Since the rimfire community has been so good to me, I wanted to “give back” a little by sharing my method for dressing up a rifle stock with a polymer spacer. Doing so gives the rifle a touch of class and a custom look that is fairly easy to achieve.
What You’ll Need : Ivory or colored polymer butt-pad spacer, masking tape, both medium and fine grit sanding blocks, Dremel (optional, but handy), and a bit of patience.
The first photo shows my Boyd’s featherweight thumb-hole stock, rough sanded but not yet finished. The ivory spacer was obtained from Tombstone Grips, and they’re available in a variety of colors and even pearls. For this project, I chose a gold pearl with a cool swirl pattern to accentuate the grain of the Royal Jacaranda stock.
Why use a sanding “block” instead of just a strip of plain old sandpaper ? The sanding block (or in my case, the 3M “SandBlaster” tool), gives you a firm, straight edge to work with, lessening the chances of getting ridges or lumps on the finished product. These simple tools allow a better grip and, thus, better control over your work. They are inexpensive and can be used many, many times without wearing out. You can use whatever is at hand for a sanding “block” – a wooden dowel wrapped in sandpaper is great for working in the barrel channels and rounded areas.
For starters, lay your recoil pad on top of the spacer, check the spacing around it, and use an awl or punch to tap a couple of pilot holes in your spacer. Next, drill two holes just slightly larger than the screws used to attach the recoil pad. The polymer material is fairly soft and drills easily. I like to give myself some “wiggle room” while drilling these mounting holes in case the spacer needs to be shifted one way or another for optimum overlap. Notice the rubber recoil pad has been masked to prevent removing excess material during sanding & shaping. I use two layers of tape in case I hit it with the Dremel (don’t ask how I figured that out). You can see the overlap at the top of the recoil pad – this is what you want to remove. We’ll work on the rubber pad later in this process. The following photo also shows an extra ivory polymer spacers against the stock.
The photo above illustrates how I masked the rubber recoil pad prior to shaping. I want to begin sanding from wood toward the rubber without altering the shape of the recoil pad.
Now the fun begins ! Mask off the wood portion of your stock with two or more layers of tape, until it looks like the example below. At this point in the process, we only want to remove the excess polymer material from that area. Once your satisfied with the masking, it should look look something like the photo below. Take your time and mask carefully – you’ll appreciate the effort later. The only thing showing should be spacer material.
To begin, I use my Dremel with sanding drum attached to remove a lot of the excess material quickly. Lower speed and long, sweeping motions work best for me. When I can see (or feel) that I’m getting close to the wood surface of the stock, I stop and check my progress. If I get a little over-zealous with the Dremel, the masking tape will “save my bacon”. A soft bristle brush helps clear the dust so I can visually check my progress.
The photo below helps illustrates my point about the masking tape – you can see where the tape has been chewed up a bit by the Dremel. This reminds me to switch over to another, gentler method for removing the rest of the polymer so it lays flush to the wood.
With the masking tape removed and a bit of mineral spirits to enhance the photo, you can see just how nice this is going to look when finished. But we’re not quite done yet – there’s a bit of hand sanding to do.
So far so good, right ? We’ve got the excess material removed and we’ve moved on to the final steps. Next, remove the masking tape from the stock portion to expose the wood. Now, mask off the rubber recoil pad one more time using at least two layers of tape. This allows you to carefully sand the polymer material flush to the rifle stock. Get your medium grit sanding block or pad and finish removing the excess material a little at a time. Gentle sanding from wood toward rubber gives you a smooth transition from wood to polymer to rubber, without bumps or ridges. Once you are satisfied with that, move on to the finer grit and keep sanding until it’s about as smooth as you can make it. I like to sand [I]toward[/I] the rubber (again). Use a bright work light to check your progress – better to take off too little than too much at this point. The objective is to make this appear as “seamless” as possible. As your work progresses, you’ll be able to both see and feel how the polymer material is being fitted to the stock.
Keep sanding until you cannot feel any bumps or ridges. Sanding across the “grain” of the polymer is good for removing material, sanding with the grain (long strokes along the length of the spacer) works to smooth the surface for final finishing. By using progressively finer grits, you can make these polymer spacers go from a dull matte to a finely polished sheen.
Last step – mask off the wood of the butt-stock with fresh tape, being careful to make it butt right up to the polymer spacer, leaving the recoil pad exposed. Using your fine grit sanding block, put the final touches on your gorgeous new spacer by sanding gently to blend the area where the spacer meets the rubber. I use long, flowing strokes, going in a circle around the entire area, being careful to check my progress as I go. By masking the wood and not the rubber recoil pad, you won’t risk any sanding marks on your stocks as you sand across the grain of the wood because it is protected by the masking tape. Got it so far ? Great !
There you have it ! In just a couple of hours, you’ve gone from “stock” to “wow – what a stock !”. With the wide array of colors and pearls at your disposal, it’s easy to turn your own stock into a real head-turner. I’ll finish this one off with a bit of rouge and a felt polishing wheel on my Dremel to bring it to a high gloss.
You’re gonna love the look of your new “custom” rifle stock, and you did it for about $20 or so. I get a LOT of compliments on this mod, and you will, too ! Hope you’ve enjoyed this little tutorial as much as I’ve enjoyed producing it. Now, go get some spacers and get busy !