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Brownells Checkering Restoration Kit

By Dave Bennetts

The Brownells Checkering Restoration Kit (#080-000-363) 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.

  1. Nylon gunsmiths brush.
    This is used to clean the checkering, and to brush off the dust you create when cutting.
  2. A single line cutting tool with handle.
    This is to cut the long, and most of the short lines in the checkering pattern.
  3. 2 Oz. Dem-Bart checkering oil.
    You will use this to seal, and color, the checkering pattern after you have finished.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 edge.

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.