September 30. 2006
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Checkering Tutorial 1

Gunstock checkering is the art of carving or filing small diamonds into the stock where a shooter's hands would normally grip the firearm. This page details the steps needed to checker one diamond shaped point pattern. A "point" pattern is one in which the border is formed at least partially by the groves made while cutting the checkering. Point patterns are the hardest of all patterns to make look good. Normally checkering is the very next to last step in stock making.... applying a finish to the cut checkering is the last step. As such the stock already has been finished with an oil finish , varnish or some other durable wood treatment. The pictures in this tutorial show the process on wood that has not been finished. This checkering project was done only to demonstrate the first steps to laying out a pattern. A few more random thoughts: checkering is nothing more than a series of parallel lines cut in a "V" shape that intersect at an angle; the diamonds formed by cutting these lines look best if they are proportioned 3 1/2 to 1 or 3 to 1; it is a good idea to make templates of your diamond shape out of clear plastic, like what some products are packaged in (like batteries, but flat) in both full shape and half lengthwise shape; two items that are always parallel are tape measures and scotch tape.

Step one is to pencil in a center line. This center line helps to lay out the pattern so that the diamonds' long axis is natural to the taper of the project. This center-line is only necessary for point patterns and patterns that wrap around the stock from one side to the other, or for checkering cylinders like duck calls. Normally checkerers do the forend panel or panels first. I'm not sure how others do this but this page deals with my methods which work for me; there may in fact be other ways.

Step two is to lay out the pattern's intended border lightly in pencil. This is where those templates come in handy. If you lay your half-diamond template next to the centerline you can use the other edge to draw in your master guide line, then flip the template over and you can draw in the other master guide line.

Step three is to lightly pencil in the master lines. Since this pattern is just a simple diamond pattern I used a piece of old measuring tape with one edge touching the border as in the following pictures.

Then place scotch tape with one edge lined up with one of your master guide lines and then just barely scratch in that line with your "v-edger" tool or a jointer tool if you have one, as in the next picture. Use the tape to guide the cutter. Repeat this step for your other master line. With your multi-line cutter scratch in all of your lines in that direction. Notice that the final line is just short of the border drawn in? This is why you do not cut in your border before scratching in all your lines. Once you have done all your lines in one direction then it is time to repeat the process in the other direction or intersecting lines. Your borders will form on their own as you deepen the lines. More to follow in a later tutorial.