The Cheek Piece

Properly fashioning the cheek piece may seem an awesome task. It is not. It is important though to know what you want it to be before working it. Some initial patience will increase confidence and help speed the result.

Power tools should not be used here. Dremel tools should be kept from temptation and only hand fashioning using sand papers and some filing on the comb drops should be employed.

Using medium to light heavy grit paper (say 180 to 120), I usually like to first knock the machine marks of the face of the cheek piece and then off its' drop and the surrounding stock base it drops to. This gives a better look at what there is to work with and displays the form in which the machine cut it to. I will smooth the face to medium grit but leave it high until all the drop and contour are fashioned, after which the face can be cut down to suit me. By leaving it high now I have extra wood to correct mistakes made during course fashioning.

Know how you want the lines to run before cutting much wood. If you're not sure look at other rifles that you like, pictures, whatever helps. Keep your design functional. That is the real purpose of a cheek piece. If you strive for functionality it will turn out attractive.

If you want
flutes at the front comb, do not let the drop line run into it. Regardless of your general design, keep the face edge curvacious. The edge should curve from back to front with no interruption, such as a small flat on the edge.

Cheek Piece Side View of Right Handed Stock

Once I've got in my mind how I want the edge to run, I will start somewhere at the middle and begin cutting it back with a sanding block . Sometimes very careful filing may be necessary. It depends on how rough the blank was machined, how far off the lines are (from what I want them to be) and how much wood there is to work with. Take special care not to cut too deeply into the stock base, especially were the cheek piece falls close to the base of stock (approaching and at area of pistol grip). Cut only a surface line until the line is complete from back to front comb drop. This will ensure plenty of wood will be left for the drop from face edge to stock base. The front must be cut very carefully since there will be almost no drop at this area. Do not forget to leave space for the flute (if wanted).

Dropping the cheek piece requires special care and attention to detail. After coarsely shaping cheek piece and drop, use fine grit paper to slowly shape the drop from sharp edge of face to stock base. Finish sand with 400, then 600 grit paper. The drop at front (closest to pistol grip) is very shallow and requires great attention in properly removing coarser sanding marks without removing too much mass. The sharp edge of the cheek piece will likely be compromised by sanding the drop. If so, correct it by block sanding the cheek face back into shape. Finish the piece with its edge crisp back to front.

The face edge of the cheek piece should smoothly curve (drop) to the stock body. The steepness of drop can be less than shown below but should not recess under the cheek piece itself. Keep the arc consistent from back (closest to butt) to front (closest to pistol grip). If the cheek piece rolls over to the other side of stock (a 'rollover' stock), arc the drop the same as the face side.

Cross Section of Stock Butt (Right Handed)

Unlike the example above, the face of this cheek piece follows the general contour of the stock and gives a more elegant appearance and more functional fit to the face of the shooter.

Cross Section of Stock Butt (Right Handed)

There are many cheek piece designs. The first two crude sketches above try to display a 'monte carlo' pattern, the modern day popular. Some patterns, such as old and new classic, have no raised comb. Some pieces are oval in shape - called 'pancake'. All can have a 'shadow line' if cut that way by the vendor and you or just by you. If your wood came out of a vendor's machine it was hacked out to replicate a particular design for a particular model of barreled action. The cheek piece in rough will vaguely or closely resemble the lines you wished to have when you ordered the stock.

Shadow Line Cheek Piece

Shadow Line bottom view

Shadow line is perpendicular to surface of stock and slight in proportional height.

A shadow line enhances the sculpture of the cheek piece. It is found not too often and is pricey in appearance. Much patience is required because of the close work involved in getting it right. Taking the time and going slow will prove you can do it. However, I would not recommend this task for one who has not yet shaped and finished a minimum of one rifle stock.

Thickness of shadow line remains relative to thickness (height) of arc drop from considerably rear of center to forward, were it eventually disappears as does the arc drop. To the rear, however, the line must also tapper so that it disappears at the top of stock comb. Therefore, on stocks with raised combs (monte carlo, etc.), were the arc becomes thicker as it moves rearward, the shadow line becomes thiner and is no longer proportional to the thickness of drop of arc.

Detailed Pictures and Descriptions of a Cheek Piece being Fashioned

Other Topics available:
Wood Stains and Gun Stocks
Floating the Barrel
Glass Bedding
Pillar Bedding
Barrel Bedding Block
Inlays, Tips, and Caps
What is M.O.A.?
Calculating Rifle Precision
Target Crowning a Muzzle
Building a Muzzle Loader from Kit
Eliminate Trigger Over-Travel
Attaching the Recoil Pad


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