Interview With a Gunsmith - CRATEX Abrasives

This article is part of CRATEX Gunsmithing Tools series.
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Interview with an Expert Gunsmith (Bill Poole) - CRATEX Article Series

Welcome, Bill! And thanks for accepting to do this interview with us. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself, maybe something we can’t find on your website?

- My hobbies have always included firearms, however my second love is motorcycles. I have experienced road driving, hill climbing, flat track and motocross racing. Fishing and other outdoor activities have been enjoyed during my lifetime. Last but considered the most important is my sole-mate/wife, Debbie. We met in high school and have been together through all of life sharing business and pleasure. I have been trained as a machinist, certified welder in metal and plastics and experienced in most home remodeling tasks. I have held a patent in plastic welding equipment and I’m considered an expert in containment products for concrete joints. I was CEO of J P Specialties, Inc. for a 35-year period.

How long have you been working as a gunsmith? Can you describe your beginnings?

- I have been gunsmithing for over 35 years. When I moved from the Illinois to San Clemente, California in 1982 I discovered the San Clemente Trap & Skeet Club. After joining the club I participated in many trap and skeet shoots. Many of the club shooters brought me their shotguns for repair or modification. We opened our first retail store in San Clemente and began working with the local police departments and military from Camp Pendelton doing repairs. Several years later we expanded our business and moved to Laguna Niguel. In 1989 we moved the business to Lake Elsinore, California where we purchased a 5,000 sf building. In 2012 I was retired and we moved to Prescott, Arizona. 3 years later we moved to Wickenburg, Arizona where I came out of retirement and opened our new 2,200 sf retail gun store with complete gunsmithing service known as “Poole’s Gunsmithing/ Arizona Custom Firearms”.

Can you describe your (or your team's) day on the job as a gunsmith? Or your typical work week if more suitable?

- We have one full time, professional gunsmith who has over 14 years in special operations military experience whom we employ, my wife and myself. My day starts at 8 am and ends at 4pm. A day on the job is filled with multiple challenges of repairing/restoring all types of firearms. We have repaired firearms from the late 1800’s to present day. Since opening our new store in April 2017 we have repaired over 400 firearms. In the course of a day we are selling new, used or consignment guns. We handle transfers, background checks and discuss technical questions. All gun work is test fired in our bullet trap. We are authorized by the Game and Fish Department of Arizona to sell hunting and fishing licenses.

What gunsmith service do you provide the most at Poole’s Gunsmithing: repair, engraving, customization or some other? Do you work mostly with guns or rifles?

- At Poole’s Gunsmithing we repair all types of firearms and restore them to a safe shooting condition. In addition we discuss with our customers what type of custom firearm we can build to order. We offer long range rifles, target pistols or revolvers and concealed carry. We manufacture our own “Match” AR15 platform rifles/pistols. Our name “Poole’s” and our logo appear on the lower receiver. Poole’s works in conjunction with the best bluing service and engraving service, offering a full service gunsmithing shop.

Poole’s Gunsmithing/ Arizona Custom Firearms

What's the last project that you did that was especially challenging?

- The most challenging work is usually the older double barrel shotguns. These would be from the early 1900’s to 1940. There were many brand names that were private labeled for department stores and hardware stores. Obtaining schematics and parts is a challenge. These guns require custom made parts and hand fitting for each and every particular gun.

Gun Polishing With Cratex

Can you name the most important factors to become a successful gunsmith?

- Apprenticing, formal training, patience, testing your work before returning the gun to the customer. No short cuts. Upfront accurate quotations for your repairs.

What is your advice for those who just started with gunsmith school and career?

- Take the career seriously. Plan to work as many hours as necessary to provide quality work. Always remember the firearm you are working on can take a life or save a life; make sure it is reliable.

What are the essential gunsmithing tools in your shop you can’t work without?

Machinery would be a precision lathe, baldor buffer, disc & belt metal grinder, fordem motor/shaft, barrel vise, milling machine, abrasive blaster, heat treating furnace, air compressor and hundreds of specialty hand tools.

What type of abrasives do you use in your shop: rubber wheels, points, cones, etc.? Please describe the purpose of the use: polishing, grinding, finishing, etc. Why do you need abrasives and in what phases do you use them?

- Belts and discs for the grinder to remove metal fast. Hard 8” wheels for polishing flat surfaces and deburring on receivers and parts. Sewn cloth 8” for use on the buffer for polishing parts. Loose cloth for high luster polish on stainless steel parts. Baldor buffers are handy for polishing large parts.

Depending on the abrasive shape, what size (diameter) and grit type are mostly used by gunsmiths?

- When using a foredom shaft drive tool we use diameters of ¼” to 5/8”. The shape most common is a cone shape or drum shape. Rubber shapes in medium or fine to polish. MX for more aggressive prep work.

You use MX abrasives (aluminum oxide abrasives). What is the main difference (advantage) between those and rubber abrasives? Why other gunsmiths should try MX mounted wheels and cones?

- MX is perfect for removing tooling marks left on parts from milling. Feed ramps on pistols that have machine gouges on the ramps cause jamming. Use MX cone shape to remove marks and then polish with the fine rubber cone or hard felt with the right compound.

Did you try some other Cratex products, like Spedecut cut-off wheels or Brightboy abrasives?

- We use the Cratex small diameter round pencil shaft rods for jeweling metal parts.

How did you learn about CRATEX products? Official website, forum/blog, recommended by other gunsmiths?

- Started using Cratex abrasives in the mid 80’s after visiting “Tussey Custom” in Tustin, Ca. Terry Tussey is one of the best pistol smiths in the country and turned me on to Cratex. He now teaches gun smithing in Nevada.

When did you start using CRATEX abrasives?

- 1982

Why did you choose our products instead of some other manufacturer?

- Cratex is by far the very best. I say this because Cratex offers a vast variety of abrasive grits, types, and shapes to match my projects. The quality of the Cratex products affords me the opportunity to provide my customers with the best quality product. Without the Cratex products our work would be so much more labor intensive.

What do you like the most? A) Quality & Material? B) Price? C) Customer service? Other (describe main benefits using CRATEX abrasives)

A, B & C I like them all. The main benefit to Cratex is that it works!!!

Is there anything we could do to make you a more satisfied customer? (product improvement/online store/website/other)

- Yes, mount the rubber cones & drum shapes to a fixed shaft. This would prevent the rubber abrasive from dislodging from the existing shaft design.

Would you recommend CRATEX products to others, and if yes, how would the recommendation sound?

- You have tried other products, now buy Cratex for the results you have been looking for.