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.