Tough Choices: 90 Degree or 75 Degree Hand Checkering Tools?

Tough Choices: 90 Degree or 75 Degree Hand Checkering Tools?

        Whether you are shopping for your first ever checkering tools or are looking to fortify and restock your tool inventory you may be asking yourself what angle of cutter should I purchase? If you are new to the hobby, it can be confusing to decide which cutter you want to add to your toolbox or maybe which one to use. Today we will dive into exploring the difference between two important checkering tools to have in your tool kit! The two checkering tools we’re comparing today are the 90 degree cutter and the 75 degree cutter.   


Rifle Forend with a beautiful fleur de lis and ribbon pattern. Hand Checkering Tools are lying beside it on a striped red, green, black, and white background.

Photo Courtesy of Connie Barry & Leroy Barry.


 How many Lines Per Inch (LPI) are you wanting?

        When deciding which hand checkering tool to use; either the 90 degree or the 75 degree, one of the first things to consider is how many lines per inch you desire. The number of lines per inch dictates how wide your diamonds will be once completed. The wider the diamond the deeper you will have to go to get your diamonds to point up nice and sharp. We recommend for larger diamonds (16 – 24) you use a 90 degree checkering tool, and for smaller diamonds (24 -32) you use the 75 degree checkering tool. For the wider diamonds we make this recommendation more as an economy of time than anything else. If you are using a 75 degree cutter on a wide diamond, say at 16 L.P.I., you will end up making several more passes to get to the proper depth so that your diamonds will point up. Granted you will have nice deep diamonds if you do use a 75 degree cutter but 90 degrees is more than ample to provide you with good purchase when handling the gunstock. On the finer L.P.I.s the reason we recommend the 75 degree cutter is not because of time it will take to checker, but because of the depth of the diamond. Yes, if you cut a 32 L.P.I. pattern at 90 degrees you would have to make fewer passes and would be done sooner. However, your diamonds would be shallow and they would lack the depth to give a good tactile feeling when handling the gun.


Hand Checkering Tool with what looks like a forend behind it on a white linen background.

Law and Borders

        There really is no right or wrong answer when you are making the decision of which hand checkering tool to use, much of it is in your design choices and the look you wish to achieve. The above are our recommendations based on decades of checkering experience. If you want deep diamonds spaced at 16 lines per inch then get the checkering tools that will accomplish your goals. This really applies at those mid-distance spacing. The oft-used 24 lines per inch is a great example, many checkers use 75 degree checkering tools for this but the majority use 90 degree tools. It comes down to your personal preference.

A quick tip: When cutting borders that are not generated from the master lines, i.e. along the barrel channel or the back of the grip; use a 75 degree cutter, it will give you a narrower line that helps your pattern look tidy and clean. It also helps to use the 75 degree checkering tool on curves as it reduces the chance of having too wide a border line if you tilt the checkering cutter a little while making the turn.


 A rack of Hand Checkering Tools after the bluing process has been completed.


Final thoughts

        Remember that there really are no right or wrong answers. Figure out what you like best, how much time you want to invest and move forward from there. If you are just getting started, 90 degrees are the way to go for all your cutting needs. But after you have gotten your cutters dirty and are progressing, we recommend having at least a few of each angle in your checkering tool kit because each project has its unique challenges and opportunities! Head on over to our website and snag yours today!


Ullman Precision Products Hand Checkering Tool on a white background




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