Wood: The European Difference

posted on March 25, 2011

Wood. If you need one word to differentiate Europe’s shooting industry trade show from America’s counterpart, the SHOT Show, that word is wood. I don’t mean floors either. I refer to highly figured Turkish walnut, stunning pieces of marble-caked Circassian wood. The wood is not only sold in raw form, one- and two-piece blanks, but also adorns most of the higher-grade guns from the likes of Perazzi, Blaser and Krieghoff.

And there are plenty of premium guns on display this week at the IWA show in Nurenberg, Germany. Some 30,000-plus visitors come to check out the wood—and the plastic, polymer, aluminum, steel and Damascus. It’s all here, but what caught my eye (and my ATM card) was the wood.

I stopped by the booth of Van Agac Gunstock Blanks from Van, Turkey. There I met a swarthy, yet charming fellow with a cherubic face namedYusuk Inan. Yusuk had to step around stacks of Turkish walnut to get to me, a potential customer, as I examined a blank.

“Beautiful wood,” Yusuk enthused. “You like?”

“Hmmm,” I replied noncommittally. The last thing you do when dickering is to show anything resembling enthusiasm.

“I show you the best,” Yusuk continued. I feigned indifference as Yusuk unstacked a large pile and began culling the better blanks into a separate stack.

“How much you want spend?” Yusuk asked, the key question of a wood seller. From past experience, I knew I had to answer carefully.

“I want a nice piece with what we call marble-cake figure, but not too expensive,” I answered.

“Yes, we use same word, marble-cake… here, you like this?” he said teasingly, proffering a highly figured blank. “This one, it is one-thousand Euro.”

That’s about $1,400 which would require three trips to the ATM. However, I’ve bought a few blanks in the past from Ed Preslik, the premiere walnut man in Chico, Calif., and I knew that same blank in California walnut (not as desirable as Turkish walnut) would run anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500.

Ed had taught me the gold rule of wood selling—find out what the customer wants to spend, which then becomes the price of any blank that catches his eye. I used that trade secret to best advantage.

“Perhaps this one,” I said blandly, picking a really nice piece. “But only with a discount of 15 percent.”

Yusuk raised a eyebrow, “You pay cash?”

“Of course.”

“OK.”

We stepped into a small storage closest in the back of his booth and I counted out 800 Euro.

“Oh dear, that’s all I have,” I said. “I can come back later.”

Yusuk was a great salesman and knew how to you close. “Eight hundred, that’s okay,” he answered. Done deal.

That was negotiation number one. Now I had to go back to my hotel and explain to my wife what in the heck I’m doing with a giant piece of wood. That’s the difference between American and European gun shows—wood.

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