My love of nice wood grips on handguns is obvious, and a couple of custom grip makers are benefitting from that preference of mine lately. Recently I “found” a piece of wood once used on the control panel of my old 31 Bertram that I thought I would like to return to use in the form of a nice set of grips for my Ruger Blackhawk. While waiting on replies from the custom guys. I got anxious and gave thought to working on a set myself. Not surprisingly, there are several videos on-line demonstrating how folks have done this, and after watching a couple, I made the decision to give it a go.
The wood in question was a piece of Lacewood salvaged from a yacht restoration scrap yard that I had cut into a 6″ circle as a base for the big marine compass that was on the old Bert when I bought it. Lacewood seems to be a very hard wood, and has what appear to be “flakes” of a lighter colored, almost iridescent nature imbedded in the grain. When handled, turning the wood for different light angles shows different patterns that are constantly changing. The main body of the wood is reddish in color, and I find it very attractive.
I used a set of grips on hand that I knew fit my Blackhawk as patterns, and first outlined the grips on the pice of wood, then cut them out with my basic jig saw and a scrolling blade.
I used a cheap sander and a Dremel tool with a sanding head to shape the grips, and tried to make them a bit better fit to my hand than the factory grips.
First I tried a boiled linseed oil finish, but I didn’t like the way it was turning out, so it was sanded back to the bare wood again, and a several coat polyurethane finish used instead.
Holes for the grip screw hardware were copied from the factory grips. as were the positioning holes on the back side of the grips. I actually placed these holes using the grip frame, but they needed some adjustment, so I drilled a much larger hole, filled it with epoxy putty, and pushed the grip onto the frame so the positioning pins marked where they wanted to be. The excess putty was sanded smooth after it dried, and the holes drilled just a bit oversize.
As a final step, I cut off two cartridge heads from new, unprimed .45 Colt brass and tried imbedding them in the grips, for an even more “personal” touch. This first effort was not flawless, but showed the way for a better result if I make another set like this (or decide to mark all my grips with the cartridge they will be helping to shoot).
The final product is certainly not up to custom standards, but I think they turned out fairly well for a first effort, using minimal tools and wood working skills. My suspicion is that the folks who do this for a living probably have specialized equipment I do not have access to? In any case, I learned quite a bit from the project, and if I attempt making a set of grips again (which I probably will), I would expect better fit and finish to result. Still, these would do fine for an “everyday” set of shooting grips – I’ll find out for sure about that after I get the grips screw hardware in from Brownell’s so I can shoot with them.The Lacewood almost overcomes any mistakes I made, and I think I’ll send what I have left to Carl at Privates and have him make me a “real” custom grip set!
By the way, Lacewood can usually be found at “yards” that specialize in fine and exotic woods, if you don’t have pieces of a wrecked Bertram on hand!