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Interested In making grips, no idea where to start

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by Jabr0ney, Feb 2, 2012.

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  1. Jabr0ney

    Jabr0ney Member

    Dec 9, 2010
    Title says it all. Im very interested in making wooden grips for revolvers but i have no idea where to start. Im young (21) and willing to learn and i know theres probably a lot i have to know. I'm just looking for someone to point me in the direction to where to get started pr practicing. Thanks!

    Main questions:
    What tools are needed?
    Where do i get the grip materials?
    Where can i learn the skills i need?
  2. Jim K

    Jim K Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    Are you talking about making replacement/custom grips for your own guns, or doing it as a business? The techniques are pretty much the same but the way you approach the work is important. If you plan to go into business just making grips, you should take some business courses, and maybe (depending on what you want to do) get an FFL*, plus any and all the local licenses you may need.

    The material is readily available, except for a few materials like genuine ivory; if you stick to wood, most kinds of wood can be found at local big box stores or specialty hobby shops. More exotic woods can be found by simply Googling on the net. A good source of walnut is old rifle stocks, which can be had for near nothing at many gun shops.

    For skills, check the local community college. Quite a few have woodworking courses and while the world does not need more birdhouses, you can learn the basics, like how to use a band saw and retain all your fingers. You don't need many tools. You need a clean shop with ventilation, a good work bench, a rotating checkering vise (versa vise), checkering tools, inletting tools, etc. Get a Brownells catalog, and you will find most of what you need, includig grip screws and ferrules, though you might get better prices on some stuff from a wood-worker's supply house (Google again).

    What you really need is practice, and lots of it.

    Now the bad news. There are several companies turning out fully finished handgun grips in (what appears to me to be) every conceivable variety of shape, color and material. You need to be able to compete with them.

    *You don't need an FFL to make grips. But if you install/fit grips on a gun for money, you are doing gun work, not grip work, and are considered a gunsmith, not a grip maker.

  3. biggyfries

    biggyfries Member

    Feb 2, 2012
    walla walla, wa
    I have mase lots of handgun grips and have not needed an FFL, but then I am doing it for my own needs and the needs of my friends.
    Not all grips are easily done--cowboy guns like colt SSA's are easy to learn on, Rugers, and all similar SA's would be a good place to start. One side is flat, you trace the shape on a flat piece of suitable hardwood and begin. Most of it is common sense, but as you go you will make good moves and some bad, but you will eventually learn what works and what doesn't fairly quickly, such as direction of the grain of the wood. Common sense says don't make the grain go sideways, but lengthways with the shape of the grip.
    Some automatic handguns lend themselves to making grips fairly easily. I bought a french semi-auto that had no grips--the originals were bakelite and very fragile, and are frequently broken, but I made a pair of walnut grips fairly easily, and the finished product looked so good I had people from europe calling to see if I'd make them some wooden grips as well.
    So start with a fairly simple first project and use your head and figure out how to shape them. I use a bandsaw to get the shape started, then move to a small belt sander to get the shape pretty close, then move to a half-round file to fine-tune the shape, then use coarse sandpaper to remove obvious marks and divots from the previous work.
    If you want to pm me with any specific questions I could give you further details. Good luck.
  4. mjsdwash

    mjsdwash Member

    Jan 14, 2011
    its easier to start with a pistol grip, and learn on that. Revolver grips can be very difficult, unless you talking about two piece. Then just some generic wood, walnut or maple. you need a rasp, a drill, and a template... DemBart sells checkering tools out of Snohomish Wa. Lots of sanding, and good oil or stain, varnish and simple wood finishing stuff. You'll want a vise.
  5. BCRider

    BCRider Member

    Nov 15, 2008
    Pacific North"Wet" Coast of Canada
    Start with cheap wood from the local lumberyard. Don't use expensive wood until you know your skills are going to result in a decent product.

    For the grips and stocks I've made (some for actual firearms and some for paintball markers before I got into firearms) I found the following tools to be most handy.

    • Bandsaw for cutting the outlines and hogging away the worst of the corners.
    • If a bandsaw is not in your immediate future then a coping saw is the next logical option. A lowly hand operated coping saw with good Nicholson blades can cut out blanks and hog away much of the waste wood in a surprisingly short time and little effort.
    • A half round wood rasp for the coarse initial shaping.
    • A couple of similar shape "bastard cut" (yes it's an actual tooth size grade) metal work files. NEVER use these wood cutting files for metal or their use for wood will be at an end.
    • Lots of open coat garnet sandpaper in 80, 120 and 240 grits. Buy it in bulk if you do many grips or move into more wood working as it's a lot cheaper that way.
    • A smaller handsaw or two for straight cuts. My own preference is for the pull style japanese saws.
    • A hand drill and bit set for doing holes.
    • A dial or vernier caliper for accurate measurements. Optional for now but at some point you'd need it.

    Be your own worst critic. It's too easy in this day of "no grade failures" in schools and parents that wax poetic over every little junky thing their kids do to believe that you can do no wrong and that anything you create is adequite. At worst it instills a sense of skill where there really is none... YET! So it's up to YOU to become your own critic and not accept anything other than the very best you can do at the time. Look at your own work honestly and critically and do NOT be afraid to compare it to stuff you see on the web or in stores. Not accepting second or third best is how we better ourselves.

    I know that last bit sounds really "airy fairy". I could perhaps have worded it better. The point is you will NOT do truly good work right away. But if you examine and see the faults in your work you can do better the next time. That's how we learn. If you ever feel that you've created the Ultimate grip or Ultimate Anything then the only thing you've succeeded in doing is brainwashing yourself about your own magnificience.

    Part of doing well with even something simple like a 1911 grip is seeing the shape in your mind first of all. Then comes the hard part... telling your hands to produce that shape. A 1911 grip is pretty simple at first glance. Yet the shape of the arc and the maximum thickness come together to make or break the feel of the gun in your hands. Subtle variations in that arc shape become major points of fit or fail. This is why working first with cheap lumberyard wood is the way to start. You can go too far and all you've lost is a nickel's worth of wood and a hour or two of your time. But what you learn is priceless.

    Most of my stocks or grips were done first with lumberyard spruce so I could feel the shapes and sizes. Only once I was sure did I do the project again but with something more exotic for wood.
  6. Zeke/PA

    Zeke/PA Member

    Feb 24, 2005
    Southeastern Pa.
    Best thing to do is to get a pistol grip and try to duplicate it, using the tools that are available to you.
  7. lathedog

    lathedog Member

    Aug 28, 2006
    Start with Google.

    I found many "how to" articles on grip making, with pictures, sources for materials, etc. I've already botched my first attempt. Time to buy more wood.
  8. dprice3844444

    dprice3844444 member

    Feb 26, 2011
    se fla i love claymores 01/sot
  9. 44-henry

    44-henry Member

    Jul 13, 2005
    I would suggest not using cheap wood, start with good wood. The cost is not much different, but the satisfaction will be much higher. It is really hard to get excited about a piece of ugly wood and often times they don't work well at all which can be frustrating. I basically just use off cuts from stock jobs, but when I do go to buy a chunk of good walnut they rarely cost me more than $20 and that is for a very very nice piece, plenty of good stuff available for half that price.

    As for the carving machines mentioned above, I would tend to avoid them unless you really have the resources and time to devote to learning them. Even than they have limited value except in true production work and even than you will still have a lot of time left to hand fit parts. I teach the use of this equipment at the University of North Dakota and I have a pretty fair idea about their uses and also their limitations.

    As for the market, you can't compete against the run of the mill standard grips offered by numerous vendors in the $25-150 range; however, if you got really good there is still a place for a guy that can produce a superior product several cuts above the rest. This of course will take lots of practice and study to get to this level and no small amount of talent. You might not make a living at it even than, but it could be a satisfying and profitable hobby. One way around the FFL is to have a large collection of handguns that you can use to fit grips to, this will avoid the necessity of fitting to a customers gun. A lot of makers do this, it is not foolproof as there are always variations, but is done.

    Have fun
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