TTAG commentator Dyspeptic Gunsmith writes:
The Ithaca 37 is one of the last pump guns made with an all-steel receiver and nice wood stock. They’re very well built. Some people don’t care for the loading/ejection out of the same port, but for those who do, it works, and it serves righties as well as lefties equally well. NB how the price is up in the $1K area for a quality, US-made gun.
What JWT describes in how the stock bites him is a result of the stock having no “toe-out.” This is a complaint that happens often in not only this shotgun, but in many other shotguns. I hear this complaint from men with larger pectoral and women with larger breast development. The solution is to either a) make the stock with ‘toe-out’ in the first place, or b) adjust the stock to have toe-out. So you could seek out a stock maker to make you a new buttstock, or adjust this one.
I was taught how to adjust stocks to have toe-out by an old English gunsmith, he of the Birmingham gun trade, in an operation that, if owners of the guns were to see it, would probably make them hit the ceiling.
You clamp the gun in a fixture that holds the receiver and barrels firmly. The rear of the fixture will have a clamp that attaches to the butt of the stock (sometimes with screws) and allows a torsion to be put on the stock, pushing the toe out.
This technique works on only wood stocks, and the wood on that 37 you’re holding is quite nice.
You wrap the wrist of the stock in rags that are soaked in linseed oil that has been heated. Put a pan under the stock to catch excess oil. Keep soaking the rags in heated oil. The oil could be heated safely to, oh, about 250F+. Keep it under 300F to prevent the oil igniting in the heating vessel.
OK, when you’ve got a layer of cotton rags around the wrist of the stock, and you’ve allowed the heat from the heated oil to work, try to toe-out the stock a bit more. In good, harder woods, you’ll not get much results – but you’ll feel that the wood is getting more pliable. What you need is a bit more heat.
None of the foregoing is what makes the owners hit the ceiling. This next part is.
When you need more heat to get into the wood fibers, you light the outer layer of rag around the wrist of the stock on fire. Don’t let the flames get away from you, you just keep spooning more oil onto the rags. Keep the flame off the wood. This takes practice, so start with a walnut plank for your first practice piece of wood. Let the fire burn for, oh, a minute to 90 seconds, then blow it out. It goes without saying that you should have an extinguisher nearby, but let’s get that on the record.
Let the heat of the fire work down through the saturated rags into the wood. Try putting more toe-out into the stock. As the heat works its way into the wrist, you’ll be able to gradually put more toe-out into the buttstock. If you don’t have enough toe-out yet, you re-light the flames. Lather, rinse, repeat. When you have the toe-out you desire, you pull off the rags, wipe off any excess oil, and leave the shotgun in the fixture to cool. Let it cool, oh, four+ hours in the fixture. You’re waiting for the wood fibers to set up again.
An alternative to this method is to use a steam generator, but you’ll end up with lots of water in the action as the steam condenses on the steel parts. If you go the steam route, you should probably pull the lockwork out of the action and spray the inside with WD-40 to keep water from penetrating into nooks and crannies in there. You’ll also find out that it takes quite a while to heat up the wood enough to get the toe-out you desire with steam, since the steam you can commonly generate outside a boiler will be limited in how hot it is.
All we’re doing here is what fine furniture makers have known for hundreds of years: you can bend or twist wood if you get the fibers hot enough to start them becoming supple and plastic. Hold the heated, now-plastic wood in the desired position, allow it to cool and you’re on your way to becoming the next Sam Maloof.
I’ve done the flaming linseed oil rag technique a couple of times, and the owners who had “toe bite” really appreciate a stock that no longer punches them “right there” as they’d call it. I don’t understand why more shotgun manufactures don’t put at least a little toe-out onto their stocks. The two adjustments that people really seem to appreciate in a stock are cast-off and toe-out (for right-handed shooters).