I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

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I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by willnewton on 10/16/2016, 11:05 am

I have been wanting to checker the front strap of my RO since the day I bought it, but was a bit intimidated by the idea of trying it myself.  I finally got up the nerve and decided to try some different options before making a final commitment.  I ordered a Wilson Combat checkered front strap accessory and fit it to the gun.  It worked OK, but was not ideal.

In the meantime, I tried a Trophy Match (20LPI checkering) a Dan Wesson Valor-.22conv (25LPI checkering), and a Hammerli 215 (grip tape). Each grip seemed well suited to the purpose of the pistol and my RO will stay a .45 pistol.  Since I liked the aggressive Trophy match style for a .45, I ordered a 20LPI checkering file from Brownell's.

I already had the other tools I needed:  Foredom flex shaft and lots of burs, files, sandpaper, and a 3d printer (optional Smile ).  I would like to say that the Grobet checkering file I received was cut terribly out of square to the blank.  I should have returned it, but I did some work on it with the grinder and made one side usable.  It says on the packaging that the file will need touching up, but this was WAY off.

I am not a gunsmith, but I am a former professional woodworker and bench jeweler with over 20 years of filing and sanding experience.  This is the first time I have done this and will admit I made some noob mistakes.  There was some fear of irrevocable damage to my frame, but I took my time so I could make slower mistakes.  I think anyone that has done this job themselves will agree, the cost a good gunsmith charges for this service is reasonable, no matter how high that charge is. Wink

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So first off, I stripped the gun down to the frame and with a medium-fine file, started flattening the front strap of the frame in preparation for the checkering.  I was a bit surprised at what a light filing revealed.  You can see the high and low spots in this picture.
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1911gripcheckeringrough1.jpg Say goodbye to my little friend!You don't have permission to download attachments.(348 Kb) Downloaded 14 times


Last edited by willnewton on 10/16/2016, 12:18 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by willnewton on 10/16/2016, 11:09 am

Here is the pistol frame, ready for checkering.

OK, I do have a couple of bonus tools.  A jeweler's bench, buffer, and a GRS engraving ball vise are awfully handy.

I was able to find a CAD file of a 1911 online and used it to design a jig to help me keep the file square to the frame during the initial layout.  I then printed the simple jig on my 3d printer.  It is plastic and won't survive many checkerings, but it takes under 30 minutes to print and only costs a few cents.

I relied on the checkering itself to help guide further cutting and used a blue Sharpie to mark my layout lines.

For the vertical filing, I used a piece of plywood clamped alongside the frame to guide the initial file cuts.
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1911gripcheckeringpolish2.jpg The ball vise rotates in any directionYou don't have permission to download attachments.(235 Kb) Downloaded 7 times
1911gripcheckering3djig3.jpg A simple clamp holds the jig.You don't have permission to download attachments.(308 Kb) Downloaded 11 times


Last edited by willnewton on 10/16/2016, 12:12 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by willnewton on 10/16/2016, 11:15 am

The first pic shows the frame after the first pass in both directions.  The copper wire sits in a notch and serves a fence to prevent the file from gouging the frame.

The second pic shows the last coat of blue after filing the final pass.  It reveals EVERYTHING so you can match up the entire group of pyramids.  Using a strong directional light to help reveal and accentuate any out of place details so they can be addressed.
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1911gripcheckeringfirstpass4.jpg Keep those squares square!You don't have permission to download attachments.(338 Kb) Downloaded 15 times
1911gripcheckeringlastpass5.jpg This was just plain cool looking.You don't have permission to download attachments.(354 Kb) Downloaded 10 times


Last edited by willnewton on 10/16/2016, 12:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by willnewton on 10/16/2016, 11:48 am

Here is the checkering completed with the final blending done.  I did not go back and file the checkering with a 60º triangle file as I have seen some people do.  The Trophy Match strap has some pointy checkering that feels pretty aggro at first grasp.  The checkering file leaves a VERY tiny flat and the grip felt plenty aggressive without being uncomfortable in the least. 

The blending occurred courtesy of 163,492 burs, files, pieces of sandpaper and a couple of very worn out fingers.
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1911gripcheckeringdone6.jpg For a first go, I'd say it's a keeper.You don't have permission to download attachments.(354 Kb) Downloaded 26 times


Last edited by willnewton on 10/16/2016, 12:19 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by willnewton on 10/16/2016, 12:08 pm

Here it is, all wrapped up. 

As for the time involved, I did this in under 24 hours.  I don't know exactly how long it took and frankly, don't want to know.

I suppose someone could argue the time would have been better spent dry-firing, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. Cool
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1911gripcheckeringgun7.jpg Yep, I printed the grips too.You don't have permission to download attachments.(294 Kb) Downloaded 33 times
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by Jwhelan939 on 10/16/2016, 12:24 pm

Very cool. Thank you for sharing!

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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by JayhawkNavy02 on 10/16/2016, 12:34 pm

Amazing.  Great job on the checkering.  First time or not!

Cheers,
Derek
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by Aggarandise on 10/16/2016, 2:02 pm

That's awesome!
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by Aprilian on 10/16/2016, 2:18 pm

Amazing!  I like how you built the jig.
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by desben on 10/16/2016, 2:48 pm

You're a courageous man. I would never dare to put a file to my gun. Amazing result.
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by rich.tullo on 10/17/2016, 9:25 am

Looks great to me. Interesting Grips.
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by Allen Barnett on 10/17/2016, 4:52 pm

I would say that your 20 years as a "bench jeweler" definitely gives you an upper hand.  From what I can see in your photos I would be proud to have that checkering job on my pistol especially when you can add to the story by saying, "I did it myself!".  Thanks for sharing.

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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by motorheadjohn on 10/19/2016, 9:10 pm

Awesome!

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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by DonBrummer on 10/19/2016, 9:17 pm

Great job!
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by Lightfoot on 10/19/2016, 11:41 pm

Yeah, that's mighty nice work. Glad you shared it.
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

Post by willnewton on 10/20/2016, 6:54 am

Thanks folks!  Here is a link to file for the checkering jig so you can print one if you have access to a 3d printer.

http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1836241
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Re: I checkered my Range Officer front strap and learned some stuff!

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