Pistol Smith Forum banner

Checkering - hand cut vs. machine cut

8149 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Dane Burns
I'd like some opinions on this subject. It seems to me that machine cut checkering is considered somehow inferior to hand cut checkering on full custom pieces. As long as whoever is doing the machine checkering is using good sharp cutters, I would think that one is just as good as the other if done correctly. So from an end users or smiths point of view, why specify or offer hand cut checkering on a gun? This brings to mind the saying "Work smarter, not harder." What's everyone's take on this?

1 - 11 of 11 Posts
This...will be rich...

My take goes like this.

Anything that a machine can do, you use the machine. Hand checkering becomes a waste of time if the machine can do it as well, which it certainly can. A manual or a CNC machine can do checkering.

Anything that requires human artistry and touch "like engraving and inlaying" you do by hand. Also, final fitting of parts is done by hand.

Having said that, I am fully aware that some people would find great personal satisfaction knowing that their "perfect" checkering job was done by hand, not machine. That is as it should be. It just depends on what floats your boat.

For me, it's not something I would oohh and aahh about. If machine checkering is perfectly done, the only way to tell it from hand cut is that hand cut will have the inevitable flaws.

if it flies it dies, if it runs it's done

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Peter Zahn on 2001-05-07 01:13 ]</font>
See less See more
This thread became the downfall of the 1911forum IMO.

Hence the :lol:

The vast majority of smiths now machine checker and hand finish. Even some that don't clarify that fact on their web pages.

EGW does a booming business machine checkering for the industry as well as the individual. I highly recommend them. "Metalsmith" on the 1911forum is in fact Pete Single who checkers for Novak's shop as well as Vickers, and a few others.

Heinie, Wilson, Novak, C&S, Brown, Baer, Wickman, Nowlin, Morris are just a few who do, in fact, machine checker as well as myself.

Tim Bacus still does it by hand last I heard.

Making that fact known in a public forum and making it VERY clear to all of our customers ruffled a few feathers in our tiny industry.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Dane Burns on 2001-05-07 01:14 ]</font>
See less See more
I'm not sure, but I think CT Brian does it all by hand still. Seems like a rarity these days from what I have been led to understand.

Dane, thanks for emailing be back so fast, and pointing me to this site. :smile:

Justin Moore


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: JLM on 2001-05-07 02:53 ]</font>
Actually, I had to give up completely hand cut checkering a little while back. After years of doing it, the old elbow and finger joints just can't take it anymore.

I use a jig of my own design to 'perfect' the radius of the front strap, then machine the initial lines, both horizontal and vertical. After that, I use a very fine 60 degree three sided needle file to bring each individual diamond to point by hand.

I realize my website says I'm still doing it all by hand. A completely new (and improved :smile:!) website is currently being put together and will correct the old 'completely hand cut' version.

Don't want to mislead anyone.

Cheers, Tim
Thanks for the info so far. This post was purely technical in nature. I wasn't trying to stir anything up like the drama on the other board. I must admit that I don'k know all the details of the excitement at the other forum. I had been gone for a couple days, and by the time I checked back, Dane and DD had already been banned and posts had been deleted, so I never did see the whole story. That whole incident was unfortunate, but some good did come from it, mainly this board.

I'm not really interested in how any particular smith is cutting checkering, or how it's advertised. I was only interested in why anyone would cut checkering by hand when properly done machine cut checkering is just as good or better. After checkering a frontstrap by hand, I couldn't imagine doing that on a regular basis.

By the way Tim, I love that magwell on your website. Is that something your making from scratch, or are you cutting down someone elses?

Hoping this thread doesn't degrade into something it was never meant to be.


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Walker on 2001-05-07 15:52 ]</font>
See less See more
Thanks for the compliment, Walker. The mag well you're refering to (the SuperWell), is a highly modified Brown Maxi-Well. Since Ed has quit production of them, I'll be designing my own as soon as my existing stock runs out.

Cheers, Tim
I think it is generally accepted in the industry that machine cut checkering is the only thing that is going to be perfect. Of course the quality of the hand finished, machine product, is what seperates the artists from the machinists these days.

Nothing has really changed in the quality issues. The amount of time has lessened going to a machine product from a hand done produt. The price should change accordingly IMO.

Like you, Walker and Tim noted, it takes some time, effort and physical strain to keep up the effort of daily hand checkering. It is tough on the body.

I think you will see hand cut front strap and back straps disappear as the consumers realise the quality and price differences. Hard to beat better quality and a drop in price.

I think the drop in price is the issue to many in the industry.
Unfortunately, Pete Single is getting out of the checkering biz.
My Delta Elite, being built by Pete Carber of Custom Arms Co.
will be one of the last he will be doing.....he almost wasn't
going to do mine, but I got lucky enough to have had him do all
my others via Novaks .45 Shop. I can tell you this...once you
have seen his work, you won't need to question whether to go
by hand or machine! It's perfection!
Pete Single, aka Metalsmith from the 1911forum has been "going out of buisness" for years. Having heard that same story several years ago from Pete himself, I suspect Pete has a hard time telling anyone "no" when asked to take on more work.

I believe you will find him alive and well, and busier than ever with his checkering available through Novak's as well as others.

For less hassle, a little straighter story and excellent customer service EGW offers machine checkering to the trade as well as to individuals. George from EGW is also on list to help and answer questions from years of experience.
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.