MORE TECHNICAL QUESTIONS
How/Why did you start machining stocks? My early stock making was strictly a hobby, stocking my own rifles from-the-block. I received great encouragement from local retired custom stock maker / knife maker, Max Kershaw. Renowned Australian stock maker Geoff Slee saw some of the early stocks I'd cut from the block with hand tools. We spent time working together cutting blanks, hunting, and discussing the technical aspects of stock making. In time my hobby got very serious and I worked towards a plan to go into business. Geoff very kindly offered to teach me all he could from 2003 to 2005 before I set my first duplicator up. More dedicated mentorship continued after I went into business, from 2006 until late 2009. I am the only person Geoff chose to pass his full working knowledge to. I gained a solid foundation in machining stocks as well as most other aspects of the work. Combining - to best advantage possible - stock making both by hand and by machine has and always will be a strong focus at ACRS.
Do you mill walnut trees? Yes, when suitable trees present. I have been cutting and seasoning blanks for over 20 years. Recovering only the best possible blanks from a tree is my goal, not the maximum number or maximum profit from a tree. I also have in far smaller volume, walnut blanks from other countries from very carefully chosen suppliers.
How are your walnut blanks stored over time? Rifle blanks are never stacked except for transport, and are either racked or stood on-end with plenty of air flow - this allows the blank to move as it settles and reaches equilibrium of moisture content and tension/stresses. I prefer not to stack two-piece blanks, but when it must be done great care is taken to avoid uneven tension in the stacks, any stacks are kept low to reduce weight from above, and they are rotated regularly with plenty of air flow. Blanks are allowed exposure to full seasonal moisture and temperature extremes for a minimum of 10 years before final dressing and storage. Blanks are cut from slabs as soon as is practical - this makes for blanks of maximum stability in my experience, provided they are seasoned and stored well.
Can I supply my own Walnut blank to be machined? No. We currently do not machine stocks to order - and rarely use "outside" blanks in custom work. Blank quality varies from supplier to supplier, sometimes greatly and I have no way of confirming it's treatment and seasoning. If an "outside" blank is found to be flawed during the machining process, then I have found that the suppliers rarely honour their blanks.
Why is there so much variation for prices of your machined stocks? Raw blank value varies greatly according to grade. Different action inlets vary in complexity and time required to complete them. Similarly, outside shapes vary considerably in the time required to machine them. For example, fine details like tear-drop finials on a side panel with a shadow line take extra time and quite some care to machine cleanly. The number of cutter/collet changes required to complete the stock varies, which affects the time taken to complete the stock. The fixtures required to mount the stock for duplication vary considerably with various action types/makes/models, and two piece stocks require two work pieces and patterns be mounted to complete the job. Many jobs require the use of a steady rest(s), which again adds to the time taken to complete the job.
I have broken my rifle stock. Do I need to send you mine? Not unless it's something magnificent. Please bear in mind: "I don't want to make gun handles, I like to make guns handle". I have many improved stock patterns/designs for many of the firearms out there that are commonly used for building custom rifles.
Will you duplicate from my custom pattern? No. Pattern quality is critical to the outcome of a machined stock. I have completed a fair bit of such work, and I have learned that most people, even many "pros" don't glass in their metalwork such that the pattern is true. It may look spot-on, but has it been proved so? Twisted, canted, askew inlets, actions bent under uneven bedding, off-set bottom metal - these have been the norm from patterns sent in. Fitting up is demanding enough, without the extra hardship fitting up a stock duplicated faithfully but from a poorly prepared pattern. I will not duplicate poorly made patterns, but very much enjoy doing work for others when a decent pattern is presented.
I have a poorly prepared pattern, that I want re-worked - will you do it? Probably not, with rare exceptions. I get asked this a LOT. I've re-worked, re-built, re-made many botched patterns sent to me for duplication but rarely take on such work nowadays.
I have been told a duplicator is not accurate enough to precisely duplicate side-lock stocks, bar-in-wood stocks, very slender stocks etc. Is this true? No it's not true, provided the pattern, machine, operator and blank are all suitable. I enjoy the challenging jobs most of all - it seems it's more than half of what I get asked to do nowadays. Each complex job must be assessed on an individual basis. I am careful whom I supply machined stocks to, particularly if they require skills well above what is required when fitting and finishing a magazine rifle stock of average difficulty.
What tolerances do you hold? Machine is built, aligned and maintained to machine a total error of no more than 0.002" in any axis over the full length of travel. Periodically I run test pieces copied from a master pattern designed to test this. The copy is then assayed for tolerance and any errors in alignment are corrected. I do my best to employ sound metrology to quantify this. A decent grounding in the science of measuring within a graduate degree proved very helpful, and application and improvement of those principals in this work is an area of constant attention. The devil is in the detail in this aspect of the work. Here we have a slender pattern prone to deflection and a vibrating, a slender work piece also prone to deflection and a machine which must move freely on several slide ways. It takes a good machine shop to support the machine and a lot of experience to hold those tolerances.
I can get machined stocks cheaper elsewhere. Can you justify the extra charge? Precision machining, quality materials and requisite experience. I factor in the same rates when machining a custom stock for a customer.
Can you build me a completed, checkered and finished bespoke stock? Yes - however I have a backlog of such work and currently, I am not taking commissions. A typical job involves 80-150 hours labour, plus blank and stock furniture.
Do you make complete high-grade custom rifles? I currently have a backlog of such work. I am not taking orders. The time involved in every single aspect of a quality bespoke rifle will total into the hundreds of hours in labor costs.