STOCKS: THE REST OF THE STORY

Last month, our continuing series on crafting our own Civil War era musket or carbine began a discussion on stock architecture. The stock is easily the biggest and heaviest unit which contributes to the overall design of the weapon, and it is often stock options like endcaps or patchboxes that help identify weapon designs from a distance. As i mentioned last month, the Enfield design is a heavier and straighter design then the Springfield design, which includes the Harpers Ferry, Mississippi and Fayettville styles. Reenactors will usually favor the lighter styles, particularly for those long marches and days afield with a musket. Shooters, however, need to pick a style, English or American, which they shoot best.

Original stocks were made mostly of walnut, a strong, tight grained wood readily available to weapon manufacturers in the 1800s. Walnut was preferred over maple, another tight grained wood, because walnut finished much darker then maple. Maple stocked Springfields and Mississippis would have required many hours of maintenance to remain presentable, and if the maple were stained darker, would have required more time to manufacture then the walnut stocks. Civilian gunmakers of this period, however, used maple much more then the walnut preferred for military longarms and the type of wood used in a stock is used sometimes to determine an antiques original origin.

Our modern replica manufacturers balk at using expensive walnut to stock todays production. Most replicas manufactured in Europe appear to be stocked with what American furniture manufacturers call "fruitwood", which is harvested from any of several tight grained species of apple, thornapple, pear or other perennial bearing orchard trees. This wood is very serviceable, and I must say that I do not personally know of any musket so equipped which has failed to be serviceable due to the wood in the stock. Fruitwood undoubtedly holds a mortise as well as walnut. To the purest, however, it is not authentic.

There are a few suppliers to the custom blackpowder building trade who supply what are called "stock blanks", which are rough cut boards (sometimes planks) large enough to whittle a stock from. There is also Dunlap Woodcrafts, a sutler seen twice annually at National Skirmishes, who provides completely formed and nearly completely inletted walnut stocks for at least a dozen models of Civil War muskets and carbines. I usually find Dunlap down on the road by the creek, east of the bridge. Anyone thinking of restocking their repro or building their own musket should visit Dunlap Woodcrafts first. I have personally used Dunlap as a supplier for two of my own projects, and I have seen many more. I don't honestly know of anyone who has been disappointed in their decision to use a Dunlap stock.

As I have mentioned more then once, before you spend the mortgage on parts, you'ld best have a plan. DO NOT run off and buy a stock for a type of weapon that you would prefer not to shoot. I don't care if it is gold lined and ermine inlayed.

By the time you reads this, it'll only be a couple weeks until the Fall National, and it'll be seven months until the next one! What kind of weapon are you building? If you have been following along with both of my avid readers, perhaps you have acquired all your lock parts and have timed and polished a lock that you are proud of. Take a couple hours and decide what kind of stock you want to purchase to complete your project. I have a Harpers Ferry Lock dated 1857, which would be appropriate in at least six different models with four different stocks. Obviously, I am only going to buy one stock! Decide now, and make sure you can identify all of the appropriate stock items which will complete your weapon.

You will need a buttplate -- brass or iron? You will need a trigger guard assembly -- brass or iron? You will need tang screws, an endcap (guess what, brass or iron?) barrel fastening devices, lockscrews and washers. Find a valid description of your choice in a reference like Flaydermans, and a picture always helps. MAKE A COMPLETE LIST, and don't forget a ramrod. Only then can I let you spend all that money with a clean conscious.

You don't have to buy a complete "Musket-in-a-Box" to create a unique shooting or reenacting arm. As I mentioned in an earlier article, sometimes it is the addition of a patchbox, sight or other small part that goes a long way towards making your smokestick "one-of-a-kind." Take the time to inventory your present weapons and spend some time researching the variations on the styles you own. Maybe a different sight, or a differently marked lockplate, would really give that little used "extra" in the den closet a great new look.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of planning your project and sticking to your plan. Pick a stock design that fits your requirements, after determining what those requirements are. Don't put the cart in front of the horse.

A couple stock tips I can pass on. If you have your lock available, take it with you and check out a couple stocks. Don't bugger 'em up, though. See if your buttplate is going to fit -- one stock may take it better then another. Areas like the trigger mortise and ramrod channel are going to need work. Don't rush. If you buy a stock from a sutler, get his phone number in case you have questions.

I like to AcraGlass (tm) my stock barrel beds, even when I'm building a reenacting piece. I've been known to take a quick hit on those hot summer engagements, and knowing that my 3-bander was tightly glassed reassures me that it will be fine laying on the ground over there. I use the green-boxed gel version of glass, although I have used both types (gel and liquid) with equal results. I also like to use the fiberglass adhesive to attach small parts like endcaps to my stocks, and they stay put. If you have never used a resin-based adhesive, it would be wise to find someone who has to assist you.

In closing, I'd like to ask anyone who reads the Civil War News and knows of anyone in North America presently making a .69 smoothbore Springfield Model 1842 to send me that persons name and address. My mail contains at least one letter a month requesting this information, and I am totally at a loss. If you can make or modify a M1842 and would like to bring one by my camp at the Fall National, I would love to look one over and give you some names of interested prospects. I'm down on Confederate Road across from the Tigers - follow the noise.

SPECIAL NOTE: Hey, all you Maryland residents. An early blackpowder dear season is scheduled for October 20 - 22, 1994. Minimum caliber is .40; minimum charge 60 grains any size blackpowder. Know anybody with a blackpowder rifle? Meet ya' down by the creek! Until the next time, enjoy the National, shoot safe and have fun.

(C) 1994 by Tom Kelley
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