A gripping weekend

Now that I have the bandsaw, there was little reason to not try to make some 1911 grips. The grips on both my Para and my Colt Delta Elite are wrap around plastic (the Para has a Crimson Trace), so I had to make some ‘guesses’ as to how things should work. I started off with some walnut, which I happen to have a few scale-sized blanks laying around.

They ended up a bit thin as 1/4” is nominal, I ended up… under that. Still, for my very first attempt, this was a raging success! The chisel work to get the clearance for the plunger tube simply could not get any better, even if cut by a machine.

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With that success, I decided to go a bit more exotic. I had a bunch of scrap wood given to me from Virgil from Virgil Guitars. I had some zebrawood, black & white ebony, as well as regular, black ebony and thought that, paired with some maple, would look awesome.

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I glued up the boards and while I waited for the glue to dry, I went ahead & started on the zebrawood grips. After a couple of false starts, I decided to make templates to make the entire process repeatable with better accuracy. It took a few tries to get the templates right, but eventually I did.

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While cutting out the plunger tube gap with a chisel, I ended up splitting the grips. However, a little wood glue and a bunch of clamping later & you can’t even see where it was. I’m not done with the zebrawood grips, but when I am, I’ll post pictures.

Then it came time to make the awesome grips. I planed down the glue up and before I even cut the scales, I knew this was going to be epic. And it was.

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Epic, but not perfect. Power tools take off a lot of wood, even ebony which is hard as a rock. I cut the edges too close on the left grip so there’s a gap between the back of the wood and the back of the grip. Still, visually these are striking and I could easily recreate these.

Still need to finish sanding & then sealing these. I need to look at a glossier finish as all the oils & poly’s I have right now are low sheen. Also, I need to do a better job drilling the holes. I do them by hand using Forstner bits and really need a drill press or a hand drill to countersink the screw heads. I tried doing it on the zebrawood with a power drill, and ended up with unusable grips. It requires a bit more finesse, so practice, practice, practice.

If anyone has any old grips they can send me, that might help as well. Unfortunately, my only grips for 1911s are not standard (wraparound plastics) so I’m guessing on a bunch of stuff.

Give me another month or so and I’ll be ready to put these kinds of things up for sale. Checkering is not in the pipeline because I don’t have the gear for it, nor do I think I could do it cost effectively. However, inlays are something I want to look into & eventually do since I’ll be doing that on my guitar in the future.

What do you think so far?

posted by by Robb Allen @
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