Checkering tool life.
Q About a year ago I started learning to checker. I have been doing a lot of work on scraps of wood and a few old discarded stocks that were given to me. My problem is that my checkering tools just do not seem to last. It seems like they become dull and wear out very quickly. Do you have any suggestions to how I can make my checkering tools last longer? By the way, I am using Gunline tools. Should I be using some other brand?
A I have had no problem with Gunline tools. In fact, I tend to use Gunline as well as Dembart. Both will do an excellent job. Generally I find that Gunline cutters are a bit more aggressive, but that's about it. I would not be at all upset if I were given either brand tool and told to do some checkering. If the work turns out less than satisfactory it will be because of me, not the tools!
The biggest problem I see with folks using hand-checkering tools such as those made by Gunline or Dembart is that they are not as careful with the cutters as they should be. Those cutters are just as delicate as the blade on a sharp knife. Many folks just throw the tools in a box when they're finished or while they're working with no effort at all to protect the blades. You just can't do that. Never allow a checkering cutter to even touch another tool or metal object. If you do, it's gonna get damaged.
When the cutters are not being used, I slip small sections of plastic soda straw over the cutters. That protects 'em no matter how they are stored.
Also, keep in mind that many finishes and stock fillers use silica as a component. Silica is just super fine sand and it will dull your cutters in a heartbeat. Even old stocks will often have dirt or sand imbedded in the wood and this can and will dull cutters. Some time back I recut the checkering on an old Browning Citori and actually ran into several large grains of sand that had been pressed into the wood when the previous owner probably fell or dropped the gun in the dirt. That sand sure didn't do my tools any good!
As soon as you notice that your cutters are not cutting efficiently, replace 'em. You'll see that your cutters tend to tear the wood rather than cut it, you'll have a harder time staying in your lines, or you can actually see the edges of the cutters rounded over under a magnifying glass. Again, replace your cutters when you see this. Once a cutter loses its edge, it never gets better by itself.