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CHECKERING 1.0

Discussion in 'Grip and Stock Makers' started by HomeBody, Nov 9, 2013.

  1. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    I learned to checker in '82 and checkered a couple dozen guns until about '93. I use Dembart tools obtained from Brownells Gunsmith Supply House in Montezuma IA. They have all the tools you need to checker.

    The first thing you need is a place to work. I prefer my basement as it has no windows and is quiet.
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    A work bench with a single 75 watt bulb burning and no other lights on. Do not attempt to checker in natural light. As the sun moves, so do your shadows that you depend on when cutting.
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    Next we need something to checker. This is an old .45 grip I made in the early 80's. It cracked at the lower screw hole and got tossed in a drawer. I screwed it to a block of wood so I can clamp it in the vise.
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  2. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    This is an engravers ball vise. It weight 28 lbs and turns any direction. I imagine it is really expensive by now. I paid over $300 in '82 for mine, but it was purchased for engraving, not checkering. It fits down in my workbench so the work is the right height for your elbows. You can make your own ball vise for cheap by cutting a bowling ball in half and mounting a vise to it. Google images "bowling ball vise" and "self centering vise". Lots of ideas on Google.
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    This is a checkering tool kit from Brownells. It's Dembarts Master Kit. I would buy this is I were starting to checker. It has most of what you need, save for a couple of special tools.
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  3. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    You will need an optivisor, unless you have incredible close up vision.
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    The optivisor box makes a good box for your checkering tools too.
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    This is a jointer. It is by far the most important tool in your kit. It will save your butt when lines go haywire, believe me.
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    You'll wear out your jointer. Buy two when you buy. Here's a worn out one on the right and a newer one on the left.
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  4. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    This tool is called a pounce wheel. It's used to layout your design. It makes little prick marks in the wood. Those little marks actually help guide the cutting tool on the first cut.
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    Here are a couple of books I have that both have lots of good info. You can get them on ebay. The checkering book was written in the 50's but the info and methods haven't changed much since then.
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    To start the layout I use 3M fine line tape. It's nice because it is stretchy and will bend around a corner. You can get it at any auto paint supply house. Comes in various widths. Pricey...about $11 a roll. Worth every penny!
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  5. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    I laid the tape on either side of the grip for the borders. Tape is 1/8", and then I will run a border tool at the end that will make the design a bit wider. Leave enough room for your border.
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    Put tape crossways to establish the stopping points at the top and bottom of the grip.
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    Run the pounce wheel on the inside edge of the tape on both borders.
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    Now I lay a thin piece of clear plastic with a straight edge from corner to corner and run the pounce wheel. These are the master lines for the design. This is how you get a straight line to bend around a curve.
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    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
  6. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Now the borders and master lines are marked. This will be a simple point pattern.
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    With the jointer, cut through the dotted lines and deepen them enough so they are all consistent.
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    Here's a close up of the lines. Once you cut these lines, you are committed. They better be straight, especially the master lines.
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  7. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Now you start cutting your layout lines in lightly. I am using 20 LPI tools, which I've always used for shotgun stocks. I think for handguns 16 or 18 LPI would be better. I'm left handed so I use a #3 cutter, which cuts left to right. If you're right handed, you will use a #4 tool which cuts from right to left. I make several lines and as you can see I can't connect the lines on the end closer to me as I can't see under the tool.
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    I flip the vise around and finish the 3 lines with the jointer. I trust the jointer for this more than I would using a #4 right to left tool...because I'm left handed. The #4 tool will cut slightly curving lines for a lefty. Not good. If you're right handed, you'll have the same problem with the #3 tool. Get a jointer!
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    More lines... DSC06659.JPG


    Flip and finish.
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    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
  8. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Finishing the lines in one direction on one side.
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    Now go the other direction and cross all the lines forming your diamonds.
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  9. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Repeat for the other side of the design.
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    Now I can add another point to the pattern. Plenty of room.
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  10. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Here's the added points filled in. I could probably make them a bit longer but will leave them like that. Border will extend them a bit.
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    Now the pattern is set. It's time to really start checkering and moving some wood. This is the #2 tool, a double cutter. It is in the handle so it cuts on the pull. This is to help with overruns...which I'm not doing to good at. The idea is to start the tool at the border line and pull it toward you so you can't overrun. It doesn't quite work that way though.
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    Back and forth, one way then the other, try not to run over the borders. You'll lean on the #2 cutter much harder than you did laying things out with the #3 or the jointer. You'll know when the insert gets dull as the wood will start fuzzing up.
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    Left side is cut. You will know when to stop when all the little spots of shiny finish are off the top of the diamonds. If the diamond has a spot of finish on it, it's not been brought all the way up to a diamond point.
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    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
  11. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Double cutter...back and forth. Getting up in the corners with this tool is hard. You can switch to the single cutter for the corners. Or you can use the veiner. It's a tricky tool to sharpen and use but once you get onto it you'll reach for it all the time.
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    It is now deep enough, with very few shiny spots showing on the diamonds. I'm calling this step finished.
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  12. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Now we run the border tool. Borders are frowned upon by the real pros. They say you don't need a border unless you made a bunch of overruns and are trying to hide them. Well, YA! Look at all my overruns and watch them disappear. Really though, as you get good at checkering, you'll be able to do borderless with no overruns. I use to be able to do it.
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    The border tool is curved on the inside instead of V shaped like the other cutters.
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  13. HomeBody

    HomeBody Member Full Member Thread Starter

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    Use a tooth brush to get the loose dust out of the checkering and put a coat of finish on it. For this, I used one coat of truoil cut 50/50 with mineral spirits. Hope you enjoyed the tutorial and good luck on your checkering. Gary
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  14. sprucegum

    sprucegum Member Full Member

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    Great tutorial I used to do a little checkering on rifle stocks wish I had a tutorial like this when I was learning. I rigged a vise on my wood lathe to clamp the but stock to the head stock and a piece of pipe dummy barrel went in the tail stock. I used a clamp arrangement on the lathe shaft as a brake. Worked pretty good. :goodposting:
     
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  15. DKMD

    DKMD Sawbones Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator Full Member

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    Great tutorial! Thanks for taking the time to share your talent!
     
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  16. Molokai

    Molokai Knife Maker Full Member

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    Great tutorial, thanks for doing this. I learned a lot from this.
     
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  17. LoneStar

    LoneStar Member Full Member

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    Never seen it done, thanks for taking the time!
     
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  18. ripjack13

    ripjack13 ɹǝʇɹɐqpooʍ Staff Member Global Moderator Forum Moderator Full Member

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    Thank you! I did not know you did light passes. I was making em deep enough to be finished then moved on to the next line. doh!
    Now I know. I need to look into the ball vise. I've been doing it on the bench I have. I do however have some 3xs magnification glasses I bought cheap...those are great!
     
  19. ripjack13

    ripjack13 ɹǝʇɹɐqpooʍ Staff Member Global Moderator Forum Moderator Full Member

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    I made this a sticky!
     
  20. Johnturner

    Johnturner Proud Member Full Member

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    Gary

    Great tutorial!
    A friend of my sons wants a pair of grips for a 1911.
    Actually I think he is looking for a price.
    Could you give me a price for 1911 grips using a medium price wood?
    Thanks
    John
     
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