I had another post planned, then the above picture happened…. The guy with the huge smile on his face is greeting one of his team mates at the finish line of world Championships. They have just won a silver medal in the relay, a huge feat considering the competition! He raced using one of my custom rifle stocks, the design was a collaboration between what he liked and what I felt was best for him. Very excited for him and his team mates, they really deserved this win after a long season of hard work! Alex also had a 5th place individual finish earlier in the week shooting 17/20, his best International result to date! Here is a link to the post about his stock.
52 Create – my weekly creative output for 2011. Ahhh, commissions…. You love them cause you get paid, but you also don’t necessarily get to do what you really want to do. I’ve done a ton of rifle stocks (biathlon) this spring and summer, and the customers are happy with the results, but after a while you get a bit tired of the same old thing. This bunch of stocks was for a club that runs programs for youth. They had many old stocks that had dried out and cracked beyond repair (some were more glue than wood).
I offered to make them a bunch that would be more suited to the smaller stature of some of their younger athletes. All of the hardware from the old broken stocks were switched over which was a blessing and a curse all at the same time. While it was easier to use the old parts than to manufacture new ones, matching up the holes on the new stocks to fit with the old parts was often quite challenging. Anyways, enough whining. The stocks are made of maple and painted with an exterior grade paint. I colour coded the cheek pieces in order to differentiate them from each other. For next week, I can promise you, no more biathlon stocks…
52 Create – my weekly creative output for 2011! Bamboo is certainly getting more and more popular in North America as a construction material, although it has so far been relegated to flooring and cutting boards. The other day while at my favourite local wood shop, I saw a few boards of bamboo. Boards you say? But I thought bamboo was grown in shoots? Well it’s engineered bamboo, they take thin strips of bamboo and laminate them into boards that are 7/8″x6″x8′. The perfect width for a biathlon rifle stock (well almost, needed a small amount of planing). After chatting with the staff, they admitted that it was a brand new product and they unfortunately knew little about it. It was priced around the same as hard maple (which is what I would normally use for a rifle stock) so I went for it.
I got home and did some internet research on working with “carmalized bamboo”…… and found nothing. There are a few companies making bamboo rifle stocks, but the only info on working with bamboo was the odd woodworker who had some left over flooring that they had attempted to use to build some small furniture piece. So I went into the project a bit blind, but I was fortunate that the athlete wanting the rifle was quite trusting and keen to go with my idea.
This bamboo weighed about halfway between walnut and maple, but was as strong if not stronger than the bamboo, which means you could use much less of it in the stock (hence making it far lighter!). It’s fairly easy to work with as long as you’re using sharp tools, and oddly enough, it smells like shreddies when you sand/drill it out. My one caution to anyone working with bamboo is that it has a lot of splinters, and they are very sharp, and very fine (and very painful) so be careful when working with it. I used a few pieces of walnut as accent pieces, and finished it with some spar varnish (waterproof and UV resistant). The greatest accomplishment is that the stock with all the attachments was 500 grams (1 lb.) lighter than her old version, a decrease of 30% which is huge when you consider this athlete has to carry this on her back over 15km!!!
If anyone out there is looking at using this bamboo as a construction material feel free to contact me with questions, it’s great to use and I highly recommend it.
52 Create, my weekly creative outlet for 2011… Well, this one’s going to seem a little out of left field. In past weeks I’ve made everything from toy cameras to flat pack rocking chairs, and then suddenly a rifle stock? Let me explain… In a former career I was a biathlon coach. What’s biathlon? Well it’s a crazy winter sport dreamt up by the scandinavians that combines cross-country skiing and target shooting. While coaching I ended up repairing a lot of rifle stocks as they are carried on the athlete’s back while skiing, so needless to say, people at some point crash, and the wooden stock generally breaks in half. Somewhere along the line, repairing turned into building, and then we get to the present day. While I’ve been out of coaching for a while now, I do keep in close contact with my former athletes and a few have recently approached me about making them custom stocks. When you are unemployed, and dreaming of being employed as a woodworker, you jump at any chance to get paid to do what you love!
That being said, I’ve had several requests, so the next few weeks of 52 create are likely to revolve around these stocks in their various iterations. The trick to building these is that you want them to be strong, yet light, and these two are not always related…. The stock in the picture is made of maple and has been hollowed out everywhere possible to try and shave off every possible gram.