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How to chequer a gun handle with a file

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Image of a cowboy to represent the wild west. Gunsmiths have been chequering the handles of their guns since before these days Gunsmiths have been applying chequering to gun handles since before the days of the Wild West.
Image of a gun handle that has been chequered both for aesthetic purposes and increased grip It serves two purposes: it makes an otherwise plain handle look more attractive, and it provides increased grip, as it’s easier to hold onto a rougher surface than a smooth one.
Image of a three square file and a chequering file, which will be used to chequer a gun stock For this process, you will need a chequering file and a three square file.
Image showing the tools you will need to mark out the area that you will be chequering on your gun handle using your files If you are working with metal, you will need marking ink and a scribe to mark out the area you will be chequering. If you are working with wood you can use a pencil.
Image of a DIYer marking out the area on their gun handle that will be chequered with a chequering file

Step 1 – Mark area

Mark out a line around the outside of the area you would like to chequer. Keeping within this line will ensure your chequering looks neat and tidy.

A DIYer making a start on their chequering project by cutting the first few lines with the chequering file

Step 2 – Begin chequering

Using your chequering file, and starting at one of the edges of the area you’ll be chequering, cut grooves into your gun stock by rubbing the file forwards and backwards.

Image showing how to line up a chequering file

Step 3 – Relocate

Once you have cut one set of grooves, you will need to relocate your file. To do this, just line up the first row of teeth on the file with the last groove you cut on the gun handle (e.g. the tooth on the far right of the file should be in line with the groove on the furthest left of the pattern you just cut, or vice versa).

Image to show that it's possible to line up your chequering file so that only a few rows of teeth are doing any cutting If you’re coming close to the edge of your chequering area, you can always line more sets of teeth up with grooves that have already been cut. In this way, you can control how many rows of teeth on the file are actually cutting into the handle at any given time.
Image of a DIYer starting the second set of lines on the gun handle

Step 4 – Create chequer pattern

Once you have completely filled your chequering area with grooves in one direction, you are ready to start your second set of lines.

A diamond chequer, created by the second set of grid lines being filed at 60 degrees to the first set Most chequering patterns are diamond shaped but you’re free to make them square if you so choose!
Image of an ornately decorated gun handle which features sculpted leaves as well as unusual patterns created with a chequering file Some gun owners really go to town with their chequering, so be as creative as you feel able!
Image of a DIYer who has started cutting the border of their chequering pattern with a three square file

Step 5 – Create border

Once your chequer pattern is complete, use the edge of a three square file to create a shallow groove around the boundary you originally marked out.

Image of a DIYer sealing the pattern they have just created with a chequering file with gun stock sealer

Step 6 – Seal pattern

Brush over your chequering pattern with gun stock sealer, a type of treatment that will protect the wood from moisture.

Are there any other ways of chequering?

 Image of a selection of chequering tools There is a range of tools available that have been specifically designed for chequering. These allow you to create just one groove at a time.
Image of a gun handle with complex checkering that has been made with checkering tools Using these tools allows you to more easily create complex patterns. You can miss out certain lines to vary the size of the diamonds. This is definitely an advanced technique!
Wonkee Donkee muses about how carrots got their rings

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