When selecting wood for your grip there are a few decisions to make. Not all woods make good grips and not all woods can be acquired in the dimensions necessary (at a reasonable cost). First the wood must be of a size that we can physically make the grip. My grips are normally one solid piece so the wood blank needs to be 8/4 or two inches thick to start, really 1 3/4 will do fine but no less normally. The blank needs to be 3 inches wide and 5 1/2 inches tall. The wood must be dry not green or shrinkage can distort or crack the grip as it dries.
A note on burl woods, Burl is nothing more than a wood with no real grain direction, it usually swirls and twist to create some beautiful figure. The down side is with no real grain direction it is commonly unstable and may just fall apart or break during fabrication. Burl is always going to be something of a gamble as far as durability or whether or not it can even be made in to a grip.
No two pieces of wood are alike. Just because one grip has lots of figure or is a certain color is not a guarantee the next one will look the same. I strive for all my grips to have lots of figure and look good but no one can say exactly what the final product will look like as for figure and color.
Some woods just cannot be found. In my gallery there are several pictures of Yucatan Rosewood. After several requests for that very grip I have been unable to acquire any more wood that is even close to looking like that grip, so to not mislead the customer I do not offer Yucatan Rosewood as an option. Another is Dark Zebra (I inadvertently created that name), there is no such wood. I once received a very dark piece of Zebra from a supplier, but it is all gone now with no way to get any more unless luck lands another piece.
When looking for a grip blank. Some places have suppliers local and the customer can hand pick a grip blank. Otherwise the internet is full of sources. First we have to find a piece of wood that the customer likes. Next it must come in a size that will yield the grip you desire. Then the supplier must be willing to sell a small enough piece to be cost effective. Most suppliers only sell and ship bulk quantities’ of lumber. The sellers that do sell small pieces of wood usually cater to the wood turners market and wood turners usually like their wood semi green. All of this can make finding the grip blank a customer wants a challenge.
Wood cost; this can be tricky also. The common woods that I use a lot of, the cost of the blank is already figured in my base price. Other woods can be real high end. Some of the burl types or some exotics can have crazy prices; I once paid close to $200.00 for a piece of wood only big enough for one grip. Also sometimes the shipping cost can turn an inexpensive blank into a costly one. It pays to shop around. I do not mark up the woods I supply, but I do pass along the extra cost for high end woods. I always quote the final cost up front so there are no surprises.
Sometimes the customer wants to send me the piece of wood, no problem as long as it is suitable for the grip. Also one must be aware I am human and occasionally mess up a blank and have to start over. If I supplied the blank I just get another blank. If the customer supplied the blank, well I will do my best to make up for it but I can only do so much.
Laminates; from time to time someone requests a laminate grip such as “Diamondwood”. Late 2014 Rutland plywood the maker of Diamondwood burned to the ground, and may not rebuild. As of July 2014 I have found a laminate product called SpectraPly that can be acquired in a reasonable amount. The producer of Spectraply is Cousineau Wood Products. Their web site is https://www.cwp-usa.com/ where you can choose a color pattern. I have done a few grips in Spectraply and it works great. The 3X3X11 blank is perfect for grips.
Sometimes I will laminate wood together to get a certain look, I prefer not to but sometimes I will if the customer wants. However some woods glue well and some don’t. If I am not comfortable with the glue bond I may just have to say no. Example; The Lil-Dan grips have to be split and glued together because of the way they are constructed, therefore I will only use woods that I trust to glue well.
Plastics /Faux Ivory/ Corian; I have worked with these products and while they look great I do not feel they make good grips as they are brittle and will chip or break at the least insult. Therefore as a general rule I do not use these products. If you insist, well we can talk about it, but the risk will be on you.
Horn; I have done a few grips in horn. I like horn and it works fairly well. The problem with horn is the grip style and shape is dependent on the size and shape of the horn. This means there is no real way to take a custom order and build the grip to the customer’s specifications. The horn chooses what the final grip will look like. If you desire horn, well we can talk about it, but no promises.
All of this is to help us select the best wood to build the grip that best meets your wants and needs.