There are a number of reasons why someone would want to make their own revolver grips. Perhaps your grips are made of plastic and you prefer wood, or maybe your grips are worn and cracked. You may even have grips that are perfectly fine, but just want something that is more customized than the standard grips that the manufacturer put on thousands of other revolvers. Whatever your reason, it is quite possible to make revolver grips at home. All it takes is a steady hand and a few basic tools, and you’ll have the custom revolver grips of your dreams before you know it.
Select your wood. A good set of revolver grips always starts with a quality piece of wood. You should start with a block of wood that is at least 5/8” thick. The wood should have one side that is flat and somewhat smooth. If your block is too rough, use a wood plane or a belt sander to take down the rough edges.
Trace your original grips. Remove your old grips from the revolver and place them on top of the block of wood at an angle that allows you to capture the wood grain pattern you desire. Lay the grips on the old block of wood and use a pencil to trace around them. If you are refurbishing a revolver that did not have original grips, you will have to make due by placing the handle on the wood and tracing an outline around it. If you are using a dark wood, it may be helpful to use a silver pencil for your tracing. Also note that you should leave a little extra room when tracing your outline. It will make it easier for you to fashion the revolver grips in coming steps.
Carefully cut out the pattern that you just traced onto the block of wood. You will need to use a saw with a flexible blade so that you can make sharp angle changes. If you have a wood shop, use a jigsaw or saber saw to make your cuts. If you do not have a wood shop, you can buy a hand held coping saw at your local hardware store.
Use a punch to knock the roll pin out of the grip frame on your revolver. This way you will have a flat surface to lay your wood on while you are fabricating your revolver grips.
Using a file, create a small notch in your new grips on the area where it bumps against the gusset of the grip frame. This will allow your grip to clear the gusset and slide cleanly into place. With that done, fit the grip against the crotch at the top of the revolver’s grip frame. You will want this to be a very close, tight fit, so you may need to file or sand, then try again. When you get the angle of your grip to match perfectly with the angle of the grip frame, use some 220 grit sandpaper just to do a little final sanding to clean up the edges of this section.
Drill a hole for the roll pin. To do this, use a C-Clamp to firmly hold one side of the revolver grips in place on the revolver, in the correct, final resting position. Attach a 5/32” drill bit to your drill, or better yet, a drill press (if one is available to you). You will want to position the drill bit so that it goes through the hole for the roll pin that you removed in Step 4, into the wood for your new revolver grip. Do not drill all the way through. You only need a shallow hole, enough for the roll pin to slide into, so it should be no more than 3/16 of an inch deep. After you have done the first side of the revolver grips, remove it, attach the other side with your C-Clamp, and then drill the other grip the exact same way.
Replace the roll pin temporarily, and slide the revolver grips onto it, one side at a time. As you do so, use your pencil to mark the excess wood that remains hanging off the butt of the revolver grips, so that you will know where to make a final cut on this side. After one side is marked, remove it and then do the grip for the other side.
Remove the excess wood from the butt of the revolver grips. Most people generally cut this at a slight angle, and then sand it smooth with 220 grit sand paper. If you want it to be angled, a 60 degree angle makes the best cut. This will help you to have a smooth, rounded grip when you get to the stage of having a completed revolver grip.
Drill your screw hole. Using your original revolver grips as a guide, measure and mark a location on one side of your new grips for where you will drill the screw hole that keeps your grips secured to the revolver. After the location is marked, hold it to the grip frame on the revolver and look everything over carefully. You want to make sure you have marked a position where you can insert a screw without it interfering with the spring that is located inside the grip frame. If the Spring will be clear, go ahead and drill your hole. Use a 1/8” drill bit and drill the hole all the way through the grip. You can then clamp both halves of the grips together and drill through the hole, continuing all the way through the second grip as well, resulting in a hole that goes all the way through both grips.
Cut off the remaining excess wood from the edges. What you will need to do is hold the grips, one at a time, in position against the grip frame, and then use your pencil to trace a line showing where the edge of the frame ends on the wood. Trace this pattern on both the under side of the grip frame, and the top side. The butt/bottom has already been cut on a previous step. Then use your saw to trim off any excess wood, cutting all the way up to the line you drew, but not over it.
Measure the arc of the butt. This is a tricky step to explain in text, so use your original grips to help guide you through the different thickness levels. If you look at your original grips, you will notice that the top of the grips, near the hammer, is much thinner than the wood near the butt of the grips. Therefore, we need to slice off an angled piece of the new grips to conform to these different thickness requirements. If your old revolver grips felt too thick or heavy, this is the time to change that. Using your pencil, draw a straight line across the high point of the arc. Also mark the thickness you want on the front half, near the hammer, and then draw a line to connect the two. Tony Tinhorn’s page (see Resources, below) has a good photo illustration of how to make this cut.
Smooth out the grips. Your new grips should begin to resemble actual revolver grips at this stage, although they are still a bit blocky. Use a hand held sander to begin rounding out the edges. A hand held belt sander, disc sander, drum sander or dremel tool works great for this job. Sand your grips until all of those hard corners have been transformed into smooth flowing curves. You’ll also notice the thickness of the grips decrease to more closely resemble the original revolver grips. The idea at this stage is not really to perfect the grips, but to get them close. More finishing touches are still to come.
Add the escutcheons to your revolver grips. The escutcheons are small brass fittings that go into the hole you drilled through the grips in Step 9. Escutcheons are typically ¼” in diameter, with a 3/16” counter bore to sink into the hole you drilled. The escutcheon for one side of the revolver grips will be fitted with a clearance hole for your screw, while the escutcheon for the other side of the revolver grips will be threaded. The escutcheons should fit snugly into the hole you drilled in your grips, but it never hurts to add a small dab of wood glue, just to me sure they retain a tight fit.
Place the grips back on the revolver and tighten the screw through the escutcheons to make sure everything fits together tightly. Analyze the new grips carefully. If there is any area where the grips extend out past the grip frame, mark the area with a pencil, then remove the grips and gently file or sand the surface down to the line. If not further refining is needed, then proceed to the next step.
Finish your revolver grips. There are a number of choices for finishing your grips. You can leave them in their natural state, or you can apply any number of oils, varnishes or stains to the wood as a way of enhancing its appearance. You should probably consider applying some form of clear coat at the very least, just to protect the wood that you just put so much effort into making into a set of revolver grips.
- Always remove the grips from the revolver before doing any of the work prescribed in these steps. Not only is it a matter of basic safety, but it will also prevent you from scratch, staining or otherwise damaging the metal of your revolver.
- davidwhitewolf, Flickr.com Creative Commons License