HOW TO CHOOSE ENGLISH WALNUT GUN STOCK BLANKS
English is different than most other gun woods as what wood people search after in English Walnut are the dark mineral lines and marblecake. If you do not know what marbling is, let me explain. Marbling is your dark mineral lines and your swirls. If these mineral lines and swirls are going up and down through the end grain of your blank, when your stock maker starts to put the curvatures on this kind of wood, then your marblecake will come out clear through the whole stock. To get the best of the best marblecake out of this type wood, the blank must be flat sawed.
The previous diagram shows the different saw cuts through a log, specifically the flat saw, the three quarter saw, and the quarter saw. A quarter sawed blank will have mineral lines that are exact duplicates, or close, on each side. What you see on the flat surface of the blank is what you will get in a finished stock. If you have swirls or chocolates that differ from side to side, then your blank will be a three-quarter to a flat-saw. And if the blank has heavy marbling in the end grain, when your stockmaker puts the curvatures to this kind of wood, he will be opening up a Christmas present. We, and your stockmaker, can get a very good idea of how nice a blank will be by looking at your end grain, bottom and top edge grains, and by looking at the amount of dark streaking and in the front end grain. Wood is a natural product so we do not know exactly how your blank is going to turn out, but what we can tell you is that something special will happen.
The bottom line is, flat-sawed English blanks or three-quarter sawed English blanks will produce a finished stock of unbelievable beauty, if your blank has heavy marbling in the end grain.
In this picture you see a quarter saw blank. What you see in the flat surface is what you will get in a finished stock.
In this next picture you see a flat saw. The marbling tries to come out the flat surface but cannot because a blank is cut on a straight line. The marbling will come out when the blank is shaped. This particular blank does not have good distinct lines in the end grain, but will still produce a great stock when shaped.
This next picture shows wonderful end grain marbling. You have to imagine what is going to happen when these mineral lines are opened up. This blank does not look that great on the surface but once turned to a finished stock you would not know what blank it came from, and it will produce a finished stock of unheard beauty.
Here you see two more blanks that are flat sawed, and again imagine these dark lines carved angles down through the blank.
I think the pics speak for themselves with regards to what is going to happen in the finished product.
It is important in all gun woods, if you have a lot of color, to always cut a blank for a flat saw. Most professional stock makers agree but at the same time it is a matter of taste. This is not to say that a quarter saw cannot be beautiful. If you like streaks instead of marblecake, then the quarter-sawn blank is the way to go.
If you look one more time at the log diagram it will help understand why you cannot get the best gun wood out of a log by running it through a carriage sawmill. If you run the example log through a saw mill, you will at best get two flat saw gun blanks, depending on the size and diameter of your log. You have to rotate each section of your log to get the best cuts. This can only be done by hand with a chain saw, or a computerized saw mill. The thing is, most people with a saw mill will not expend the time needed to spin their logs and cut it appropriately. We have a saw mill but when it comes to cutting really fine gun wood, we hand mill it with a chain saw. We first cut the log into sections, gun blank length, we then look at our end grain and cut it appropriately, always striving for a flat saw or at least a three-quarter saw. The quarter sawed blanks are only done when we have no other choice.