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Old April 10, 2013, 12:38 PM   #1
Skitter
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Make your own Handgun Grips

Limited on tools, but I can sand as needed, I have a rotozip to cut out the pattern. I have been finding it can be rather difficult to find grips for my specific handgun.

That being said, I figure I can trace the old ones, countersink the holed if needed. But what kind of wood/bone can be used? How to you "harden" it so that it's going to last as long as possible? What kind of finish do you generally use?

Thanks!
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Old April 10, 2013, 01:16 PM   #2
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I've made handgun grips, and it isn't tough to do. I'd go with a wood that doesn't easily split, and I've used Walnut and Bocote and I made a couple that I can't remember what wood I used. Brazilian Bloodwood is a good looking (dark red with gold streaks) choice if you like red. The Bocote has an eyecatching look to it.

I use the old grips as a pattern. It can be hard to precisely locate and drill the hole for the crossbolt screw, so be careful with that. As for a finish, I've used mostly a handrubbed linseed oil finish and I've used a wiping varnish (Danish Oil or Antique Oil or something similar). You could use a varnish, but if you scratched it deeply, it would be hard to repair. The oil finish and wiping varnish finishes aren't too tough to repair. Probably a Tru-Oil finish, which I have not used, would also look good, depending on the wood you choose. Be aware that most oil finishes darken the wood somewhat.

One good thing about making handgun grips is that if you mess it up, you aren't tossing away much of a $ investment, so that takes some of the pressure off.
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Old April 10, 2013, 01:21 PM   #3
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So what format of wood am I looking for, just regular planks?
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Old April 10, 2013, 01:22 PM   #4
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You don't "harden" the wood .You can put on adurable finish .see www.brownells.com ' I haven't done it on guns but my favorte for knives is pressure treated with acrylic .Then the 'finish' has the penetrating well into the wood. No finish is required .
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Old April 10, 2013, 01:41 PM   #5
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Pressure treating, like mete says, would be a great way to go, once you've made the grips. As for how to do that, maybe mete will share info. If you live in or near a big city, you can go to a Woodcraft store to look at wood. Woodcraft carries a lot of 'fancy' woods for woodworkers like me. And you can order it online. As for what size chunks of wood you need, measure the thickness of the grip (just one side of the pistol grip). Should be less than an inch and maybe less than 3/4 inch thick. The length and width of the chunks (per side) are easy to measure. I've got all the tools to cut the chunks to size, but maybe you don't. You can get a scroll saw at Home Depot and use that to cut out the pattern you make on the new wood chunks (draw the pattern on the flattest side, since that's the side that'll be mated to the steel grip frame). Cut outside the lines and then file and sand to the lines. Shaping with a Dremel works pretty good, though it's slow. It's faster with a sharp whittling knife if you have one and are a careful whittler. If so, whittle and then sand smooth with 150 grit and then finer grits. Go slowly. You can always take off more wood, but you can't add it back.
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Old April 10, 2013, 07:35 PM   #6
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one of the most difficult to work with is burl wood, but it is absolutley gorgous. look on ebay and search burl wood slabs
most are mirror cut and there is nothing prettier
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Old April 11, 2013, 07:56 AM   #7
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I have seen the Burlwood grips somebody else posted. I was looking at Snakewood too, but not sure how hard of a wood the grips need to be?
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Old April 11, 2013, 11:16 AM   #8
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You can make grips out of any kind of wood. Burl wood grain is not linear or cross-linked, and it is comparatively soft and fragile. No problem, though, it is easy to reinforce burl wood or any kind of wood with an epoxy overlay. If you look at many commercial burl wood grips, they often have a very thin fiber backing that is epoxied in place. That is there to add strength. But many types of wood can be used satisfactorily, there is not much load on the grips. They are just something to hold on to, the frame of the pistol takes most of the stress.

Good wood for grips will be hard, fine grained, dense, and able to take the wear and tear they will encounter. Pretty to look at is an added bonus. There are way too many types of wood suitable for grips for me to list, but think of the "usual suspects" like ash, hickory, walnut, bocote, bubinga, cocobolo, ebony, pau ferro/ironwood, mesquite, maple, just about any fruit wood (apple, quince, plum, cherry are commonly used), rosewood, zebra wood, etc, etc, etc. And there are some very attractive laminates and dyed woods these days as well.
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Old April 11, 2013, 11:19 AM   #9
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I am finding that out Thankfully the Woodcraft shop listed above is only 15 minutes away so when I am ready to "pull the trigger" (pun intended) I can go there and find it out

I take it you would have to go to a woodworking shop to get the checkering done?

Also if I get a hard enough wood, and wanted to engrave some stuff using my dremel, as long as I didn't go too deep that should be fine right?
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Old April 11, 2013, 12:06 PM   #10
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Heck, I didn't notice that you were in NW Houston. That's where I lived for 35 years, till retirement. Woodcraft moved from their old address on Hwy 290 to their new shop at I45 and Hwy 1960.

Another place to look for wood in Houston is Houston Hardwoods, on 290 and a short ways outside the 610 loop on West 34th street, just east of 290 by maybe 600 yards. Go in the big open front door and on your right, near the restroom, is their rack of scraps of wood - pieces not big enough for commercial sale, but big enough for small projects. They usually have all sorts of wood types, some rather exotic. I always look around in there to see what they might have. You just pick what you want and get one of the guys there to write up the ticket and you pay in the office.

I haven't ever checkered handgun grips, though I wish I knew how. As for making the grips, I'd suggest that you start with a soft and easy to shape wood (white pine, for instance) to get a feel for what you need to do. Practice on the cheap soft wood and then move to the 'good stuff' when you feel ready.

And back to Woodcraft for a second...they'll have plenty of good looking wood - Rosewood, Satine/Bloodwood, zebrawood, Bocote, and on and on. Some of it's pretty expensive. The grain and coloring varies with individual chunks of wood, so you can have a look a plenty of wood to choose what you want. If you like dark woods, have a look at the Australian Blackwood. I made a rolling pin from that wood for a lady coworker and there isn't now a better looking rolling pin on planet Earth. It's deep black, with gold and white running through it. And man did it take a shine well.

I live up near Waco now, but if it wasn't so far from you, I'd offer to help a bit. If you don't mind making a drive (about 150 miles), PM me after you choose the wood and buy it and I can put all my woodshop to work for ya. It'd be fun. Whatever wood you buy, get enough that you can scrap some if you mess it up.
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Old April 11, 2013, 12:15 PM   #11
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When I was looking at the Woodcraft site, I was more drawn to the sheets so that I would have some spare. I need to take my gun to the range again and focus on the grips, the way it feels, how tight it feels, etc... so I know whether I need to thicken it up a touch or not. Right now my grips are thin, I'm thinking maybe 1/8", but havn't measured exactly
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Old April 11, 2013, 12:35 PM   #12
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Quote:
I am finding that out Thankfully the Woodcraft shop listed above is only 15 minutes away so when I am ready to "pull the trigger" (pun intended) I can go there and find it out
My guess is that any hardwood supply source has considerable experience with creating grips and stocks for guns. If not they are sure to know of good trustworthy craftsmen in your area. My experience has been that these people are very willing to help with any questions you might have.
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Old April 11, 2013, 11:40 PM   #13
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First consideration is what type of wood will you use .Some are so dense that the resin won't penetrate enough. These , mostly tropical woods, are usually finished with a high quality wax.Some woods must be treated such as spalted wood as they are so soft. I've never done it myself but left it to the experts. One of the best is WSSI .
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Old April 12, 2013, 08:30 AM   #14
603Country
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Woodcraft does offer woodworking classes, and most of the guys working there are retired and are woodworkers. A few of them might be able to make the grips, but I'd be very surprised if they could checker the grips. But maybe.

mete's point about soft woods and dense woods is something that needed to be mentioned. Probably wouldn't need much of a finish of any sort on some of the waxy/oily tropical woods. And I do believe I have some spalted Pecan left. The stuff is beautiful, and would be super eyecatching on a pistol, but would need to be stabilized in some fashion to hold up as a pistol grip. The wood is rather soft.
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Old April 12, 2013, 08:46 AM   #15
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What do you mean by stabilizing wood?
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Old April 12, 2013, 09:19 AM   #16
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As wood becomes spalted (slowly rotting, though rotting might not be quite the best word in this instance), it gets softer and less strong/durable. The good news is that the spalting process often makes the wood very pretty. The strength left in the wood generally varies with the degree of spalting. My woodshop workbench is of spalted Ash (which I probably still have some of) and it's still concrete hard and would work fine for a pistol grip as is.

When I said that the spalted Pecan might need stabilizing, I meant that you don't want the wood to soften further and you'd like it to actually be a bit harder in order to tolerate use. It might be as simple as putting a few coats of Minwax water based Polyacrylic Varnish on it. That might work for your needs, though a pressurized resin would most certainly stabilize the wood. That's the pecan I'm talking about. You wouldn't need to do a thing to the spalted Ash. As for looks, the spalted Pecan is really pretty (mostly white, with black lines in it).

Drive up to see me and I'll give you a choice of Cherry, Walnut, Pecan, spalted Pecan, spalted Ash, Mesquite, and a few others. Probably nothing as fancy as you can get at Woodcraft, but it would be free. Free is good.
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Old April 12, 2013, 09:21 AM   #17
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The common commercial use is to vacuum impregnate the wood with acrylic resin. Basically , put it in a vacumm chamber ,suck out air and moisture ,introduce the resin. Yes you can DIY but it's a messy job.It strengthens the wood and makes it quite water resistant and eliminates the need for finishing.
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Old April 12, 2013, 09:35 AM   #18
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603 I might take you up on that when I have the time/change for gas. Looks like a 2 hour drive. I plan on looking around at Woodcraft and such to try to get a good idea of what I want to put on my gun. I like the Black Palm but a little concerned about hardness and the fact it will darken with sealant.
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Old April 12, 2013, 11:32 AM   #19
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A Nicholson #49 patternmaker's rasp is the best single tool for this kind of shaping, IMHO, once you've rough-cut a blank. File to shape, then sand to smooth, raise grain w/ H20, then sand again...

Available from Midway; cheaper from Amazon. You'll also want a handle for it.

Another trick is to attach the blank with double-stick tape to a smaller block of wood before starting to hand-shape it; this gives you something to grip and is much easier on the fingers.
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Old April 16, 2013, 02:35 PM   #20
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Only have done one set, 1911, and only Walnut. But they weren't terribly hard, just time consuming. The Nicholson rasp is great, I used a coping saw to cut the pattern. A woodworker's bench with vise helps a lot. Beyond that, it's sandpaper from rough to fine, and I just used boiled linseed oil. Only electric tool was a drill press for the holes.

That said, I would need to make a few dozen more before I considered myself competent.

Jeff
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Old April 16, 2013, 03:16 PM   #21
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Here is a good example of how to acrylic stabilize wood for the purpose of handgun grip making..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9wMTJh42kg
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Old April 16, 2013, 07:31 PM   #22
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For shaping wood grips, I used a 1" dia. x 3" sanding drum in my drill press.



And, after one coat of boiled linseed oil:



And, yeah, there was a lot of hand sanding with different grits of sandpaper.

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Old April 17, 2013, 07:46 AM   #23
Skitter
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Definitely lots of various methods used here, gives me alot to think about, although Bob mine won't be nearly that thick Semi-Auto's have that advantage
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