Types of Wood for Gunstocks

Updated February 21, 2017

Gunstock wood is limited only by the imagination. From extremely dense hardwoods to soft, open-grained and light woods, gunstocks can be crafted from almost any specie. Most expensive guns use hard-to-find exotic wood, while most production guns use common species of wood available anywhere.


Walnut is one of the most common of all gunstock woods. Prized for its workability and dark, rich colour, walnut ranges from a creamy light brown to a dark, burled chocolate colour. Walnut has open pores, and it carves and shapes readily, using rasps and files. It needs no stain and, when sanded smooth with fine grit sandpaper, will gloss over, using only penetrating oil finishes.


Mahogany and cherry share similarities. They are both one of the lightest in weight of gunstock woods. They both vary from deep cherry red to a lighter orange colour. Mahogany is a straight, open-grain semi-hardwood. Cherry is open-grained with a slightly more curvy grain pattern. They both machine easily and are prized for stability and weather-resistant qualities. Penetrating oil finish is often used on mahogany and cherry gunstocks.


Maple is the queen of the gunstock woods. Gunstock builders use a species of maple known as "hard rock," "bird's eye" or "curly." Maple has a light amber colour with very dense, tight grain. The traditional bird's-eye maple has small circles throughout, invoking a bird's eye. Hard rock maple has circular grain patterns and tight knots in the wood. Maple is one of the hardest gunstock woods available and requires very sharp woodworking tools to cut it. Maple gun stocks are usually sprayed with clear, nitrocellulose lacquer.


Ash is second hardest, just behind maple. It is also light amber in colour but differentiates from maple with bold, straight grain that sometimes forms a lightning, or zigzag, pattern. Ash machines nicely and it also requires sharp woodworking tools for manufacturing. Ash, like maple gunstocks, is usually sprayed with high-quality and clear nitrocellulose lacquer.


Laminated gunstocks are the most solid. Laminated stocks can't warp, twist or change shape. Laminated stocks are created by gluing thin pieces of hardwood together perpendicular to each other under high pressure, creating a stock that remains stable under any condition. Laminated stocks can also be beautiful as the outer lamination depicts how the gunstock will look. Laminated stocks are top-coated with nitrocellulose lacquer.

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About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.