom gunstocks are made from it. There is no loss of wood strength at the graft juncture, but such blanks are often graded as utility because of the abrupt color juxtaposition. Some prefer this wood finished in its natural tone, but for those who do not; the color contrast can be remedied with wood stain. Graft line is seldom graded as fancy walnut even if it has fancy figure. Graft line is some times mistakenly called "Paradox" walnut because of the species contradiction. This is just mistaken terminology, because "Paradox" is a term most commonly applied to Bastogne walnut. Bastogne is a true hybrid-a distinct type of walnut, not a grafted combination.

Bastogne: There is a walnut called "Bastogne", taken from the French word for what you can probably guess. This walnut is also called "Paradox" or "the Paradox Tree". It is generally described as a cross between English walnut and Claro walnut. That statement is mostly true, but a more accurate description might be that Bastogne is a hybrid that results from the cross-pollinization of a tree in the English thin-shelled family with a tree of some other species of walnut. So the stock wood referred to as Bastogne is not all the same. It varies greatly in color, texture, grain, density, and weight. Mostly, though it is known for its density and weight. It is strong, and it is sturdy. It tends to be prized by big bore enthusiasts- strong enough to stand up to recoil, and heavy enough to slow recoil torque. For similar reasons some trap shooters prefer this wood.

Fancy Franquette: This term is used to describe fancy figured English walnut that is all light toned wood, i.e. "fancy sapwood." Franquette is a strain of English walnut not much liked by gun lovers who prefer heartwood with streaking. It has a very small heartwood area, so it produces very little in the way of conventional high-grade gunstock blanks. However, it does produce some very interesting fancy figured "bland" wood. The term "Fancy Franquette" is often applied indiscriminately to any kind of bland fancy English, so some of it is not actually Franquette. This strain has fallen out of favor with orchard growers because it produces low-grade small nuts. However, there are many mature trees of franquette still to be found.

Fancy Maple: We price all maple the same as black walnut. (Maple is generally used only in the fancy grades.) Likewise, Myrtle wood and Madrone (when available) is priced the same as black walnut.

Mauser Identification

First we have Long Action Mausers...

We shall presume that you are at least familiar with the M98 Large Ring Mauser. It is a long action, identifiable by its large ring. Distance between screw holes, center to center-7 7/8". Overall action length is 8 3/4". The original military barrel is step contoured. As far as stock fit in the action area is concerned nearly all M98s are the same. However, the front tang of the floor plate may differ somewhat. The 1909 Argentine Mauser, Chilean Mauser, and a Columbian Mauser have floor plates with a front tang as much as 3/32" shorter than the others. For this reason most sporter rifle stocks for Mausers are machined for the M1909 floor plate, and some small amount of wood has to be removed to accommodate the fitting of all the others. The FN and FN 400 Mauser made in Belgium by Fabrique Nationale are pretty much identical to the large ring M98 but probably with a smooth taper sporter barrel fitted. The FN has a wing safety on the bolt (so no inletting problem there), the FN 400 has a sliding safety, right rear side of the action, which is not found on issue M98s. The FN floor plate has a short front tang-even shorter than the model 1909 Argentine tang. The Mk X Mauser likewise differs from the M98 just a bit. Action-wise it is a M98, but when you get to its floor plate the front tang is about 1/4" shorter, just like the FN, and it has a sliding safety similar to the FN 400, but with a different shape and a different swing. There is one type of Mauser that is a long action without the large ring-called the G33/40.

Then Short Action Mausers...

Mauser, M93 and M95, are small ring short actions-same stock fits both, and likewise is interchangeable with the M94 Swedish Carbine. The Mexican Mausers are somewhat different. The M1910 through M1936 Mexican Mausers are small ring short actions, and one stock fits all, but they are slightly different form the M93 and M95. The number stamped on the ring is the year of manufacture; hence the so-called M1910 Mexican may be stamped 1910, 1918, or 1931. It is all the same rifle until you get up to the M1936 Mexican, readily recognizable with it's knurling cocking piece at the rear of the bolt, which resembles the M1903 Springfield. Appearance wise it looks different, but stock fits them all. So there you have it-all the Mexican Mausers fit the same stock. Well almost all of them that is, except for a Mauser called the Mexican 24. The Mexican 24 is an "Intermediate" length action. More about that one in the "Intermediate" section of this text. Meanwhile, on with the small ring short actions. There is a set of twins called the M94 and M96 Swedish Mausers. These two are considered to be identical, and that's nearly true--almost, anyway. Here's an explanation. First there was the M94 Swedish Mauser rifle, using a new type of action with a 29" barrel and a straight bolt handle. Then production of a carbine began-called the M94 Swedish carbine. The carbine was different from the rifle. Not just because it looked different with it's shorter 24" barrel and turned down bolt. It was actually made with a M95 Mauser Receiver. So the M94 Swedish carbine fits correctly into M93 or M95 Mauser stock, but it doesn't quite fit into a M94 Mauser rifle stock. There are two differences involved here. On the M94 carbine the rear tang of the action is curved on the bottom-while on the M94 rifle it is flat. And the carbine's magazine well is 3/32" shorter than the well of the rifle. Later on production began on the M96 Swedish Mauser rifle-regarding stock fit it was identical to the M94 Mauser rifle, and it looked the same too-same long 28" barrel, and straight bolt. Then production began on the M96 carbine. It had a short 24" barrel and a turned down bolt, and it used the same action as the rifle. So regarding stock fit, it is the same as the M96 rifle, the M94 rifle, but not the M94 carbine. Please see the following illustrations.





Since the M94 carbine has a shorter magazine well, it won't quite fit into a stock made for the others. (Remove the floor plate assembly from any M93, M95 Mauser, or M94 Swedish carbine and insert it into a stock made for any other Swedish Mauser and there will be a gap on both sides of the floor plate front tang just ahead of the floor plate cover.)

"Intermediate" Length Mauser Actions

These are perhaps the most confusing Mausers of all. They are Mausers that are technically short actions, but with a M98-type large ring. So they are a little more than 1/8" shorter than long actions. They have floor plate screw holes 7 5/8" center to center like other short actions, and the ring diameter is 1 3/8"-like other large ring actions. They have a step contoured barrel just like a M98-so, the only sure way to tell the difference is to measure the length of the action. The overall length of the intermediate action is 8 9/16".

1910 MEX INTERMEDIATE M98 M93-95 M94-96

The Czech-made Mauser VZ 24 is identical to a M98 large ring military Mauser, but it's the only Mauser with a 24 on it that is. The Yugoslavian 24 is an intermediate. Likewise, the FN 24 (and FN 29). The Mexican 24 Mauser is also an intermediate (hence difference from the Mexican Mausers). Another Mauser deserves mention here-the Siamese. The Siamese Mauser is different from all of the above. Designed for a rimmed cartridge, it has a unique tapered floor plate, and some other features unlike any other Mausers. So the stock is likewise unique.

British Lee Enfield Identification

There are three different British Lee Enfields...
Stevens Double Identification
Model 311 Wood 3 1/8" Top Tang Model 311 Plastic 3 1/4" Top Tang
The M315 Stevens has a 2 5/8" top tang
Pro-Custom Oil Gunstock Finish

Tung oil is an excellent gunstock finish. There are many ways to finish a gunstock, and there are many different types of fine finishes available, but there's nothing quite like tung oil. When tung oil is applied to wood it penetrates deeply into the pores, seams, and tiny indentures found on the sanded surface and seals up the wood. So it prevents the wood from "breathing"; for example it can't absorb more moisture when exposed to water or moist air, and it can't discharge water vapor when subjected to extremely dry air or intense heat. Because the wood is sealed up, it becomes much more stable. Any tung oil finish has this penetrating sealant property. But pure tung oil is a very thin fluid, and it may take many repeated coats to saturate the wood's surface. To hasten the sealing process, some tung oil finishes are mixed with some other type of finish. For quite a number of years many gunstock makers utilized a tung oil finish called Flecto Verathane Tung Oil Danish. It was a mix-90% tung oil, combined with other urethane solids mixed in. The tung oil carried the urethane solids into the wood. They "gummed up" the pores much more quickly, and the whole sealing process was accelerated. Two or three coats of mixed finish sealed as well as 10 to 12 or maybe 14 coats of pure tung oil. The trouble is, Flecto Verathane Tung Oil Danish was taken off the market in 1984. Other tung oil finishes work well. Formby's is good, Watco oil is good, and many of the others are likewise quite suitable for gunstock finishing, but none of them quite satisfied stock makers, and enough complained to the finishing oil makers, until something happened. Thanks in no small part to Al Lind, Larry Brace, and other members of the American Custom Gun maker's Guild, a company called Chem.-Pak, Inc. began making a finish called Pro-Custom Oil. It is actually an improvement over Flecto Verathane Tung Oil Danish in that it utilizes more compatible solids additives. We are gratified that this type of finish is available to our customers-found in the accessories section.

Tips On Using Tung Oil

Tung oil can be used as a sealant only. Once a gunstock has two or three coats applied to the surface you can "wet sand" the stock with fine grit wet-or-dry sandpaper and strip the surface clean, leaving the pores brim full of tung oil and thoroughly sealed and the wood surface nearly stripped bare. So the stock has finish "in" the wood rather than "on" the wood. In this condition it has a dull sheen or "egg shell" type appearance. If a glossier surface is desired the stock can be top coated with any compatible type of finish. Pro-Custom Oil will work quite well to topcoat with, but other finishes like True Oil, or Lin-Speed oil can also be applied. Any of these will lend a glossy appearance to the wood-either with dried "mop-on" coating, a sprayed surface, or with a surface which has been buffed or polished. Novices finishing their first gunstock should be advised that wood has the property of absorbing moisture or losing moisture because of changing climatic conditions. Completely Finished gunstocks can still shrink and swell if they aren't completely sealed. That includes the inside inletting cuts, and especially the butt end. If the butt of a stock is not sealed it absorbs moisture that moves up the normal channels of fluid transfer and causes the stock to "move" and distort in shape as the quasi-life processes of the tree try to resume. Once the wood is sealed completely, it becomes consummately the inert material most desirable for stable gunmetal bedding. Many firearms with wooden stocks leave the factory with no sealant in the inletting cuts and no coating of finish beneath the butt plate or recoil pad. It's a good idea to check any gun with a factory issue stock and attend to sealing up these surfaces if they have been left bare. Most tung-oil finishes have limited "pot-life", that is, they may thicken when left in a sealed container over a long period of time. If this occurs the thickened finish can be diluted with mineral spirits, and its use can be continued.