I have an idea- would anyone with the skills like to try it?


October 21, 2003, 04:11 PM
I am a pipe smoker. I bought a new pipe yesterday for the first time in about a year (maybe two). It is a really nice handmade Danish freehand pipe. The grain on the briar wood of a pipe can have some amazing grain patterns. The wood takes several types of stains very nicely (it looks good in everything from a clear natural finish, to a light brown or tan finish up through a dark walnut, brown or cherry red finish). It really can be a beautiful finished product. It is also quite lightweight.

Anyway, my point (how the heck is this gun related), I've also been looking into getting some different grips for some of my guns and I got to thinking. Briar would look quite stunning as a pair of grips and it wouldn't add much to the gun's weight (the amount of wood needed for grips would be pretty much unnoticable). Also, a couple finishes (rusticated and sandblasted), a pebbled look, would provide a very stable grip and would also be quite comfortable.

Another pipe material, meerschaum, a Turkish clay, used in some pipes would be a great ivory substitute (much better than the plastics they use). It is very hard and can be carved if people want designs. It is a nice white or cream color, and it darkens from heat and hand oils. Here are some examples of meerschaum pipes:
1)with a tan coloring (http://www.meerschaumpipes.com/category.asp?SID=4&Category_ID=856)
2)with more of a white coloring. (http://www.meerschaumpipes.com/category.asp?SID=4&Category_ID=893)
The only potential problem with meerschaum is that it might be too brittle for thin grips (but I'm not sure about that).

This page here gives a wide variety of pipes (some made by this guy, others from other makers) so you can get a good idea of some of the colors and grain patterns possible with briar (look at "filtered pipes", "latest editions" as well as a couple of the other makers he carries such as Stanwell):

If only I had some ability in the woodworking area I'd try myself, but unfortunately I don't think I'd be able to do it (even with the minor projects in high school woodshop I barely passed, I doubt if time would help that very much). Anyone out there with some ability in this area who might want to try it? Short of that, would anyone want to take on the task of teaching me to make grips (how much of woodworking skills can be learned and how hard is grip making)?

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October 21, 2003, 05:58 PM
In my steadier, less shaky "yoot", I made three sets of grips for a Colt SAA, and a Ruger BH and Single Six. Very satisfying, but my production rate would require a price of about $30,000 per set for me to make a living :eek: Alos a pipe smoker, I also wondered about briar, but my Dad (another pipe smoker) said most of them we far too brittle for handgun grips. Lately, knifemakers have been using stabilized burls, which are the closest I've seen to briar burl on a knife or gun. Don Collins has some posted on his site, mostly laminates -


There are a number of exotics that rival briar for grain and figure. Gilmer Wood Products is sort of my "internet encyclopedia" of fancy woods, and their images of wood samples might give you some ideas -


Once you get a set "just right" (even if it takes months :)) the sense of satisfaction is hard to beat. I've settled on refinishing most of the grips I buy since my "gripmaker period", but the love of fine woods is still solidly there.

Standing Wolf
October 21, 2003, 06:10 PM
I doubt meerschaum would work, since it tends to be brittle.

Briar definitely would work; finding chunks large enough for pistol stocks, however, might prove decidedly expensive, even for model 1911s.

Hakan Pek (http://www.imageseek.com/hakan) made some delightful stocks for my model 1911 of amboine or amboyne burl, which is as lively as most briar.

October 21, 2003, 06:15 PM
Nice grips sir!

October 21, 2003, 06:50 PM
Yeah, I was thinking that meerschaum might be too brittle, however it is a clay so how hard would it be to mix with other materials to make it more resilient (maybe plastic) or some kind of hardener? I wonder if someone used some kind of blend if the meerschaum might still keep its color and darkening properties. Is there any other kind of clay that might be tougher but that would have similar coloring properties?

October 21, 2003, 07:11 PM
Why not just choose ivory instead of trying to come up with something that looks like ivory? We were just talking about ivory on another thread. You can choose elephant, walrus, narwhal, mammoth, hippo - anything you want, starting at about $150..

As for the briar, I'm sure any stock/grip maker would make you a set if you supply the wood.


October 21, 2003, 07:49 PM
I thought about this myself, but got too lazy.

Do a search under 'exotic woods' for hobby/craft suppliers. They often have scrap pcs for sale and you can probably have them cut to the right-sized blanks ~2"x.5"x5" to start with. Then take measurements of an existing set of grips and plot out on grid paper. Slowly remove wood until you are satisfied with your creation! :)

Don't think meershaum will work, no real way to reliably stabilize 1/2" slab of clay.

October 22, 2003, 12:30 AM
Briarwood is extremly hard to dry in large chunks without microcracking throughout the piece. Also harvesting chunks appropriate for handgun grips usually would require taking the whole tree, as the branches don't get sufficient diameter to be useful. Pipemaking on the other hand could make use of the smaller branches. 1911 style grips would be easiest because of the flat back , but i'm not a 1911 guy. Revolver grips are tricky to get the inletting right, an overarm router is the closest thing to "easy" i've found. What would really help me to pursue revolver grips is finding some solid mockups of the various gripframes to hold the inletted blanks while working them into something "griplike". If you want to practice on something cheap , plain old autobody Bondo will make up some suitable blanks which are easy on sharp handtools. Case

Mike Irwin
October 22, 2003, 12:53 AM
Agreed that meerschaum wouldn't be a suitable material given it's brittleness.

I could see using the "cultured" meerschaum, which is an artificially made material. It's a lot more durable.

Since it doesn't color with use, it would have to be predyed, though.

October 22, 2003, 01:23 PM
Lovely grips Standing Wolf.

As noted....getting burl dried in large enough pieces without cracking would be a challange.

One of the reasons why exotic grips are very expensive.


October 22, 2003, 01:49 PM
I'm still curious about the faux/meerschaum ivory. It just seems like a lot of money and trouble when real ivory is available at pretty good cost.

How about corncob grips? Do they impregnate corncob pipes with something to make them tough enough to withstand the heat in pipes, or are they just dried? They might look pretty cool - and very "American" - in a 1911 grip!

Oh, and that reminds me of something! There is a product called Carbowax that is used to preserve wood and bone museum specimens. I actually have a big jar of it because I often find old native artifacts when I poke around out in the boonies. Wood is preserved for centuries around here in the peat, but it has the consistency of a wet sponge. The Carbowax is used to impregnate the object and harden it.
You mix this stuff with water and submerge the object in it for a month or two and "voila" - as good as new. You can then dry the object without any fears of it cracking or falling apart.

Anyway, I'm sure this would work on these burled woods, etc, just as well as on old artifacts.

Here's a link I just pulled up: http://www.dow.com/polyglycols/carbowax/app/wood.htm


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