Checkering a front strap is not an easy thing to do, but if your bound and determined this is how I do it. First remove the grip bushings. The next step is to make a horizontal line at the top of your front-strap. This line will be right under your trigger-guard and if you want to hi-cut your front strap do it before checkering. This line is where your verticals will stop, I create this line with a medium triangle file. Once that is done use a jig as can be seen in (Fig-2) to start the vertical lines. The jig seen in (Fig-2) is made out of some scrap aluminum I had laying around the shop. If you decide to create one for yourself I strongly suggest making it out of steel, as the side of the steel file will dig into the aluminum. I must resurface mine after every front-strap with my milling machine. What this jig does is allow the center of the file to contact the center of your front-strap, It has a .150 ledge milled into it. You want to ensure that your checkering file is always supported against the side of the guide. One important note is to ensure once you start your lines using a guide always use the same side of the file, I usually put a (A) in marker and always have the (A) facing up. Lay the file down flat against the front-strap and supporting the front and the rear of the file with your right and left hand start to slowly cut. The idea is to apply pressure down and to the left to keep file against guide. Once you start to get about 3-4 lines fairly deep, remove the guide and use the old lines to start new ones by slowly rolling file and creating new lines, the already created lines will keep your file on center. Work slowly untill the whole front strap is serrated. You do not need to go to full depth yet, I only go about half-way then stop and start the horizontals. I used to use the jigs seen in (Fig-3) but just came up with the jig seen in (Fig-4) and (Fig-5) when creating this article. The jig in (Fig-4) and (Fig-5) had been in my head for awhile so I threw it together, it was created from 2 inch angle steel that is about .340 thick, but the thicker the better. The only problem with the jigs in (Fig-3) is that unless they are very tight one might try to move on you, and several are needed as every frame is a different width. Either one you choose to create should help you make straight horizontals though. Once you get a files width across and half-way deep on your horizontals, remove jig and freehand it. I only move file over 3 lines at a time when doing the horizontals, creating new lines by allowing the old ones to guide my file. Once the verticals and horizontals are done and about halfway deep go back to the verticls again with your file and file them to depth and then again with the horizontals. Once you are getting close I then move to a single file checkering file and bring the diamonds to full depth with it, I frequently place cold blue on the front strap if it is a carbon steel pistol to see how my progress is going as it is much easier to gauge when front-strap is black. This kind of works is very slow going and tedious. Do not attempt to do a front strap in a day. It will take several days and usually takes me about 8-10 hours to complete a front-strap, but I usually never work for more than 2 hours a day on it, it only takes one slip to really ruin some great diamonds.
OK after a recent trip for my current employer I decided to bring some basic hand tools to handchecker a frontstrap because I knew I would have alot of time on my hands. I made a new steel guide instead of the old aluminum one I talk about earlier in this article. As you can see I am using a very small vise and a new steel guide for the verticals. When I finish doing the horizontals I will post them. The pictures tell the story.
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Copyright© 2000 by Chris Williams