Part 5-Final Stock Shaping A .404 Jeffery Stalking Rifle
Considerations The foundation of my desired stock dimensions had been incorporated into the pattern but the final adjustments would come out of the roughly 1/4" excess that had been left on all surfaces from the grip rearward. The specific dimensions to come from these adjustments were: cast off 1/4" toe out 1/4" pitch approx. 2" length of pull 14" comb height appropriate for iron sight alignment In additional to the recoil pad, a horn inlay in the bottom of the grip and the rear sling screw would need to be installed at some point. The Tools cabinet pattern maker's rasp hand plane scrapers Grobet 1/2 round vulcanite file chain saw files Preliminary Shaping Some preliminary shaping was necessary to get the stock to a point that the standing leaf could be sighted in for 50 yards. Since the rifle stock would be optimally proportioned for use of the open sights, this 50 yard sight plane would fix the height of comb and then the comb height will be used as reference for all other dimensions of the butt. The comb created during shaping of the pattern had been set at a height that the bottom of the bolt cocking piece would just clear so this is where I was starting with the machined stock. An aluminum shotgun cleaning rod was wrapped at two locations with masking tape for a snug fit in the bore of the rifle. The part of the rod extending over the butt of the stock gave me a good centerline which was marked in pencil the length of the butt. Next, the length of pull was marked. The pattern had been left at 13 1/2" so another 1/2" would be removed. I would be fitting a 1" Pachmayr Decelerator pad and wanted a curved profile so the center of the curve was marked at 13". I wanted about 1 1/2" of negative pitch so the rifle was placed inverted on the bench and the muzzle was blocked up with a 1 1/2" spacer. A square was then used to mark a line on the butt that was perpendicular to the plane of the bench, this line intersecting the 13" length of pull mark. Because I was going to put a curve in the butt I did the initial squaring cut with a Japanese Dozuki saw. This aggressive saw cuts fast, leaves an ultra smooth cut and doesn't tend to wander. For a flat recoil pad installation requiring a perfectly flat cut a table saw or a miter saw would have been used for this cut. I have a VL&D Francotte shotgun with a pleasing curved buttplate and I traced and transferred this curve to my stock. I don't have a drum sander to create the profile of this curve so it was roughed in with the cabinet pattern maker's rasp by hand. Then a belt sander finished the job using the leading edge of the belt as it came off the front roller to smooth the curve. From the centerline mark on the comb where it met the butt, 1/4" was measure to the right. This point on the butt was extended to the action tang and this is the centerline that would give me the castoff that I wanted. The rifle was inverted on the bench and using a square this line was extended through the butt end top to bottom. The toe end of this line was used as a reference and another mark 1/4" to the right was made. This would give me the toe out that I wanted. Extending this line to the offset line on the comb would be the centerline for installing the recoil pad. I was using a medium Pachmayr pad and wanted to keep it near full size so needed to spot its location fairly accurately. The inverted rifle was placed on the bench balanced on the bridges and a drop at heel mark was located 1 1/2" up from the bench surface to the pad centerline located earlier. This would be the location for the top of the pad. The screw holes were then marked from this reference and drilled. Then the pad was installed. Load Development By this time I had my dies and reloading components on hand. I use Reloader 15 in my .450/400 Jeffery Ruger No. 1 loaded to 2,090 fps and this velocity in the .404 is approximately the original specification. Most of the loads found on the internet are significantly faster for the .404 than I want to shoot but I did find a RL-15 load that gave me a starting point. I had little of this powder so also loaded some Varget. Loading three-grain spread RE-15 test loads I found that 73 grains with Hornady's DGX gave me 2,150 fps. The Varget loads ranging from 68-71 grains gave me velocities of 2,100 to 2,150 with more visible brass stress than the RE-15. With 15 rounds of the RE-15 load in hand I returned to the range the next day and cut the rear blade in to dead on at 50 yards. Final Shaping The comb was now lowered and reduced in thickness so that upon opening my eyes after mounting the rifle I had near perfect sight alignment with the merest head movement. The centerline of the bottom of the butt was drawn through the grip and the grip was reduced in circumference evenly from this line until it had a comfortable fit in the hand. The top of the barrel-action channel was sanded flat to the half barrel diameter depth. Two layers of masking tape were applied to the bottom metal exposed surfaces and to the action tang and these wood levels were brought down to where the tape was just scuffed. The rest of the shaping is simply slow, steady grunt work using the tools listed above. The most useful tool I have found for shaping and profiling is the Grobet 1/2 round vulcanite file. It is round on one side, flat on the other. It is double ended, each end being tapered. One end is fine cut, the other rough. This is an aggressive file and leaves a smooth finish. This is what I used to shape the grip, the flutes in the comb and nearly the entire cheek pad as well as the horn fore end tip. The wider parts of Henry groove in the horn fore end tip was done with the Grobet file and the finer ends of the groove were done with the chain saw files. The horn grip inlay was shaped by hand and the cut in the grip was done with the vertical mill using a 1/2" end mill. The inlay was then glued in place using cyanoacrylate glue.
Next-Part 6 Putting the Finish On and Leather Covering a Recoil Pad