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Old August 11, 2014, 07:43 PM   #1
dakota.potts
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Make handgun grips/knife handles out of pallets?

I'm interested in doing some light woodworking for making pistol grips and knife handles. I'm not really experienced working with wood and a lot of the nicer woods to do it with can be prohibitively expensive for experimentation.

Today I was pulling some weeds out of my small vegetable garden when I got a good look at the pallets I used to make up the fence. It was never a very good fence anyways, and I noticed that some of the wood on there actually looked pretty decent.

I had to get to thinking, would it be possible to use the wood as practice for this? It wouldn't stay on a handgun long term, but might give me some practice learning to shape and drill them. I have a couple different handguns I could learn on and even a VZ 58 that I've thought about making a new grip for but didn't want to jump straight into any of the exotic woods that would look good on them.

Also, could I stain and seal them to get some practice doing that too? Has anyone tried it before?
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Old August 11, 2014, 08:09 PM   #2
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Making grips from scratch is difficult enough WITHOUT starting with 3rd rate pine... I don't recommend it 'cause the decent wood you will eventually be using will be a lot different in many ways (hardness for one...) so I don't feel the practice would benefit you much.
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Old August 11, 2014, 08:23 PM   #3
musher
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the heavy members in a lot of pallets are made of oak.
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Old August 11, 2014, 08:37 PM   #4
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There you go... Oak heavy members might work...
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Old August 11, 2014, 08:45 PM   #5
dakota.potts
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How can I identify oak vs. pine?

There's a place right down the road that sells pallets for $1 each, so even if none of mine have decent hardwood like oak (I've heard ash is used sometimes too) I might be able to check theirs. I can get a lot of stock off even a couple of boards if that's the case.
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Old August 11, 2014, 08:45 PM   #6
mete
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They make pallets from wood .usually hardwood like oak, plastic and even steel !
Tulip polar, soft maple ,basswood or any fairly soft but fine grained wood wood work .Rasps , files , chisels , knives are the tools.
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Old August 11, 2014, 09:38 PM   #7
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I have been examining pallets as a source of wood for an above the door shelf. Wood types vary considerable. There are some very exotic woods used in pallets and I don’t know what trees they came from. Too bad the stuff is often dirty, split, and rough cut. Boards were nailed down so hard, and with twist shaft nails, that every board I pried up broke. Second pallet attempt I took a circular saw and cut the wood off the pallet. The lengths were not 40” unfortunately as pallets are 48”.

A bud of mine, he laid a grid pattern of South American cherry wood on the ceiling of his trailer that came from pallets. It had little nail holes at the ends. I have no idea how he was able to pry the wood apart without breaking but it sure had a nice finish.

Why not use pallet wood if it fits your needs?
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Old August 11, 2014, 10:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
How can I identify oak vs. pine?
Try driving a nail in them, if it's seasoned oak the nail will most likely bend, if it's pine the nail should go in fairly easy.

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Old August 12, 2014, 03:12 AM   #9
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One can pretty much look at the wood and tell the difference between pine, a softwood, and hardwoods like oak. Generally pine has wide growth rings, and there is always that yellow streak in the grain coming from this, along with knots. Oak has tight rings, and is a very dense wood, with a slightly tan to redish color when dry, whereas pine is generally a pale yellow to tan with the yellow streaks in the grain. If you try to apply a stain to pine, those streaks will stand out, and not take stain well at all, whereas oak, poplar, etc. will absorb the stain and have an even color. The easiest way to see the difference is a simple visit to Lowes, and look at the difference between the two. There are some websites with color photos showing the difference too.
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Old August 12, 2014, 10:21 AM   #10
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Any seasoned and dry wood is valid.

I'm always on the lookout for a good piece of wood and recently got an item in a crate and some the slats were Zebra wood. More and more, we are seeing Asian as well as South American hardwood and secondary hardwoods. Practice with soft and finish with hard. ....

Moisture content should be a priority as you don't want any surprises later. A good source of grip and knife handle "seasoned" hardwoods is garage sales and Goodwill. Some are even labeled with the name of the wood. .....

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Old August 12, 2014, 10:22 AM   #11
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Pallets are made and shipped all over the world. Some of the prettiest wood I have ever seen came off an old pallet we found at an air national guard base.
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Old August 12, 2014, 12:11 PM   #12
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Imported wooden pallets must be treated with pesticides !! That's why more and more are made of plastic !
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Old August 13, 2014, 08:01 PM   #13
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I didn't hear it from anybody of particular authority, but (I think) my dad was the one who told me that a lot of the old hardwood pallets were made from gumwood. No, I have no idea what gumwood is- but I've spent the majority of my life thinking it rough and every bit as tough as wet oak.
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Old August 14, 2014, 07:44 PM   #14
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When living in Washington state back in the 70's, I had a friend who moonlighted at the docks. He got ahold of some pallets that were Teak.
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Old August 14, 2014, 09:00 PM   #15
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Yeah, the pallets I have seen and used have almost anything in them. They are usually assembled when green and the wood dries and shrinks on the nails. If you are only making small somewhat flat items you can not go wrong. Most of the top and bottom pieces I see are REAL hardwoods. Like: oak, beech, locust, osage orange, and a smattering of poplar and pine/spruce. Once sanded down, this wood will look as good as anything you paid big bucks for.
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Old August 16, 2014, 04:58 PM   #16
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I have done a decent amount of knife making and I would have to say pick up some wood from the hardware store. If you just want to practice shaping the wood, pallets will work fine. However, the cheap pine the pallets are made of will not give you the same feel as working hardwoods. So essentially practicing on pine when you want an end product made of maple is not ideal. I would also not put pine scales on a knife or a gun. Mostly its just too soft, but it also stains badly and is ugly as heck! If you're going to spend the time hand shaping handles, you might as well spend a little money to give yourself the best shot you can. My advice is to just pick up some straight grained walnut from the hardware store. It looks just fine, stains nicely (I would use BLO or tung oil), is plenty hard (think of how many gunstocks are made out of the stuff), shapes well, and is readily available. Plus, $10 of walnut will make a LOT of knife handles! So it's pretty cheap compared to other stuff. When you're done practicing on the walnut, go ahead and spend some money to get some more exotic hardwoods.
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Old August 17, 2014, 01:40 AM   #17
Bill DeShivs
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All pallets are not made of pine! As I said, they are made (and shipped) all over the world, so whatever indigenous wood is common is used.
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Old August 17, 2014, 04:54 AM   #18
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We have a pallet manufacturer close to Ironton Ohio, and they use about everything, and most is hardwood. They do use pine, but not for pallets used for heavy loads, unless it is a custom pallet for a piece of machinery, and here, they use all 2X material for the top, and 4x4's for the runners. When you buy new pallets, you have to order which you want in duty rating, and pine is the cheapest. They use oak for things like shipping 50 gal. drums full of steel shot, etc.

Now that plastic pallets continue to grow, I wonder how much longer these wood pallet manufacturers will make it. When I owned that machine/fab shop back in the mid 90's, I had to keep pallets locked inside the building every evening, as people would steal them overnight. That was the problem of the shop being close to a highway too.
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Old August 17, 2014, 05:08 PM   #19
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Use a reciprocating saw

To take the pallets apart you will need a recipricating saw with steel cutting blades. You cut the nails between the cracks where the wood was fastened.

Last edited by hartcreek; August 17, 2014 at 05:08 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old August 19, 2014, 12:58 AM   #20
dakota.potts
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Moved a pallet with nice-ish grain inside. I guess we'll see how it goes
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Old August 20, 2014, 05:54 PM   #21
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A good source for mahogany pallets is a piano store that sells pianos made in Indonesia. They make their pallets out of the scrap left over from making the pianos. Its rough sawn but a planer will cut it to the thickness you want and bring out the grain pattern also.
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Old August 20, 2014, 06:12 PM   #22
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Lots of good info here. Have re-purposed many a pallet in my day. Most are made of hardwood. Have some really nice black cherry in my stack that I haven't found a use for as yet.

One word of caution on the exotics, wear at minimum a dust mask when machining or sanding as the dust from some is toxic.

Great tip on the piano pallet BTW.

One more place to find great pieces is from wood flooring installation scraps.
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Old August 20, 2014, 07:12 PM   #23
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Pallets are made out of whatever wood, scrap or otherwise, is both cheap and handy.

I've seen pallets of local manufacture made out of cottonwood ....

I salvaged the wood from a pallet that a bunch of Jatoba ("Brazilian Cherry) wood flooring came in .... it was made of a a "lower grade" of the same wood .... I thought the spalting and stark contrast between the sapwood and heartwood was really beautiful ..... I made a a tabletop for my brother, among other things, out of it.

If you are going to use oak, try to use white oak ..... red oak is open grained and does not weather well, swelling much more with changes in humidity...

Pieces of wood small enough for grips and knife handles are not that costly around here- even small scraps of really exotic stuff like bloodwood or lacewood can be had for a buck or two at the local woodworking store ..... I imagine this can't be the only region of the country that has those.......

ID of common woods used in flooring:

http://woodfloors.org/gallery.aspx
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Old August 21, 2014, 06:52 PM   #24
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Seconday use wood from Goodwill !!

Yesterday I was able to find some very nice pieces of Ebony, American Black Walnut and Rosewood, at Goodwill. Price were very reasonable on the items made from these woods. The Walnut was in a set of salad bowls and the Rosewood, was in a set of candle holders. All will go into my powder horns, knife handles and Single-Six grips. ....

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