A History of Claro Walnut Gunstock Company
Wally's Tree Service was founded by Wally Reiswig in 1949.
Tree surgery led into the removal of walnut trees and the export of walnut logs
to Italy for veneer. The logs not exported were sold to a local sawmill
and cut into gunstocks. Shortly thereafter, Wally started cutting his own
gunstock blanks and formed his own company.
Claro Walnut Gunstock Co. was born in 1958 with the
purchase of a 60-inch circular sawmill, which was set up at the company's
present location in Chico, California. This new endeavor was incorporated
with the existing tree surgery business. A contract was negotiated with
Winchester Firearms Co. in 1961 and gunstock blanks were supplied to them until
1981. During this 20 year period an average of 40,000 blanks per year
were cut and shipped. Up to 5,000 blanks per month were shipped during the
last few years of this contract. Winchester sold out in 1981 and the
resulting company, U.S. Repeating Arms Co., did not renew the contract.
Blanks and 90% finished stocks are now supplied to individuals and gunsmithing
operations world wide.
At present, a huge inventory of logs is stored at our mill site.
Some of these logs are over six feet in diameter and come from trees over 100
years old. The logs are cut into planks three inches thick, and then
marked out using templates for the various styles of gunstocks. The shape
of the individual blank is then cut out using a 30-inch band saw. Each
blank is inspected for defects and the ends dipped in a special wax that
prevents the wood from drying out too fast and cracking during the drying
process. The blanks are then stacked on pallets and placed in a solar dry
kiln where they are dried to 6% moisture content. Nine months are required
to dry plain and low-grade wood, and up to 18 months for drying the higher
grades. After drying, the blanks are run across a jointer to plane off
just enough wood so that they can be graded for figure, while maintaining a 2
5/8" thickness. Wood that is rejected can usually be cut down, the flaws
removed, and used for forearms or pistol grips.
A Note on Trees
Claro Black Walnut is not native to California. General
Bidwell, the founder of the city of Chico, imported seed stock from Greece and
Turkey. These trees were planted, mostly for shade, along highways, roads,
and city streets, as well as around buildings and farm yards. Over the
course of the last 100 years or so, the nuts from these trees have been
distributed by creeks and rivers, as well as by animals and man, to as far away
as the San Francisco Bay area. As a result Claro Black Walnut can now be
found all over Northern California.
Claro Black Walnut is a shorter tree than its eastern cousin,
American Black Walnut, and is much more colorful with its rich variations of
browns and reds. Its hardness is nearly the same as American Black Walnut.
No two slabs are alike, making each blank truly unique.