Type of birch used in early sako stocks

Discussion in 'General Sako Discussions' started by topgear, Jun 15, 2015.

  1. topgear

    topgear Sako-addicted

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    Following on the other thread I'd thought I'd ask a few questions about the type of birch stocks used on the early sako L46 rifles. There seems to be a lot of variation in the "grades" of birch stocks used and I'm wondering if this was due to different staining or actually a characteristic of the wood?
    A couple of photos to show the variation that I have on a couple of rifles.
    7x33pair.jpg


    Birchbutt.jpg

    Does anyone know if the birch we call "silver" birch here in Australia is the same as the "Arctic" birch used in these stocks?

    Also has anyone ever seen the birch stocks on a sako rifle in the L series apart from the L46 - i.e. L57?
     
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  2. topgear

    topgear Sako-addicted

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  3. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I've heard the early Sako stock wood called both "birch" and "beech". Is it possible that both were used? I know nothing of beech wood other than there used to be a chewing tobacco which advertised itself as "beechwood aged".
     
  4. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    There are many subspecies of Birch (Betula Pubescens), but in all likelihood the birch used in the early Sakos was Downy Birch (Betula Alba), also called White, Hairy, or Moor Birch depending what the local vernacular is.
    The term "Arctic" birch is also vernacular & is used to refer to Downy birch trees in the extreme north of their range where conditions cause them to be small & contorted & even shrub-like. There is enough difference that they are classed as subspecies, Betula Tortuosa & Betula Nana. Their remoteness, small size, & contorted trunks make them poor candidates for logging, thus it is not likely these "Arctic" birches were used in gunstocks.
    The Silver birch has different chromosomes, whiter bark, & smooth hairless shoots & is considered a different species. It is more likely to be found in dry, sandy, soils, where the Downy prefers wet, boggy areas.
    I think all birch trees end up being incorrectly called "Arctic" birch because they are the only broadleaf tree whose range extends so far north.
    I've heard different stories about the "flame hardening" or high temp. kiln drying causing the "figure" in the birch & that it is related to "carmelizing" the sap. Anybody know more about this "flame" thing???
     
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  5. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Topgear:
    Forgot to mention that the Silver Birch (Betula Pendula) is also in Finnland & it's range extends to China & SW Asia, so it could very well be the same as the tree in Oz, or at least very closely related. The Silver has a much higher sap content & it's trunk doesn't get nearly as large as the Downy or "White", as they call it in Finnland, which is why I'm guessing the White is what Sako used. But I'm no expert, so your "Silver" could be the same wood as what is in your stocks.
     
  6. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Stone:
    Budweiser is Beechwood aged also!!! Beech would be a very rare tree in Finnland & has a difficult time maintaining as a natural forest with out human assistance. Although it grows a large trunk & is good for lumber it owes much of it's existence outside it's natural range to human planting for it's nut crop. I would rule it out as a gunstock source. But, as you know, never say never with Sako!!
     
  7. misako50

    misako50 Sako-addicted

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    Paulson- I flamed a birch stock on an old Springfield double barreled shotgun several years ago. I used an old kerosene blow torch for that job and it wasn't real hard to do. Turned out rather good as a matter of fact. Lamp black was the major contributing colorization if I remember correctly. I sprayed a coat of tru-oil on it to keep it from rubbing off.-Misako
     
  8. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Misako:
    I wonder if the torch flaming you described isn't often confused with with high temperature kiln drying or "flame hardening" as I've heard it called? Not sure if all the names I've heard about this flaming, torching, carmelizing, high temp. drying, etc. are correct or just different ways to describe the same thing. Could the flame torching & flame hardening be two different processes that give the same visual affect? As gunstock wood must be below a certain moisture content & offer some stability, my guess is that the "figuring" & the endless variations of it one sees is from a kiln drying process & not an extra step Sako did to "pretty" them up. But that is just my guess & one of those opinions formed with as little information as possible. If they did use "Silver" birch with it's higher sap content, rather than the "White" birch, could that be the "carmelizing" thing I've heard mentioned? Sure wish we had a birch stock guru here to clear this up. I can't seem to find any good, hard info about this.
     
  9. misako50

    misako50 Sako-addicted

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    Very hard to put a finger on it but the old Springfield stock ended up looking a lot like topgear's dark stock. In my neck of the woods, we have homes that are trimmed in interior woodwork that is called "gum birch". Quite a bit of nice figure to it and not unlike a nice sako stock. The "gum" part of that equation was a Swedish tradition of chewing birch sap.(gum)
    -Misako
     
  10. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    I've heard of Silver birch sap being rendered into a sweet syrup like is done with Maple trees & the sap being fermented into a sweet liquor, but the "gum" thing is new to me. Do you have any more info on that?
     
  11. misako50

    misako50 Sako-addicted

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    Sorry, got my teeth stuck together for a while. Nothing more to add to that. I will google it and see what I can come up with.-Misako UPDATE! The gum was made from "rendering" the bark from the Birch trees and making tar. Historically significant but boring as hell. Now for the truth according to some gumwood experts. Birch was not mentioned and as I always figured it was a misnomer. There are a variety of gum trees with eucalyptus mentioned as one of them. The creation of gum utilizing the birch and the beech tree is more than likely the cause of the confusion.
     
  12. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    Something I know next to nothing about is the Mosin. But it's becoming more and more collectible and I suspect that some here own one or a few of them. My guess is that the Mosins would have had the same stock wood as the early L46's. So was the Mosin wood birch? And was there a difference in woods between the Russian-stocked Mosins and the ones stocked by Sako?
     
  13. cmjr

    cmjr Well-Known Member

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    The Mosin 91's and early 28's that were restocked by the Finns were original Russian stocks that were modified. Upon close inspection this is easily seen, especially on the forearm where they spliced a new end on them. I have one of the early 39's issued to the Finnish troops as well as one of the last ones modified that is in like new condition. I can't remember if that stock is a modified Russian. It was completed and stored in the Finnish armory until the mid 90's as they were kept for reserve use and then they were sold and imported into the US. My early 39 has the dark blackened birch stock, the unissued rifle is a plain nondescript brown. Pic of one of my sons shooting the early 39 attached.
    [​IMG]
     
  14. blackjack

    blackjack Well-Known Member

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    Good Afternoon Sako Lovers,

    Flame Scorching Maple is described by the celebrated American gun & rifle stocker Hal Hartley. I would imagine that one could apply the same technique to Artic-birch. I was talking on skype last night to my sister-in-law who lives in Finland and is a Finn.
    Sari was saying that the best figured Birch in Finland comes from the north perma-frost forests. This type of Birch is very very slow growing and the growth rings are extremely close together, and there for have the finest figure. I don't know about colour, as I think all Birch species are white.


    Regards Blackjack AKA Mike The Limey
     
  15. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Based on the examples I've seen & cmjr's picture I think it's safe to say the Finns went to battle with the prettiest rifles regardless of what process they used to make birch look that way!!
     
  16. topgear

    topgear Sako-addicted

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    Below is a photo of the birch stock wood being milled at the sako factory. The bark looks like silver birch to me but the trees/slab do look pretty large. I've seen another photo somewhere that has a stock pile of birch tree's in front of a kiln but I can't find it :(

    sako birch stocks.JPG
     
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  17. blackjack

    blackjack Well-Known Member

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    Hello Topgear,

    That is a fantastic photo, Any idea of the year it was taken? It looks to me like the 1940's. My sister-in-law Sari and my brother Bob who live in Turku Finland will visit us here in England in August. They are traveling in their
    camper-van. I have talked to them about the Artic-Birch in Finland and they know where there is a wood-mill near where they live. Having visited the mill recently they said that there was some beautiful Birch Blanks at not very much money, and they purchased two for me and will bring them over in August. I will try posting some photo's of the Birch Blanks when I receive them. It is quite handy having relatives living in Finland!

    Regards Blackjack AKA Mike The Limey
     
  18. topgear

    topgear Sako-addicted

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    The photo was taken on the 28/8/1941 during the war at the Sako Oy Riihimaki Factory. It is part of a collection of great photo's at the Finnish Defence Force archive - see www.sa-kuva.fi Some amazing shots of Reindeer's being used in the war and just some really interesting war time images. A few more shots of the sako factory below at this time. I reckon many of our early L46's would have been built on this exact same machinery after the war.
    Sako Riihimaki factory1.JPG
    Sako Riihimaki factory2.JPG
    Sako Riihimaki factory3.JPG
    Sako Riihimaki factory4.JPG
     
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  19. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    What fantastic historic photos!

    I believe at this time S.A.K.O. was still a government-owned or franchised armory and would have been working almost exclusively on Mosins. However, the prototype L42 was on the near horizon.

    If (foggy) memory serves, by August of 1941 the Finns had pushed the Russians out, with the necessary help of Hitler, and Mannerheim was in the delicate process of extricating Finland from Hitler's grip. Finland had its share Nazi sympathizers, but the Finish nationalists prevailed and somehow got the Germans to withdraw from Finland. It is unclear what might have happened had Germany stayed in Finland, but chances are that the post-war Russians would have been able to annex Finland, or at least establish it as a satellite state like Poland and other Eastern European countries. Had that happened, I doubt that this forum would exist today.
     
  20. blackjack

    blackjack Well-Known Member

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    Amen to that Steve,

    Thank you so much Topgear, for the superb photographs.

    Blackjack
     
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