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Thread: Minelli stock review and fitting

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  1. #11
    Contributing Member ssgross's Avatar
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    Finishing the outer profile

    There isn't much to the action area. With the action tightened into the stock, use a sharp pencil to trace out any areas where the wood is more than a pencil width proud of the metal. In the photos above, you can see I have a lot of work to do at the tang, and the rear trigger guard. All else is pretty close.



    Don't sand too much around the cross bolt holes. The tolerances there are known to be uneven. We will take care of it when we fit the cross bolts later. for now, just knock the finish off as you work back.

    NO MATTER WHAT, YOU MUST RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO USE ANY POWER TOOL...NO DETAIL SANDERS, NO DREMELS. Ask how I learned this lesson...ok I'll tell you. the first stock I fit I though...I have a steady enough hand. I'll use a Dremel to even out the pistol grip, I'll use 120 grit or finer on the the little spinny cylinder to rough it...then I spent days and days evening it out. It worked out, but my blood pressure was through the roof and I was a nervous wreck questioning every hour if I had ruined the stock. Trying to fix with a Dremel only made it worse...files and sandpaper and slow steady progress is what fixed it...and it was perfect in the end except for my new gray hair and lack of sleep for a week. Lesson learned...FILES AND SANDPAPER ONLY. if I have a lot of material to remove, like this one at the top of the tang and the rear of the trigger guard, I will use 60 grit. I don't like rasps because it takes a lot of effort to get the deeper scratches out. I like to work, then hit with 100 grit to quickly even out, and slide my hand along the area to check the feel. I don't like 1/2 hour of sanding out rasp scratches just to check the feel. Files and paper may take longer, but for me patience pays off. So that's my rant for the night. Back to the work...

    I used a file and 60 grit on a block or on my thumb for curved surfaces, to level out most of the tang, down to the top of my pencil mark, and similarly for the rear trigger guard. For the latter, this effectively moved back the pistol grip, and made it more vertical. This was on purpose to help achieve the trigger position I like...tip of index finger touching the forward side edge of the trigger guard.

    First up...I'm fitting this stock to MY hand...namely my left hand. No one else's. The vintage rules and military morals forces me to stick with the classic profile...but we can put in some minor, subtle ergonomics. I like the start of the comb to be steep enough that my thumb has a clean, easy to repeat, reference point. I like a small palm swell that tells me "yep...this feels perfect right here..." every time I slide my hand up into position. I like the tip of my trigger finger to touch the front side edge of the trigger guard. On a 1903, given how my finger is shaped, that gives me a perfect, repeatable trigger position. So, put the bottom metal in, and slide your trigger hand up the stock into your desired position.

    I trace out the areas I want to use as a reference. The rear of my palm, the pad of my thumb that makes contact in front of the comb, and the bottom pad of my index finger. This marks the "OD" the material to be removed. I then use a micrometer to measure those parts of my hand, palm pad, thumb width, bottom index pad, and use that as an estimate for the ID. Trace it all on the stock in pencil, then make symmetric markings on the other side.

    I worked these areas with a half-round file, pausing round out and even out the edges with sandpaper and remove most of the tool marks quickly, 100 grit works quick for me and the files I used. I check often by sliding my hand up the stock into position.
    1) I started with the front of the comb as my main reference point. I made it a bit more vertical, and a bit deeper, providing the start for a narrower "waist", blending up to the tang which in the end will flush with the metal, or maybe wood a fingernail proud at most.
    2) I next cut in the front of my palm swell, rounding to the underside of the wrist and into the pistol grip area. This completes profile for the wrist. I don't use a micrometer, and I don't have a set "size" for the wrist...I just go till it feels right for me. The minelli stocks start of sooooo fat that there is no curve in the wrist area and it's "slab sided" back through the palm to the but. Because of this and that my hands are big enough, I have zero worries of removing too much wood in the wrist.
    3) I then work the rear of the palm swell. It starts at the base of the pistol grip and, following my palm, arcs up and gets lightly blended with the front of the comb. In order to keep the classic military lines, the swell is not pronounced here. Looking at the stock from the side you likely wouldn't notice it. A SUBTLE arcing blend up to the comb give the tactile feel normally achieved with flutes, but without being visually noticable. Subtle is the key...everything is enough to notice the comfort when the shooter slides a hand into position, but not very visually noticable.

    Here is the left side (trigger hand for me) roughed in with the edges of the curves blended in. Slight palm swell in position


    5) Now I repeat the same process on the right side. Normally, perfect symmetry would be the goal. BUT...while I shoot predominately left handed because I'm left eye dominant, I am right handed...and the USMC taught me to shoot weapons that required right handed shooting and I got pretty good at it. Ever notice how holding something in the same way in one hand then the other still feels different? Symmetry gives me the rough idea, but I fit the right side to my right the same way I did the left. Rough in with a file, sand to even out the edges and curves, slide your hand into position to check the feel, and repeat until you like it. Perfect symmetry be damned. It'll be close enough to even that no one would notice it unless they pulled out a micrometer.


    6) I have been finish sanding all along with 100 grit so far for the whole stock. So now I blend in all the areas around the wrist and pistol grip and remove all tool marks. It helps find areas you miss by wiping your dust off with mineral spirits, or lacquer thinner. I circle areas with a pencil that need more work. Leave the butt alone.

    7) my final finish will be 150 grit. Starting at rear. I sand the comb, then the underside, then the sides, and work my way forward. I always do the top and bottom surfaces, then the sides to make sure I don't miss anything. Wipe, circle any tool marks or areas that need a few more swipes. Don't worry about the handgaurd alignment...your not shaping just knocking the grain back a bit. Stay away from the butt, and be careful of the edges at the bands.

    most of the original stain is still on the surface around the butt.

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  3. #12
    Contributing Member ssgross's Avatar
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    Last step...

    cross bolts and barrel band retaining spring


    On all of the minelli stocks I've worked with, the rear head is always dangerously perfect (so don't get carried away sanding!), and the front head is set further in.
    Now look at the thread side...the rear bolt is perfect, and the front one is dangerously close to protruding...in fact it was pretty close to flush before we sanded. On both other minelli stocks I've done, I've had to lightly file down and cold blue the front cross bolt. I'm not sure if the originals were different lengths, but the "new reproduction" ones are the same length - they also always have burrs on the nuts that you will need to get rid of, which ruins the bluing anyway. So no loss filing down the front bolt tip to slightly recess since you will cold blue the nuts after demurring anyway.

    The spring clip fits in it's hole nice and tight. The last one was loose. if yours is lose, set it on an anvil and whack the base with a hammer to widen it slightly. If the hole is too big for that to work (like the last stock I did), a wrap or two of aluminum tape works. Don't glue it in...silly...you'll never get it out if you ever want to stain, refinish, or if you get caught in the rain hunting and want to preserve it from rusting later.

    While the band easily slid over the spring as is...it wasn't perfect. It took too hard a press on the spring to remove. The inletting is deep enough at the base to depress, but too shallow up front forcing the need to depress it a lot. I don't have a chisel that narrow...but a thin tip precision screwdriver makes a good enough scraper. Just go slow. If you are fitting an m1903, use a razor to cut the sides, then square off behind the hole to fit a milled spring.

    And that's it! I only have the buttplate left to fit, but I'm still deciding which one I want to use. Any ideas? I have the 3 pictured above in the first post, and I ordered a NOS, blued, narrow Remington checkered so that is an option too. I wanted to use the narrow "meat tenderizer" one, but the screw holes are so far off I would likely need to drill out the holes and move them.

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  6. #13
    Contributing Member ssgross's Avatar
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    I suppose since I broke down and bought a NOS Remington narrow checker, I should use it since it's correct. Kind of halts my schedule for getting this to the range. Stay tuned.

  7. #14
    Contributing Member ssgross's Avatar
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    fitting the buttplate

    The bottom screw on 3 buttplates was off...too low, even on the smith corona a3 one. The NOS Remington lines up perfectly and only needs some finish work.

    Black the curved area below the top tang, the tang tip, and just under the toe at the bottom and check for contact.

    it is imperative that there is no contact in the corners at the base of the tang, or at its tip. If there is, this wood will splinter eventually under recoil. Relieve these areas of the tang. I use a small file for the corners after scraping what I can get a small chisel on. For the tip of the tang I use the same dremmel trick I did for the receiver tang relief, but with 220 grit and very low speed. I just kiss the area with it until the black comes off. Check for daylight under the buttplate. As you work the tang, the top will was forward and possibly relieve the contact at the bottom tip (toe?), so don't go filing that away just yet, or you will be in for some more hours of work fixing it. Go slow. When checking for contact, set your plate on, align it with your hands, and give a firm tap with your mallet just above the door, and around the bottom screw.

    if there is still uneven contact at the toe after you have the tang where you want it, don't start grinding away. Put the buttplate underside down on your bench block or anvil or whatever you have, and give the toe portion a whack with your mallet (I didn't say hammer). You can make small adjustments this way. If you need more curve, lay the toe across a dowel, and give the toe a whack with your mallet. Not to hard, just a well intended, firm love tap. You want even contact under the curve part, with minimal to no contact on the toe itself (a sliver of daylight here is acceptable). If you have heavy contact on the tip of the toe, then as soon as someone sets the rifle down hard or firm (e.g. when you put your WWI re-enacters uniform on and try to practice your drill moves), the wood at the toe will split. So common sense, and your experience seeing many old original 1903s with chips and splinters at the toe, or repaired toes, should yell at you to address this common problem now.
    Once you don't have daylight under the main flat of the buttplate, call it a day.

    next fit the screws. as you saw above, the holes are way too tight, but all you need to do is clean them out. you can do this with a needle file, or use a drill bit by hand. only use a drill as a last resort. screws should go in snug but you shouldn't have to wrench on them. Here is a trick I learned the hard way... almost always when you first insert these fat screws into a new tight hole, the very top will splinter. Take a large bit, or chamfer tool, and lightly bevel the top of the hole. Even if no one ever sees it, you'll be satisfied you paid attention to every detail.

    With the buttplate in place and screwed on, take a look for any other sanding or profiling needed. Every minelli stock has been spot on...there is no wood to remove, and barely enough to scuff off their stain. So take the plate off and finish sanding with 150 grit, only enough to knock the original finish off.


    And we are done! Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The only real skill needed is patience. I'll handle the wood finish in my other post as I assemble the rifle. I look forward to your comments!

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