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Lake Sunapee Services > Against-The-Grain Creations


Against the Grain Creations Logo

Handcut Checkering - Original Designs

Custom checkering of gunstocks, pistol grips,
wooden tabletops, and guitars

Over 40 Years Experience

An Experience in the Unique Art
of Creative Wood Enhancement

MaryLou Willett
Newport, New Hampshire

email: dustydesigns @   (remove spaces)


Have you ever gone against the grain?

If you are someone who appreciates quality, custom, hand-cut gunstock checkering with interesting designs, as well as standard point patterns, and you are not impressed by simulated checkering done by machines, then please take this journey with me Against the Grain. I will show you some of my samples of not just gunstocks, but tabletops and even a guitar with checkered designs on them.

Checkering Eagle Pattern Gunstock Checkering Buck Pattern

Eagle Pattern

Buck Pattern


Winchester Checkering Pattern
Winchester Pattern


Remington Checkering Pattern
Remington Pattern


Simple Point Checkering Pattern
Simple Point Pattern


Gun Forearm Checkering Patterns
Forearm Checkering Patterns


Click here for my gun checkering gallery & prices.


The purpose of checkering is to provide a better grip on the stock as well as to enhance it's appearance. For those who don't know what checkering is or looks like, it is a specific process of cutting uniform lines into the wood in two directions that form a 45 degree angle or thereabouts. The lines crisscross each other to form small diamond shapes that come to a point on top when done correctly.

In laying out a design, I make a pattern out of heavy paper and draw it's outline onto the wood with a sharp pointed tool called a scribe. I then go over the scribe line with an electric checkering tool. Next, I make the two master lines within the pattern at a 45 degree angle or thereabouts and they are the starting point of the checkering. I inspect my work as I go along, then I give it a good final inspection. There are a lot of things to look for which are mentioned later.

I take my time when checkering because there is no such thing as a good job if it is done in a big hurry. As they say, "haste makes waste". That is especially true of something as delicate and detailed as checkering. Some simpler patterns take a few hours but others I have spent weeks on. First I have to fine tune my sketches until they satisfy me before I can start making the patterns. That alone can take a while since I am pretty particular. I have seen some checkering jobs here and there that were done in such a hurry that they look as if a blindfold was worn. They were breathtaking ... but not in a good way! 'Gasp' is a better word!

First, let me give you a little background of the person you will be traveling with. The late Lenard Brownell, well-known stockmaker, checkerer and carver taught me the art of checkering in 1968 at Sturm, Ruger, Inc. whose main plant is located here in Newport NH.

In the 1970's, I worked for two local checkering companies, Morrow's Checkering Service and Yankee Checkering. Those were the days when hand-cut checkering was plentiful before the invention of the computerized checkering machines. Working at home, we did a lot of production checkering for Remington, Winchester and Savage Arms. In the 1990's, I returned to Ruger for six years until they went to the machines, then accepted an offer to go to work for H & R 1871, checkering at home again.

Three years later, you guessed it ... the machines took them over so I've been doing custom work in my home ever since. My customers include various gun shops, retailers and stockmakers around New England and several southern and mid-western states, as well as private individuals and collectors looking for excellent handcrafted checkering. I have also been doing work for Remington's Custom Shop for about 10 years now.

The idea of checkering tabletops just came to me one day when I was thinking about taking my craft to another level. If it's made of wood, I will try it! The best wood for checkering is walnut, though I've done maple, birch, cherry, laminate and even a box lid made of pine ... an interesting experience. It is a challenge that I enjoy. The more difficult the design, the more I like seeing the final result. That lead me to checker the back of a guitar which you will see further on. Tables should have a glass top custom cut to fit in order to protect the checkering from damage.

Contact MaryLou of Against-the-Grain Creations by email at: dustydesigns @   (remove spaces)
or click here for our contact form.


Small Table Tops

Owl Table Checkering Pattern   Dragon Table Checkering Pattern
Owl in Moonlight

Some years ago, I did exhibits and demos at gun shows and craft shows around New England. I enjoyed meeting the public and talking about my craft but, after a while, just didn't have the time to keep it up. I have picked up several blue ribbons at area craft shows for my gun and table designs including Best of Show.

I don't have any formal training in art; whatever I have is just there in the genes. There have been a few professional artists in my ancestry and most of my family members have hobbies of different artistic varieties. I hope you will enjoy viewing my samples and I welcome any comments you might have. Please use the contact form below to send a comment or request more information.

Just to be clear, I don't make, build or sell gunstocks or tables. I strictly do the checkering on pieces that customers send to me, usually by UPS or Fedex. Guns must be completely dissasembled and only the stock should be sent. I do not work on fully assembled guns.

A lot of my designs have a western theme or an animal theme. I also do lettering or initials. I definitely welcome suggestions about any other design ideas that you might have in mind. If you can imagine it, I can probably come up with something for you.

Checkering Elvis Guitar
Elvis on back of guitar



The Corbin Covered Bridge
Coffee Table Project

This coffee table design was done as a commemorative of the Corbin Covered Bridge in Newport, New Hampshire, which was destroyed by arson in 1993. The arsonist was never apprehended. I donated this as the first prize in a raffle to raise money for a local man who was also a burn victim in a fire at his home.

The original Corbin Bridge was built around 1835 and was a local historical landmark. It was named for the prominant Corbin family, important to Newport history. The City of Newport voted to replace the bridge with a replica of the original. A master bridgewright was hired for the job and, in 1994, the bridge was rebuilt the old-fashioned way and pulled into place by a team of oxen.

There was a festival and people came from far and wide to witness the unusual event. Another festival was held the following year and this table was raffled at that time. Before sketching the design, I researched many different subjects such as bridge construction, horse anatomy, carriages, period clothing, stonework, trees, reflections in water, and I also worked from photos of the new bridge.

I wanted the couple riding in the carriage to have eye contact with the viewer to make the connection from past to present. The lettering reads "Corbin Covered Bridge Newport, N.H. Reflections Through Time - 1835 - 1995 and Beyond". The actual checkering time totalled over 700 hours which was spread out over a five month period, working nights and weekends, in addition to my daily job at Ruger. I was relieved when the end came and I could get back to" normal" but I was very pleased with the finished product.

The following slideshow depicts the Corbin Bridge table in various stages of the process:

Corbin Bridge Coffee Table Checkering


Checkering Repair

I guess it goes without saying that I also do touch-ups and re-cuts on old or worn checkering. If someone has given you a bad or sloppy checkering job with mistakes, in most cases, I can straighten it out one way or another. I'm referring to points that don't match up, crooked borders, ridges, specks of finish left on points, crooked lines, lost lines, nicked borders, no uniformity in the overall pattern (meaning that some lines are deeper than others giving an uneven look to the pattern).

Checkering Tools

Checkering Tools

I use an electric hand tool, NSK Electer GX motor and handpiece with a tool head by MII, formerly known as MMC, and various hand tools shown here. I once used an old Dem-Bart electric tool, but it has since been retired.

I don't use a cradle when checkering gunstocks. They always seemed needless and bothersome to me. It is more comfortable to just hold the stock in my hand or rest it on the bench. The lines per inch I use have been from 16 to 26 though most people request 18 to 22.

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