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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I like the wood on the stocks of Garands and M14's almost as much as the
rifle as a whole, years of woodworking have had an affect on how I look at
these things. I'm old enough to have been around when almost all guns had wood as a basic component, probably has an affect on the guns we like, just makes sense.
I had an opportunity recently to take a closer look at the differences between Beech and Birch. Not that it's a big deal and I can understand that not everyone cares but to me, it's fun to look at the characteristics of the stocks we use and how they affect what and how we shoot.

Tradition favors Walnut, and it's the preference of many. You can't build 6.5 million Garands (not to mention Carbines) and not make a pretty good size dent in our nations ability to supply quality, properly cut and dried, Walnut.
It takes a certain size tree to produce enough blanks to make decent quality stocks. That and a number of other reasons shifted the trend from wood to synthetics for our stock materials.

We started to look at alternatives, even for Garand production. By the time the M14 came around, the percentage of wood stocks that were not Walnut had gone up. The obvious choices were Birch and Beech.
Obvious because the Northeast forests are filled with these trees, they grow in similar climates and often right next to each other, but they do have some slightly different properties.

If you are still here, you probably like wood and stocks so here's some specifics.

Beech is a hardwood (they both are for that matter), is strong across and with the grain, is known for taking shock well and has small pores, making finishing this wood easy. It can have a very nice and obvious grain pattern depending on the way the wood is cut and it's orientation in the tree (quartersawn is ideal). It's well liked by furniture and cabinet makers, has been used for flooring and drum makers find it imparts a nice sound to drums
(you have to be a drummer to get that part). It takes a stain nicely and not a lot of time is spent filling pores, Walnut, for example, can be time consuming to produce a really nice finish just because the pores require filling to produce a gloss finish, not something we think of with stocks most of the time.
It's fair to say that it's color is more yellow than red unless heavily stained.
As with all wood, the stock maker can bring out all the nice features of this wood depending on it's cut and the way its worked to produce the stock. Some feel that Beech is not as moisture resistant as Birch and do not use it
in furniture that will be subjected to moisture.

Birch has a bark that peels off easily and was used centuries ago as one of the sources of parchment. Both of these woods are popular as firewood, Birch particularly due to the oils it containes. It has a stiff, close grain with little pattern with some exceptions. It's more even in color than Beech and tends to be more moisture resistant than Beech. It's often more red than yellow but the comparisons can be tough to call in some situations. It too is used for drums and furniture, sometimes hardwood flooring.

So, generally speaking, it's often noted that Birch is somewhat more red and Beech lighter and closer to yellow in color. They both make great stocks but won't be confused for Walnut. If you are willing to consider a stock made of something other than Walnut, these woods can be used nicely and have some very positive properties.

These are my experiences with the two wood types, yours may be somewhat different. I'm going to post photos of the two as stocks, it should be helpful
in deciding what you have.

Here's a Sykes Big Red Birch stock:

and it's typical stamp in the but of the stock


This is pretty typical of a Beech stock and shows it's grain pattern. This one happens to be cut perfectly on the quarter, something all woodworkers prize for it's strength and tendency to show off the best of the wood:



Here are some side by side comparisons, you'll notice why the Birch big red earned it's name. Neither stock has been subjected to much sanding, the
proof P is still relatively intact on the Beech stock...




And more of why it's called Big Red





If you've gotten this far, and are still awake, hopefully this helps distinguish
between these two woods. I've found the Big Red to be dense, strong
and an ideal stock for the M14. Properly bedded, it's hard to beat. Beech has some really nice grain patterns, somewhat similar to Walnut. Also a great stock. Considering the weight of the big Red, I certainly understand why the synthetics are popular.
Wood happens to interest me so it's an easy call.

Best
Bruce
 

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old6string
Nice write up! After reading it I now know a stock that I have is beech, I had allways thought it was birch. Thanks

Casey
 

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Hey, Bruce. I'm virtually certain both stocks pictured are birch - one, a "big red" as you describe and the other, just standard birch. Beech is not pictured. To my knowledge the M14 stock was never made in Beech. Maybe Different will chime in, as he is the man when it comes to anything M14. Go to ODCMP.COM and search the site for excellent images of beech stocks. Happy Holidays.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
If I'm wrong, it won't be the first time today! But I have really looked at this wood carefully and there is a huge difference in the grain pattern, wood density
and type and size of the pores. The portion of a tree the stock is cut from can
count for a lot but I'd be surprised if it made this much difference.
There are variations in species, that can be. But in a forest where these trees grow side by side, a forestry expert would need to make the call as to which
was used. Not to say they did not have those folks involved but both woods
show up on stocks so it seems likely to me. But, as I said, glad to be
wrong if that's the case.
Best
Bruce
 

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I concur with buchkshot; both of those stocks look like birch. A characteristic of beech stocks are white freckles or "maggots" in the tighter grain of the wood, as seen in the Danish M1 Garands restocked in beech.

I've never seen a beech M14 stock; do they exist?
 

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They are both birch. One just happens to be lighter than the other. As far as I know beech ws never used for any US stock production. It was used in Europe for gun stocks with Sweden, Denmark and greece being the ones I can name off the top of my head. Beech has a very distinctive freckling or fish eye pattern that make identification fairly easy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well, glad to be informed and have learned.
The basis for my theory is this.
There is one variety of Beech in the U.S., American Beech, in the sub-group
with Sycamore, very similar woods. They have numerous and very visible rays, often appearing as visible lines. This is a consistent trait of Beech. And I agree, Beech is fairly easy to spot, but often confused with Sycamore, it's closest
hardwood in appearance to the eye and the magnified view.

Birch has several species in this country and it's heartwood, the wood we always see in stocks (where sapwood is used in other areas, mostly instruments
and sometimes furniture) is a reddish brown, a pattern that is consistent in all
of the American varieties of Birch. All of the birch I've examined is exactly like the one stock I showed and it has little in common with the other stock.

However, seems to be beating a dead horse and I defer to those who are more familiar with these stocks than I am. Glad to be educated.
I just like wood.

Best regards
Bruce
 

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As an old school rudimental and field snare drummer, I know what you mean about using beech and birch in wood shell drums. I have owned and used two wood shell/rope tension drums in reenacting. I also have one shell, hoops and heads that some day I may finish converting into a rope field drum........when I get the time or more likely when I run across someone who needs the drum. Oh, I have also tried aluminum sticks with fiberglass tips and I HATE those sticks and will only use wood sticks I pick out personally.

Brich was used as a secondary wood for stocks in this country for really cheap trade guns and low quality fowling guns as early as the 18th century. However, walnut and hard maple were ALWAYS the prefered wood for guns stocks here then and for military stocks (walnut) and for rifle stocks (hard maple).

Beech was a much more common secondary gun stock wood in Europe as they did not have the quantity of yellow birch we had/have on this continent.

The famed Brown Bess of the British Army began in 1718 and ran into the first few decades of the 19th century and for almost all of its production, they only used walnut for the stocks. The ONLY time the British ever allowed the use of beech for British Ordnance Pattern Brown Besses was for a short time in extreme emergency of getting enough guns made fast enough for the Napoleonic wars. As soon as Napolean was defeated the second time and he died, the British Ordnance community QUICKLY surplus sold the beech stocked guns and went back to using only Walnut.

Beech was never accepted in this country as a secondary wood for M1 or M14 stocks, only birch.
 

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Great info. Can anyone describe the differences with birch and walnut m14 stocks with pics. Im having a hard time in determining between the two. Thx
 

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Gus,
Your definitely one few guys that when he says he has done it all, I believe it.

Casey
Well, I haven't done "it all," but that leads to another story. Grin.

Not long after our reenactment group, the 47th Virgiania infanftry Regiment,CO I, "The Stafford Guards" joined Longstreet's Corps, we were practicing Corps drill on Satuday to get ready for the reenactment on Sunday. As the CO of the 47th and because of my years in the military, I was also the XO of Longstreet's Corps. We had a group of about 5 drummers from the Individual unit's, so the CO decided we should practice "Firing by the Drum" to use that in the reenactment the next day. So we began teaching the whole Corps how to do it. Well, the drummers really screwed up the cadences twice, so I saluted the Corps Commander and said, "Sir, allow me to instruct the drummers on the Cadences." I borrowed a set of sticks from one drummer and played the cadences a couple of times correctly. THEN I had them all do it and on the fourth time, they had it down pat. So I went back to Corps Commander and saluted and said, "Sir, the drummers now have been instructed properly and they are ready for your command." So he went back to issuing the commands and the drummers did it correctly. After drill period for the Corps was over, the Corps Commander got me to the side and said, "Gus, is there ANYTHING you DON'T know about the miitary during the War of Southron Idependence?" I grinned and told him I had no clue how to do bugle calls, so don't ask me to help there. Grin.

"Fire by the Drum" was an original/authentic Drill Command that allowed the Officers to rest their throats and not go hoarse on the battlefield but it was also because the individual soldiers could HEAR the drums better than those screaming orders over the din of battle.

The Commands are, "Battalion!! (or company or Corps or whatever size unit you have) slight pause for subordinate commanders and NCO's to echo the command. then "Fire by the Drum!!" slight pause for subordinate commanders and NCO's to echo the command. then "Drummer/s ROLL!!" There are no further orders shouted or echoed.

Then short drum cadence after which the entire unit comes to "The Ready."

Same short drum cadence after which the entire unit comes to "AIM."

Slightly longer drum cadence after which the ENTIRE unit fires a volley all together at once, so it sounds like a single shot going off.

This is really is an impressive thing to see when a 150 man unit does it correctly at a Reenactment and during the War, it was QUITE devasting on morale to an enemy who was not nearly as well trained.
 

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Great info. Can anyone describe the differences with birch and walnut m14 stocks with pics. Im having a hard time in determining between the two. Thx
USGI M14 birch & walnut stocks can sometimes look surprisingly similar. Birch doesn't usually take stains & oils as evenly as walnut so it'll look "splotchier", but I've seen some pretty splotchy looking rearsenaled walnut stocks come out of the storage bags at the CMP.

Look at the stock wrist. If the end grain is noticeably darker than the sides of the wrist, it's most likely birch. Walnut will normally be more evenly colored.

Birch:


Walnut:
 

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Thanks for the info. Just not sure about my stock that i received from the cmp. when i received it i used stripper to strip the finish. Nothing stripped off. I then used mineral spirits on it the finish did not get lighter. the stock's color is like the pics throughout the stock.

hers a pic. if anyone could tell me which it is i'd appreciate it. thanks in advance

 
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