It’s been a long time in the process, but I’m finally almost finished with my much-delayed project of restocking two of my Ruger #1Bs. The project began about 2006 when I ordered two sets of profiled stock blanks. They were to be about 90% inletted and rough shaped, leaving me with the final inletting, fitting and shaping. I had done this a couple times before with little difficulty and decided that it was time to upgrade two of my Rugers that hadn’t been restocked. The wood arrived and was of the grain and figure quality expected but the project got derailed for a couple of years when I lost a fight with a bench saw while doing some remodeling and nearly cut off my left forefinger. Ten months (and three surgeries) went by before my left hand was even moderately useable. Even more time was lost as I regained strength in that hand, but never having regained use of the finger I also had to train the other fingers to work around it. It still just gets in the way to this day. In about 2008 I finally decided that my hand was as good as it would get and decided to get started. I was in for a big, unpleasant surprise.
Having dealt with this vendor in the past and been happy with his product, once I started the laborious process of fitting the actions to the stocks I was completely shocked to find the poor quality of work that had been done on these two stock sets. The action inletting was sloppy, off-center and over-cut. Tang areas had been cut too wide and long and looked as if the cutter had wandered. Material removed to begin the shaping of the side panels had been done in an asymmetrical manner causing me to have to adjust and reshape from the original design intent. The forearm screw hole, which owing to the unique method of attachment that Ruger uses on these rifles is extremely critical, was drilled at the wrong angle on one set and not even started on the other. Calls to the supplier generated nothing but denials, excuses and anger. Frustrated and furious, I laid everything aside, relegated to a shop drawer and placed in the back of my mind for further thought and fermentation.
Finally getting to the point of feeling guilty that I had $800 worth of wood (2006 prices) lying around not being used, I steeled myself to the task and got at it around Christmas. Working my way through each hurdle and laying everything aside when I got too frustrated or discouraged, I finally got them done. In the process I had to rebuild certain support areas, bridge wood to metal gaps (thank God for AcraGel), re-cut inlets and reshape the profiles to blend profiling errors into a pleasing effect.
Once the fitting of wood to metal had been accomplished I completed the external shaping (lots of rasp work) and sanding. Final finish consists of multiple coats of hand-rubbed oil (somewhere between 8 and 12 – I lost count over the timeframe involved) that filled the pores and added depth to the grain. No stain of filler was used as the oil finish darkened the wood to the hue I wanted, leaving a near 3-D effect without blurring any grain details. Extremely fine steel wool was used to cut the finish between coats. All internal wood and grain ends were coated with a polyurethane finish for better moisture seal.
No the world's best photographer, but here goes:
The first rifle is a .280 Remington that I had originally stocked with a Treebone Carving profiled stock in the late ‘90s. I swapped that stock to my .223 Remington when I decided to stock the .280 in a modified European “stalker” style. The forearm is slimmed and I chose to use a modified schnabel tip that works very well with the grip of my damaged left hand. It is shorter than the typical “B” model forearm so that I could use a more traditional looking barrel band sling swivel. The barrel is fully bedded in the forearm. This rifle can shoot well under an inch for the first three rounds fired as fast as I can load and get proper aim, but as the barrel heats it starts very slightly stringing the group upwards. I know that this could be eliminated by floating the forearm, but since it isn’t really likely that I would ever be presented with the opportunity to fire more than three (if that) rapid shots at game, it doesn’t matter. The stability of the bedded forearm is more important for the use for which this rifle is intended. Normally a hand-rubbed oil finish should be more of a subdued matte, but in order to truly reveal the depth and subtle nuances of the grain on this stock, I finished with several applications of thinned oil to completely level the surface and left the gloss.
The second stock is for a .22-250 Remington and still has a little finishing work to do. I chose to leave the forearm fuller than usual for better support and balance off of sandbags or bipods and installed two sling studs; one for the sling and the other for convenient bi-pod attachment if I wish. The barrel will be floated and the forearm bedded for contact only at the hanger since this rifle shoots better that way and I am far more likely to put more consecutive shots through it than the .280. The finish on this stock will have little gloss since the grain and mineral patterns are bold enough to show without the “3D” effects brought out by a proper gloss finish. Both stocks, by the way, are fitted with blued-steel grip-caps.
Make no mistake; these are using
wall-hangers. They will not be “babied” in any way other than normal care. I just prefer nice looking wood when possible. That is one of the reasons that I use oil for finishing. Minor mars and scratches can be covered in minutes. Major gouges or other damage would require more extensive repair no matter the finish.
After I give my poor hands a break, I may be tackling the checkering. If I listen to my wife, however, I won’t be checkering. She thinks it would distract from the wood. With the “tacky”-palmed shooting gloves I use, checkering isn’t really necessary for grip and purchase. I guess I’m waiting to see what I decide. While that is happening I am cutting various design templates and taping them to the stocks to see how I like them over a period of time. I really don’t want to choose a pattern and then regret my choice once it is too late.
The Ruger #1 is probably the most difficult, yet rewarding, rifle I have ever stocked due to critical angles, inletting issues and hole alignment requirements. This whole project was made even more difficult by all of the errors introduced by sloppy profiling. I am not going to name the vendor, since I had good luck with them in the past and they now seem to be out of business, but should I choose to do another Ruger #1 in the future I would go back to Treebone Carving for stock sets. I have used their products (twice) on Rugers in the past and though they are more costly, their work has been excellent.