By Dave Bennetts
The Brownells Checkering Restoration Kit
is something new that we’ve put together for you folks who want
a complete set-up for doing some recheckering. I’ve worked on
picking out the tools for this and thought that this would make a
good article on how do cut checkering on your guns.
Checkering is a series of parallel lines, spaced an equal distance
apart. A good example of this would be 20 lines per inch, or 16
lines per inch. To create the diamonds, there is another set of
parallel lines that intersect the first set of lines at an angle. If you
look at the pattern you are cutting as first one set of parallel lines
going in one direction, then coming back and cutting another set in
a different direction, it can simplify the job.
Now let’s look at the tools in the kit, and what
they’re used for.
- Nylon gunsmiths brush.
This is used to clean the checkering, and to brush off the dust
- A single line cutting tool with handle.
This is to cut the long, and most of the short lines in the
- 2 Oz. Dem-Bart checkering oil.
You will use this to seal, and color, the checkering pattern after
- 90 degree Dem-Bart veiner.
A veiner is a tool used to cut short lines that can’t be
done with the
cutter and is also used for curved and hard to reach areas.
- A small carving knife.
A necessary thing to have. If you have faint lines and need to
score the line
for the cutter to follow.
- The Gunline ruler.
You will need this if you have to establish a line that has worn
off and is
no longer visible, or too shallow for the cutter to follow.
The first step is to clean the existing checkering pattern. This is
necessary because crud and grit that sits in the bottom of the
lines will make it hard to follow the existing lines and will also dull
the cutter quickly.
To do this, you’ll need the nylon brush and some type of solvent,
which will vary with what type of finish you have. Lighter fluid or
Naphtha will work well, but be careful not to get any more on the
finish than necessary, and test it in a small area of the stock
before you start to make sure it won’t harm the finish. A little dish
soap and water worked in with the brush and wiped off right away
should work well. Just be very careful not to damage the finish
around the checkering pattern.
With the pattern cleaned up, we’re ready to begin re-cutting the
lines. Use a single line cutting tool rather than a multi-line spacer
because the original spacing is impossible to match. Due to the
different techniques used by the person that did the original
cutting it’s possible that a 20 LPI Pattern could actually be a 19.5
LPI, or a 20.5 LPI. So, by the time you work from the first side to
the other, you will find that the lines are not matching, and you will
be cutting lines within lines. So use the single line cutter that
comes with the kit.
Whenever you’re cutting checkering you’ll want to secure the stock
so that when you cut it will be on a firm surface with no movement
to avoid errors. If you have a Brownells Checkering Cradle (#080-026-000)
this is the best way to secure the stock. If not, you can lay the
stock on a tabletop padded with some old towels, or something
similar. You want to position the stock so that you will be cutting
the lines straight away from you. The best position is with your
forearm in a straight line with the lines and the cutting tool. It also
helps if you have a lamp positioned so that it lights the area well,
but also casts a shadow across the checkering. This will make the
lines much easier to see.
There are two methods for starting and it will depend on how
much, or how little of the existing lines still show. If your existing
checkering is still well defined, then start on one edge, depending
on whether you are right or left handed, and work to the other
side. If your lines are faint, it will be easier to start somewhere in
the middle with a line that is well defined, and then work to one
side. Then, turn the stock end for end, and work to the other
To get started, lay the cutting tool into the line with the cutter
laying with the center of the curved edge at the bottom of the line.
Draw the cutter back towards you, stopping just before you get to
the borderline. Push the cutter forward with a back and forth
shuffling motion. This tool is used just like a file which is what it
actually is. It may help to grasp the handle firmly and extend your
finger forward and press lightly down on the shank. Doing this will
give you much better control of the cutter. Continue to use the
shuffling motion to move the cutter forward until you’re almost to
the opposite border. You start a short distance from the border
because as you start the cut, you’ll find the cutter will drop some
at the rear and if you’re not careful, the back of the cutter will drag
on the border line and leave an overrun. The same thing applies
with the forward motion. You will have a tendency to tip forward at
the end of the line. At this point, all you want to do is clean up the
existing line and slightly deepen it. If you cut too deep, it’s
possible to lose the cross lines when you start on them.
Continue to do one line at a time until you come to the opposite
border. Now shift the position of the stock so the opposing lines
are going straight away from you. Repeat the process until you
have all of the lines in the pattern well defined. Once you have all
the lines established, you want to go back and recut them a
second time, cutting a little deeper into the wood. Cut all the lines
in one direction, then repeat this for the other direction. Repeat
the recutting until you have cut the lines to the desired depth.
You’ll know the depth is right when the points on the diamonds
are sharp and well pointed. If you have problems with cutting all
the way to the border, you can take the veiner and lay it in the
bottom of the line and carefully cut forward until you touch the
border. Use the single line cutter to deepen and touch up both
sides of the border, just like you did for the checkering. Once you
have the pattern looking like you want it, take the bottle of
checkering oil and using the nylon brush, apply the checkering oil
to the bare checkering making sure you brush it in well being
careful not to let it build up in the lines. Wipe off any excess from
the stock finish, and set it aside and let it dry. The oil will
penetrate the wood and harden the surface. You can apply a
second coat after 24 hours if desired.
If the lines are not well defined, or even missing, you’ll have to
re-establish them. To do this, find at least one line from the
existing pattern. Using the knife, carefully follow the line, and
make a shallow cut that can be followed with the cutting tool.
Lightly cut this line with the tool until you’re sure you will be able
to follow it later. Now take the straight edge, and lay it along the
line. With the knife, cut the line until it extends to the border.
Usually there will be enough of the remaining lines showing that
you can pick up the spacing. By laying the straightedge along each
line you can use the knife and recut each line until you have the
pattern re-established. At this point, you can re-cut as normal.
If the pattern is so faint that you can’t establish the existing lines
easily, it would be best to cut a new pattern over the old.