Type of birch used in early sako stocks

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

  1. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    I've seen everything from the Flame birch pictured in my thread "Why I hate synthetic stocks" to more sedate tones shown in the pic in the previous post of the stock sitting in a checkering cradle. Both those stocks started off as the dark, grimy looking spar varnished factory finished wood. You just never know what you will see when you peel that grunge off. Only birch with sap wood intermingled & sharply defined in the hard wood will have the flamed look. Most times the darker areas are more subtly distributed. "Flaming" with a torch does not create the flame look, but can enhance it, make it darker, & better define it. Any pure hard wood area is nearly white, so any color you see is from the finish or stain. Birch takes stain much differently than walnut & you must use a spirit based (not petroleum) stain or a leather dye. Apply it thinned down in multiple coats until your desired tone is obtained. The one in the cradle is "Honey Maple". Just my opinion, but I can't see why anyone would hesitate to refinish these old birch stocks & improve both the cosmetic appearance & the rifle's market value. I ask those who say leave that grimy, old spar varnish alone, if they wouldn't really prefer the stocks I have referenced. I better shut up before I give away all my secrets!!

     

  2. blackjack

    blackjack Well-Known Member

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    Hello Marc,
    Is It OK to use paint stripper to remove the old spar varnish?
    BJ
     
  3. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    About any stripper will soften the varnish, but I prefer the citrus based strippers because they smell nice & have less harmful chemicals.
     
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  4. icebear

    icebear Well-Known Member

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    The pattern on the fancy-looking birch stock in Topgear's original post appears to be basically the same as that frequently found on the birch stocks of WWII-era m/39 rifles. These patterns were produced by natural variations in the wood's absorption of the finish, which was a mixture of linseed oil, pine tar, and a couple of other things. Needless to say, the Finns did not put any effort into making fancy patterns on military stocks, that's just the way they came out of the vat. Looks to me like Sako just finished the early L46 stocks the same way they finished their military stocks.

    Birch seldom has fancy figure such as we see in high-grade walnut, but it often has prominent grain and will sometimes show color variations. My dining room set is custom made from high-grade solid birch and it does have some figure here and there. It is not true that birch is uniformly straight-grained without figure.

    Here are a couple of Sako-built m/39 rifles with fancy patterns produced by random variations in the finishing process.

    Stock 1-1.JPG Stock 1-2.JPG Stock 2-1.JPG Stock 2-2.JPG.JPG
     
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  5. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    My experience has been that the natural patterns are there regardless of the finish. The color of the light areas changes with the finish & the dark areas become darker, but the pattern(at least in the ones I have worked on) was not caused by the absorption of the finish. I've been looking for birch gunstock blanks with that type of "pattern" forever with no luck. I can't even find evidence of where they specifically come form or what type of birch they are. My guess is they are not found in the commercially grown timber forests, but in old growth natural areas. They make such beautiful stocks it's hard to believe someone isn't marketing them. I would buy all the blanks I could get my hands on. Icebear, in your travels to Finland, did you ever see any of this wood for sale??
     
  6. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    Icebear,
    The M-39 in the top two photos appears to have a triangular chunk of the butt replaced. I'm guessing that this was done at the factory to salvage a stock which had a defect in the toe area?

    I once owned an early L46 with walnut stock which had an almost invisible repair at the tang area which was checkered over. The repair was so good that I suspect that it was a factory job prior to finishing the stock. As we all know, Sako never let a good component go to waste.
     
  7. icebear

    icebear Well-Known Member

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    That toe splice is very common on m/39 rifles. Many of the stocks were built that way at the factory. As commonly as this was done, I think it was probably to make use of wood that wasn't quite wide enough to make a complete m/39 stock, but was otherwise OK. I've never noticed whether the toe splices are found on stocks from all makers or just Sako, but I'm guessing it's all of them. Next time I'm rummaging around in my m/39 collection I'll take a look.
     
  8. icebear

    icebear Well-Known Member

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    I took up both woodworking and gun collecting when I returned to the US after my last overseas tour. When I lived in Finland, I was not looking at gunstock blanks or fancy wood in general. In retrospect, that's kind of unfortunate, but life is full of coulda, shoulda, woulda.

    The information about patterns being due to differential absorption of finish came from posts on Gunboards.com, a hangout for collectors of military rifles, especially Mosin-Nagants. As I recall, a lot of the information about Finnish military stocks, wood, finish, etc. came from native Finns who are familiar with Finnish stockmaking practices.

    Here's a photo of a Finnish m/39 converted to a hunting rifle in Finland, probably but not certainly by Sako. The stock has a Sako cartouche, but the guy I got it from is a notorious faker of military collectibles. What I am quite certain of is that the gun was built in Finland, whether by Sako or by a private gunsmith. H2.JPG
     
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  9. P04R

    P04R Well-Known Member

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    I tried looking for flame birch a while back. There was plenty available up to 50 mm thickness, but for a gun stock I reckon I would need 60-65 mm. I guess it would be possible to place an order for a full width and length slab if I had the money to spare and a bunch of stock projects lined up.
     
  10. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Beautiful stock, icebear!!! From the limited experience & experimentation I have done with birch stocks there seems to be a lot of variation or types of "patterns". They have ranged from no discernible pattern, to a pattern that isn't visible until stain is applied, to the black stripes & blotches visible before & after finishing. The patterns also can differ greatly depending on the type of stain used as well. I bought quite a few old 22 rimfires cheap at gun shows just to experiment with the birch stocks and it seems each is a rule unto itself. The Finns appear to have a monopoly on beautiful birch. I'm jealous!
     
  11. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Do you know if anyone in Finland exports this wood & who the US importer might be?
     
  12. P04R

    P04R Well-Known Member

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  13. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I'm anything but a stock maker, but it seems to me that a slab 2 inches (50mm) thick would be adequate for a light sporter stock. No?
     
  14. icebear

    icebear Well-Known Member

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    Barely, maybe. I measured an AV stock, which happened to be the first one that came to hand. It was just a hair under 2" in width, but you couldn't have duplicated it on a 2" blank because the cheekpiece would stick out past the edge of a 2" blank. Also, a stock blank is typically pretty rough and you need some leeway to smooth things out. I looked up a couple of companies selling blanks and the blanks were typically thicker than 50mm/2" I think P04R's suggestion of 60-65mm is about right as a minimum. I wouldn't want to take a chance on anything thinner. Of course, one could always laminate a couple of 30mm boards and get a stock with different patterns on each side - that might be interesting.
     
  15. Olli

    Olli Member

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    This is just a sophisticated guess but, most likely birch used in gun stocks is Betula Pendula since B. Pubescens does not pruduce as good lumber as. B. Pendula does. There is also a variation of B. Pendula called Curly birch (Visa Koivu in finnish). Curly birch has plenty of grades and patterning. It has been quite expensive and still costs several euros per kilo. B. Pubescens is also a lot smaller and is grown mostly on seasonally water logged areas.
     
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  16. blackjack

    blackjack Well-Known Member

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    Hello Sako Lasses & Lads,
    I have a beautiful highley figured stock & forend blank made of Olive Ash. The stock maker I purchased it off many years ago told me that highley figured Olive Ash is quite rare, and very very strong, and recommended for double rifles and heavy big game bolt - action rifles with heavy recoil. I will post some photo's of the Olive Ash soon.
    Blackjack
     
  17. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I'm not sure how the American (or New World) varieties of ash compare to Olive Ash, but ash is a favorite for baseball bats due to its strength. The kitchen cabinets we selected for our home are of ash and quite appealing. It typically finishes to a fairly light color (that's "colour" to you, BJ;)).
     
  18. Olli

    Olli Member

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    Olive ash is also good material for longbows. Mountain ash/rowan would be interesting choise for gunstock although it might cost an arm and a leg to get plank that is large enough.
     
  19. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Unfortunately, the Emerald Ash Borer has decimated most of the ash in the eastern US. It reached western Iowa just a few years ago & looks like it won't stop until in runs out of ash trees in the open prairies of the Great Plains. MLB has pretty much converted their bats to hard maple. The harder the wood the better the bat, which is why ash was preferred. I'm afraid Ash trees will go the way of the American Chestnut, Elm, & other species destroyed by invasive plagues. Your cabinets may be "collector" cabinets some day!!
     
  20. blackjack

    blackjack Well-Known Member

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    Hello Marc,
    Before the early 1970's in England we had a healthy Elm population. Sadley Dutch Elm Disease arrived and desamated our population of Elm, which has never recovered. " Thank You Holland NL's ". Next in around 2015 we were desamated with Ash Die Back, which has ruined our Ash population. A fully matured Ash tree when infected will be standing dead in approx 8 years. " Thanks once again The Netherlands H ". I have been the Tenant of 85 acres of Ancient Saxon Woodland, which is within the New Forest boundry. I have managed the Copse { Woodland } for 34 years } When we accessed our second Woodland Improvement Grant through DEFRA in 2010 we had a healthy Ash population. Today every ash tree is infected, and in around 5 years every Ash tree will be dead! Many years ago Ash was felled for Tennis Racket Handles, now their is no market for Ash T R H's, and Carbon Fibre is used! I don't know where my Olive Ash stock & forend blanks came from, but will try to find out.
    Stay Safe
    Blackjack
     

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