“The first time I really discovered wood, it was in a carpenter’s workshop. I was 14. I will never forget the different scents as various types of wood would be worked on with the lathe, and how the material somehow came alive as I ran my fingers over its textured surface.
It was the beginning of my passion to create something with my own hands”, remembers Cédric Vichard, a master cabinetmaker.
He has long since made a name for himself with bespoke joinery, including the finest pistol and rifle grips made from olive, pear and palm tree wood as well as rosewood. Yet this sensibility for
the material of which revolver grips are made is only part of what drew The Unnamed Society to Switzerland, closed to l’Épée’s home, and enlist Cédric.
“Vichard” is also synonymous with excellence in the rare art of shagreen, the use of decorative ray skin in cabinetmaking. And in the application of other similarly exotic skins. Though the suggestion of lizard skin for the grip might not have fazed Samuel Colt, surely, he would never have dreamed of something as impossible as a grip for his revolver finished in toad skin, let alone ray skin. But that is what The Unnamed Society is about.
Closer to Colt Country, in Tennessee, Mike Dorris makes custom pistol grips made of completely different materials for the discerning aficionado. Mike specialises in elk antler, sheep horn and giraffe bone grips. Whilst the former two remain genuine classics, the latter turns out to be a high- quality natural substitute for ivory that isn’t “faux ivory” or composite.
Extremely dense and ranging in colour from solid white to a creamy yellow, it makes for a very strong, long-lasting material for pistol grips. Also, giraffe bone can be large enough to produce most styles of grips, so the bespoke possibilities are endless.
“Everything I know, I learned by watching my father Virgil. He’s no longer with us, but the flame inside him is. I’m sure he’d be proud to see what fine pistol grips we make today. And I’m just as sure he’d never have imagined that the word “giraffe” would be uttered a dozen times a day in his workshop,” muses Mike Dorris, Head of MD Grips.