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shel6977

Hand checkering front strap....?

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I did a search and didn't come up with what I was looking for. There were a few older threads that had some information but some where 6-8 years old so I thought I would make a new one.

I'm kicking around the idea of trying to hand checker the front strap of my Ruger SR1911 for single stack. This gun being stainless adds another wrinkle into the idea but I figure if I'm going to screw something up, I would rather it be a cheaper one than a expensive one. There really isn't anyone around me that I know of that do it hand or machine so by the time I ship it, I have quite a bit of money in it. I will definitely be doing a lot of practice on a on some flat bar stock and if that goes well, I will try to practice on some round bar stock to see if I can make it work on a round surface. I think I can make up a couple jigs to use to get started on the vertical and horizontal lines. So really I would have in expenses would be a checkering fine assuming all would go well.

I guess my main questions are for anyone who has done this or thought about doing it and talked themselves out of it. How did it go? What was the finished product like? Time frame to complete? Would you do it again or pay to have someone do it, or even just buy a gun that is already checkered? I've looked around and some people say to start on the vertical lines others say to start one the horizontals.....advice?

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I have done 3 1911s front, back and trigger guard with a checkering file. You want to make a jig to go across, just clamp a flat piece of material on one side to keep it straight going lengthwise. It is a few hours of hard work, which at the end your hand, wrist and elbow will be complaining loudly. Mine all turned out great, but I'm not doing any more.

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I have done 3 1911s front, back and trigger guard with a checkering file. You want to make a jig to go across, just clamp a flat piece of material on one side to keep it straight going lengthwise. It is a few hours of hard work, which at the end your hand, wrist and elbow will be complaining loudly. Mine all turned out great, but I'm not doing any more.

+1

also get a file handle, tape up the index finger that touches the file, get the triangle finish file.

and make some sort of stop to put at the top of the grip area so you don't have as much over run cleanup.

the 20-25 lpi is easier, finer is easy to cross lines.

start vertical.

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I've done a few 1911's, and a Caspian wide body frame.

Ok, I am not a real pistolsmith so this is just my take. The 1911 frames were pretty straightforward, but still took me the better part of a day - probably about 8 hours or so.

The starting lines are the most nerve wracking since that is where you can really blow it, but once those were done it was just slow and steady work and taking breaks when my attention was wavering. After prepping the front strap and getting a nice clean radius (and undercutting the trigger guard a little) using files and emery cloth tape I used some cheap Enco machinist parallel bars and a couple bolts to use as a guide for the vertical lines. For the horizontal I used dykem and a scribe to mark a top horizontal line, then used a riffler file and freehanded making the initial horizontal cut. After making the initial horizontal cut first I did the verticals and came back to the horizontals. This was based on the advice of a real pistol smith shooting buddy, but you could do it either way.

As Powderfinger said as you go you will figure some things out and improvise some shop aids. I used dykem and tape to mark where to stop the overrun of the vertical and horizontal lines. I think some use rubber bands for the vertical and freehand the horizontal.

Yeah, I'd do it again if I was building a 1911. It is kind of cool knowing you have some of your own sweat in the gun if you are building it for yourself.

On the other hand, checkering the caspian wide body was a major PIA as it has a built in mag well. I would not do that again.

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Well these posts sound like what I was looking for. I was looking at files at Midway and Brownell's, and was wondering if anyone had any advice if a certain brand was better than another. Also, trying to decide on how many LPI. I know 30 LPI would not be enough for me but then I'm not sure what to do. I've seen a lot of good feedback on 25LPI and also 20LPI with a little emery cloth to knock down the real sharp points.

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Also forgot to ask how much of a pain is it to do this on a stainless frame versus just steel?

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I'd say 20-25 lpi for competition, 25-30lpi for carry.

You could ask at the next match to see if someone is using 20lpi to get a feel for it. For me it is nice and grippy. If the points are too sharp you can dull them down a little bit.

Stainless shouldn't be a problem at all. Just keep the chips cleared out of the file and work.

I'd also recommend getting a good riffler file as they are really handy for starting and cleaning up the checkering. Personally, I like to get stuff like this from Brownells. The files I have are their house brand and I got them about 25 years ago. They haven't been used a whole lot but they are still like new. I used the 30 lpi file and riffler a couple years ago to add serrations after welding up a safety for an open gun build, and the file cut the steel like butter.

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I used to do a lot of hand checkering on 1911's. You need a guide of some sort for both directions. When you cut the vertical grooves they need to be deep enough before you move to the next one, otherwise they will spread out, particularly at the top of the grip. Horizontal grooves need a guide too, as it's very easy to wander as you wrap around the frame radius.

Go with 20 LPI, it will give the best grip. 30 LPI? I think a good stippling job gives far better grip.

Stainless is no more difficult to checker than chrome moly frames. You just need to mask the frame off and bead blast it.

There are leather finger protectors available from the craft industry, for needlepoint, leather work etc. these protect your fingers far better than masking tape.

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Why would you need to bead blast the frame on a stainless pistol? I was thinking using a little emery cloth on the front strap before I started to kind of smooth it all out before I begin (not that it is rough or anything) but I never thought of bead blasting it. I didn't think one would have to do anything finish wise on a all stainless gun.

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I would imagine that the front strap is already blasted. Bead blasting will blend that entire part of the frame into one color. Stainless steel is a PITA to match color and texture on.

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Thanks for all the info so far everyone. What is the group consensus on which direction to start and why? I was looking on youtube and found a few videos of people checkering the front straps on 1911s but some went horizontal first and other went vertical first. Is there a reason to start one way or the other or does going one way easier than the going the other?

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I've only done two. the first was a horror but i learned a lot. Thankfully a good friend of mine (a well known gunsmith) was kind enough to cut it out and weld on a new checkered piece and refinished it.

The second one went great.

The mistake i made on the first one was not meticulously establishing the center verticle line. It wasn't evident to me at first as it was only minimally off... but after about 8 rows or so you could start to really appreciate the angled or skewed appearance of the lines.

Establish something like 1/2 of the depth of the line before moving the file over to start a new line. Each subsequent line or row really depends upon the previous ones. Take your time, have no disturbances, good lighting and magnification is critical as is frequent cleaning of the checkering files.

I'm painfully slow, it took me 3 days to do one frontstrap..maybe 3 hours each day divided up with breaks every 3/4 hour or so. I must admit i did enjoy the process and will do another shortly.

Great idea about the leather finger protectors...i used tape but it wasn't all that kind to the finger tips.

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I just finished stippling the front strap on my stainless SA and comparing it to my STI Lawman with a 25 lpi checkered front strap I am liking the stippling. A lot easier to do than checkering, better purchase with my grip, and is unique. Plus a $20 spring loaded center punch is a lot cheaper and I can use it for other non-gun related projects as well.

Edited by danish

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This is how I use to do it. Use a Mill to cut 4 vertical starter lines so I know those are straight. Lay my file in the cut lines and do the rest of the vertical lines down to 1/3 depth. Then visually line up file for cross cut lines. If you take the verticals to full depth its real hard to start the file on the cross cuts. So I take each direction down 1/3 at a time. Then dress points with a 60 degree needle file. After deciding I was loosing money on hand checkering I purchased a Kustom Ballistics checkering jig and never looked back.

I recommend you start on the vertical lines first. On the cross cut lines install your grips and draw a pencil line down the sides. Remove the grips and put some tape along the pencil line. The taped edge will be your stopping point for the cross cut lines. Stainless is a PITA but doable. Your index finger tip will hate you.

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I've got a springfield loaded with checkering on the front and back straps. I think someone has filed the front to dull it. can that checkering be sharpened. I like the gun to grab back a little.

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First off call Caspian and get some "practice frames" they are $25/each and worth the money.

I use a guide from "power customs"

http://www.midwayusa.com/product/233273/power-custom-universal-checkering-guide-1911?cm_vc=ProductFinding

I undercut my trigger guards before I start checkering then I start by filing the front strap(there might be some bumps and divots you can't see until you file it), then emery cloth to smooth everything out. I use Dykem, It helps a lot, along with good light.

I start my horizontal lines first, it's easier for me to keep the lines straight going around the contour when it's smooth.

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I go pretty deep with the checkering file before switching to verticals.

I use a round needle file to create a "boarder line" under the trigger guard.

I use the same guide to start my vertical line, but I use a riffler to start the first vertical. I put the file with one side square to the guide so the line stays straight. After the line is established I take the guide off and continue to use the riffler to go deeper so the checkering file will track from the first line.

I use a piece of wire in the "boarder line" under the trigger guard for a stop.

After all the lines are pretty deep with the checkering file I Dykem everything again and go over each line with the riffler, I do all the horizontals until the Dykem is gone. Then re Dykem and do it again for the verticals.

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This is actually on a Ruger frame.

Keep your files clean and chalked. I use sidewalk chalk, I blow out my file and the frame every couple of passes, then chalk the file some more. The chalk doesn't let anything stick to the file.

Don't try to do your first one all on one sitting. It takes me about 8 hours to do one complete, the first one was a couple of 6-8 hour days.

Feel free to ask any questions.

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Very nice work Nick!

Thanks Patrick.

I wanted to learn the "real way" about half way through my 3rd frame I started getting serious thoughts about setting up the mill. But I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing them by hand. If I had another 4 or 5 to do I might take the time to throw the 4th axis in one of the mills and at least get my lines established.

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That checkering looks great and this is exactly what I want to do. What is the point of undercutting the trigger guard like that? Also, what are you using as a block to put it in the vise? Thanks for the pictures, that is a big help. I was thinking of using some 3/4" x 4" bar stock and then maybe some 3/4" round stock to practice on the curves but if the practice frames are that cheap, it's well worth the money for some practice on the real thing.

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The undercut is a personal preference thing. But once you have one with it then you will probably want all of your 1911s to have it. It gets your hand a little higher on the pistol.

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For holding them, I started with a piece of .5X1.5 aluminum, I drilled and tapped some holes then used bolts to go through the windows on the frame. The bolt heads got in the way and I couldn't rotate the frame in the vice.

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Then I made a different one that has a piece of .5X.5 square with 1/4-20 set screws, then a piece of round that's turned to .540. With this fixture I can rotate the frame anyway I want in the vice.

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Work shop... My second home, although I probably spend more time here than I do at home.

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What style of riffler file do you all recommend? Midway only sells one I think and brownells sells a couple different ones

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