The Joy of Kydex
Gary Chillingworth works on customising a standard stock with performance in mind
Last month, I received an email from a reader who asked how they could turn a standard stock into something that resembled my CS1000. It’s fair to say that with aftermarket stocks costing from £ 300 to £700, they are something of a luxury, so to make this transformation, and to do it for under £75, there are three areas that we need to look at; the cheek riser, the butt plate, and the depth of the stock. Over the next two issues, we will look at these, but for this month, we’ll check out the cheek riser.
A raised cheek riser is one of the most essential things you can have on a modern rifle. If you are going to shoot from the prone position and rest the butt of the rifle on the floor, you could struggle if you have a standard cheek riser. Many top rifles, like the HFT-500, Gold Star and Steyrs, have adjustable risers as standard, but if you have a rifle like an HW100, S400 or TX200, then the comb of the cheek riser will be low, so you could end up with a floating head on certain shots and this can lead to parallax error and missed targets.
The most basic answer is to take the rifle to a woodworker and have them cut the cheek piece, and attach a cheek-rising kit from someone like Rowan Engineering, but this will cost between £ 50 and £100 and for this experiment it’s too expensive. Also, chopping the stock is drastic because if you change your mind, you can never go back.
Making a cheek riser is simple and cheap and this is where Kydex makes its first appearance. Kydex is a thermal plastic and in its cold form it’s hard and rigid, but heat it up and it can be moulded with some very basic skill, and cut with a hacksaw blade or a Dremmel.
Before you start, you will need to get some kit. First of all, you will need some sheets of Kydex; these can be purchased in an assortment of colours and thicknesses from eBay and I purchased three that were 1.5mm thick and A4 in size, in black for £14. I also bought some wide masking tape, two bolts to go through the stock, some plastic star-head retaining nuts and some fine sandpaper. I also needed an oven or a hot-air gun, a power drill and a small, flat file. So, to buy a single sheet of Kydex with bolts and nuts it will cost you about £10.
The first thing you want to do is to cut up a cereal box and make a template. I offered the template up to the stock and stuck it in place with a bit of tape, then filled the void between the top of the comb and the top of the cardboard riser with newspaper, to add strength, and I lightly placed my head onto it. I laid prone and I could see that with the cheek riser set just below the level of the scope, I could get a good cheek weld, and the new riser was to be adjustable so I knew that this would be fine.
Time to drill!
With it fixed in place, I then marked the card to indicate where I wanted to drill my stock holes. You must bear in mind where your hand sits on the stock because you don’t want the bolts to impede your grip. The next stage is taking the cardboard template and laying it on top of the sheet of Kydex. Cover the Kydex in masking tape and draw round the template. Now, this is where the fun starts.
If you want, you can cut the Kydex when it’s cold, and this can be done with a bandor jig-saw, or even with a pair of tin snips. If you use snips, cut it a little too large and you can sand it smooth afterwards. The easiest way, though, is to place the Kydex on a heat-resistant board – a piece of wood covered in tinfoil is perfect – and heat it up, either with the heat gun or put it in a hot oven at about 220C for about a minute, to let the Kydex go all floppy. When it gets to this stage, you can cut it with scissors or a Stanley knife, but remember, it’s hot plastic, so wear thick gloves.
When you have heated the Kydex and cut out the rough shape of your cheek riser, it’s now time to decide what sort of cheek riser profile you require. If you want an exact copy of the one you already have, then this is nice and simple. Take the Kydex you have just cut out and mark a line down the centre, reheat the Kydex and then place the sheet on top of the comb of the stock, and line up the central line with the middle of the scope. Remember to wear gloves because the Kydex will be very hot. Then, gently grip it from both sides, push it into place and hold it there until it cools – you will now have a copy of your rifle’s cheek piece.
A shape to suit
If you want a different sort of cheek riser, for instance something square like a Steyr,
or rounded, then you will have to make a profile to sit on top of the comb. If you would like a cylindrical profile for the top of your riser, and this type of riser is perfect for turning a right- or left-handed stock into an ambidextrous unit, then a perfect thing to use is a tube that once contained Vitamin C tablets. Attach this to the top of your riser with a bit of tape and repeat the process of heating the Kydex and forming it over the tube. If you make a mistake, the Kydex can be reheated multiple times.
Once you have the profile of the riser and you are happy with it, offer it up to the stock and make sure that the marks you made for the holes line up with your stock. If they do, remove the riser and drill the holes on one side of the riser only. The holes need to be only slightly bigger than the bolts you are going to use. When you have drilled the riser, again offer it up to the stock and check that the holes in the riser line up with the marks on the stock. If they do, then drill the stock making sure that the drill is level on both the horizontal and vertical planes. If you’re not entirely happy about doing this, get someone to help. It’s also a good idea, to get some scrap wood that is a similar thickness to your stock and have a few practise goes.
You then need to drill the holes on the other side of the riser. The easy way to do this, is to put the riser on the stock and after making sure it’s in line, place the drill bit through the riser and stock and as long as the drill bit is long enough, just drill through the other side – if the bit isn’t long enough, you will have to measure.
With the holes now drilled on both sides, you now want to make your slots so that the riser can adjust up and down. To do this, drill two holes one on each side of the first hole on the vertical plane. Make these as close together as possible, and once you have drilled the extra four holes, take a small file and file the points flat. You should now have a small slot. Repeat this process for all four slots and once this is done, your riser is ready.
Remove the masking tape and offer the riser up to the stock, slide the bolts through the slots – I like to use some spring washers as well – and attach the retaining bolts to the right side of the stock. The riser should now slide up and down and be fully adjustable.
If you don’t want it to be adjustable, you don’t have to cut the slots; you can just screw the riser to the stock, or if you want to leave the stock untouched, you can fix it with heavy- duty 3” Velcro and fill the void between the top of the comb and the riser with expanding foam to prevent the riser from being pushed down when you rest your cheek on it. Just cover the stock in duct tape to prevent damage to the wood whilst the foam sets.
There are some great videos on YouTube, and these will certainly help you when working with Kydex. It a very simple medium to work with and if you have more talent then I, you can get some great results. Next month, we will look at adjustable butt plates and hamsters.
“the problem is, unlike Larissa who is young and fit, I’m old, a bit fat, and I also have a dodgy back”
If you have any ideas, or if there is anything you want me to look at, please drop me a line at garychilling[email protected] gmail.com
After heating the Kydex sheet in the oven, place it on the form and hold down
Covering the Kydex with masking tape makes marking it easy
Make a profile, a cylindrical one is perfect.
With the modification done it’s now in perfect line
Measure twice, drill once
Drill the stock and slide the bolts through, then fix with star nuts
Drill the holes and cutout the remaining bumps with a Dremel or a file
Offer it up to the stock and it will show you if it’s big enough