All posts by Lance Larson

Custom Marlin Model 60 “Leaf Rifle”

 My Custom Marlin model 60 “Leaf Rifle” is done and I didn’t need that rake.

                A few weeks ago I let you know about a custom  gunstock carving project on one of my own rifles.   A very accurate little Marlin rifle that sported a stock with all the beauty of a chunk of 2×4.   I chose to Marlin model 60 photocompletely cover the stock with Oak leaves and Acorns.   There are several steps in carving an individual leaf.   Since I was doing so many leaves, I found it easier to do one section of leaves at a time.  What really does take the most time is the detail shaping of each leaf and making them flow with the adjacent leaves.   I had to make sure the leaf pattern flowed but that individual leaves still stood out.

                I achieved this with varying the texture of different leaves.  Some were smooth, some were cupped with the edges up, some were of textured quite rough, and I added a texture of very fine vanes to some leaves.   I kept up this plan of leaf variations when it came to the staining of the leaves also.  I broke up the flow of the oak leaves here and there with acorns.  And for something as little different, I inlaid two simulated ivory acorns in the buttstock.

Leaf rifle - carving complete

                 In the earlier article about this carving, I said I would count the leaves on the finished rifle.   After counting them five times and getting the same number three of those five times, I can say with some level of certainty that there are one hundred and Leaf rifle - pre-stained buttstockthirteen leaves and twenty four acorns on my rifle.  Yes, my eyes crossed several time during this process !

                 When I completed all the carving and texturing I went over it with my hands to feel for any sharp points.  When I found any, I went over them lightly with a course Scotch Brite pad.  Since this was a Light colored wood and I would have to stain the carvings, I gave it a coat of MinWax pre-stain to prevent blotchiness in Leaf rifle - walnut stain appliedthe stain.  I let the pre-stain dry about thirty minutes and then gave it a liberal coat of MinWax walnut stain.  I wiped off the excess stain and let is sit in the sun for a couple hours.   For those of you who don’t live in the desert where it is 110 degrees in the shade, you may want to let you stain dry Finished leaf rifle cheekpiece - close upovernight.   

                 I wanted to continue with leaf contrast so I used oil paints.  I used some “burnt umber” colored paint and a small amount of thinner to make my own darker walnut stain.  The leaves with the fine vane texture I stained very dark, as well as the caps of all the acorns.  I mixed the oil paint a little thinner to get a lighter shade and just painted a leaf here and there where it looked right.  The painting/staining of the leaves from Finished Leaf rifle - stained, painted, and finishedthat point on was all by what I felt looked good.  I let the stock dry in the desert sun again for several hours.   This would be the equivalent of three to four days of drying in the house.   

               The final coat was a MinWax Tung oil finish.  I applied this finish with a small foam brush  and wiped up the excess with cotton paint rags made from t-shirt material.   Then it was time to let that desert sun do it’s thing again.   My little rifle is now ready for years of dependable service in the field.   But now I have another worry…..if I set it down or lean it against a tree while I’m hunting, will I ever find it again ?

Thanks for stoppin by…..

Lance Larson

Custom carved Marlin Model 60

An Old Mauser Rifle

Fine Old Mauser Rifles…if only they could talk…….



     My friends tell me I have an affliction….. an addiction if you will….. and it’s old Mauser rifles.    They keep telling me to quit buyin’ and huntin’ with antiques and buy a new rifle ….in a new caliber.    They may be right, but it’s not gonna happen.   Old walnut stocked rifles are too much fun (and I can’t stand those”tupperware” synthetic stocks – you can’t carve on them.)   I have two other old Mausers and they’re in European metric calibers.   That means you can’t buy ammo down at Walmart.   

Swedish 6.5x55 Mauser with Moose and Basketweave Carvings

     I was at a Gun Show recently  and a man directly across the aisle had a rifle displayed that caught my eye.   It was a customized Swedish Mauser, in ‘6.5x55mm Swede’ caliber, and it was built on a Mauser model 98 action.   Since most guns of that caliber and age were built on smaller, Mauser model 96 actions, I gave it a closer look.   Then I noticed it had a double set trigger and an engraved butter knife bolt handle, both of which was definitely the sign of a good custom rifle for the time.  The action was a smooth as silk and….. it followed me home.

Moose carving on Buttstock of 6.5x55 Mauser rifle

     First, let me tell you, this rifle is not worth a lot of money.  There was no real collector value because it had been sporterized.   The true value of this rifle, for me, is the history.  The history of the caliber, the action, and the part of the world it originally came from…Sweden.  And since I’m a “Swede”, I always wanted one of these rifles.   The 6.5×55 caliber was designed in 1891.   Yes, old but still very, very, very effective.   The Mauser model 98 action came out in 1898 and has not really been improved upon in 112 years.   There were bolt action rifles before it but the Model 98 was the pinnacle of design. 


Here is a little history of this caliber and rifle from Wikipedia:


6,5×55 caliber – Sporting use

The 6.5x55mm cartridge is highly esteemed as a hunting round in Europe, Scandinavia, and North America. It is used for harvesting most kind of game including reindeer and moose in Scandinavia, while in Canada and the United States it is used for taking deer and other medium-sized game. Sportsmen who favor the round laud the combination of low recoil coupled with the cartridge’s inherent accuracy and superb penetrative qualities.

European rifle makers including Sauer,CZ, Steyr, and Mauser offer sporting rifles chambered for this cartridge, as does the Finnish arms manufacturer SAKO/Tikka, while ammunition manufacturers such as Norma, Lapau and Hornady offer loadings of the 6.5x55mm round that are designed for use only in modern hunting rifles that can tolerate higher chamber pressures. These modern loadings should never be used in older military rifles .


6.5x55mmExpanding bullet loaded in a 6.5x55mm before and after expanding. The long base and small expanded diameter show that this is a bullet designed for deep penetration on large game. The bullet in the photo traveled more than halfway through a moose before coming to rest, performing as designed.

The cartridge is also used in the Sauer 200 STR (Scandinavian Target Rifle).

The 6.5x55mm cartridge was widely used in biathlon competition until 1975 (when it was replaced by the.22 Long Rifle(.22 LR) rimfire cartridge), because of its inherent accuracy and historical popularity with the Scandinavian nations who have dominated this sport.


     Basketweave carving on grip of Mauser 6.5x55 rifleThe stock was a military stock that someone had sporterized very nicely.  Obviously the double set trigger was added during the original work.   Another item I found after I got it home was a marking on the bottom of the barrel the read “Fine Firearms, Avondale, AZ”.  I have found no information at this time about this gunsmith shop but I’m still researching.  


     Important Safety Tip:  One thing to make sure of before buying an old firearm is that the rifle’s barrel is marked with the correct caliber of the gun.   Even then, have it checked by a professional gunsmith before you fire it.     Saying that, this custom rifle had no caliber markings on the barrel, but I had the ability to make sure of the caliber myself, so it came home anyway.    


     Before deciding what type of carving I was going to complete on this stock, I needed to do some research.  I looked at a Basketweave carving on forearm of Mauser 6.5x55couple of aspects…….what type of game was commonly taken with the 6.5×55 caliber, and what style of carvings were common in Europe in the early part of the last century.  That is why I chose a Bull Moose carving for the buttstock of this rifle.  This caliber has been a common moose hunting caliber for many years in Scandinavian countries.


     Basket weave carving was somewhat common on the higher end custom guns of this era, so that’s what I elected to carve on the grip and forearm.   Acanthus leaf patterns were carved as borders around the basket weave.  These were also common borders for the period.  This custom gunstock carving was made to look like it had been on the gunstock for 50 years by copying the older carving styles. 


     I really do wish this old rifle could tell us her stories.  I’m sure this was a working rifle for it’s owner or owners, not a “safe queen” that never saw the field.  What animals had she hunted?   On how many continents had she been hunting?    How many hunting campfires had she been part of?   That, to me, is the magic of these fine old Mauser rifles. 


     Oh yeah, she’s pretty accurate too.    The stories for this rifle are not over.


     Thanks for stoppin’  by

     Lance Larson








So many leaves I may need a rake…….

So many leaves I may need a rake…….

Recently I acquired a Marlin model 60 semi-auto .22 rifle.   I got lucky at a NRA Fundraising event and won it in a raffle.  I knew very little about them but once I brought this little rifle out to the range, I realized it was way too accurate not to be a keeper.   Since I will be making this my go-to small game rifle, I had to hand carve the stock.   There have been millions of these rifles sold in the last forty years so I had to custom hand carve mine like no other model 60 around.   After all, it’s what I do.   The photo below is the rifle I am starting with for my “leaf camouflage” rifle.

Marlin model 60 photo

After deciding to do some Oak Leaves on forearm and grip, I started working on the design.  As I was working on the design, an idea came to me and I decided to really go “Over-The-Top”.   I am doing a custom relief carving over the entire stock with leaves.  I thought it might be interesting to show the steps I go through to complete this project over the next few weeks (months?).

Leaf carving - Outline leaf cuts imageThe first step was to draw out an outline of the stock and then draw and trace many, many, many, many, (Did I mention many?) many leaves on the drawing of the stock outline.   This is not something to try and do at one sitting.   Transferring that pattern onto the stock and start cutting the leaf outlines is the next step.   There are several individual carving steps to go through on each leaf to complete a custom relief leaf carving into the gunstock.   Now multiply that by over a hundred leaves and I’m wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

Leaf carving -Outline leaf cuts around cheekpiece imageThese photos show the first couple of carving steps.   The initial cutting of the leaf outlines and the start of some rough gouge work to get the basic shape of the leaves.  Since they are Oak Leaves, I have added some Acorns here and there in the design.   As you can see the stock is made from a light colored hardwood so I will have to do some staining again when I have this carving completed.  

Leaf carving - rough shaping the leaves imageI will keep you all posted as this project comes along.  There is plenty of work yet to do with rough gouging out all the leaves, and then shaping each individual leaf.  Not to mention the staining of all the individual leaves to get color and hue variation all through the stock.   I also have to put a nice finish on it too.   (What have I gotten myself into? )   I will try to get an accurate count of how may leaves are on this rifle in my next project update, unless my eyes permanently cross while counting them.   

Thanks for stoppin’ by…….

Lance Larson

A Custom Gunstock Carving that tells a Story

Cape buffalo carving on Sako gunstock image A Custom Gunstock Carving that tells a Story

Custom gunstock carving is very rewarding.   The creative relationship between you and your carving client is a truly enjoyable collaborative effort.    In the time I have been carving gunstocks, I’ve found that many clients had the ideas for their stock for quite a while but couldn’t find a way to accomplish it.

Most clients will have you carve something in their gunstock that really means something special to them.  It may be initials; it may be a type of game animal they love to pursue.  But it may also be a very special animal they want to remember and celebrate.   Their son’s first buck, their once-in-a-lifetime huge bull elk, or a project like I just finished.  A hunter’s trophy Cape Buffalo carved in the rifle he used to take it.

I really wanted to find a way to personalize this carving.   To acheive this, I ask my client for photos.   I have my clients provide me photos of the hunt, photos of the animal taken in the field, and photos of the mounted animal.   If the animal has horns or antlers, I ask for as many photo angles of the head as possible.   Since I am going to carve a portrait of this animal to the best of my ability, all the reference material possible is needed.   Then the design starts………

When I talked with my client about his Buffalo, he explained to me how the buffalo bull was standing when came out of the bush.  My client wanted the carving to show the buffalo just like he was at the shot.  He wanted to save the memory of that moment.  And I intended to do everything in my power to do just that for him.   I found a few Cape buffalo photos that showed them standing at the angle I needed.   Then I decided which of the photos the client gave me showed the head and horns at the best angle to fit the body.  After tracing both pictures they had to be sized individually to make sure the head fit the body.  Then I reduced the size of the carving pattern to fit the gunstock.  This is a time consuming but necessary step for success.Leopard Carving on Sako gunstock image

I took the time to do three pattern options for his Cape buffalo carving and let him choose the pattern he wanted.  I also asked him if he wanted anything on the side of the rifle.  His Stock had fantastic checkering and we had decided not to touch that part of the stock. He said he liked the big cats so I agreed to put an African Lion carving on one side and a Leopard carving on the other side of the rifle.   We also decided that since the walnut stock had such beautiful grain, the carving would be done in an inlay style.  That way it added to the beauty of the wood grain, it didn’t cover it up.

I won’t go into all the carving steps here.  But it is important that you research any animals you intend to carve.  We’ve all seen Mule deer and Elk, but do you know how the horns differ between an Eland, a Kudu, or an Nyala?  Carving African animals are very different than North American game animals, so research, reference photos, and practice is imperative to give the client the animal he wants.

Thanks for stoppin’ by……

Lance Larson