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I'm pretty much a self taught stock checkerer. My first set of checkering tools were purchased from Herter's who advertised that everything they sold was the best dang thing that ever was made.

Those tools I bought from them are now sleeping with the fishes in Lake Michigan. So, then I bought and tried the DemBart tools. Damn tools clogged up with wood before I could get one full line cut. OK, next tools I tried were the GunLine tools. They didn't do too bad, but I just didn't like the handles on those. Then I met a fella named Colonel Jim Coffin. He was the military attache to the ambassador to India that the owner of the company I was working for in the toolroom at Twin Disc Inc. got to know when he was on a tiger hunt in India. John H Batten brought Jim over to my fledgeling gunshop in Racine, WI and introduced me to Mr. Coffin. At that time I had a Model 70 Winchester stock in my self-made checkering cradle that I was struggling to get done. Mr. Jim introduced me to which checkering tools he was using at that time and purchased from W.E. Brownells in San Diego, CA with what he called a "bifurcated handle". I ordered up several cutters in 20, 22 and 24 LPI , with some 60, 75 and 90° single line cutters and the handles as well.
Gotta admit, Mr.Coffin steered me in the right direction. My checkering improved as I improved:


This was done on one of the first short action Model 70 Winchester push feed short actions as produced and sold. I sent a stock blank to Don Allen who used his duplicator on a low grade semi-inlet plain walnut stock I bough and glass bedded for the new short action from Reinhart Fajen. Mr. Allen also made a pattern from what I sent him for his own use.
As my checkering jobs became more frequent I became a bit more affluent in my work and got a bit more bold with my patterns:


My first visit to what would eventually be the "American Custom Gunmakers Guild Show" at the Milwaukee NRA Convention in 1984 or 85 at the Bradley Center, I first got to see what these custom stockmakers were doing. I was quite impressed. And then, in 1991 I attended the Guild show in Las Vegas and really got an eye-full of what folks like Maurice Ottmar, Al Biesen, Paul Dressel,Dale Goens, Jim Coffin and Stephen Hellman were producing with stock and metal work. Jim Coffin took me over to meet a fella named Bob Snapp from nearby Michigan. Jim showed this guy some of my checkering pictures and complimented me on my endeavors and said he would be a sponsor for me getting into the guild. GEEEZ! I was flabbergasted just at the thought.
These days I just stick with what I like to do as far as checkering is concerned.. I only do panels for Ruger Mark pistol panels from blanks to finish:

The really sad part is that the checkering tools as initially made by W.E. Brownell are no longer available and are in the hands of some Eastern India firm that doesn't know what quality tools look like. I'm so glad I stocked up with enough cutters to last my lifetime before his daughter and son-in-law sold that business.
 

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VERY good work! I told my students that checkering gets easier on the second acre. :)
 
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VERY good work! I told my students that checkering gets easier on the second acre. :)
Thanks. It seemed for me that it took about the same amount of checkering that it would to do a complete barn and all the wood involved with it, and learning a TON of patience, until I developed some degree of confidence, yet I still always feel I could've done better. The most involved part with learning was which species of stock wood would only allow 24 LPI, at 75 degrees and instead only 18, or 20 LPI at 90.degrees. The harder walnuts like Bastogne,California English, and most of the hard maples taught me quite a bit in my learning curve. Good thing to do when cooped up over winter.
 

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There were a surprising number of old time stock makers that made their own checkering tools. Keith Stegal was the first to show me the technique he used....and you sure couldn't argue with the results. The same goes for Len Brownell and others.

I had a student that 'took' to checkering and got good at it too. One of his roommates said they had a conflict at their apartment. 'Max' checkered the toilet seat. No grain to worry about.....
 
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