Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Figure in the Wood?

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40 Cal.
Dec 14, 2016
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I don’t see how..
You're correct, the beauty needs to correspond with the quality of work.
Mother Nature’s beauty is for the taking..
I’d rather have proper grain flow and some color variations in the grain than figure..
Sometimes you can find both.
Best of luck.

Last edited:
Aug 22, 2021
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Was looking at a flintlock rifle for sale. Beautiful.....except the stock had more stripe than any tiger which ever walked. The lines were thinner and more closely spaced than I am used to seeing. For me, that striping was a distraction which detracted from the overall beauty of the rifle.
I think a well executed long rifle will be beautiful without any ornamentation. But that an appropriate kind and level of embellishment will add to its beauty. And, frankly, the figure of the wood can be wonderful ornamentation. But you should see the whole gun, not have your attention riveted to some detail of it.
Yes. I know that is subjective and personal. But that is why there are different flavors of ice cream.
Never enough.


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40 Cal
Oct 28, 2022
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Col. Batguano

69 Cal.
Feb 10, 2011
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I agree that highly figured wood can wind up competing with carving for the observer's attention. While the carving isn't totally lost, it tends to get overpowered by the wood itself. The actual area of the carving can get overly "busy looking", and actually drive the observer's attention AWAY from the area rather than draw it TO it. Sort of like how smelling salts overpower your nose and force you to turn away from them.

In cases like that you can do some things to lessen the power of the wood grain. For instance, you can apply just a little more stain to the carved area and darken it slightly more than the rest of the stock. It's going to naturally want to take in more stain anyway due to the exposure of so much more end grain (incised carving even more than raised). Then, with raised carving take some steel wool and knock back the stain. That will lighten the tops more but leave the stain in the recessed areas. The tops in your carving will be even lighter colored than the surrounding base plain of the stock, and become something of a natural "eye magnet". Overall, that will give more contrast and call more attention to the carving, while deemphasizing the grain within the carving itself at the same time. You might even do it a little bit with the areas around the carving to sort of "frame" it.

Just experiment a little bit to see how best to deal with it. Take some figured scrap and carve a few volutes and play around with it.

Metal inlets / inserts need no such treatment because the nature of them is entirely devoid of competing figure. The DO however cry out to be engraved.
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Jan 2, 2022
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Northern Idaho
"Too much fun, what's that mean?
It's like too much money, there's no such thing
It's like a girl too pretty with too much class
Being too lucky, a car too fast
No matter what they say I've done
I ain't never had too much fun" Daryl Singletary "Too Much Fun"

Too much figure? That's crazy talk!
Last edited:
Jun 10, 2005
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I think it comes down to personal preference and matching the wood grade to the type/use of the firearm.

On a custom-built, historically accurate Hawken type rifle, I prefer straight-grain Maple. But there is no question that semi-fancy, fancy, etc. grade looks great.

Over the years I have ordered a couple of unmentionables from C. Sharps Arms Company. The first had semi-fancy Walnut. It looks nice, but since then I ordered standard, straight-grain Walnut.

If you look into some of the historical companies like Sharps and Winchester, you could order a rifle with special grade wood and certain features. My guess is you could do the same with say, the Hawken Brothers shop.

Personal preference and desire of both the builder and potential owner.