Calling all checkerers!

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by Alaskan Ironworker, Apr 1, 2021.

  1. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    Hey guys, I’m looking for some checkering advice. Im looking for the best method for cutting finishing borders around small curved designs such as a fleur de lis patterns. Ive had decent results using a curved exacto blade or the s-1 checkering cutter, but im curious about veiners. If a veiner is the best option, what degree looks best, 60 or 90. Has anyone tried using a “U” veiner along borders? How does it look? Im looking to get a finished edge on these tight curved designs that is a little bit smoother and less segmented. Thanks in advance.
     

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  2. LoneGoose

    LoneGoose Member

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    As a wood carver and "hobbyist" checkerer, I'd say that you have the right idea. Veiners are very apt and cut a clean channel when you pay attention to the sharpening and the wood's grain direction. The one thing I find I have to be careful about is cutting the width of the border. It takes a little effort to keep it even. I have also used riffler files on wood details. I have never used a knife.

    A U-veiner makes a distinct groove which can make a beautiful border.

    Your work looks very good. The on ly other advice I can give is that when cutting curves with a checkering file, take light passes and roll the cutter from front to back while pushing it.

    You have come to the right place for good answers. THR rocks.
     
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  3. SGW Gunsmith

    SGW Gunsmith Member

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    I like and prefer the Dembart 60° "V" veiner to finish up the diamonds on a point pattern, especially in those tight corners:

    QyEprvk.jpg

    When getting into those tight corners, it's just a PITA using a single point cutter, even the 60° or 75° cutters that I use.
    For good hardwood stocks I finish pointing up the pattern with a 75° single line cutter and then any curved borders with the 60° "V" veining tool.
    For more open grained wood like some of the American Walnut stocks, I'll point up the checkering with a 90° single cutter and then any curved borders with the Dembart 90° "V
    " veining tool. Helps it look a little bit better.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2021
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  4. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    Thanks guys, theres not many people to ask these questions of. The high road is a wealth of information. Im gonna get some veiners and try them out.
     
  5. herrwalther

    herrwalther Member

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  6. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    Just to clarify, I have and use all the standard checkering tools. I generally only use the knife to score in the initial border. My issue is making clean deepening finish cuts on tight radii lines. The s-1 cutter works fine up until the really tight curves are encountered.
     
  7. SGW Gunsmith

    SGW Gunsmith Member

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    The veining cutters work great for a fleur-de-lis pattern as in your picture above. Gotta keep 'em sharp though, especially the bottom edges of the "V".
     
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  8. doubleh

    doubleh Member

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    Having viewed several example of SGW's checkering skills I think he knows what he is talking about. Pay heed to the guy that can do it.
     
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  9. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Carbine checkering bits are what you seek. I like the W. E. Brownell (of Californiastan) handles (not to be confused with Brownells in Iowa).
     
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  10. SGW Gunsmith

    SGW Gunsmith Member

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    Most all of my checkering tools were purchased back when the original maker of these tools was still around (30+ years ago). Back then, and over a few months I bought 24 of the bifurcated tools with real American Walnut handles, so I didn't need to keep switching cutters back and forth:

    uclcpeu.jpg

    When the original owner/maker died, his daughter and son-in-law took over the business and they followed the original product, perfectly. They eventually sold everything to an East India firm, and that's where things quickly went downhill. Handles were now made from birch, which was OK, they're just handles, but the cutters were poorly made and not worth ordering, let alone using.
    Again, fortunately, I instinctively bought all the various cutters I wanted and felt I would use in the future, one to two dozen of each, back when they were still made well. The original cutters were made and heat-treated perfectly, and they are sharpenable with a barret type needle file, so I never experienced the need to invest in the much more costly carbide checkering cutters. The unique aspect involved with these cutters is, you can cut right up to a border with the leade tooth, put that tooth into the border primary line and then cut backward to avoid over-runs and border nicks:

    9sOLkPK.jpg
     
  11. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    I have some of those style cutters, and they do pretty much eliminate over runs using the method you described. Those handles appear the same as the ones I have also, though I have some of the cheapo gunline ones also. I like the style you pictured better because you can adjust the tilt fore and aft of the cutter. The non adjustable handles Ive just had to bend to get to an angle that works for me. Man I wish we all lived in the same area, we could have a cold one and discuss checkering. Ive yet to meet another avid checkerer in person, rare breed I guess.
     
  12. SGW Gunsmith

    SGW Gunsmith Member

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    Hey, anytime, if you ever get into northwestern Wisconsin, you're welcome to stop by. If you ever get the chance to visit one of the American Custom Gunmakers Shows in Vegas, you will have a plethora of information available from those guys. All are willing and very helpful to pass along ideas and procedures that work for them.
    It's sad to say, but many of those folks are getting up there in age and passing along. And along with many of those folks, so goes "hand-cut checkering". I bought an electric checkering tool many years ago. Just couldn't deal with the heavy cord on the hand-piece, so I sold the dang thing after only one month of ownership. Went back to hand tools and haven't looked back, and no REGERTS (sic). :)
     
  13. SGW Gunsmith

    SGW Gunsmith Member

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    Maybe I'm blessed, but I learn most everything the hard way. When I first started out my attempts to cut checkering, I bought a "wooden" checkering cradle from the most "prolific" seller of gunsmith supplies at that time. That cradle was used to start a fire in the fireplace one cold winter. Next, I built my own idea of a cradle out of black gas pipe. Got rid of that outfit before I inflicted a hernia onto myself. Next, I stopped by the back of a local manufacturing firm that made much of their product from aluminum and bough some of the "end-cuts" from their scrap bin for scrap aluminum prices. Been using this one for handgun grips and then for rifle stocks, but I'll switch over to a much longer base arm to accommodate those stocks:

    ojeow0u.jpg
    ptr8HXF.jpg

    I find a solid vise and rotating cradle does a whole lot in helping me to keep the cutter on top of the work.
     
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  14. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    Thats a beautiful cradle. Mines made out of scrap lumber, its ugly, but I like it. Thats funny, I also have a mmc electric checkering tool with the foot pedal, set up in the garage. The problem is I only checker when my wife works night shifts. I set up the lamp and cradle on the kitchen island so I can hang out with the kids while they’re coloring at the table. Also, that machine terrifies me, its a whole different feel than hand checkering. Eventually Ill force myself to learn its ways.
     
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  15. BBBBill

    BBBBill Member

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    I kinda like Milky Ways...
     
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  16. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    So, do you use a spacer with one side that is smooth to make your initial line layout? Or do you use one if the double, triple, or quad cutters I see in your pic? I just ordered a spacer with one smooth side (20 lpi), I’ve never tried one, I always just use a double or triple cutter. I feel like the one sided smooth cutter may help keeping the lines from gradually veering off course? Theres so many different cutters out there, the problem is brownells is perpetually sold out of lower line per inch options. Ive had to use 20, or 24 lpi cutters to learn with which is probably not the best for a beginner, I guess Ive also had to learn the hard way. Do you have a better source for cutters?
     
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  17. SGW Gunsmith

    SGW Gunsmith Member

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    I like your tenacious attitude. That's what it normally takes to become an accomplished checkering person. Me, I'm just Irish stubborn.
     
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  18. SGW Gunsmith

    SGW Gunsmith Member

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    I lay out both master lines with a single line cutter at 60°. Why? Because the spacing line cutters are ground to a 60° angle, so then the next spacing cutter I use is the 2-line cutter with one row of cutting teeth guiding the next line from the master line. I then have 2 lines cut, in each direction, then I'll use the 3-line cutter with two rows of cutting teeth guiding while the third row of teeth cut a new line, and then will got to the 4-line cutter with three rows guiding an one row cutting a fresh line. This effort keeps my lines straight and evenly spaced. After that, I will use 3 lines of the cutter to guide while I cut one new line. Hope that makes sense.
    After I have 6 lines cut from both master lines, I will rotate my work 180° and then cut 6 more lines in the opposite direction with 3 lines guiding and one row of the 4 tooth cutter creating a new line. The reason for this is because I'm right handed and in the past I've found that if all lines are cut starting from the same direction, they will start to curve to the right, and once that starts, there's no turning back. So, when I rotate my work and cut in the opposite direction, any slight curving will be corrected and lines will remain mostly straight. Then, after the whole pattern has been laid out, I'll go over the whole job with either the 75 or 90° single line cutter to point up the diamonds, cutting a bit deeper with each pass until it looks good.
    Hope I explained that well enough, it's much easier to do than type about.
     
  19. SGW Gunsmith

    SGW Gunsmith Member

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    Yah, me too. Especially with a cold glass of 2% milk.
     
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  20. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    That makes perfect sense actually. Maximize the bearing surface of the tool on the existing lines. I can imagine that does a lot to keep the cutter from slipping out of the line and allows for faster work. I too am right handed and have found it best to only cut left to right, haven’t had much issue with lines veering off course, but I may try your flip flop method. When im finished I use a tooth brush to apply tru-oil (2 or 3 coats),what is your preferred finish method?
     
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  21. SGW Gunsmith

    SGW Gunsmith Member

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    My preference is for a product called Permalyn, from Brownells. This finish permeates into the bare wood very well and will harden up the diamonds, but I use a ½ inch acid brush to coat the raw diamonds, wait around 20 minutes and then I'll use a toothbrush to get any excess out from around the diamonds bases. Let it dry over-night and next day another coat with the same procedure. Really doesn't matter what sort of brush is used to get the finish into the diamonds, but because I use those acid brushes for all sorts of solvent applications I normally buy a gross of those, as they are pretty cheap and work as well as anything.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
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