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Walnut Pistol Grip

Dave Baxter

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Nov 14, 2007
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So have you guys ever wanted your own custom made control stick pistol grip. Back in the 80s when I started building my Starduster Too I had already been collecting historical contacts along with pictures and information about all things Starduster to add to my collection. One person I found was a guy named Dude Sattem he lived in the Salem Oregon area at the time and had built a nice Starduster Too N357DS. He previously had built an EAA biplane that was registered N22DS. He was a gunsmith and being one had been involved with walnut pistol grips as well as rifle stocks on fire arms for years, and had made the control stick grips for his Starduster with some rather fancy and elaborate walnut type pistol grips. This gave me the idea to do the same with my airplane.

It is not nearly as hard as one would think, being a model builder, and a guy that has made many things out of virtually nothing, I was up for the challenge. Walnut is very friendly and easy to carve sand and grind on, and hand works nicely. It does require some planning regarding size wise as to the fit of your hand and the kind of shape and design. Like those on military aircraft, this can inspire how elaborate you want to make the grip. All of the ones I made for My Starduster and my sons as well as my blue SA-100 have push to talk switches on the top of the grip. The exception was this current and last six one I have made, it has been one of my trade marks and now a tradition.

The size of the control stick and the blank is a place to start with, mine was about 5" tall 2 1/2" wide and 2 1/2" thick to start with, and a 1" hole slightly forward of center on the walnut block of the control stick. A band saw and several hole saws with a smaller one can be used progressively and finished off with large drills. Then using a poor mans hone which is a 6" long 3/8' bolt taped with duct tape and wrapped with enough and paper strips from a belt sander, and then wrapped around the bolt slightly larger that the hole, and in the direction of rotation. It can be used with a drill, with the walnut block clamped in a vise or on a drill press with a drill jig. Drawing with a lead pencil the basic outline using your hand as a guide, then drilling some holes about 5/16" or 3/8" in diameter in the places where a radius of the required size help locate the rough outline, and shape. Then using a die grinder with carbide cutters for non ferrous metal, it can easily be shaped little at a time pretty close to the finished size. One needs to take care to not cut or grind through into the hole for the control stick. When locating it on the stick, I twist the grip slightly to the left for my right hand as it is the natural reach to the control stick. In this position the mounting holes need to be marked and drilled for a 8-32 screw. Then countersunk along with drilling and tapping the control stick for 8-32 countersunk screws. This needs to be done with it carved and ground down close to the finish size on each side. After which the finish carving grinding free hand and sanding to the finish shape is not all that hard or time consuming. By continually grabbing the grip with your hand in between grinding and sanding in down you will come to a point where the grip fits your hand perfectly depending on your idea and the size of your hand of fit and finish. Then several coats of varithane and letting it dry over a three night period one can end up with a nice custom made walnut stick grip.

The other five grips I have made all have push to talk switches. This one does not due to the Sporty's Com PJ2 hand held radio I am planning on using. this is a great radio, and very user friendly. I am going to try out the Velcro to the control stick push to talk switch that can be used with this radio. It can also be powered by batteries or to the aircraft electrical system. If anyone has questions about making one of these grips, please comment. Dave


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