Once you’ve got the stock finished to your satisfaction, it’s time to add the details, like checkering and inlays and such. If you have a steady hand and some artistic skill, checkering is a great way to dress up a stock; Brownell’s sells a great variety of checkering tools and books and other accessories. If like me, you find that a bit beyond your skills, but still want a good non-slip surface for gripping your rifle, consider stippling. This is a much easier technique to master and still provides an attractive surface that looks perfect on a target or field gun.
Some amateur gunsmiths make their own stippling punch from a large nail, but I find the commercial stippling punches, like those offered by Brownell’s, produce a much nicer result and are easier to use. At $18.50 as of this writing, they’re relatively inexpensive, too. Brownell’s offers three different punches, of 12, 16 or 20 lines per inch. For a rifle, I found that the 12 lpi model offered the best surface. The 20lpi is probably best reserved for things like backgrounds in complex carved inlays.
While stippling technique does take some practice to learn, it only took me a few minutes to start producing a good stippled surface. And unlike checkering, one slip mistake won’t ruin a stippling job. Basically, the technique is this: you hold the stippling punch loosely at a slight angle in one hand, and tap it with a hammer held in the other. The idea is to “bounce” the punch along, leaving a stippled surface behind. The photo in my previous post on stock finishing shows the results of a session of stippling on my custom HW77 stock.