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Treasures With Meaning

Here is the small gathering of treasures I have gathered from different places at different points of time and for diversely different reasons. Most of them came home from Texas with me last week. Their qualification is most usually by functionality and use and then by their appearance and fit. Fit is multidimensional––fit for purpose, fit for comfort, fit for how they work  and more beyond. This checkering tool is one I made and that means value added by different virtues. The fact that it works is one level but then the fact that it works well elevates it another notch or two. I made this one from a well worn file by heating the file and letting it cool to ambient temperature. Once cooled I cut it with a hacksaw, filed it, bent it by coke-heat in the forge. I cut the twin line of teeth with a saw file and then hardened the teeth again after angling the profiler on the anvil. Finally I finished the metal work by tempering in the oven. A final touch up to sharpen the teeth came from the saw file. Obviously I turned the handle and fitted the ferrule before installing the cutter into the handle. That was a decade ago. You can make checkering tools to tighter or wider widths depending on the work.

What does it do?

Basically the tool decorates aspects of our work, but then that’s not really the key reason. The work becomes decorative  but the real functionality of checkering is to create handling quality to items that depend on hand holding. Hand guns and rifles with wooden parts such as grips, stocks and barrel fore-stock or fore-end are a good example of where checkering is used. Checkering aerates the hand and adds surface texture that reduces the risk of slippage and so enhances the grip exponentially. I made mine for making duck calls. The checkering serves the same purpose. Duck calls are used to call in ducks during hunting. They work amazingly well and skilled users rarely fail to draw them in. Look up gun checckering here for beautiful craftsmanship.

How we use them

By creating an initial parallel line with a straight edge, subsequent lines are created by placing one set of teeth in one of the two vee-grooves created and following the line a third row is created. Several such passes are made and before long a whole surface looks like a ploughed area. Arranging a second range of such patterns at an angle, diamond pinnacles are created as the second level works the surface. It takes practice, but the result is really neat; not just neat, stunning. You can decorate boxes and furniture using this system.


  1. Jeremy on 22 December 2016 at 4:00 am

    The very top jack, is it a barlow? Sweet if it is.

    • Paul Sellers on 22 December 2016 at 8:49 am

      It’s a Lamb’s foot. They make good shop knives esp’ for knife walls and I carry one all the time in my pocket. The blade is just under 3″, so legal on the streets of England to be carried. It doesn’t lock but it is stiff on the pressure bar to close, which I also like as an inadvertent knife closure results in bad cuts.

  2. Phill N LeBlanc on 22 December 2016 at 4:27 pm

    perhaps, when you and I are gone, this tool will pass to the next person with this story and be his/her treasure because of it. Old technology and new technology. We ourselves are the most fleeting part of the process.

    • Paul Sellers on 22 December 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Probably so, Phill. I wonder which tools will go forward with my sons, my daughter and now my grandchildren too. Through the years I have given them tools I had or bought for them so they have tools sets (not my daughter as yet) they used or use, but then there are those special tools I made and used.

  3. Mario Fusaro on 22 December 2016 at 5:59 pm

    Years ago, I watched a local craftsman make my grips for my 9mm and my .357 (both are long gone now). He used a tool almost exactly like yours. I remember he explained that he, too made it from a file. I completely forgot about that tool over the years. Thank you for bringing it back to show those who have never seen one.

  4. Dan Roper on 22 December 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Paul I am once again blown away by your creative genius. The mark of a true master is the ability to create the tools he needs to make a masterpiece. I have never had need of a checkering tool for my gun stocks and therefore have never used one on wood. But when it comes to checkering, I have done a masterful job on my past. 🙂
    Cheers to you and Merry Christmas / Happy Chanukah to everyone that reads this post.


  5. Christian Aigner on 23 December 2016 at 5:42 am

    I’d love to see a video about this tool and its use for checkering.

    Merry Christmas!

  6. Peter Littlejohn on 23 December 2016 at 11:01 am

    Hi Paul,
    Your skills never cease to amaze me; dabbling into the world of metalwork with the same skill and finish we have come to expect from you. What other way would you know otherwise. This tool is one I’ve never seen or heard of before, but as soon as I read your description of it’s use, it’s obvious that this is the woodwork equivalent of a knurling tool used on many metalwork tools and parts for the same reason.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family and I look forward to seeing many more gems like this from you in 2017.

  7. Jerry on 24 December 2016 at 12:57 am

    I love the Parker pen.

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