View Full Version : Walnut tree into stocks?

July 13, 2008, 09:38 PM
My FIL had to remove a large mature walnut tree from his farm yard a few years back. He removed all the limbs and put the trunk (approximately 12" in diameter, 14' long) still in the bark, into an out building with the thought he was going to have it milled into lumber some day.

Fast forward a few years and we decide it would be awfully nice if we could make it into some custom rifle stocks. Coupled with some actions, we're thinking it might make for some awfully special heirlooms to pass on to my sons (his grandsons) some day.

I saw the trunk recently, and by my inexperienced eyes, in really good shape. It's been out of the sun and dry, but the building is unheated and subject to the temperature extremes of southwestern MN.

We're getting ready to section it and send to a local mill for cutting. What size should we have pieces cut? How do I tell if the pieces are suitable for making stocks? Do I need to do anything special to the pieces after cutting?

Ideally I'd like to get enough for 4 stocks, and I'm aware that it will be quite expensive. Any help or advice would be most appreciated!


July 13, 2008, 11:08 PM
You should get a good book on the subject---there's alot more to it than meets the eye.
Nothing wrong with air drying lumber I like air drying the best.
Most times, the bark is removed and not left on.
Sometimes the ends of the lumber are waxed to prevent it from drying to quickly and causing checks and splits.
You have to know what you are doing and what you are looking at to get a blank suitable for a gunstock---a proper gunstock that is--not just a handle.
It takes an experienced eye to look at a "tree" and know the best way to cut it up into blanks.
Grain flow is important in the grip area and laying out blanks takes a certain amount of knowledge.
If you are looking at a tree for gunstocks, the process starts before you even start the saw to cut it down.
12 inches in diameter is not going to give you many choices though.
I would talk to any saw mill you may be thinking of using and see what they have to say.


July 14, 2008, 12:12 AM
At 12" in diameter, there may not be enough heart wood for a stock. You need a balnk 10" X 40" that does not contain the heart center of the log. Logs for gun stocks are generally sesaled with wax, cured for 5 years, then quarter-sawn. Although it may not work for gunstocks, it is probably still valuable to a furniture maker.

July 14, 2008, 12:14 PM
Lower cuts on the stump that leave some of the flare work better than straight grain from the heart of the trunk.

12 inches is a small tree.

Harry Bonar
July 14, 2008, 05:20 PM
I usually allow 1 year per inch of thickness - air dried inside out of the rain.
Harry B.

July 14, 2008, 06:07 PM
Rootwood is often the best in terms of figure. Lower part of the trunk is often next on the list.

Be very through in the drying process. I have a very high grade blank that checked severely and my not be salvageable.

July 14, 2008, 08:57 PM
I do alot of Black walnut in a mill and leave alot of extra for checking. The rule of thumb is 1 inch per year for air drying time. Try and stay with the limb sections and you should get some nice curvy cuts out of that. If you have less than an 8" heart then its not gonna be good for stocks unless its perfectly dried and not going to check at all(impossible). Try and stay on 45's and cut top, flip, cut side, flip and start cutting 1 1/2- 2" slabs. Try to leave the outside on 1 edge so it wont check as bad as this will hold it to shape better till your ready for the final cuts and finishing the faces. Good luck and it isnt easy. If the stocks dont work out, You got alot of grips.lol
PS- Dont seal with wax as this retains moisture. I try and stick with 30" or larger for good cuts.

July 14, 2008, 10:52 PM

You guys sure have a wealth of knowledge to share! I had no idea how ignorant I really am.

I just looked up quartersawn, and now understand why this method is preferable for rifle stocks. Too bad it wastes so much. I guess this explains why you need such a big piece to start with.

I'm going to be visiting in a couple of weeks. I'll take a closer look. Hopefully it is really bigger than I remember.

I'll let you know what I find. If it's not suitable for stocks, I think we'll still have it milled, and build something that isn't quite so sensitive.

Thanks for all the wisdom gentlemen.


July 14, 2008, 11:03 PM
Let me know what size you need and I can supply pretty much any dimension. Burld black walnut is scarce in my piles but have alot of other nice stuff. Think I got some nice curly and a little rootwood left but would have to check. The wife sold some burld last month thinking it was clear and got cash with no reciept.:eek: Coulda heard me cursing a mile away.lol Thats the last time she touches my wood.;)(Yes,The tree stuff)