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Wood grades & finish
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RickC
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December 10, 2020 - 2:48 pm
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I was trying to search the entire forum on finishes(Piano, lacquer, oil, satin,) etc & how they were made by Winchester. I haven’t had any luck so thought someone might have a list of all the possible finishes that could be ordered & how that finish was attained.
Wood grades is also a common question I get from new collectors. Below is something I refer too occasionally when looking at wood. I can’t remember where I got it or what book, but it kinda gives you an idea about the wood grades. I think the grade given was subjective to the person doing the grading because some of these are higher or lower than I would classify them, but I have non graded wood on guns that are way nicer imo than ones with graded wood.

RickC

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December 10, 2020 - 4:49 pm
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Good guide, I’d like to see it with a better scan.  Grading is subjective, like you say.  It’s hard to agree one is AA and not AAA.  But most of us know a “good grade of wood” when we see one.  I always liked using the three “A” grades.  But this shows several other schemes too:

Walnut Grades
 

Utility (Very plain wood, usually some sapwood and minor blemishes): Economy grade.

Standard (Sturdy, straight grain flow, possibly some sapwood and minor blemishes): Grade I. Class 1.

Select (The upper portion of standard grade; decent grain flow, no sapwood, no visible defects): Grade II, Hand Select


Semi-Fancy (Good grain flow with character in color, contrast or fiddleback): #5, Grade III, Class 2.

Moderately Fancy (Good figure, color, or both): Grade IV, #4, Class 2.5.

Medium Fancy (Good figure, good color, some fancy figure behind wrist on both sides): A, X, #3

Fancy (Good color and at least 25% fancy figure behind wrist on both sides): AA, XX, #2, Grade V, Class 3

Extra Fancy (Good color and at least 50% fancy figure behind wrist on both sides): AAA, XXX, #1, Grade VI, Class 4.

Exhibition/Presentation (At least 75% fancy figure behind wrist on both sides, extraordinary figure and color): Grade VII, Class 5, Premium, Royal.

 

This site has some good examples of the A-grades.  https://www.shop.colegun.com/pages/wood-grading 

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December 10, 2020 - 8:18 pm
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Factory descriptions usually say nothing about finishes–maybe because they wanted to use “what they thought best” without interference.  

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December 10, 2020 - 8:44 pm
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The early Winchester days pre WW I in, had different shops run by superintendents who kept secret many of the formula or methods used in their departments. Interesting reading in Winchester the Gun That Won the West.

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December 10, 2020 - 11:40 pm
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Any ideas where Winchester sourced the walnut from?

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December 11, 2020 - 3:34 am
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AZshot said
Good guide, I’d like to see it with a better scan.  Grading is subjective, like you say.  It’s hard to agree one is AA and not AAA.  But most of us know a “good grade of wood” when we see one.  I always liked using the three “A” grades.  But this shows several other schemes too:

Walnut Grades
 

Utility (Very plain wood, usually some sapwood and minor blemishes): Economy grade.

Standard (Sturdy, straight grain flow, possibly some sapwood and minor blemishes): Grade I. Class 1.

Select (The upper portion of standard grade; decent grain flow, no sapwood, no visible defects): Grade II, Hand Select


Semi-Fancy (Good grain flow with character in color, contrast or fiddleback): #5, Grade III, Class 2.

Moderately Fancy (Good figure, color, or both): Grade IV, #4, Class 2.5.

Medium Fancy (Good figure, good color, some fancy figure behind wrist on both sides): A, X, #3

Fancy (Good color and at least 25% fancy figure behind wrist on both sides): AA, XX, #2, Grade V, Class 3

Extra Fancy (Good color and at least 50% fancy figure behind wrist on both sides): AAA, XXX, #1, Grade VI, Class 4.

Exhibition/Presentation (At least 75% fancy figure behind wrist on both sides, extraordinary figure and color): Grade VII, Class 5, Premium, Royal.

 

This site has some good examples of the A-grades.  https://www.shop.colegun.com/pages/wood-grading   

I imagine Winchester would of had their own terms, however similar. I’d have to do a double check, but believe I’ve seen tangs marked with one X up to four XXXX. I don’t recall a five XXXXX.

mrcvs said
Any ideas where Winchester sourced the walnut from?  

Where they got it is an important question, but I think the timeframe matters as well. I recall reading something in both the Williamson Book and Madis that they mostly only used American Black Walnut from the northern states and that in later years due to short supply they used walnut from the southern states. But the Walnut from southern states looked noticeably different due several factors, growth rings, weather, etc. But that it was better looking and in better supply than English Walnut. Then even later due to cost and supply they used gumwood in place of walnut. I think in Williamson it mentions the factory even owned their own Walnut trees.

All that said I’d have to dig to see where I read that.

Sincerely,

Maverick

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December 11, 2020 - 3:56 am
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I got this from the book ‘ Winchester the way it really was’ by Pauline Muerrle

’the wood used in Winchester gun stocks was almost exclusively American Black Walnut. Most was selected from a 500 mile belt which ran through Missouri and Kansas. Wood grown south of their was usually too soft and sappy, wood grown north os this belt was usually subject to frost cracks,’

I haven’t finished it yet but it’s a great read

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December 11, 2020 - 4:25 am
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Bill Hanzel said
Most was selected from a 500 mile belt which ran through Missouri and Kansas.   

Don’t think it’s a coincidence that’s where Bishop & Fajen were located.

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December 11, 2020 - 4:29 am
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Maverick said 
 But that it was better looking and in better supply than English Walnut.  

Better supply, certainly, but better looking?  Whoever said that had never priced English walnut stock blanks.

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December 11, 2020 - 4:48 am
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Another thing to consider is that stock blanks were graded before they were shaped or finished. I suspect that is why so many “standard” grade stocks are so beautiful (at least to me) and a few “graded” stocks fall short or exceed our expectations. In those days every stock blank with a bit of figure was an individual and it took a skilled eye to see the potential and it was an inexact science at best. I realize that the boring post-64 straight grain stocks are actually better stocks but I’ll always be a sucker for a nice piece of wood. 

 

Mike

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December 11, 2020 - 5:58 pm
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In Iowa where I was born many farmers have groves of black walnut trees.  They take a long time to mature.  My Dad only had about 12 trees that lined his driveway.  I was always hoping for a bad wind so I could get a chunk.

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December 12, 2020 - 12:09 am
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When I think about the wood on a winchester I often wonder just how old it is, if you think about it, if the tree was harvested in 1900 or 1910, it had to already be at least 20/30 years old maybe older….. making something harvested in 1860 even that much older- to me it’s pretty fascinating!

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December 12, 2020 - 2:39 am
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I would guess that a tight grained Winchester stock from a gun produced circa 1900 could easily be well over a hundred years old, so probably, in most cases, the grain you see was laid down, through natural processes, prior to the founding of this country in 1776.  Amazing, when you think about it.

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December 12, 2020 - 2:50 am
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I appreciate all the replies but I’m still hoping for someone to post the finishes offered by Winchester from m1873 to m1895 & how those finishes were applied & the process from wood to final shine.

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December 12, 2020 - 3:55 am
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Rick,

To the best of my knowledge, the information you are asking for does not exist in any document that I am aware of. Winchester did not feel it was important enough to specify it in their literature.

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December 12, 2020 - 4:03 am
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Thanks Bert. I have to agree as I can’t find that info anywhere. Although not possible, it would be some nice to talk to some of the employees back in the day. I would have a lot of questions.

RickC

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December 12, 2020 - 5:28 am
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All, up to now the best I have read is the article by Mike Hunter in the Fall, 2015 “Collector”.  Admittedly he starts out by saying  “Unfortunately, most of Winchester’s original wood finishing formulas and processes have been lost to time.”  His article on wood finishes is based on his research of available materials of the time, period-common formulas, and period-correct practices.  Is his article the be all and end all?  Probably not.  But it will suffice for now or until some previously unknown documents appear with the information of what materials were used, etc.  Or until someone develops a time machine to go back and talk to some of the old wood finishers.  It would seem every once in a while someone comes up with a seemingly innocent question of “how” or “why”, and now days all that can be done is best guesses.  My take at least.  Tim  PS.  In times now also gone, there were short, informative articles in the back of the Dixie catalog on how to make up “period-correct” metal and wood finishes.  Kirkwood was good about that, but whether correct or not is another guess.  Surprised

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December 12, 2020 - 6:04 am
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RickC said
I was trying to search the entire forum on finishes(Piano, lacquer, oil, satin,) etc & how they were made by Winchester. I haven’t had any luck so thought someone might have a list of all the possible finishes that could be ordered & how that finish was attained.
Wood grades is also a common question I get from new collectors. Below is something I refer too occasionally when looking at wood. I can’t remember where I got it or what book, but it kinda gives you an idea about the wood grades. I think the grade given was subjective to the person doing the grading because some of these are higher or lower than I would classify them, but I have non graded wood on guns that are way nicer imo than ones with graded wood.

RickC

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Isn’t that picture from Rob and Brads 1895 book? I’m away for the weekend and don’t have it with me but I am pretty sure that’s where it was from. 

Chris 

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December 12, 2020 - 8:20 am
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tim tomlinson said
All, up to now the best I have read is the article by Mike Hunter in the Fall, 2015 “Collector”.  Admittedly he starts out by saying  “Unfortunately, most of Winchester’s original wood finishing formulas and processes have been lost to time.”  His article on wood finishes is based on his research of available materials of the time, period-common formulas, and period-correct practices.  Is his article the be all and end all?  Probably not.  But it will suffice for now or until some previously unknown documents appear with the information of what materials were used, etc.  Or until someone develops a time machine to go back and talk to some of the old wood finishers.  It would seem every once in a while someone comes up with a seemingly innocent question of “how” or “why”, and now days all that can be done is best guesses.  My take at least.  Tim  PS.  In times now also gone, there were short, informative articles in the back of the Dixie catalog on how to make up “period-correct” metal and wood finishes.  Kirkwood was good about that, but whether correct or not is another guess.  Surprised  

Thank you Tim. I didn’t realize this information was unavailable and appreciate you & Bert taking the time to reply. Another unanswered Winchester mystery.

RickC

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December 12, 2020 - 8:23 am
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Aussie Chris said

Isn’t that picture from Rob and Brads 1895 book? I’m away for the weekend and don’t have it with me but I am pretty sure that’s where it was from. 

Chris   

Thank you Chris that’s exactly where it came from. I couldn’t remember.

Cheers
RickC

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