Portrait / Vita

Stefan Schmidt

The perfect synthesis between wood and metal is the stock.

The stock
Since 2002 I have been stocking traditional hunting rifles and shotguns in my workshop. Working with wood has been a long family tradition – we don’t compromise on quality. We always strive for perfection.

Wood is a special substance. It arises from nature, it is organic and not synthetic. It reveals its secrets only to those who cares for them. It has to ripen like good wine. Wood breathes and lives. It is strong and yet sensitive. It needs care, it needs respect. It is individual. All these qualities are appreciated by connoisseurs and aesthetes who see their hunting weapons not only as a tool, but also as a cultural asset.
My father has established our family business. He is a master carpenter and a certified restorer. With him, I have restored many pieces of furniture and many vintage interiors to their former beauty. I assisted him when he was building the wooden case for the legendary table clock "Atmos" by request of the Swiss manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre. For this work he had to use ebony, maple and rosewood – and the combination of the woods was a stunning highlight that made each clock unique. What fascinated me most about the project, however, was the compound of the two basic materials: wood and metal.
Stocking is probably the perfect combination of wood and metal. The stock is not just a pretty ornament – it is an essential part of any gun. It is the stock that combines barrel and action and thus makes the rifle or shotgun as a whole.
From textbooks I learned that cabinet makers (“Kunsttischler”) performed the first stocking tasks long before the profession of the stocker came into being. When I read this the spark hit me. I felt a first thrill of enthusiasm for the craft of stocking, but became really passionate about it, when I was completing my apprenticeship at the renowned manufactory Ziegenhahn and Sohn. They produce finest break action hunting weapons under the leadership of Jens Ziegenhahn.
The stocker’s tasks are rich in variety. He is responsible for many things: He has to ensure the perfect wood-to-metal fit. He shapes the stock according to the customer’s physical and aesthetical requirements. A stock must withstand enormous forces when the gun is being fired; it has also to stand the rough use in the field – and like no other part the stock has to please the eyes: A well-shaped stock makes, a bad stock breaks the gun.

Finally, the stocker does all the wood finishing. He grinds the wood several times, first using coarse, subsequently fine, finally finest sandpaper, in order to make the wood’s surface as smooth as possible. This is essential for any finish, in particular for an oil finish. For a semi-gloss or high-gloss look the pores of the wood must be sealed completely. When the layers of oil have been successfully applied, the stocker cuts the checkering according the customer's requirements and eventually covers the stock’s butt with finest leather. All the work is done by hand. Only in this way an outstanding quality can be achieved, a quality that mass-produced firearms will never reach.