LIVINGSTON, Mont. — In a tidy workshop tucked behind Steven Hughes’ home here, four men from across the country meticulously worked on carving their own gun stocks.

As they worked, Hughes went from student to student, offering tips and advice, showing the men how its done. Three were creating Winchester Model 70 bolt action rifles while the fourth, a left hander, was creating stock for a single-shot rifle.

“That guy’s an artist,” Nate Woltering said of Hughes as he worked on his stock.

The Livingston gunsmith, who has been in the gun making business for four decades, has often shared his knowledge, teaching private lessons and gunsmithing classes, writing monthly columns for national publications, and writing three books.

But about five years ago, he came up with his own curriculum and began holding small week-long seminars in his own workshop.

“I feel my job is to give as much as I can in the five days,” Hughes said.

This year’s seminar recently started in Hughes’ gun shop, reported the Bozeman Daily Chronicle ( The course is designed to give participants an introduction to custom stock making.

Each day is more than eight hours of instruction, discussion and hands-on work. They started the week by hand making their own scrapers, which are steel tools they use throughout the week.

“You cannot buy this tool,” Hughes said.

Then using walnut imported from Australia, the group learns inletting, which is the fitting of the wood stock to the metal of the gun.

In addition to their hands-on work, Hughes spends each morning giving the group a lecture on different topics. On a recent Wednesday, he spoke about stock design.

Hughes said getting to teach his annual seminar is a privilege.

“It truly is. And I treat it as such,” he said.

This class features four students from Connecticut, New York, Kansas and Ohio.

Shawn Massey, 45, drove 1,100 miles from his home in Kansas to take part in Hughes’ workshop. An owner of a small gun shop, Massey said he didn’t have much experience in building his own firearms.

“I really want to learn how to do this,” Massey said while carefully working on his stock. “I figured I better come learn from the best.”

At 34, Woltering was the youngest of the students. From Columbus, Ohio, Woltering said he’s done small repairs on guns, but “nothing of this caliber.” And Hughes’ seminar offers an opportunity found nowhere else, he said.

“His influence has been very wide sweeping in the fine gun world,” Woltering said.

Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle,