Beechwood gunstocks

Muzzleloading Forum

Help Support Muzzleloading Forum:

edw.marshall

32 Cal.
Joined
Sep 2, 2005
Messages
85
Reaction score
79
Location
illinois
Since Beech is a common wood for today’s entry level muzzleloader stocks, does anyone know if it was also used by early gun builders instead of Maple, Walnut & Cherrry?
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2005
Messages
4,212
Reaction score
5,485
Hi,
Using beech was mostly a European fashion. I am sure there were some American guns stocked with it but they likely were very rare. It was used primarily for plain muskets and utility guns. Often beech stocks were painted black. Beech was used a lot for English muskets during the late matchlock period and for some later sea service flintlock muskets. However, during our Rev War, a period of intense war production, English rough stockers working on ordnance contracts refused to use beech wood authorized by the government to cut costs and replace scarce walnut. The reason was government procurement could terminate at any time and the stockers, who had to buy wood years in advance to let it dry, were afraid they would be stuck with a lot of beech blanks that no one else wanted. The excess wood might be sold for tool handles but always at a great loss. Even the customers for cheap trade guns used in Africa as currency for slaves, a trade that supported the gun makers during times of peace when government contracts were scarce, would not willingly accept beech wood stocks.

dave
 
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
14,438
Reaction score
8,555
I take it from period accounts that British Ordnance intensely disliked having to resort to accepting "Dutch" Muskets with Beech stocks and they only did it when the need was so urgent at the beginning of wars. From what I've learned from Bailey, the first major number of such beech stocked muskets accepted was during the Napoleonic Wars. Once the wars were over, they got rid (surplus sold) of the Beech stocked muskets right away, even if in fairly new condition. Then the rest of the "Dutch" or foreign made muskets as soon as possible after that, though they sometimes cut down the barrels for sea service muskets.

Gus
 

Rock Home Isle

54 Cal.
Joined
Feb 13, 2021
Messages
1,540
Reaction score
2,104
Location
Johnstown Colorado
I take it from period accounts that British Ordnance intensely disliked having to resort to accepting "Dutch" Muskets with Beech stocks and they only did it when the need was so urgent at the beginning of wars. From what I've learned from Bailey, the first major number of such beech stocked muskets accepted was during the Napoleonic Wars. Once the wars were over, they got rid (surplus sold) of the Beech stocked muskets right away, even if in fairly new condition. Then the rest of the "Dutch" or foreign made muskets as soon as possible after that, though they sometimes cut down the barrels for sea service muskets.

Gus
Wow…what was the reasoning behind such disdain for beechwood?
 

waksupi

40 Cal.
Joined
Oct 6, 2004
Messages
609
Reaction score
625
It's a comparably soft wood. If you use it, I would recommend putting several coats of Minwax Wood Hardener on it when you have it ready to finish. I use it on the butts of Poor Boys, and they show no wear, even after much use.
 

morehops52

40 Cal
Joined
Dec 21, 2021
Messages
295
Reaction score
308
Location
W. PeeYaa
The only place I've seen beech stocks is on my German air rifles. some are better than others but none are what I'd call pretty.
 

Stophel

75 Cal.
Joined
Jul 8, 2005
Messages
5,949
Reaction score
821
It's a comparably soft wood.


Oh, no it ain't. It's harder than American walnut. Considerably harder than cherry. Definitely harder than birch. It can be every bit as hard as the best sugar maple.

It is, however, rather splintery and unpleasant to work with.

Beech has very prominent rays, and can be rather gaudy in appearance.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
2,828
Reaction score
3,451
Location
Tyrone , Pa. 16686
Beech is heavy , like oak , and locus. All are stable woods , but most have little figure. Apparently, folks in the Appalachian frontier didn't want guns with heavier wood , if they had a choice. Ash is heavier and seen in southern guns , and infrequently seen in Pa. built long rifles. If gunstock wood supplies were low , gunsmiths would go to ash so as to keep working. 10 + years ago , Greg Dixon and I had a discussion about an original Lehigh Co. poor boy rifle in his store. It was intentionally made from a beautiful blank of curly maple , and riddled with termite tunnels. All I can say is , get creative , make what you wish. There was a double cheek piece Jager rifle in the Gettysburg Battlefield Gun museum. It was made of oak. That would be the last wood , I would use for a Jager rifle , but who am I to judge?..............oldwood
 

Old Hawkeye

45 Cal.
Joined
Mar 14, 2020
Messages
912
Reaction score
1,508
Beech has never been widely harvested for timber. It is mainly found, at least in Europe, in tended groves for nut production. I personally have only seen it used for gunstocks on some old 22 rimfires from shortly after WWII, but I know it has seen use it other rifles as well, especially during war time. I also think many people mistake birch stocks for beech as they can have a similar color & appearance. The sanding dust of beech has a slight "gummy" feel, at least the ones I have sanded felt that way & they don't take a stain well. It's definitely at the bottom of my list for a gunstock.
 

rich pierce

70 Cal.
Joined
Nov 27, 2004
Messages
5,702
Reaction score
2,176
Location
Andover, VT
My only experience with beech was cutting it as firewood as a kid on our farm. It had a tendency in our area to become unsound when it got big- rot in the middle.
There are many factors going into what is chosen for furniture and gunstocks. One that we often don’t consider is availability of large diameter clear trunks of sound wood for that type of wood. In New England I’m seeing a great many fine huge cherry trees. So I understand why so many New England fowlers and rifles were stocked in cherry.
 

waksupi

40 Cal.
Joined
Oct 6, 2004
Messages
609
Reaction score
625
Oh, no it ain't. It's harder than American walnut. Considerably harder than cherry. Definitely harder than birch. It can be every bit as hard as the best sugar maple.

It is, however, rather splintery and unpleasant to work with.

Beech has very prominent rays, and can be rather gaudy in appearance.
I've worked some of it on other projects, and what I had was pretty soft. Then again, I have had both walnut and maple that were very soft, or harder than woodpecker lips. I guess it depends on the individual tree.
 

Willy

36 Cl.
Joined
Jan 2, 2022
Messages
58
Reaction score
67
Location
NW Tennessee
One of my uncles was building a new house for himself and cut down a couple of large beeches that was right where he wanted to put the house. He managed to get lumber out of the beeches to panel most of the house. Most of the time we'd leave beeches alone as the nuts were excellent fodder for wildlife.
 
Joined
Sep 6, 2020
Messages
589
Reaction score
619
Location
Rochester, Michigan
I believe American Beech trees have somewhat different wood than do European. Ours MIGHT be inferior, not certain.
I have one Beech stock, the one on my Potsdam musket, which I first unloaded & then shot,, end of Truman's reign I believe.
1648581168802.png



1648581120075.png
 
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
2,828
Reaction score
3,451
Location
Tyrone , Pa. 16686
Here in Pa. in the State forest ,it must be considered to be useless. There was a good stand of Beech in the Sproul ,and after harvesting it for pulp wood , the harvester came back and wiped out the remainder of the stand with a special machine that plucked out all the seedlings , and under story. Doesn't matter , I won't live long enough to see any regeneration , and there is no small game there any way.
 

Latest posts

Top