At one time I considered checkering my wood fly rod handles, but discovered that the shape of the handles was sufficient to keep the rods from slipping even when wet. I also think that checkering would diminish the natural beauty of the wood.
_________________ VA -- eastern slope of the Blue Ridge, South of the James, North of the Staunton
2007 Browning Citori Lightning Feather
2007 Browning BPS Upland Special
1947 Browning Automatic-5 (stealth Sweet 16) - ventilated Poly-Choke
1937-42 Savage 430
Use thinned epoxy (thin like water) for the first two coats for good penetration then fully and completely finish with more epoxy until grain is completely filled, especially the end grain, or you will eventually experience moisture problems.
Walnut is not the best choice for dealing with water. There are many beautiful choices that will stand up better. Anything from the rosewood family is going to be fairly forgiving but tough to checker (go real coarse like 16-18 lpi). Rosewood tends to repel finishes other than epoxy too.
One option is to use acrylic stabilized wood which is pretty much 100% vacuum or pressure impregnated with epoxy to avoid moisture issues. Then you could even use a burl.
One problem you will find with the checkering is that once completed, a final application of thinned epoxy will be applied and protection from water may be compromised as the high points wear. Adding thick finish may protect better but then it won't look or feel very great. Once again, acrylic stabilized wood goes a long way toward eliminating the problem.
_________________ Only catch snowflakes on your tongue AFTER the birds fly south for the winter...
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