Model 41 Grips , Formaldehyde & Newlyweds


Years ago I worked with, became close friends with and became more or less a protege or second son to the guy pictured above. While spending every day around him for years I heard a lot of good stories and anyone that knows much about me knows I like a good story and I’m a near endless supply of my own.

The fella above is named Brady and Brady is an accomplished BR shooter, a SOF vet of the Vietnam war and a general all around accomplished shooter and collector. He had recently remarried in the late 70s or early 80s and him and his new bride had recently bought a new home they had moved into.

Brady always a competitions shooter was always fiddling with his guns as we are all want to do and decided he wanted to make a set of over sized competition wood grips for the small bore pistol matches he was shooting in. After following the directions and copying the design of some knowledgeable wood working guy he followed, he had himself some oversized palm filling grips he was proud of.

The problem was now he had let the wood set and dry out for some amount of time before he could apply the coating and finish of the type he wanted according to the expert. This just wasn’t going to do at all as younger Brady apparently had the patience of a 4 year old.

After reading and researching he kept coming up short on any method to speed things up. He finally called the wood stock making expert and asked for advice on any possible way to hurry it up. The guy told him that the only way he knew of was to soak the grips in formaldehyde for about 2 weeks and that would remove all the natural moisture from the grips that would otherwise screw with the intended finish. Brady is one of those guys who knows everyone and one of those people was a mortician. He was able to get himself enough to fill a mason jar big enough for the grips to fit in.

When he first filled the jar up with the grips he did it outside on a cold windy day and didn’t think much of it as there wasn’t any thing to notice. This came back to bite him. The two weeks passed slow for Brady and he was dying to get those grips out and see how they turned out. Finally on an extremely cold winter day with a foot of snow on the ground, Brady brought them inside and took the jar into the bathroom to open. I will quote Brady on what happened next.

“As soon as a cracked the the seal on that jar and the fumes got out every hole I had started pouring with snot, tears and vomit” He dropped the jar into the bathtub making it worse.. “I ran through the house and was headed for the front door and about the time I passed my wife she said ” whats wrong…” and then the chemical fumes hit her.” Both of them then spent the next out ” right beside each other on the porch hanging over the banister puking our guts out.”

The undiluted chemical fumes and smell migrated all through the new house and soaked into the new furniture and curtains and towels, clothes you name it. After a night Brady said he managed to run inside and open all the windows and doors to let it air out. The furniture and clothes and curtains all had to be taken down and burned. All of it recently purchased after the newly married couple had just barely settled down in their new place. “She was right pissed, hell she nearly divorced me over that!”

The grips did turn out well and I saw the result myself and after all those years since. I got to admit they looked and felt great. If you liked this I have many more stories about Brady and my time with him.


  1. Um, yea, don’t do that.

    There are all manner of potions and gun lotions that have such a powerful odor that they could gag a buzzard. Many of them should not be handled without gloves, most should not be inhaled.

    The older I get, and the more I learn about the field of medicine, the less inclined I am to use many of these potions, and the more inclined I am to use as many natural (or at least less vile) products.

    For instance, Ballistol is a better (and more natural) lube than some of these wunder-lubes with unnamed, lightly factioned petroleum components. I prefer old-fashioned heavy sulphur cutting oil to some of the new-fangled, witch’s brew cutting oils on the lathe, etc.

    Formaldehyde is not at all good for you. How un-good? Very un-good:

    Don’t mess with that crap. Ever. Really, I’m serious.

    As for drying wood so you can finish it: There’s no shortage of people in the gun world who can’t seem to develop patience to do the job right. Such seems to be the nature of the issue, so I’m going to give two bits of advice:

    1. Buy pre-seasoned wood from the desert southwest. Many of the custom stock wood dealers are located in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, etc. You can look them up with a good search engine. The rule of thumb is that wood needs about one year per inch of thickness to dry down to a stable moisture level (about 12% moisture by weight).

    2. Put the wood into an oven, bring the temp up to about 200F, and leave it there for an extended time. The moisture in the wood will vaporize and out-gas from the wood. You might be leaving the wood blank in the oven for a week or more, but it will dry down. It might also check and crack, but there’s little I can do to ameliorate that issue when someone has no patience.

    Putting stock wood into some chemical bath to draw out moisture is really poor advice. I could tell you the story of how Browning screwed themselves by piling California walnut stock blanks into a racked pile and burying them in a pile of salt. The stock blanks at the top of the rack dried down OK, but the wood lower in the pile was effectively immersed in a slush of water (from the higher elevation stock blanks) and salt.

    If you’d like to learn how haste makes expensive waste, google “Browning salt wood” and start reading.

    There are reasons why gunsmiths become highly irritated with impatient people in the gun world. Now you begin to learn some of them…


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