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Can't be out shootin', so might as well be foolin' around with the camera. I've gotten a bunch of interesting questions as I've continued my odyssey through the Wonderful World of Walnut. I've been asked several times to share pictures of "Graftline Walnut". There are a very few shooters who have had fantastic graftline stocks made, usually on very high-end tournament shotguns and occasionally on custom rifles.

As my crew and I were harvesting the commercial walnut orchard in early 2009, we cut some of the stumps deliberately so that we might actually have the opportunity to slab, lay out and cut a limited number of graftline blanks.

A "Graftline Stock Blank" is one that has been deliberately laid out so that the blank straddles the line where the Black Walnut, Claro Walnut or Royal Walnut rootstock was grafted to the English Walnut tree which produces the thin-shelled Walnut used commonly for commercial consumption. Graftline blanks are very rare because most of the folks who are interested in harvesting commercial walnut orchards for gunstock purposes are interested in either the exotic and more expensive English trees or the more common rootstock stumps and typically cut the tree at the graft line to separate the two.

There are a number of stories about graftline blanks, most of them painting a negative picture about the strength of the graft line itself. The truth of the matter is quite different. A well executed graft will produce a junction between the two different woods that is actually stronger than the wood on either side of the joint. Common sense dictates that a graft that was structurally unsound would have failed in a strong wind, an earthquake, a storm or even during the harvest process when the trees are shaken violently by mechanical means to harvest the nuts. This being the case, usually the graft junction is the strongest part of the slab or blank.

For those hearty individuals who are constantly searching for something unique (non-traditional) in the gunstock arena, graftline blanks are a rare and wonderful alternative to either/or English and Black/Claro/Royal Walnut standards. The Graftline Blank really provides the best of both worlds in one "Boy, they're gonna talk about this at the Gun Club" gunstock.

The graftline blank for a shotgun is typically cut with the Black Walnut/variant in the meat of the butt and the English Walnut/Variant in the thinner end where the grip and inletting into the receiver will be done. General rule of thumb is that the graft line be behind the grip for a shotgun blank. This distribution of good looks and function gives the biggest display area to the colors, stripe and figure of the Black Walnut and ensures that the thinnest areas of the finished blank are all in the stronger, more straight grained, denser English Walnut.

The graftline blank for a rifle, on the other hand, typically has the graft line on the muzzle side of the grip somewhere just ahead of the inletting for the trigger and magazine.

With these general specs in mind my team and I cut a few stumps with about two feet of English still intact above the four feet or more depth of the Black Walnut rootstock. These stumps were then carefully slabbed and blanks laid out with great precision to ensure the balance above and below the graft line was correct for either a rifle or shotgun application. Here are two examples that show the best-of-the-best in proper characteristics for Graftline Blanks.





Left side shotgun, right side rifle. The colors of the Royal Walnut rootstock, including the gold streaks common in this orchard, are very visible along with the broader black stripe. On the forward end of both blanks the exquisite ink-line mold lines of Franquette English are visible as well as the perfect runout of the grain for the greatest strength.





Right side shotgun, left side rifle. Note that the graft line for the shotgun is behind where the grip will be cut and for the rifle is ahead of where the grip will be cut.



Actual graft line on the rifle blank. Notice the distinct change in colors and definition of mold lines across the graft. The actual graft is stronger than the wood on either side.





Actual graft line of the shotgun blank. Royal Walnut on the right, Franquette English Walnut on the left. Dramatic differences in the appearance of the two woods.

As we found out from the experience, it is unusual to have the best characteristics of both woods show up across the graft. We usually found great color and stripe in the Black Walnut rootstock with relatively plain, although perfectly straight-grained, English on the other side. The examples shown here were the exception where we got great color and stripe in the Black and complete coverage ink-line and straight grain runout in the English along with the fiddleback figure that is most evident in the rifle blank.

Very rare because most harvesters aren't looking for them. Very unique and sure to turn heads when finished and on display at the gun club. These blanks are in inventory and for sale. They are still wet and will require about three years of tender loving care until they're ready to work. If interested, please contact me at [email protected] to discuss availability and price.

Thanks for looking,

Mike Mann White Creek Gunstock Blanks LLC
 

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As Mr. Mike noted...Very Limited Membership...But Worth the Admission when paired with the BEST WOODMEN in The BUSINESS...Just my 2 cents on a 20 dollar subject.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Fla,

Thanks for the pictures. I was first introduced to graftline when I shared a vendor space at the Grand American in Vandalia with Mike Pratico. Aaron Pollack parked behind Mike's space and I had to see his Graftline stock every day coming out of the truck on the way to the line. I don't remember who did the work, but Aaron may still be shooting his today.

I've only seen one graftline rifle and that one's being finished and checkered as we speak in Ed Aubert's shop in Suisun City, California.

For any interested owners or stockmakers, these are for sale. While they're wet, I sell for about 60% of the dry price. Contact me at the email address above to discuss.

Mike
 
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