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This site contains details of what I do – it does not mean that it is safe or legal for you to do the same, and I accept no responsibility if you do. You are responsible for ensuring that what you do is within your capabilities and is safe and legal in your country. Guns, even antiques, can be dangerous and if you don’t know what you are doing get expert help. Many antique guns are of historic and/or financial value, and its your responsibility to find out if what you want to do will damage their value. Remember, leaving them as they are won’t diminish their value but inappropriate repair might well make them worth less, maybe much less! If in doubt don’t do it.
I assume he is holding the sling out of the way with his left hand? from Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..
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___________________ DIARY _____________ _________
13th August – Yesterday the little o/u pistol was collected by my friend and client – I let it go with reluctance as its such a beauty – I showed him teh Venables 14 bore but wouldn’t let him buy it! I did persuade him to sell me a little pair of Belgian percussion pocket pistols that need quite a lot of restoration done as they have rusted. I normally steer clear of foreign stuff as it was not popular here, but times are a’changing as they say, and I needed a straightforward project for the blog as I’ve been a bit distracted lately. I haven’t actually got these pistols yet, or for that matter seen them in theflesh, but when I do I’ll put photos up.
Goodbye – you don’t see many as nice as this!
11th August – The mystery of the Yamaha F4A outboard deepens! I put it all back together – minus the back cover – and ran it with the pipe that connects the thermostat housing to the exhaust junction and carries the hot cooling water from the engine disconnected at the connection to the leg. The engine was running with the leg in a tank of water in neutral at ‘trolling’ speed. With the thermostat in place a few drops appear from the pipe when the engine is cold (it needs to leak s bit to get the hot water to the thermostat), and as the engine warms up the flow gradually increases and a thermometer shows the water at around 60 degrees C or so, which is about right – but then the pipe starts to spit steam and after a minute or so it is just a stream of steam with no solid water and the engine get very hot. With the thermostat removed there is a strong continuous flow of water from the pipe and it doesn’t get much above 40 – 45C and the engine stays reasonable cool. I checked the thermostat before and it meets the specs exactly, so what is going on? The tell tale is showing good pressure on both tests….
When running with the water coming out of the pipe rather than into the leg, the leg gets quite hot from the exhaust but that isn’t a factor in this problem. In all these tests there is a very strong stream coming from the tell tale hole by the inlet to the engine. Anyway I have left out the thermostat and plan to use the outboard to see if it overheats in use – of course I’ll reconnect the pipe to the leg to cool the exhaust and put on the covers. Mystery…………
Good tell tale flow and good cooling flow when no thermostat is fitted
9th August – Having said yesterday that it was too nice to be indoors, I got my comeuppance today as it rained all day non stop and is still raining. I did a few vaguely gun related jobs- making some felt sleeves to keep my antique pistols from getting damaged. I was hoping to do some work on the dinghy in preparation form my little trip, but that wasn’t possible.
8th August – The number of visitors to this site has jumped to about 500 a day – and it seems to be genuine visitors rather than bot attacks, which is nice. I haven’t got back to gun work yet – its really too nice to be indoors, so I got back to trying to fix my Yamaha F4A outboard that was overheating last year. We failed to notice that there was no cooling water coming out of the tell tale outlet, and the engine overheated, so I stripped it down and found the water pump absolutely solid with salt so I replaced all the parts of the pump and cleaned out and replaced the thermostat – it all seemed fine and water flowed out of the tell tale but it still got far too hot. I took the head off and checked & cleared all the water cooling passages, which were pretty clear anyway, and then had to wait while I got a replacement head gasket. I put it together today but fortunately didn’t put all the cowling back on as it was still overheating, although this time there was a very strong jet coming out of the tell-tale hole, so there was obviously adequate pressure from the water pump. Nothing for it but to take the power head off the leg to look at the only bit of the water path I hadn’t checked – but no sign of any problems there. Now that is all a bit of a mystery, so I went back to the thermostat that I’d replaced and checked it in hot water – it opened fully by 70 degrees C, which is what it is supposed to do. I put the thermostat housing back on without the thermostat and could then blow easily through from the water pump inlet to the water outlet into the exhaust path so there can be no obstruction in the entire water path in the engine. That really doesn’t leave much that could be wrong! I am now waiting for a new gasket to put the power head back on the leg and I’ll try again. One useful thing I did learn is that the telltale outlet is right by the cooling water inlet to the engine, so it doesn’t show if water is flowing round the engine, only that the pump is working, and the tell tale water never gets more that luke warm, so as a check its rather limited. My only possible thought is that there was an air lock in the path to the thermostat housing so that it never got heated enough to open – anyway my only idea at the moment is to try it without the thermostat in place………………….. I’ll be back with more on this, I would like to get the outboard working as I want to go off in our 16 ft dinghy for a few days while the weather is good………………………
5th August – back at last after our sailing holiday – altogether a good time was had by all. Only one gale and we were safely tied up in Stornoway for the day – we hired a car and did a tour of Harris, which is not difficult as there are not that many roads! Mostly sailing required 4 layers of clothing, but the wind dropped almost every night so no tense nights worrying about anchors dragging, and it was often possible to eat in the cockpit in the evening (thankfully midges don’t make the journey out to the boat!). We even had one whole day then it was possible to wear shorts and a tee shirt, which is almost unheard of in those parts. We got the hang of sailing the boat better, mostly because Giles had done a bit of yacht racing and was good at sail trimming, so we had some exciting fast reaches at 8 knots plus in winds to 25 knots. We explored a few new anchorages and discovered a couple of very pretty lochs to overnight in. Now back to ‘real life’ or what passes for that here! I’ve forgotten everything I knew about guns and engraving, so it will be fun picking it up again………………
Quiet evening in Loch Shell, Lewis
25th July – Greetings from the Hebrides, where it is about 14 degrees C and alternating between 20 knot winds and calm, with rain and drizzle thrown in for good measure, while me house sitters bask in 30 degrees and swim in the pool!
Alongside in Scalpay Noth Harbour, Harris
Motoring in the rain!
20th July We have nearly reached the end of school term and our house guests/house sitters will shortly be arriving so we can hand over and disappear for a sailing trip round the Hebrides. Until then I am pretty busy on work, so there won’t be much on the blog, I’m afraid, unless I can persuade the sitters to give an account of their time in the house – they certainly won’t be doing any gun engraving as my collection is currently in storage – and I’ll try to sell a substantial chunk of it before I take it back as I have run out of space! I’ll try to put some pictures when we do eventually get away, but mobile reception is a bit flakey in the Outer Isles, and our target this year is St Kilda, which I’m certain doesn’t have any.
18th July A very pleasant afternoon with a couple of friends for lunch and a bit of gentle muzzle loading clay shooting in their garden – we had a very nice Egg double 11 bore tubelock sans ramrod that was quite heavy and of around 1840 – 45 vintage. This was the second phase of popularity of the tubelock after the first Joseph Manton 1818 tubelock patent flurry of guns – it is always assumed that the second phase of popularity was predicated on the craze for live pigeon shooting and the big wagers involved, on the premise that the tubelock was slightly faster ignition than the caplock. The bore is a hint that it was a live pigeon gun as it was the maximum allowed bore, and most sporting guns except wildfowl guns were smaller bore. Plus it doesn’t have a ramrod. It was one of a pair of guns without the numbers 1 & 2 to distinguish the guns and that is possibly a clue as sporting guns were usually carefully individually marked. Unusually the tubelock had a number of misfires, which we put down to faulty tubes – I didn’t make those tubes and I’ve never had a misfire in the few hundred I’ve made. I took my Manton Flintlock and we got it to go from a noticeable delay to pretty fast by tweaking the priming – our American friend convinced me that it was faster with about 1/3 or 1/4 of the priming powder (Swiss OB) than I had been using – great discovery given the price of Swiss OB. I’m almost out of OB as I seem to have mislaid my pot of it – possibly I lent it? I think I’d been adding more priming in the mistaken belief that it made the gun go off faster. We shot the Venables for the first time – it seems to shoot as a percussion caplock would, All in all I managed to bag a few clays with all three guns.
17th July I have been trying to ‘invent’ new designs for border engravings, but its turning out to be more difficult than I imagined – I thought I’d do a rope, but getting the shading to look right is proving tricky – I’ll post a photo when I get a bit nearer a solution. I had the last STEM club of the term – the oldest children – year 6- are going on to secondary school so next term there will be new members and we’ll have to start again with cutting up cardboard boxes and using masses of sticky tape and hot (warm) glue guns and lolly sticks etc. So Dave and I will have to rack our brains to come up with suitable projects that include the above! I’ll miss the year 6s – they were great. We are shortly off to Scotland and sailing, so I am getting ready for the house sitters to take over – I am relieved that they are staying because the thought of coming back after a couple of weeks and finding the swimming pool a stagnant green puddle is not at all attractive! I hope they get on all right with the cockerel – nasty piece of work! I got invited out to lunch and some gently muzzle loading shooting tomorrow so I might take the Venables and see if it shoots as well as it seems to handle – and maybe the Manton flintlock to see if I can get the ignition up to speed – it was a bit slow last time, although I have to admit that it is other people who really notice – I am maybe too slow myself to judge the ignition speed of a flintlock unless it is really noticeably slow. Tomorrow I also have a visit to school to meet the teacher responsible for Special Educational Needs children as that is my governor responsibility – in total that means I will have made three visits this week and a similar number last week – in fact every term-time week – the holidays will come as a bit of a relief.
16th July – another sunny day! I don’t know how long it is since we had rain, probably about 4 weeks and counting… Coincidence or what – just as I finished typing that sentence Penny called out and said that it was raining – but you can be sure it won’t be enough to soak the ground! I went over to see Dick today to see the progress on jobs. – We have a small problem – the double barreled ‘foreign’ pistol was stripped by Dick but neither he nor I can find the small parts from the inside of the locks – I’m pretty sure I only took bits that needed engraving, which I’ve returned in the box they came in but the ‘works’ have proved elusive – both Dick and I have searched our workshops to no avail – really strange because both of us have several of sets of bits at any one time and always keep them separate and in boxes or zippy plastic bags. The annoying thing is that if you make a new set – possible but tedious – you can be sure they will turn up just as you finish the last part!
15th July – I saw several interesting guns people had bought to show at Rugby yesterday, including a fine underhammer percussion rifle by W Parker. One shooter had a problem with his percussion shotgun – the cock wouldn’t pull back from the fired position as far as half cock so a couple of us had a look and took out the lock, whereupon it became clear that the problem was that the nose of the tumbler was hitting the mainspring claw/ tumbler link and preventing the tumbler from rotating any further. It’s unusual to see clearances here of less than a couple of m.m. , but the gun looked original and had been shooting perfectly well. The problem appeared to boil down to the link being effectively too long – the top joint of the link onto the tumbler appeared to have bit of play, but not really enough to cause the problem. I had a spring clamp in my car and took out the mainspring, which revealed the problem – the link had started a crack just at the joint between the flat part and the cross bar that engages with the claw on the mainspring and had allowed the rod to move so as to effectively lengthen the link and cause the interference seen. (see photo – of a different lock). It will be a tricky job to weld it, but another member took it away to fix as its an ‘up North’ job. I had a look at a few locks from an assortment of guns and couldn’t find one where the clearance between the tip of the tumbler and link/claw was so small -before the crack opened the clearance could only have been a few tens of thou! – you meet something new every day in this game! I stupidly didn’t photograph the broken lock, so here are some photos of ones I have to hand that illustrate the site of the problems
This is a lock from my Samuel Nock percussion 14 bore gun. The arrow illustrates the closest point as the cock is pulled back – as you can see the sear hasn’t reached the half cock bent. On the broken gun there was a collision between tumbler and spring and link at this point.
A lock from a John Manton & Son 1852-5 percussion double showing the point on the link that had started to crack on the Rugby gun – if it hadn’t stopped working because of the interference, the link would have failed shortly anyway.
14th July – At the Horley Wood Helice shoot today – fantastic weather, with enough breeze to stop us all frying in the sun. The Rugby club is one of only 5 in the country to have a helice layout – as I’ve probably explained before, the principle is to simulate the old sport of live pigeon shooting matches without any loss of life, either the shooters or the targets. It is laid out like the old live pigeon shoots with 5 traps in front of the shooter, loaded with orange winged clays that fly, and have a knockout white centre that falls free if hit (with a little luck). There is a small fence around 2 feet high in an arc around the shooting position at about 30 yards(?) distant – the ‘clay must be hit so as to separate the white centre, which must hit the ground inside the fence to count as a kill. We allowed the clay to bounce over the fence and still score, but I think some rules say it must finish up inside the fence. The fun part is that the traps spin up the clays and oscillate from side to side and up and down so that the shooter can’t anticipate which trap will fire on the ‘pull’ ( the use of that word signifies the pulling of the string that opened the trap over the live pigeon) or the direction it will take. the spinning orange part is a propeller and can describe a whole range of different paths with changes of direction during flight. Scoring a hit is a mixture of good shooting and luck in getting an ‘easy’ bird (in truth none are that easy). As muzzle loaders are not as fast as breech loaders, and we are not experienced helice shooters, we only use the middle 3 traps, which makes it somewhat easier, It is so different from ‘normal’ clay shooting that all the winners were shooters who didn’t normally figure as winners in conventional clay competition, and many of those who are normally good didn’t shine……
For the benefit of those there, some of whom read my blog, here are a couple of photos;
20 bird shoot – so only 8 out of 28 hit half or more of the birds well enough to score – there were a few near misses too.
The ‘bird’ is just below the wind turbine blade. The trap on the left has just fired hence it shows black.
As in any muzzle loading event, it takes time to load and shoot 560 shots, so there is a little time to relax
13th July Missed out on the restoration & engraving for a couple of days – I had a look at the two little pistols Dick has restored – they look very good now. They will in due course be collected when the owner gets down off his combine! I bought back the frizzen of the Blair and Sutherland that I had asked Dick to make a better fit to the pan as it was so hard the file wouldn’t touch it – the beauty of having an electric furnace handy means just dip it in scale inhibiting paint (Brownells) and hang it in the furnace and set it for 900C then turn it off and let it cool ( it cools at a reasonably slow rate as the bricks are quite good insulators). I am off the Rugby for the Helice tomorrow – I got out the Gasquoine and Dyson 6 1/2 bore live pigeon gun to see if I could mount it but the stock is too high and I can’t get my head down on the stock – given that live pigeon guns were made to shoot high, adding the extra from my eye being above the line means I don’t think I could hit anything with it – so it looks as if it will be the old faithful Henry Nock single 14 bore. the load is limited to 1 1/4 oz and 3 drams, which is quite enough for its 5 1/4 lbs weight. I’ll take the Venables of Oxford to show off my bargain! I’m busy preparing for sailing in Scotland- we have a large table piled with food, and I’m sorting out navigation software for my mobile phone – there is a group of enthusiasts who have been surveying small locks around the West coast of Scotland using a rubber dingy equipped with GPS and an echsounder, because a lot of the Official Admiralty charts are based on surveys that were done in the 19th or early 20th centuries and the positioning of small features like sharp rocks is not always perfect. Anyway I have purchased the amateur charts (Antares charts) and they look pretty good, although they only cover a handful of possible anchorages in the Hebrides. I have also been fretting over the swimming pool so that the house-sitters can keep it sanitary – if left un-dosed it goes a horrible green colour and heaven knows what nasties lurk within – probably kill anyone who ventures into the water instantly. I got a floating gizmo that holds clorine tablets that dissolve slowly, but finding the right settings to maintain the level steady is taking a while.
10th July I finished my black powder box and filled it and photographed it for the Firearms dept – hope they like it! One anomaly in the instructions seemed odd – if you don’t keep the box in a secure place (whatever that is) then it must have secure hinges and hasp and padlock. Nothing about fixing it down to anything, so presumably its Ok to pick it up and run away with it. You could probably get in fairly fast using the saw blade on a proper Swiss Army knife – they are vicious. The more detail you try to put in regulations, the more holes you create! I engraved the breech block of the pistol – I did the false breech earlier – see photo. The whole thing is now complete as far as my work is concerned, with the possible exception of a few screwheads yet to be made. I was given an old lock, which was obviously rather crude, or possibly early, as there is no bridle on the tumbler – see photo….
Breech block of ‘foreign’ pistol.
Gash lock I was given. – The mechanism is pretty crude – there is no bridle supporting the tumbler shaft – this is probably a function of it being a trade gun rather than on account of its age, although the ‘banana shape of the lockplate is a somewhat early feature.The cock looks a bit too unrusted compared with the rest of it so is probably a replacement.
9th July I took the bits I had engraved to Dick’s so he can get on with fitting them to the wood – the butt cap fits on to a chunk of what looks like ivory that forms a white (now varnished brown) band above the brass cap. Not sure if it is ivory, but the pistol predates plastics… I now have the barrel to put a bit of decoration on the rib on the breech block – probably nothing else, I’ll see how it goes I might be tempted to try a silver inlay. The barrels are very light – the muzzles look like typical shotgun muzzles in terms of thickness, and the breeches are a bit thicker, but not much, plus the barrels appear to be slightly swamped (i.e. have a ‘waist’) although it isn’t true swamped in that the barrel never gets thinner than at the muzzle – just looks swamped when you view along the barrel. Anyway for a pistol we reckoned it had a very light barrel. I’m going to have to have a better system of keeping track of which bits of which guns I have, and which bits Dick has – it hasn’t been a problem before – we both have ‘systems’ that usually work, but today we were not sure who had all the ‘works’ from the pistol locks. I am sure that Dick had stripped them, and I only took the bits that actually needed engraving, but he thought I have them! We both have workshops full of stuff, but actually both of us are quite careful about keeping track of bits so it is unusual for us to misplace things. My black powder box is pretty near completion – just need a strong point to secure it to an eyebolt. Now I have to photograph it for the Firearms & Explosives person.
Its difficult to know where this pistol came from – the chequering is fairly coarse and the shapes are not English – the ivory plug is unusual too!
Very light barrels of around 18 bore – must have used quite light loads!
8th July – I fixed up an automatic watering system for the tomato plants (3) which live in a grow bag on the roof of the log store – they get through about 8 litres of water a day in this weather! I am amazed that a little plastic part run on two AAA cells can turn on and off a full water supply at 5 Bars pressure! I made a garden gate (its a weekend and time to catch up on domestic jobs) out of a couple of old table tops I had collected from a skip in a University lab – they were covered in dirty hardboard but made of solid pine – they were quite narrow and on the underside has a groove along one edge and a couple of holes for ink wells with ink soaked in all round – took me back to my first school were we had to use ‘dip pens’ to write in copybooks – it probably gave me a love of graphics and script writing, not that I’m very good at it – maybe my early education wasn’t rigorous enough. ( that all makes me sound like someone out of Dickens or a TV historic play). Anyway a very solid gate now hangs in the garden, and a bit more old junk has gone from the shed….. I eventually found the trigger guard – it was in the cellar with my derusting kit – logical – I just forgot to look there. Anyway that is now done, plus the brass butt cap.
I went for a classic scroll here – I used the gravermax as the metal was a bit mixed – not as easy to control as push engraving….
but it has to be quick – the job is taking far too long for any sensible added value!
7th July – Shades of 1976! I remember an aerial photo of my auntie’s farm taken that year – a house in a sea of completely parched fields. My quest for the missing trigger guard got pretty frantic, especially when I realised the brass butt cap was missing too. I even had Dick searching his workshop in case I’d taken them down with the other bits of the pistol to show him. They were of course where I had put them – down in the cellar next to the derusting tank! No time to actually DO anything by the time they were found. My blackpowder box turns out to be a fairly tight fit on my modified plastic bottles – I should have made the spaces 5 mm bigger, but it will just fit them. I’m sorting out bits and pieces for sailing – things have moved on from the days when you needed dozens of paper charts at about £ 8 each – I just got all the UK charts in digital form for up to 5 mobile phones for £25. which is a bargain! Very handy for use on deck – you need to put your phone in a waterproof bag, but that isn’t a problem. I still like a few paper charts for planning as it helps to be able to see the detail and the big picture in their proper relation at the same time, plus I love ‘walking’ the dividers across a chart to measure distances/times – so quick and immediate.
6th July. I have now finished all the bits of the double pistol, except the trigger guard, which I have mislaid! I had it on my engraving bench and looked at it in preparation, but it had evaporated! The fact that someone dished me up an oversize gin and tonic at 6 p.m. hasn’t helped the search! I’m sure it will turn up somewhere! I’m reminded that next Saturday is the Helice shoot at Rugby, when our gang will try their hand at this fantastic clay shoot – regulars on this site from last year will know that the traps throw flying ‘clays’ from random traps in random directions in imitation of the 19th century s’sport’ of live pigeon shooting. I do have an original live pigeon gun by Gasquoine and Dyson (see post) – like a lot of the early percussion live pigeon guns it is large bore – 6 1/2 and like all live pigeon guns, it was made without provision for a ramrod as all loading was at tables and supervised to make sure the loads were fair. Live pigeon guns were usually made to shoot high as the birds were always rising when shot. Although it is a big bore, mostly the guns were not overly heavy and shot moderate loads of 1 1/2 or 2 oz of shot (later 1 1/2 was the max. allowed and the big bores were dropped). The other large bore guns that you find were wildfowling guns which were typically much heavier – 12 lbs not being unusual, and would have loaded heavy powder and shot charges – 3 oz and 4 or 5 drams of black powder. While many of the live pigeon guns were of high quality and finish like mine, the wildfowling guns were usually plain and strictly functional. I will have to think about which gun to take!
5th July – I found an offcut of 6mm ply in the recesses of the shed that was big enough to cut the partitions for the black powder box from, so that is now done and awaits hinges and hasp – I might go mad and buy some intumescent strip for the lid – about £12. It is recommended in ER2014 but not obligatory. I finished off the two lock plates that had been ‘engraved’ by a madman – I had to follow most of the existing pattern as some of the cuts were quite deep – anyway it looks passable now – the leaves sticking out are strange, but they were quite deeply cut so it was not possible to ignore them. Anyway it looks a lot better and I eventually followed a suggestion for a border from Dick, so I did a wiggly line, which is very quick to do and looks the part. I shudder to think how long I’ve spent on them so far – I have the rest of the furniture to sort now- its in the derusting bath. I did most of the second lock with the Gravermax as it gave me slightly more control in the difficult parts of the metal – around 30% of the surface.
Slightly unusual design, it would probably have been better to make new lock plates, but that would raise the price of the job considerably and it is a collector’s find so its quite nice to keep elements of the original;
4th July – back in school for a 1 to 1 session with a young lad. We succeeded in programming the robot vehicle to follow a line but dodge round an obstruction and carry on following – we got it to do 4 laps of an obstructed circuit. I have now glued up the black powder box – it is designed to hold 16 bottles of 500 gm each and is effectively made of 24 mm ply, so its pretty hefty, even empty! I now have to get some 6 mm ply for the internal divisions – I have a full sheet in the shed, but it is so deeply buried and such a struggle to find space to cut it up (by hand) that I may just go and see if I can pick up some offcuts in the timber merchant. I’ll then need hinges and a hasp and some means of securing it in place. Then I can retire my old box. I spent a good part of the day engraving the junk locks (see below) the metal is horrible and I’m getting through gravers fast – I won’t be able to put off a sharpening session much longer. I’ll post a photo shortly – it is very difficult to get something that looks reasonable when so much of the original ‘engraving’ is still there. the pre-existing stuff really defines a pattern unlike anything I’ve ever seen on a gun or anywhee else for that matter – heaven knows who did it, or why! Last chance to bid on Holts sealed bid sale – I couldn’t find a lot to get excited about, but I did stick in one bid, so we’ll see if that works.
3rd July in school a couple of times today – my STEM club was very quiet as its a ‘move up day’ and my seniors had gone off to their next term’s schools for the day. I decided that it was almost impossible to buy 500ml antistatic bottles – almost because it is possible to buy wash bottles at about £8 each – so I cut all the old 1KG black powder bottles I had at 125 mm from the base and cut the skirt off the top at 20 – 25 below the corner and then split up the corners of the top a little to make it easier to fit the top over the base – I then stuck the two together with black silicone sealant. My stock of empty bottles was good because several years ago I’d bought a 12Kg sack of BP and asked the AML members for spare empty bottles. Anyway I now have 10 antistatic bottles that I hope will satisfy ER2014. I bought a sheet of 12 mm ply and got it cut into three strips – I decided to make the box out of two layers of 12 mm ply instead of 18 mm ply as it will be easier to get good overlapping joints and its a lot cheaper – around £25 a sheet for shuttering ply with one good face. So far I’ve cut the pieces and glued the two layers of all the sides together. I am hoping that my construction method works – I’ll post the evidence when it is put together.
Looks a bit wonky, but who cares?
2nd July. I recut the trigger guard of the rifle – its always difficult to decide how much I’m going to do – this one was quite pitted – probably deeper than the existing engraving over a lot of the surface. so to refinish the surface to get rid of the pitting would probably have obliterated all of the original engraving and I’d then have to recreate the original (without really knowing what it was!). I settled for refreshing as best I could – its often difficult, as in this case, to make out what the engraving represents, so you have to recut the clear original cuts, getting finer and finer as far as you can follow, and hope that something recognisable will emerge from the recutting. In this case a stag’s head emerged with scrolls on either side. You can now ‘read’ the engraving much better, without it looking too brash. Interestingly the deeper cuts appeared to be done with a chasing tool and hammer, which is quite unusual in my experience on an English gun, the fine lines were, I think done with a push engraver. Dick has a strange foreign pistol that had the crudest engraving you can imagine – the owner wanted it ‘tarted up’ to look more like an English pistol – it has a short double barrel that actually could be English – the rest might be a trade gun decorated by an amateur. Ive now put that to bed, I hope ( photos below)
The initial state of the trigger guard – its quite difficult to make out the details – electrolytic derusting cleared out the hard rust, which makes it easier to recut. As always, part of the difficulty of ‘reading ‘ the engraving is that the rust comes up flush with the surface, so you don’t see relief or shadows.
It is now clearer although the photo doesn’t show the middle bit well as there are no shadows
I’m supposed to turn these into something respectable! The tail is too deep to ignore, but I’m tempted to file out the nose engraving as it is only on one plate.
The pre-existing ‘engraving’ if it deserves that name makes it difficult to deviate as most of the cuts on the tail are too deep to ignore. So I just work with what is already there- recutting lines and adding shading and changing the overall shape with additions. – I’ll put a pattern in the border round the lock at some point.
1July. Another month gone…. I went sailing in our 16ft dinghy today as it was such a perfect day! I had an amusing encounter where I pay to launch the boat – last time I said 16ft as the length and they said lets call it 14 ft 6 inches as that is cheaper, so I agreed. This time I said 14 ft 6 inches and they said lets call it 3 meters as that is cheaper – presumably this will continue until the boat has infinitesimal length and costs nothing – or is 3 m the minimum cost? Watch this space to discover…. The owner of the rifle reminded me that I was also going to recut the trigger guard – I’m afraid it has slipped my mind, so that is something to look forward to. I got a letter from the Firearms Licensing people for Bedfordshire ( our licensing is now joint) telling me the latest storage regulations for Black Powder and asking for photographs of my box etc. There is a bit of a problem here – while the maximum contents of the box has increased to 15 Kg ( I think 10 Kg is the max on the license) it still has to be stored in 550 gm max per bottle and the bottles have to be plastic / polythene or paper or cloth and the plastic must not ‘induce static electricity’. All my BP comes in 1 Kg antistatic bottles of which I have plenty but it is nigh on impossible to buy 500 ml antistatic (usually black) plastic bottles anywhere on the web. Since you need to leave 30% space above the bottles the box gets a bit ridiculously high if you just half fill the 1 Kg bottles, which is presumably perfectly legal – you can’t count the 50% space withing the bottle towards the 30% either. So I am in a bit of a quandary – I am thinking of cutting the existing bottles down and gluing them back together, or using sticky tape. My current box takes 500ml poythene bottles but it looks like I’ll have to make a new one – heaven knows where it will fit in the house! Here is the extract from ER 2014 – I’ll try to track down the full thing when I have time.. On second thoughts, keeping the BP in paper bags of 500 gm is obviously quite legal and much cheaper …………………….. Suggestions welcome!
click here for ER2014 summary:- Black Powder regulations
30th June – I picked up the barrel of the rifle that I engraved the patch box for from Dick today – he has done a nice job of browning it – a good chestnut brown – he struck up the barrel a little to get rid of some of the small scale pitting, but didn’t take it too far so that it looked as if the barrel had been worked over. There is no engraving on the rifle at all, although it is a nice quality piece – it is thought to be outsale from Joseph Manton very late in his career – it is a little unusual that it is unsigned, un-numbered and without a barrel makers mark, as its a decent quality Birmingham proofed gun. Dick and I had a mutual ‘senior moment’ when putting the backsight back – we couldn’t remember which side the folding leaf was normally on – we did get it right as I checked on my Purdey rifle when I got home. I had to take out the foresight and file it down a bit as it didn’t fit very well. Anyway its ready to go back to its owner, which is more than can be said for the little pistol Dick is STILL working on – it must have taken the best part of a week to do – far more than the pistol is worth! I’m going to have to have a try at shooting the Venables – it seems to fit pretty well with its 3/8th cast off.. I do have a problem that I always think almost any gun I pick up fits me, unless the comb is too high for me to see down the barrel rib, in which case I can usually shoot it with a leather butt pad fitted. The secret with the leather butt pads is to cut shims from old cork table mats and use them to adjust the length of the stock. I’m sure that they can’t all fit but I need an ‘expert’ to look and see what fits – the problem is that I shoot equally erratically with them all. I was thinking to go sailing tomorrow on the Stour by Ipswitch – its tidal and you can only launch and recover from a trailer when the tide is more than half up, so at the moment its only possible to fit in a good sail on alternative weekends, and so far it hasn’t worked out. Our plastic bag containing 30 tons of water in the back garden is getting lots of use in this hot weather- more swimming so far this year than any years for quite a while………………………
The ramrod is with the owner.
Twist has come out very well – it isn’t too shiny, so looks in keeping with the rest of the gun.
28th June – A busy day what with meetings and a visit to my lovely dentist – I did have time to make the second titanium nipple for the Venables. Making them out of titanium is a pain as the metal is so tough. It is OK to turn with a sharp tool but you do need a sharp tool if you want to take a very fine cut – it works best with reasonable cuts. I drill a 1 mm hole in the bottom of the nipple but you have to proceed very carefully and clear the drill often – the second nipple has a 1.1 mm hole as the 1 mm drill sheared off in a failed attempt! The main hole down from the top is 2.3 mm to within 3 mm of the bottom so the 1 mm hole is about 3 mm long – they seem to work with those dimensions The worst bit is cutting the thread as the die only seems to cut on the first pass (with difficulty and a lot of heat but maybe the die is blunt), and any attempt to resize the thread with a closed down die gets no-where, it just compresses the thread, generates a lot of heat and is a difficult to back off as it is to cut – but you can cut decent threads on the first pass if you get the die right. I have a die with the top face ground down about 1/2 mm so it cuts further up the nipple as breech block threads are rarely relieved at the top. One problem is that titanium is pretty resistant to filing – at least with my less than perfect files. and you have to remember that the fine swarf will burn with a lot of heat and is very difficult to put out – don’t use water, use sand or a purpose made extinguisher. Why do I bother to use titanium? Well it is very tough, won’t corrode or shatter, doesn’t need heat treatment – but mainly for the challenge – & I happen to have a bar of 12 mm titanium courtesy of ebay! Most nipples in late percussion long guns turn out to be a pretty good fit to 1/4 UNF which is 28 threads per inch. You sometimes need to open up the die to the maximum extent if thread is very loose or worn, or you can recut to 9/32 UNF which is also 28 t.p.i. – I have recut without annealing the breech block.
You can see the rib lifting – its been resoldered badly. Click on the photo to see the damascus pattern clearly.
27th – quick trip over to Holts to pick up the gun I bought last week. It is everything I expected and more – its difficult to see how it didn’t sell for more than the cased Manton and Mortimer which were no where near as good a quality. It is London proofed, and is obviously quite late – I think Venables didn’t start until 1846 – the wood is superb, it wouldn’t be out of place on an expensive modern Purdey or H&H, and as fresh and crisp as if it had just been re-stocked by a good stocker – although why anyone would bother for a percussion gun that wasn’t by a well known maker I can’t think – anyway I think it must be original. The barrels are a nice true Damascus, not twist and the top rib is pretty, although it needs refitting as its a little raised – the bores are about the best I’ve seen in an antique gun that hasn’t been lapped, and the insides of the locks are perfect except for a couple of very small patches of rust. The engraving on the furniture is top quality and all matching, including that on the butt plate, which is the first I’ve seen that has no rust on it. The only anomaly is the trigger guard that is like a rifle one, but probably an owner’s choice…. What’s not to like! I now need a case for it, and a powder flask to go with my lovely shot flask. I have started a new post for the Venables as I have taken lots of pictures, but here is a taster…. Oh, and I decided the Venables needed new nipples so I thought ‘how neat to make them out of titanium’ – which I did but I think the one I finshed is a tiny bit too long in thread and won’t screw right in. I’d forgotten how difficult it was to cut threads on titanium with a die.
26th – slight falloff in visitors to the site as others are lazing in the sun? ( I spent 4 1/2 hours in school so earned my swim!) Looking more carefully in The Powder Flask book I find that my flask is made of Britannia metal, an alloy of tin 85%, Antimony 10%, Zinc 3% and copper 2% or some very similar composition, and that the ‘hallmarks’ on my flask are standard Dixon marks for Britannia metal flasks – not sure of the dates – here is a photo of the page from the book showing what they should look like – it matches. Now I need to find a gun of matching quality – it would do superbly for the Harkum that sold at Holts as the shot flask was the only item missing. I’m off to Holts tomorrow to pick up my Venables – a friend is livid as he booked a telephone bid on 3 guns ( including the Harkum) and wasn’t rung so missed them all at less than he would have been willing to bid….. I usually leave a contingency bid on stuff I book a telephone bid for in case, but I have always been rung. I guess there is always a fear that the auctioneer will be tempted to run the bidding up to the contingency bid ( my contingency bid on the Venables was £750 but I got it for £420 so quite a risk). While I’m up at Holts I will have a look at the stuff in the sealed bid sale as there are a few junk guns I might want. Somewhere along the line I’m after a single barreled wreck with a 3 stage twist barrel big enough to cut down for a barrel for my Mortimer pistols – that way they will be proper twist barrels, which they would be if I used modern barrels. I have one already that is just big enough and long enough in the octagonal section. Having considered both Birmingham and Holts last sale I see the pistol market buoyant, the smaller the better but not Liege, long guns not so buoyant – in both cases the name is a disproportionate factor, probably justified in flint guns but less so in percussion as designs were getting more standardised and, in late percussion often came from Birmingham. I have always been amused that a turnoff pocket pistol made and engraved in Birmingham is worth twice as much if the name on the side is NOCK or whatever, as compared to one with e.g. BLOGGS, given that neither Nock nor Bloggs ever did more than hand over the pistol to the customer, probably as a freebe on a large purchase, probably still in the bag it came in from Birmingham. Cased ‘duelling’ pistols by well known makers tend to have silly prices attached, but beware my comments on June 24th on re-conversions. There are some lovely guns about but they stand out a mile from the run of the mill stuff and are worth paying for, and there are always the odd bargain to be had if you look carefully – I reckon I’ve found two in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve looked at several hundred guns and even more accessories to find them. Don’t be tempted to buy the sort of junk I used to bid for – it just clutters up the place and you feel bad about it every time you see it! Good hunting…………………..
James Dixon & Son
From the Powder Flask Book by Ray Riling.
Britannia metal flask
25th June – Too much lazing in the sun & swimming but better make the most of the weather, which will worsen when the school holidays starts and also when we go off on our holiday! I had three school meetings today, so I needed the swim…. I got the charts of the West Coast of Scotland out today and started to work out possible routes and anchorages – we’de like to make a dash for St Kilda if we can – its been a target for several years and the weather has never been stable enough. St Kilda is out in the Atlantic and doesn’t offer much shelter from swells so it can be an unpleasant anchorage if there is any strong winds further out in the Atlantic, which there often are. The distances on the West coast of the Hebrides can involve a long day’s sail and we don’t normally sail at night as we don’t have enough crew to manage where much navigation is involved and there are no light buoys for entrances into lochs etc when you get there. As always with sailing, its a matter of getting the right wind and tide. I polished up the silver(?) shot flask – it really needs a posh cased silver mounted gun, or at least a pretty fancy one to justify the flask – I guess its fairly late – I must look it up in ‘The Powder Flask Book’ by Ray Riling…… I find that the full name ‘JAMES DIXON & SON’ was used from 1833. Both shutter arm and flask nozzle are marked ‘Z’, which ought to tell me something but doesn’t!
25th June – Here are a couple of pics of the flask I bought yesterday – at the moment the shutter assembly is in the derusting bath.
The shutter arm is stamped ‘JAMES DIXON & SON SHEFFIELD’
The second from the right looks like a British hallmark, not sure about the rest! Suggestions???
24th June 2 hour drive to the Birmingham Antique Arms Fair. ( I’ve done too much driving in the last week or so).. Overall impression, mostly military stuff and swords, quite a lot of noise and people, many of whom were more interested in a football match that seemed to be going on somewhere else, which I assume involved a team from England. Lots and lots of pistols of all sorts, but very few long guns except military rifles -one exception of note – George Yannegas showed me a minature Whitworth Target Rifle cased complete with all its accessories and in mint condition – he has of course tried it out.. SO if you have a handy 10 grand it could be yours. Certainly better value than some of the cased pairs of duelling pistols at astronomical prices – I’d want a lot more than was on offer if I was going to part with £29,000! Even the cased percussion duellers were above £10K…. I did see a few dodgy guns, in fact I probably thought some perfectly genuine ones were dodgy after seeing some of the offerings. Kevin (Blackley) told me that about 25 years ago a certain West Country ‘restorer’, now deceased, had admitted to reconverting over 1000 guns and pistols in 5 years, and he is presumed to have done but reconversions for the next 20 years… No wonder he got so good that its almost impossible to distinguish real from fake. I didn’t buy any guns but I did pick up a rather nice high quality shot flask for £70 – I thought it was German Silver, but when I got it home it appears to have hallmarks, and so might actually be silver, although they don’t quite correspond to any in my reference book. I kick myself for not going through his stock for a matching powder flask! Anyway I’ll have to find a test for silver…. I’ll post a photo tomorrow. I got a book on Continental flintlocks and their decoration as I thought I ought to have it to extend my reference library, although I have to admit that I dislike the more elaborate continental carved steel guns – My Barranechea (Eibar) in the Catalan style is about as far as I want to go in my collection. Oh, and on the way back an accident on the A14 added an extra half hour to the journey after I had stopped off at Kettering Hospital to pick up my brother and take him home to Corby. Very frustrating waiting while they discharged him, everything seemed to be a slightly disorganised and inefficient process carried on by cheerful and helpful staff who were lovely – just wholly inefficient at executing a process – I think that must be the state of the NHS – cheerful inefficiency. It certainly looked as if all the managers sat in offices well away from the nitty gritty of the action, while there is no-one effectively managing processes on the shop floor. Of course I might well be wrong – I only heard how it took about 8 hours to discharge him when it should have taken 30 minutes to an hour at most….I waited 1 1/2 hours after he was supposed to be ready to go….
23rd June… CGC was hosting the Army and RAF cadets National Clay Championships, with teams from all over the country from the West country to Scotland – we were offering shots with percussion and flintlock guns at £1 per shot (50p to Help for Heros) which just about covers our costs – CGC pays for the clays and gives us free cups of tea but it is tiring – more or less non stop for 6 hours without a break, a couple of cups of tea and a burger on the go ( wouldn’t be allowed if it was a job!). Great fun though – the cadets love firing the old guns, especially the flintlocks, and a few of them managed to break clays with a flintlock, which is reckoned to be difficult even with some practice. I was using my single barreled ‘Twigg’ (possibly spurious?) which as usual performed very well – I had one ‘flash in the pan’ misfire out of about 20 shots as the touch hole got bunged up as I had got lazy about putting the wire through it between shots. The lock is very kind to flints, and sparks well, although it has a very strong mainspring and frizzen spring and no frizzen roller – one might expect it to be hard on flints for those reasons. I had my little Henry Nock single percussion 14 bore – its a good gun for small shooters as the pull is only about 13 1/4 ins and the gun weighs 5 1/4 lbs, but it ‘comes up well’ on most people. With a normal load of 2 3/4 drams and 1 oz it has a bit of a kick so I cut the load to 2 1/2 drams and 7/8 oz which was better. At 2 3/4 drams and 1 1/2 oz it kicks like a mule but I don’t use that load on ‘have a go’ shoots – in fact I only used it once on a shoot by mistake as I picked up the wrong shot flask! We were using Vesuvit powder in the flintlocks & percussion as Swiss 2 is a far too expensive for a have a go shoot ! Pete was using his Pedesoli reproduction Mortimer flintlock, and had reliable shooting, although he did shatter a flint for one misfire. I took him the shot belt I had made, which was much admired. Off to Birmingham tomorrow – 2 hour drive there – Dick was coming but has too much work on – partly because the little pistol is taking so much time to sort out. Now I must finish cleaning the two guns – I have done the barrels but they need oiling and putting together.
22nd June… Such a nice day I spent a while just sitting in the sun, then having a gentle swim in the large plastic bag of water in the garden – 30 tons of it! Its 10m long so its just big enough to get a bit of exercise. I was relaxing in preparation for a busy weekend – tomorrow I am going to Cambridge Gun Club where we are offering a taste of muzzle loading clay shooting to the CCF cadets as part of their shotgun day. I get asked to do it as I am one of the few who shoot flintlocks, and they are always popular as the flash is quite spectacular and it makes a good video. On Sunday I’m off to the Birmingham fair at NEC to see Kevin Blackley and get a few bits. I just learned my brother is in Kettering Hospital so I’ll kill two birds with one stone and call in and see him on the way back – perhaps the idiom is inappropriate in the circumstances! I did find time today to drill and tap a 9/32 BSF hole in the end of my long loading rod and make a new charge removing screw with 9/32 thread so that I have the means to unload my long barreled ‘Twigg’ flintlock – my normal cleaning rod isn’t long enough. I have found it very useful to have a screw that can be put in the end of my loading rods – especially for game shooting as it saves carrying a sectional ‘cleaning’ rod. It could be neater, but it was made in a hurry.
Piece of wire from a shelf support bent round an 8 mm bar, ground flat and then soft soldered to a brass boss. I’m always impressed when a knurling tool manages to run in sync with the diameter of the workpiece!
21st more… Just caught the sale of lot 1502 ( blog pasim) – I thought if by a fluke it went at or near the bottom estimate I just might not be able to resist, although I’d have to sell my soul to the devil to pay for it – assuming he doesn’t already own it. In the event my judgement of the beauty of the gun was shared by several far richer people who eventually pushed the price up to 4 times the top estimate – £20K – I don’t think the devil would have taken my soul in part exchange at that price! So all done and dusted and I’ve packed the Purdey foreend for dispatch. Dick is trying to sort out one of a pair of tiny percussion pistols – the trigger guard strap was broken and the body had been botched, so its turning out to be a horrendous job to get it to function – we didn’t price the job to cover having to re-invent the interior, which is what it amounts to, but you win some (not many) and you loose some (too many). Having finished the fore-end engraving I’m casting round for the next job…… Maybe sort through my mail……Pay some bills….. Fix the Outboard…Mow the lawns…..
21st June – Watching the Holts sale online – I hope you will forgive me for not sharing my bid intentions with the world last night – I had 2 targets, a nice double 14 bore percussion by Venables of Oxford (£300-500) that had an almost mint bore and very nice wood, and a Greener that needed a bit of TLC. The Venables looked like it was rather underpriced at estimate 300-500, the only thing against it was that the rib had been very crudely re-attached ( easily fixed), but I would have been prepared to go well above the top estimate to get it – in the event I had a telephone bid and got it at £420 hammer price, so pretty happy! I’ll have to try it and if it shoots as well as it fits me, I’ll retire one of my existing doubles, its very reassuring as it means that decent doubles can still be found….. The Greener was not such an attractive proposition, I’m not really a Greener fan but it looked like a restoration opportunity – in the event I ducked out at £600, which I thought was a lot compared to the Venables! I’ll watch 1502 if I am in, although I do have a meeting at 1700… I hope I’m not tempted…… I finished the Purdey fore-end….
I guess I’m happy with that – in the end it was mostly done with the Gravemax on acount of the curvature!
Bottom one is a pull of the smoked part on cellotape.
21st June – At Holts today to look at one or two guns in the auction tomorrow. Obviously the star attraction for muzzle loading shooters is the Harkam in its original pigskin lined case with all its original bits – the full works, except it’s missing the shot flask. It was difficult to see if it had ever been shot. In reality its probably not of much interest to shooters because it is so good that it would be a sin to use it, which is a change from my usual stance that guns are meant to be shot! A lot of the attraction of this one is that it is so perfect, so shooting it would take the edge of it! Anyway it is probably a bit pricey for most of the shooters I know (estimate £4000 – 6000 – my guess around 5500+) . The dog of the lot has to be the Nock 7 barreled gun, whoever did that to any gun needs to be strung up and banned from ever going near a gun again – and the estimate? £15000 – 20000! Some mothers do have ’em….. I wouldn’t give £2000 for it if I had money to burn! Owning it would reduce one’s street cred to zero! I think my favourite gun in the whole auction has to be lot 1502, the Dickson 16 bore non ejector skeletal round body gun – it is SO elegant and makes the usual run of overpriced Purdeys and H&Hs and Bosses look like double decker buses alongside a sports car. If I had 3K to 5K kicking around I’d be in there like a shot – I did have a look but unfortunately I don’t seem to have enough to hand! It will probably go for at least 6K and on top of that it needs restocking as the wrist is rather fragmented- another £3500 or so – Oh well….. One can dream…. There were a couple of cased late percussion guns of slightly dubious origin (?), a Purdey and a Mortimer – I base my judgement on the lock engraving, both have very similar engraving that symmetrically fills the lock plates, and the names are put just along the top edge as if they are an afterthought – look very like good quality bought-in Birmingham guns, either retailed by the signed makers or just spuriously named. There were a number of other cased percussions, a couple of John Mantons, one OK ish, one not so clearcut. Nothing really stands out. The lesson as always is that there are a lot of dubious guns around – caveat emptor. I drove via the Blackwall tunnel, and had a dodgy moment as to whether my Land Cruiser needed to pay to go in the Low Pollution Zone – it would appear from the website that it doesn’t, although my old one did. I do have to pay the ‘naughty boy’ charge in addition to the congestion charge if I go in the city. After 2019 I’ll have to pay to go anywhere near London, which fortunately I don’t often do…
The ‘Purdey fore-end is going slowly, I may finish it later tonight although I don’t usually carry on after about half past midnight……..which is only 10 minutes away…..
We’ll see what tomorrow brings………………
20th June – Getting back into my stride – STEM club at school – the latest project is to get the keen ones to program the robot to dodge round a bit of ‘wall’ across its path – going well! Apart from that and a school meeting I am trying to get ahead with the Purdey engraving on the new fore end. It is taking forever to do all the little scrolls, and it is so easy to slip on the curved surface – I’ve tried putting in the main scrolls with the GRS Gravemaster pneumatic tool – in general I much prefer ‘push engraving’, but the Gravemaster has its used, particularly on curved surfaces as it requires almost no force to drive it through the metal and there is therefore much less chance of a slip. If I was a professional, and used to the pattern I would presumably be able to bang it out in a fairly short time, but I guess it will actually take me a day or so to complete it – I’m probably about half way through now. I will probably go down to Holts tomorrow, if I can face another few hours of driving after Scotland…………
As on the original, there is no attempt at precise symmetry, just a general aim to follow the same general pattern and keep the balance of cut and uncut metal about the same over all the surface.
18th June – Apologies for leaving my regulars without their daily update! I’m back from Scotland – sadly neither Tom nor I carried off any trophies from the Scottish National Muzzle Loading Clay Championships on Saturday – the only things we did carry off were six soaking wet guns (and two soaking wet shooters). I am afraid that we ducked out of the last competition ( double hammer gun) so that we could rush home and try to sort the guns before going off to the dinner – they were beginning to get marks and in danger of starting to rust as water had penetrated round the locks of some of them, and the slips they were carried in were also wet inside. Anyway we managed a preliminary clean and got back to the Guardbridge Inn in time for the celebratory meal. On Sunday we visited ‘Scotland’s Secret Bunker’ a few miles from St Andrews. Built originally in the 1950s as an underground RAF radar tracking station it was later designated as the seat of government and control in the event of a nuclear attack, with the ability to function in lock-down sealed mode for a month! It is built on two floors about 60 feet underground and could probably support around 100 people, so as you can imagine, its huge! The control rooms are recreated with sounds of announcements and warnings etc so it’s all very atmospheric – there is quite a lot of old technology around – back from the days when machines spewed forth punched paper tape – I still have a few rolls of tape – my first computer program in 1966 was on punched tape, and I built a Mass Spectrometer controller that output its data in that format, although pretty soon computer programs were printed out on punched cards the size of postcards with one line of code on each card. A small program gave you a pile of cards from about 3 inches high and a bigger one about 2 feet high ( of course you couldn’t actually pile them that high). The delight of the punched cards was that if you dropped the pile on your way from upstairs in our building to the computer in another building the cards & therefore the lines of code got muddled and could not be put back in order as they were not numbered – about as much use as a book if you cut each page into individual lines and jumbled the whole lot! The neat thing about my first program on a ‘proper’ computer – it calculated the shape of a weighted wire towed through the water – was that chunks of it were still incorperated into other people’s programs 30 years later! I had a good run back from St Andrews today – 8 hours from door to door including a stop for lunch – I was very lucky, on the way there I passed a 10 mile queue of almost stationary traffic coming the other way, and coming back I passed a 5 mile queue! I had another go over the guns when I got back – my little Nock had started to get a bit of rust round the muzzle, and they all got a bit of TLC. All my slips got damp and although they were dried on radiators overnight ( Tom has central heating, of which I strongly disapprove) it is almost impossible to dry the muzzle ends as they are encased in vinyl and too small to allow effective circulation.
I’m afraid I have no photographs of the shoot – I forgot to take my proper camera, and in any case it was too wet to use it……………
14th June. Another lovely day, but the forecast for the shoot in St Andrews on Saturday is gloomy – rain all day – but that is par for the course up there! I’m hoping I have everything lined up to go! I’m borrowing the shot belt I made for Viking to ‘test’ it as I don’t want to deliver an untested item – I fixed the broken spring on the ( Irish pattern) nozzle by cleaning it up and soft soldering it in – seems to work. I was looking through my collection of old shot flasks and realised that almost all my old flasks have the seams breaking down so they leak – I’ll have to make some new bodies for them. I’ve now lost one of my loading rods – why do I keep loosing things! I’m kept quite busy by this blog, answering queries and fixing things, which is interesting but all takes time. Dick is busy working an the small pair of pistols that have occupied him for too long! The bottom strap was broken and a poor replacement had been silver soldered in, which is always bad news as it means you can’t make a good weld repair without getting rid of all the silver solder and that is usually easier said than done. anyway as that repair was finished it became clear that the action could not possibly have worked as it was, so Dick has had to do a bit of milling to get the cock spindle in the right places and sort out the tumbler bearings. They will look beautiful when finished – and may well be for sale – we already had one person interested!
13th June.. I was sorting out the Parish Council email accounts this morning to comply with the Data Protection stuff ( I host their website and email for historic reasons) – it made me realise that I probably need a policy for this website, so I made one up. Since the site doesn’t put cookies on other peoples computers it isn’t very onerous – the notice at the top of the page should suffice, and I’ve put the Wordfence notice in a new page called GDPR just in case. Wordfence is based in the US and IP addresses etc are sent over there so it is responsible for that side of things, fortunately. It all makes work for the working man (or woman) to do, as the song goes….. I got the pulls from the action body of the Purdey for which I have the fore-iron to engrave, so I am able to start that job. As usual I started with a trial of the Purdey scroll pattern – actually there are several variations of the small scroll that are cut differently and give a slightly different overall impression. After I had put a decent surface on an annealed piece of steel I did a first trial – the challenge is to get the right balance of cuts and highs. Since I only had pulls of the action body, I took pulls of my trials to match. This Purdey engraving uses cutout background and outlines to leave the desired raised shapes, as distinct from my normal engraving where the lines are the picture -called intaglio. I did a trial on my test piece, took a pull, cut out a bit more around the desired shapes and took another pull ( after getting rid of any burrs with a fine wire brush wheel) – and then once more. Here are the results, with the pull of the action body.
There might be a bit too much cut-out in 3 ( white areas are cutouts), but 3 is certainly better than 1.
12th June.. I have been a bit slack on the blog! I had a 3 1/2 hour very intense meeting on Monday that left me a bit disinclined to do much except swim up and down, after which I just slumped! Today I did a bit of sorting out of shot, wads and cards and powder for the trip to Scotland. As I’m taking 4 muzzle loading guns I though I ought to check which wads I needed for each, which led to sizing all the bores – of course no two guns are the same actual bore, whatever their nominal bore is, anyway I managed to cut it down to 2 sizes of wads, conveniently one size for Tom and one size for my guns. Tomorrow I must make sure the right guns are on my certificate! This blog is obviously being found by lots of people as I’m getting a steady stream of photos of guns and pistols to identify. I live in hope that I’ll discover a priceless antique gun for someone, but at the moment its rather at the opposite end of the spectrum. I did my STEM club with Dave today, but there was a football match on and we only got two kids, so they got on and built a robot while Dave and I programmed our line following robot to skirt round an obstruction – we got about half way there in 45 minutes!
10th June… I did say that the weather encouraged sitting in the sun rather than working away in the workshop! …..So we went to an Elderflower party today, a friend’s family has been holding one every year for the last 50 odd years to make elderflower wine, which they consume in some quantity. Around 30 people spend a few hours collecting flowers and getting the heads off in order to make 20 gallons of wine (it used to be much more) to last the year. After the work some of us played a game of croquet – it looks like a nice gently, very English, very genteel way to spend an afternoon. In fact it is about the most vicious game of skill and tactics imaginable – winning is more about scuppering the opposition than getting ahead – in fact getting an early lead isn’t necessarily a great help as I found out to my cost, since if you manage to hit an opponent’s ball you get an extra turn, thus if there are no opponents balls near you, you miss out! Anyway (son) Giles beat me ( that’s his inheritance down the drain!). The number of visitors and visits to the site continues to increase, which is nice – so far in the last 365 days there have been over 100,000 visitors and 670,000 items viewed – obviously a lot of those are regulars who get counted each time they visit – its a shame the software doesn’t analyse visits in more detail, but I think you have to pay if you want more detail, which of course anyone making money out of a site would do. I sometimes wonder whether there is any way I could ‘monetise’ the site, but actually I’m happy to do it for fun, and I do get some interesting work from time to time, and make new acquaintances and friends, so I’ll carry on for a bit longer!
9th June later… Shooting at Cambridge Gun Club today – our 1/2 oz of shot competition. No compromise on the difficulty or range of clays, and the hit rate was a little down on some normal shoots but still good – I did my usual mediocre shooting, but was reassured that several others got the same score! After lunch I switched to my little 20 bore Beretta hammer gun and did somewhat better – I am resolved to go and practice properly until I can shoot a bit better. I have in mind to try an interesting experiment, as I think that one often knows before one pulls the trigger that it is going to miss. My competition would work as follows – unlimited clays, but fixed number of shots allowed – score 0 for any clay you don’t shoot at, -1 for any you shoot at and miss, and 2 for each clay you break with the first barrel, or 1 if you break it with the second barrel. I reckon this would concentrate the mind! So a top score would be 40 and a lowest score would be -20, if you hit half the clays you score 20 and hitting 7 (1 in 3 shots) scores 1 . I now need to find someone to try it with. It could of course be a bit more expensive if you aim to shoot the ‘normal’ number of shots, but it might work with say 20 shots, using a very limited number of traps, say 5 hits at each of 4 traps…….. I took the Manton back to its owner who was well pleased – I forgot his slip, which I found on the peg when I got back – I’m very good at labelling slips and ramrods when I have guns to work on, as they are easy to mix up or mislay, I just forgot to look behind the door! Pete asked me to tap a hole in a cleaning rod to take the ‘normal’ brushes etc., but that seems to have opened a whole can of worms – The tap I have used is a 9/32 x 26 BSF but that actually cuts too tight – the web suggests 9/32 BSB ( brass thread ( similar to BSC cycle thread & always 26 t.p.i.) but I only have the BSF in 9/32 and that appears a bit smaller than the brush threads – what I thought was going to be a trivial job becomes a lot more involved – but then these challenges are what makes it interesting………………………
9th June – Back from 2 days in Norfolk at an outdoor activity centre with the year 5 & 6 children from the school I’m a governor at. Great fun and the kids had a good time and were very well behaved! The activity centre was based around an 1898 house designed by Edward Lutyens so I had great fun poking around and trying to work out how the house had been originally before it was altered in several waves – first in WWI as a convalescent home for soldiers, then back to being a private house, then the activity centre, which retained quite a lot of the old furniture etc in the ‘public’ rooms, including about 10 years of Hansard containg every word spoken in Parliament during that time – covered one wall! I could have spent the whole time reading MP’s speeches from 1975! Anyway back to real life – in particular our annual recession shoot, in which we shoot clays using 1/2 oz shot load – its not as bad as you might think…. anyway I’d better load up and head out…..
5th June Dick and I spent an hour together getting the locks of the Manton to fit – I had fitted new springs and Dick had re-fixed the ‘rims’ of the lock pockets that were a bit broken away. You may remember that we had found that the locks and barrel were original Manton, but had been grafted into a different and older stock at some point. We had two problems – 1, the springs were slightly bigger in places than the previous ones and so we had to adjust the german silver reinforcing sheet at the top of the mainspring slot, and second that the lock front extensions didn’t fit between the barrel bolsters and the edge of the lock pocket, and were opening an old crack in the woodwork – presumably the cause of the previous damage around the locks. Unfortunately the rim of the lock pocket under the mainspring was already very thin, so no room to cut more away – I realised that the reason the numbers on the inside of the lock above the mainspring had been half filed away was a relic of previous attempts to solve the problem. Anyway we filed the bolsters on the barrel down a bit – luckily the breech block was only slightly hard. Anyway judicious filing got it all together, and we filled the crack with a shim of walnut verneer and refinished it. – Job done and ready to go….. Now I’m off to Norfolk with the Yr 5 & 6 children to an activity centre… I’ll report back……..
4th June – Didn’t manage much today – just finished off the cartridge loading so I now have 100 Black Powder cartridges for Scotland. I promised to make another shot belt for a friend, and started on that – I think its going to be a bit smaller than mine, which is a bit heavy when full – for game shooting you don’t need a lot of shot and the less you have to carry across ploughed fields the better!
4th June – Excuse the absence yesterday, as I said, sitting in the garden took priority! Today a meeting all morning in school prevents the garden sitting, and anyway the weather isn’t so appealing! I have now managed to make 75 cartridges towards my 100 total so nearly there. The rifle is now getting the oil finish on its stock augmented as it was a bit worn, and I took a photo of the patchbox in situ – I think it looks the part, but these things are always subjective!
It’s in the process of having its oil finish restored – it has the smeared on flood coat waiting to gel and be rubbed off, so looks a bit of a mess!
2nd June. I put the patchbox lid in the rifle and it looks good – the toning down of the colour works quite well – I coloured it lightish straw on the AGA hotplate, then rubbed it over with 7000 grit paper, then gave it a rusting with my browning solution – that went rather too well so I rubbed that partly off with 1000 grit and finished with 2500 and 7000 and polished with 0000 steel wool. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for success but it worked – I did think at one point I’d have to start again, but it came good! Photo soon! The annual trip to Leucars to shoot the Scottish National Muzzle Loading Championships is the w/e after next so I thought I’d better start loading the annual bag of black powder 12 bore cartridges – Tom shoots there too using my guns as he doesn’t have a certificate in Scotland. (He’s in St Andrews so dead handy and my B & B for the w/e) so I need double rations for the hammer gun competition. I usually take my Bacon patent antique bolt action double for him, and use my Westley Richards 1874 patent hammer gun by William Powell, of which I am very fond! Anyway 100 cartridges should do – I got a couple of bags of capped cases at the Northern Shooting Show – its as cheap to buy new capped cases as to buy the caps and use reclaimed cases, even if its not so environmentally friendly – not that shooting clays scores high on those stakes anyway… I’m getting through the restoration jobs on my list, thanks to help from Dick – I’ve now got the forend iron of the Purdey to engrave, but I’m waiting for pulls of the action body so I can line up the scrolls. After that I’ll have to find some of my own jobs to do! Things usually quieten down in the summer as I find its rather nice just to sit in the garden and read the paper………………….( weather permitting)…
1 June – I had an email from someone who had come across the post on the Land Cruiser steering lock problem on this site and had a similar problem. I was able to get out my pile of bits and work out how to remove the broken bit of the lock bar – and send him some pictures. That post gets quite a few visits – If I can be bothered I can review all the traffic to the site on a daily basis, it also tells me which are the most popular posts, and I can see where all the attempts to crack the site are coming from. I don’t look very often – I just keep an eye on the number of visitors and visits. I finished the patchbox lid and I’m just colouring it up – its not too bad considering how difficult the metal turned out to be – I couldn’t get consistent cutting, and the inclusions didn’t help, in the end I started to use the GRS gravermax air driven graver, which I don’t use often, as it ploughs through most things without discriminating and if you are not careful it goes very deep. I forgot to take a photo before browning so it will have to wait!
Dick got carried away with the Manton stock! He needed to sort out one or two problems, including all the cracks around the lock pockets and then decided that he would have to refinish it. In stripping it he uncovered some intriguing history – while the locks, breech plug and barrel are original Manton as far as we can tell, they have been fitted into a different stock at some point – probably a long time ago. The evidence for this comes mostly from the photo below. It looks as if the stock originally had locks with a different shaped tail (almost certainly older) and the cutout for the fence behind the false breech shows that has been changed. There is a plate (German silver?) screwed in under the breeches, presumably to reinforce that area, and it has a notch cut out for the lug to take the end of the short top arm mainspring that was fitted to the gun as found. The fixings of the plate are not symmetrical- suggesting it wasn’t done by a gunsmith.. The lock pocket of the stock has the correct cutout for a long top arm spring. Confirmation comes from the matching number engraved on the tang of the trigger guard – it is not very carefully positioned or executed and doesn’t come near the rest of the engraving in quality – it can’t be original…. The original stock was from a good quality gun, possibly even another Manton and has the original furniture and breech block, Probably percussion as there isn’t a cutout for the cock to hit the top edge of the lock – but it might be for a flintlock with a French cock….. The stock was presumably made for a long top arm mainspring, and the Manton locks will take either – I guess when the swap happened the Manton locks had had long top arm mainsprings, as had the stock, and the locks were modified by the fitting of a small lug on a peg to catch the end of the short top arm. The stock has been neatly extended and the joint covered with chequering.
31st May Out a.m. but this afternoon I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and get on with the patchbox lid – you can walk round a job for just so long and you get nowhere. Anyway I looked at my designs and decided to go with more or less what I had already tried. The lid had lots of flecks in the surface that I thought were the orange peel marks from cold rolling, but they seemed more like little pits of corrosion – anyway it cuts OK in places but seems to have some inclusions that occasionally make it difficult to cut smoothly – anyway I’ve got most of it roughed out ready for the details and shading – I’m going to leave a space in the middle that would fit the oval, but probably not cut it. I’ll try to get it finished tomorrow with luck. I need to visit Dick and get tht Manton stock back before the weekend so I can take it back to CGC ant the muzzle loader’s shoot.
30th May – Still trialing the engraving for the patchbox lid – I needed lots of engraving practice as I’d been a bit lax recently! I finished trying my original idea for the lid, and for fun engraved the oval ( done very quickly and carelessly!). I put the lid in my furnace to ‘normalise’ it as I wanted to make sure that it was in the annealed state – an hour or so at 910 C and a very slow cool. When I looked at the existing top to the patchbox (see below) I realised I’d been copying the lock engraving – the lid is slightly different in feel and some of the cuts are different – possibly a different engraver or in different frame of mind. In particular the top isn’t symmetrical and is more open, so I am having a bit of a re-think – my efforts are not wasted as most of it is very similar. I changed my tactics with gravers today – when one got a bit blunt I sharpened it instead of changing it for a fresh one – it seemed to work better, possibly because all my gravers are different lengths and it saved continually changing my hold. Mostly I can get away with just touching up the heels. The over and under pistol barrels came good – in contrast to the Manton barrel they only needed about 5 brownings – there isn’t a lot of figure in them, the twist is a bit indistinct – I don’t think its a function of the browning process – just how the metal is, but they are a very nice chestnut brown – very discrete. It’s possible I could have brought out the figure more my etching the barrels in copper sulphate solution before browning them, but I can’t see a distinct enough twist to be worth the erosion of the metal.
I think its too fussy – even without the oval & hasty lettering – I’ll re-think a simpler, more open design…….
The barrels have twist figure, but its not well enough defined to come through the browning strongly.
30th May – This blog has now passed 200,000 visitors since I started it! Amazing. Started to brown the two o/u pistol barrels, must order some more browning solution! I’m still trying out my ‘Gumbrell’ style engraving – the trouble is that the more I do, the more I adapt it to my own preferred style! I have to keep reminding myself to go back to the original and check how it was done! Anyway I started on a trial layout for the actual engraving on the patchbox lid – I took it to Dick to show him and he thought it would pass muster – see comments below photo;-
I didn’t finish the scroll on the right as its clearly too big for the space. Not sure what the oval is for, but it fills the space! I’d probably leave it out on the real thing! I’m reasonably happy with the scroll on the left – but doing 4 matching ones will be a challenge!
28th May – The bag of water in the garden continues to grow! I am still trying to get my head round the Gumbrell engraving on the Rifle – the only way to see how its done is through the microscope, so I took a series of photos using my camera eyepiece and built up a partial mosaic of the ? Gumbrell engraved (?Joe Manton) rifle, the late percussion Joe Manton shotgun and my last attempt at something similar – its pretty instructive! Some bits are not visible to the naked eye – like the cross shading on the shadows on the rifle ( you’ll need to click on each photo to see them in detail) ;-
This is the ?Gumbrell rifle engraving I’m trying to copy for the patchbox lid….
This is my second attempt – I don’t yet have the correct pitch of shader to put in the parallel lines, mine is too fine -it just looks like a smudge!
This is my first attempt – before I’d done these photos!
This is the Manton engraving – quite different cutting although the overall style is similar – the overall effect id much heavier.
27th May – What a beautiful day! We decided to put our old above ground swimming pool up – its just a giant bag of water really – about 30 tons of it so it takes a while to fill! Its over 10 years old so lets just hope it doesn’t have a leak in the bottom! I was playing with my microscopes to see which I was going to keep on the bench – the Am Scope does need a 0.75 Bartlow lens to reduce the magnification somewhat so you can see more of what you are doing – as it is, the maximum field of view (on lowest magnification) is 28 mm wide, whereas my Wild it is 52 mm. You can get one from ebay or from AmScope for around £30 – my Wild uses one – I found a close up lens from an old Canon camera that was about 0.7 and works very well – I had to make some plastic brackets to hold it as the screw threads are not compatible. I finally tackled the second Manton lock spring – I’d found one for the left lock that fitted exactly, with a long top arm – the locks will take either a long or short top arm spring – I guess they were modified at some point to take the more modern short top arm spring. I couldn’t find any springs that fitted exactly, and the nearest I could find was a fairly modern short top arm spring. Fitting it required the peg hole that locates the spring to be moved a couple of mm. Positioning the peg hole is critical as it governs the angle that the link on the tumbler takes, and therefore the position of the spring relative to the bottom edge of the lock when the hammer is fully down on the nipple – if the spring peg is too near the hammer, there may not be clearance for the link to move to full cock, if its too far away the spring and link will try to overlap the edge of the lock, but hit the wood. Anyway I plucked up courage to mark and drill a 2 mm hole into the lock plate – not quite right through – luck was on my side and it came out perfectly. I was worried that the lockplate would be too hard to drill but it was OK. So the locks are back to working! I still don’t understand how the original springs came to be so defective!
The position of the spring peg hole in the lockplate controls the resting angle of the link, – the spring mustn’t be near the edge of the lock plate or it will foul the wood. This lock now has a spring with a short top arm – at some time I think the locks were modified to take these more modern springs by the addition of the small stop that holds the end of the top arm – its is just pegged into a hole in the lockplate.
This lock has a long top arm spring as I had one and it fitted exactly – this style of spring would have been fitted to the locks originally. In this photo the spring is too low and overlaps the bottom of the lock and so would foul the wood, but as soon as the hammer was fitted it comes to rest on the flashguard and stops the tumbler before the spring gets as low as in this photo. I had to grind down the lump on the top arm as the spring needed to go up to allow the gun to reach full cock but when I took this photo Dick still had the hammer so I didn’t know if it would all work.
I am still playing around with the rifle patch pocket engraving – or at least trying to crack the engraving on the lock so I can make an approximation. I was trying to get a good black and white image as its is less confusing and I can the see how its done. I’ll have to spend an hour or two with paper and pencil…..
26th May It’s half term next week so I have the week to myself! I knocked up a quick headrest mount for the new Am Scope microscope so I could actually use it, and did a bit of playing – it seems to be fine – the zoom is handy and has a bit more magnification than my Wild when flat out, which is really good for checking the sharpness of my gravers – I’m not sure which one I’ll use in the long term, but I’ll keep both on my bench for the moment while I give them side by side tests. I suspect the new eyepieces will win the day because I can keep my glasses on, which saves a lot of troubletaking them on and off and getting oily fingermarks all over them. I’m still trying to work out how the Gumbrell engraving was done, and develop the organic shapes – unfortunately I’m a pretty poor artist, and have to do everything the hard way, but I will get there.
The stand is very good – except that used at right angles to the bars it rotates rather easily about the main post.
The head rest support fits into the camera tube mount – it is a ‘quick and dirty’ job to get it working made from a bar of acetal – I should probably make an aluminium one and anodise it as I did last time.
25th May In school much of the day – a bit frustrating as we needed to use the smart board for software programming but had to move to the hall which doesn’t have one, but we coped! I got the Am Scope trinocular microscope today – Its pretty nearly as good as my Wild/Zeiss one and very good value for money – the stand is more versatile and the eyepieces allow the wearing of glasses as the eyes can to be some way back from the lenses – the only trouble is that your head is then ‘waving about in the breeze’ and you really do need a firm headrest like the one I made for the Wild. (see DIY Anodising post and the Engraving Setup post. The trinocular facility is not as useful as I hoped as it involves switching out the left eye path when you want to use the camera, and the camera is much magnified relative to the eyepiece so you only see a small part of the field of view – I don’t think this is just a function of my camera, but I probably need to make some experiments – the camera I have that fits the new microscope doesn’t appear to have a proper video feed and the frame rate is very slow so it doesn’t work for ‘action videos’. But as an engraving microscope it is just fine – a slightly more convenient size than the Wild as its shorter from eyepiece to objective, and handy to be able to keep my spectacles on, and the stand is very good with a double arm slider – and its zoom rather than switched magnifications. I haven’t fitted a light to it yet – the camera ring light I use on the Wild is too small to fit the ‘nose’ of the new microscope. I expect an expert would find the optical quality inferior, but for engraving I challenge anyone to find much difference – and all for £422.38 including carriage from the UK so no VAT or duty to pay – whats not to like ( AmScope x7 – x45 trinocular zoom microscope with dual arm stand) ? – & I can swap the eyepieces with the Wild and wear spectacles for that now….. I’ve now got the Purdey foreend to engrave with fine scrolls and the patchbox cover to engrave with Gumbrell large scroll. The Purdey engraving is not particularly fine and once I get the details sorted in my mind it will be no problem, – however the Gumbrell engraving ( see below -click on the photo for much better view) is a whole other ballgame – he was about the best engraver in Britain as the time and his work is technically challenging, whereas the Purdey is, relatively speaking, just hacked out! So I’m spending a lot of time looking at the Gumbrell lock and trying out different bits of the pattern – its all leaves and plant scrolls with subtle interplay of light and shade – the cuts range from deep to very fine tapered cuts, all with perfect sweeping curves. I am having to revisit tool sharpening to get fine enough cuts without throwing up burrs . I have been lamenting for some time that I haven’t had much engraving to do – now I am revelling in a real challenge – I did a bit of ‘Sea Monster Gumbrell engraving once but never really cracked it, so now is my chance to raise my game! I’ll post photos when I get a bit further along the learning curve- assuming I do, but at the moment its a bit primitive- just as well I annealed a couple of test plates!
24th May GDPR comes into force today, whatever that means! I have to sort out the Parish Council website as I host it for some obscure reason – actually I’m told that GDPR is being misinterpreted by many organisations as it really only applies to marketing – the rest is to do with Subject Access Requests. I bet you are none the wiser- me neither! The good news is that the Manton Barrel is put to bed – it eventually got a decent brown – i deliberately didn’t strike it down to smooth bare metal as I didn’t want to take too much off the barrels and anyway I didn’t want it to look all shiny and stripy as if just rebrowned – it now looks very comfortable and mature, like the rest of the gun! Dick is working on the stock, and then I just have to pop in the replacement spring in the right lock – it means drilling another hole for the spring peg as its annoyingly about 2 mm away from the existing hole – I went through all Dick’s boxes of locks and springs but there was a distinct shortage of right hand springs, and all the ones that he had were worse than the one I’d picked out already. I will try to get away with a blind hole for the peg – I can’t see it needs to go right through the lock plate, but if it doesn’t work as a blind hole I can always drill it through. I’ll have to plug the existing hole, but that is not a problem – contemporary repairs often moved the peg hole. I got a percussion rifle today to rebrown and engrave the replacement patchbox lid. It was suggested by previous owners that it was by Joseph Manton but from his late period and was un-named and un-numbered. It is certainly of a high quality, it is late, so it is possible it comes from a ‘fire sale’ of stock. In favour of the Manton theory is the quality (although by then he didn’t have all his own quality workmen), the tail of the trigger guard that I’m told is characteristically Joe Manton, and the engraving which matches that on a number of his guns post 1820 ish, presumably by Peter Gumbrill who later worked for Purdey after he set up on his own. Gumbrill stopped working about 1850. The barrels were proofed in Birmingham. I love these mysteries – you keep hoping for the definitive clue…..
Superb Peter Gumbrell (?) engraving ( click photo for better view, then <- )
favourite Joseph Manton trigger guard tang.
Lock in perfect -as new- condition with ‘fly’ or detent as was normal on a rifle to stop the sear slipping into the half cock notch if you merely squeezed the trigger ( as you are supposed to with a rifle) – Shotguns rely on a more vigourous trigger pull to avoid this problem.
24th May – I didn’t get anything at Bonhams, the cheap 14 bore gun went for one bid more than my bid but I didn’t really want it. The cased pistols both went well above my bids – one for twice what I bid and the other telephone bid I took up to my spending money limit but the next bid got it – you never know how far the other bidder is prepared to go! Anyway my general observation that pistols, particularly small non military pistols are hot property held true! The Joe Manton flint/percussion gun made 15000 GBP, which after the premium and tax takes it to almost 19K! Still it was a very unusual piece, and if I had that sort of money I’d want it in my collection. I did a bit of engraving on one of a pair of little pistols that had been extensively repaired – good to get the tools out, although the metal was horrible – bits of old hard metal, bits of new soft metal and bits of filed up weld metal – in the end that job got through about 20 gravers! I actually have one very fine graver from GRS that really stood up to it for a lot longer than most of the others, so I must try to get a couple more. Oddly it doesn’t shine so much against my normal HSS ones for softer metals. Still browning the Manton barrel – about 10 rustings down and still the steel is more or less untouched! How many more will it take? I got a percussion rifle to sort out this morning – a very nice clean and elegant un-named gun. I have to re-brown the barrel and also engrave the (replacement) patch box cover. AT the moment the cover appears to be cold drawn steel that has been partially hardened – it will need annealing before I can engrave it.
22nd May – Off to Bonham’s viewing today, which involved enduring a moderate amount of rail chaos – all manner of excuses were posted on the boards – I think they have a random excuse generator in their system – I saw’train in the wrong place, no driver, signal failure, breakdown’ – I didn’t see ‘engineering works’ for which be thankful…. Anyway Bonhams was its usual friendly place – part of the attraction is the social aspect! I met up with a friend who had flown over from the US to to look at a gun and we had a good chat – we’ll meet up again in November on a muzzle loading shoot. There were a number of fairly OK percussion guns at reasonable estimates, but I have enough- no more room in my cabinets for long guns! Nothing spectacular, although I left a few bids at around the bottom estimates just in case – I might set up internet bidding, although I did fix one telephone bid – you can’t book a telephone bid on any lot that has a lower estimate of less than £500. There was one gun that I fancied – a Joe Manton ‘switchable’ flintlock and percussion gun – and I wouldn’t have minded the cased set by Smith of a gun and a rifle – fitted with nipples for Imperial caps, which Smith favoured – all well more than my pocket money these days. The pair of Barbar silver mounted pistols at 12000 to 15000 look quite similar to mine, only unfortunately quite a bit nicer! The Manton barrel continues its browning – its becoming clear that the sections of twist the barrels are made of – they are coils about 9 or 10 inches long – don’t all match, either along the length or from side to side – I’m not sure if this is an artifact of the stage of the browning, or more probably of the construction If its built-in then I’ll go for a a fairly dark browning to hide the differences. All will be revealed… I have been practising my Purdey engraving – when you look in detail at the fine scrolls they are fairly simple cuts and not especially finely executed. but very clever in achieving the visual effect – looking at them with x25 magnification allows you to see exactly how the engraver made each cut, so that you can truly copy it – its one of those situations where the outcome is more than the sum of the parts so fairly crude cuts will work as long as the balance of light and dark and the overall impression are right. Anyway a bit more practice is called for…. Over to Dick’s tomorrow to pick up a mainspring for the other Manton lock and collect the little pistols that need the engraving touched up…..
I haven’t cracked it yet – I need a lot of practise with paper & pencil first to get it right
21st May – got yesterday’s date wrong – my watch has skipped a day! The Manton barrel is going quite well after its aborted browning – I am convinced that the twist on the two barrels is slightly different – we will see when it is finished. I tried out ‘normalising’/annealing a couple of test plates – at least one is EN8 – I sealed them in a stainless/titanium envelope made from sheet from Brownells, and one was also coated with anti scale paint – I wanted to see if I could anneal without generating scale. I used my little furnace ( see post) and cooked them at 910 degrees C for an hour, then let them cool very slowly by feeding in a little power from the auxilliary supply until they got below 400 C. The bare one didn’t scale, and the paint is still on the other one so I guess that is clean too. I just tried engraving a straight line across one plate and cuts much better than before, so I’ll anneal all my plates from now on. I talked to a knife maker at the Northern Shooting Show who wanted to do engraving on the scales of his knives , and, since he has a real need, I suggested that he could justify buying a suitable microscope at the start. I always have a bit of trouble with my separate camera when doing demonstrations of engraving as it gets knocked and doesn’t give a very clear picture – anyway I thought I’d buy a cheap(ish) trinocular microscope to see if the cheap microscopes were any good, and so that I didn’t have to disassemble and cart my good one to shows, and had a camera that showed what I was actually doing – I might even be able to shoot videos, which would be good. I managed to find a new AmScope x7.5 – x45 trinocular microscope on ebay from the UK substantially reduced price so I bought it! Tomorrow I’m off to London to view the Bonhams auction – not sure if I’ll buy anything – probably not but its nice to look and I can see various friends!
20th May – bit of a disaster with the browning of the Manton barrel – I wasn’t having much luck in the cellar with Blackleys slow brown so I gave it a coat of mine and shifted it up to the kitchen next to the AGA and left it for a few hours. Nice deep reddish brown colour BUT a patch were I hadn’t put on any of my brown looked very pale and with sharp edges AND in a few places the rusting had got too vigorous and had raised some rough patches that I couldn’t remove with 0000 wire wool or a brush – it needed 3000 grade paper to get them down and that left patches – SO back to square one – chuck it in the derusting tank and then work on it with 1000 grit, 2500 grit and 000 and 0000 wire wool – so now we are back to the start – no damage done. It has never happened to me before, and I don’t know why it went wrong this time as the rusting hadn’t been too vigorous -maybe my solution is really too strong – I’ll dilute it some more – when steamed it tends to give a very black colour. While waiting for the derusting etc I started to tackle the outboard motor that was overheating last year. I had done the bottom end and water pump last autumn, so I decided that there must be a block somewhere in the cooling galleries of the engine – I stripped the engine and took the head off – there was some salt and crud in the passages but not enough to stop the flow – anyway I’ve cleaned it all out and will get new gaskets from the friendly chap in the Isle of Man – would be good to go sailing next w/e if this weather holds – I need a new number plate for the trailer – I have a spare outboard if the Yamaha isn’t finished. I’ve started to do a bit of practice for the Purdey foreend engraving – I picked up an old practice plate that had been heated on one corner and realised that the corner was much softer to engrave compared to the rest. The material is bright cold rolled mild steel ( probably EN1 or EN3) but the cold rolling process toughens it up considerably so its much harder to engrave than soft gun parts. I have more or less run out of test plates, so I’ll order some more EN1 in 30 x 6 mm and then anneal it in my furnace before flattening the surface and getting a good working finish for practice plates. Metals4U gives you 10 free cuts and then 50p per cut, so a 3 m length can be cut into 150mm plates for £4.50 which is not bad, which adds up to about £2.50 per test plate. I might get them surface ground again, but I’ll try for a finer finish than last time as I had to do a lot of work on the surface before I could use them.
19th May – More school today – a visit to see how the school is doing with its maths progress. The children in the top class had made cards and presents for Dave and I for doing robotics with them – really touching! I went shooting this morning – it was meant to be a ‘have a go’ session that we run for the Cambridge Gun club for corporate groups, but the group had cancelled and they had forgotten to tell us, so we got a free mornings shooting as a compensation. I took my flintlock and am sad to report that I couldn’t hit anything with it – well, actually one clay! It was firing a bit slow but that isn’t an adequate excuse… I swapped to my percussion for the last few shots and was back in my usual somewhat erratic form – bother, I was hoping I had got somewhere with the flint – I did better last time. I’m still browning the Joseph Manton barrel – its being very slow but I think its getting there. One lock still needs a mainspring but I think I’ll go and have a poke through Dicks box again to see if I can get one that fits without having to drill a new hole for the peg. I picked up a handful of mainsprings with a short top arm – as from modern locks – and they are all more or less identical – just about 1.5 mm too long between peg and claw. Apart from cleaning the two guns, all I had time for was sharpening the 15 gravers that I bought back blunt or chipped from the NSS. There is another Anglian Muzzle Loading shoot on Sunday but I don’t think I can face using the flintlock as its just too depressing! I’ve got to ship some engraving bits to Australia, but unfortunately they have to be picked up and its not easy finding a day when I am in.
18th May – A morning in school invigilating the dreaded SATs exams! Dick has finished the Manton hammer and made a new nosepiece, he didn’t have the rest of the gun and didn’t know which way up the nosepiece opening should be, so they need unscrewing and changing. He has, as usual, made a fantastic job of copying the good hammer – I just need to engrave a couple of lines to frame the chequering on the spur and it will be a perfect match when its coloured down. The barrel is coming along well after about 4 or 5 brownings – I guess it will take 10 or so. Now I need to replace the mainsprings with the ones I found in Dicks junk box – he says he found another box of springs if I want another poke around – and to think I used to make them…. Dick will do a bit of work on the wood round the lock pockets, I cleaned up a couple of pistol barrels that need rebrowning – I hope I got a reasonable finish – I refuse to strike them down to the bottom of the pits as that will seriously remove metal. I talked at the NSS to a gunsmith who wanted a Purdey replacement foreend iron engraved – I have never done any Purdey style engraving, or indeed any modern style engraving but I said I would have a go! Probably regret it! I had a look at some Purdey foreend that Dick has, and looked on a couple of auction websites so I have a fair idea what to do… I’m off to Cambridge Gun Club tomorrow as we (Anglia Muzzle Loaders) are putting on a ‘have a go’ event for CGC and I am needed on account of not many people have flintlocks and are familiar enough with them to let them loose on the public. For the first time I actually checked my flints and replaced them BEFORE starting to shoot – this is probably a big mistake and I probably ensured that they won’t spark well!
You have to admit, that is a pretty good copy!
A couple of barrels to rebrown so that they don’t look rebrowned!
An old Purdey forend – most are not quite so closely worked – I will see what I can do!
17th May – Back in harness, so to speak. I have finished preparing the Manton barrel (and unscrewed the foresight) and put on the first browning which went quite slowly but looks very promising now I’ve rubbed it off with 0000 wire wool – I will probably make a warm box as the cellar really takes too long – I can do pistol barrels on top of the AGA in a tub but long gun barrels need some better method than hanging them in the cellar. I am now preparing the barrels of a pair of over and under flintlock pistols – they are slightly pitted (as are almost all antique barrels even when the rest of the gun is immaculate) and needed a gently rebrowning, but it would not be appropriate to strike them off to get rid of all the pits – I have run them through the derusting tank to convert all the red rust in the pits to black and wire brushed them – I then work on them with 400 grit paper on any bad bits but mostly with 600, followed by 1000, then 3000 and 000 wire wool. It’s fiddly because there are ribs between the barrels and a rib underneath and each has two right angled edges to be cleaned out. I run them under my fine wire wheel (0.03 wire) to brush the grit and dust off between grades of paper. The engraving on the barrels looks fine and isn’t even filled with rust, so just a very quick going over to clean it out before browning. I spoke too soon about filling my shooting calendar for next season – I got another lovely invitation today that I can’t miss. The only problem is that its on Penny’s birthday and I’ve already ducked out of a party and a May Ball for the Scottish shoot – I am expecting the divorce papers any minute………………………………………………….
16th May – Bit of a surge in visitors to the blog – I gave out about 50 cards at the NSS so I guess some new people are looking – Welcome if this is your first visit – hope you enjoy the site.
16th May – Busy trying to sort out my ‘clean’ workshop, which is anything but. I’ve now got a bit more swinging room around the microscope, although the support for the microscope will still get in the way, but it only blocks an angle of about 10 degrees so not too bad. I had invitations to another two muzzle loading game shoots next season, which just about fills my shooting calendar! I think I now have 7 lined up – they are getting more and more popular as people get a bit jaded by the big bag breech loader shoots – It’s going to grow significantly as a sport – we are already seeing a steady increase in the numbers shooting clays with muzzle loaders. At the moment its difficult for newcomers to get into the muzzle loading game shoots as only a few people are organising them and they always get filled up quickly with the ‘regulars’. It can’t be a very attractive commercial proposition for the shoot, as the bag is much smaller than for ‘normal’ shoot, and hence the gross take is a lot less – having said that, the shoots I go on all seem to be very popular with the keepers. I am going to see how well I do with a flintlock next season, as its getting a bit common using a percussion gun – nasty new fangled things! Checking my calendar, I’ve had to duck out of a birthday party and a May Ball to go up to Scotland to shoot the National ML championships with my son Tom, but it is great fun, even if I don’t hit much – Tom and I are about equal as he only shoots once a year and I am a lousy shot anyway. Last year I missed the Samdringham Game fair, which I love, but this year I should make it. I probably won’t be at the Fenland Country fair – its my least favourite as its only 10 miles from home so none of the fun of camping there! I popped over to see Dick and look at the hammer of the Manton he has been filing up – Jason did a splendid job of welding – much better than my welding – so that is almost done – I just need to brown the barrel now.
16th May – Back from Harrogate… The Northern Shooting Show was pretty hectic viewed from behind my engraving bench – not sure of much that went on outside a radius of about 15 ft! Lots of interest in what I do, particularly in engraving and re-engraving antiques, and I am sure a lot of work will come my way as a result. I came totally exhauseted after talking all day for both days! People seemed to like the assurance that I understand the importance of not over restoring guns, so I am becoming ‘The Ethical Restorer’! Quite a good strapline… I did get to wander round on a short lunch break – its an amazing show, I’m not sure in our urbanised south of England you could put on a big show that had Shooting in the title, we just tag guns onto ‘Country Fairs’! Several of the enquiries that I had related to restoring the engraving on barrels, and I have a couple to do already, so while I have my microscope etc all packed up from the show I have decided to re-organise my engraving bench so that there is room to swing a barrel – this means extending the bench and cutting away the bottom part of a set of shelves, so that is today’s job – I do have a couple of pistol barrels and a double shotgun barrel to re-brown, plus a few other bits and pieces, but I do want to get the bench sorted so I can get all the boxes off the floor and have room to move!
10 May – A website regular emailed me to say that he did his browning on the back of his AGA so I thought it might be worth a try. I’ve been browning the little pistol barrel hanging over a jug of water in the bottom of a steel barrel about 2 ft high in the cellar so I just took it up to the kithen and perched it on top of the cover of the AGA hotplate and wrapped a piece of silvered bubblewrap round it – that really turbocharged the browning and finished it in one go – beautiful! Thanks Chris. I can probably get each rusting done in a couple of hours like that – now I need to sort out how to do the same for a long gun barrel. The little pistol is now together and looks superb – I wish it was mine. I’ve now loaded up my truck with all the stuff for the Northern Shooting Show – I’d forgotten what a long drive it was until I did a reccy on Google maps – about 4 hours. I’ll have to get there in time to build my setup and display – it takes a while to get the microscope set up with the turntable as the field of view needs to be aligned with the centre of the turntable an perpendicular to it or I keep loosing the object as I rotate it, which of course I have to do all the time as you can only cut in a very limited range of directions. The NSS opens at 8 every morning so its an early start, although I only have to travel from where we camp on the shooting line to the show hall. I haven’t been able to get a map of where on the site the MLAGB stand is going to be, or how much space we will have so I’ll have to play it by ear. I’m still not quite sure what to take in the way of guns – I’ve been asked to take some pistols for the main display and I’ll take a couple for my own display of restored things, and my restored Lancaster oval bore as that is my best bit of restoration so far.
Here is the little pistol – I can’t claim any credit for restoration – it is entirely original!
9th May – Sorting out labels for the NSS – I’m still browning the little barrel and it still has some way to go, I’ve lost count of how many brownings its had but judging by the number of wads of used 0000 steel wool lying about on the bench it must be around 8 so far – I’m still using Blackley’s slow brown as I don’t want to make the finish any blacker at this stage by using my solution with copper in it. I nipped over to Dicks to have a look at the Manton hammer – it is looking good, a little bit more work needed. As I expected Dick has had to file through the weld I put on the front of the spur in order to match the existing one, so he will take it to Jason for a bit of delicate welding – probably a bit fiddly for me to do. He found a chequering file to cut the spur surface, so that will match the existing one, I’ll have to do a bit of engraving around the chequering but it should be good. I must get on with the Manton barrel smoothing with 600 grit paper, then 1000 then 3000 ready for browning.
8th May – Spent most of the day sorting stuff to take up to the Northern Shooting show on Friday – as well as all my engraving stuff, microscope, power hone, lights etc I had to sharpen about a dozen gravers and find my microscope camera etc. I have 2 tables & trestles plus mounted photos and bits for a display of restoration to sort out, plus a notice or two about restoration as I haven’t got any. Clare emailed me this evening to bring some pistols for the main MLAGB display – so that is another thing to sort out – I seem to have mislaid my Colt Navy that I usually take – probably gave it to Tom – it was a bit ropey… I did wonder about getting some section 7 pistols for my collection – it stops rather abruptly after the Adams and associated percussion revolvers – apart from a couple of little rim fire .32 Smith and Wessons which are as common as dirt. I carried on browning the little pistol – still some way off, but I’ll keep at it. I did a bit of cleaning up of the Manton barrel – that will brown nicely when I get round to it. Dick says he has nearly finished filing up the hammer spur and reckons it won’t need any more welding, which would be good. I’ll probably go and see it tomorrow – he is quite excited because he has just got another dog so I”ll be shown that too – another black lab bitch that was rejected as a gundog!
7th May – went to Dick’s to show him the Manton and hand over the filing of the hammer spur to him – he has a better eye for shape than I do and is better at filing – he did a proper apprenticeship while I am just a bodger! He was as amazed as I was at the nature of the surfaces of the break in the Manton springs – I can’t believe they were the original springs. There is a bit of a mystery there – if you scroll down a bit and look at the two photos of the lock you will see that the top arm of the mainspring rests on a little ledge on the inside of the lock plate, and on the outside there is the end of a pin where the ledge is fixed through the lockplate – this seems to me to be a bit unusual as the top arm usually rests under the thick piece of the lock that rests against the barrel – i.e. its normally quite a bit longer. It looks like the lock may have been modified with the ledge added to take a replacement spring – The springs with the short top arm are now associated with ejector springs. Anyway at DIck’s we sorted through his collection of mainsprings – he has lots of ex Purdy ejector springs and various assorted springs including a number of mainsprings recovered from old percussion guns. We managed to sort out half a dozen possible springs – they are almost an exact fit, except that all bar one has the peg that locates in the lock just about 1.5 mm to far towards the muzzle to fit directly – I did contemplate filing off the pin and welding on a built-up peg, but I’m not sure if that would be strong enough, so I’ll probably do what an old gunsmith would have done and drill a new hole and plug the old one – I might just try a blind hole. I’ll then have to block the old hole, either welding it or, more authentic, riveting in a bit of steel rod. Anyway its good to know I won’t have to make springs from scratch… Browning of the little pistol barrel is being slow – Dick complained that the last pistol he browned took him 15 rustings, so I shouldn’t get depressed as I’ve only done 4 so far.
Obviously the ones with red clay are the originals – the right hand lock on the right. The peg on the RH original lock is further from the ‘elbow’ than it is on the LH lock
This is the best fit spring for the LH lock – it may be a bit short, causing it to hang down below the lockplate, but I can’t be sure as Dick has the hammers and they form the stop. This spring is more traditional and rests on the main bolster, not the pegged in ledge arrowed. Most locks had the bolster extending further forward? The photo also shows the line where the flashguard is joined into the plate rather than being integral.
6th May – I got my microscope camera rigged up today and took a few photos of the broken springs – it works very well but needs to be in place of one eyepiece so you can’t use the microscope while the camera is in place. Anyway you can certainly see why the springs fell apart – its just difficult to see how they ever held together! I tackled the job of welding the replacement spur on the hammer of the Manton. I could not see how to get a weld across the whole face of the joint, and the lump I welded on is somewhat oversize so I tacked it in place – it took a couple of goes to get it aligned right. Now it needs shaping, and if that gets near to taking away the weld I’ll just go in a bit deeper with the weld – I’ll just have to make sure that there is always enough weld left somewhere to hold it all together. I’m browning the little barrel but its being a bit recalcitrant – I had to hang it in a bucket over a jug of hot water to get it to rust today. I get the urge to try my browning solution on it, but I’ll keep going with Blackley’s for a bit. I’ve been in correspondence with a friend from the AML who is browning a barrel and not getting a great deal of joy after half a dozen rustings – he has now added some dilute copper sulphate to his bottle of Blackley’s Slow brown to emulate my used printed circuit etching solution – signs it might help. I’m off to the Northern Shooting Show on Friday so I have lots of things to sort out. I will be doing engraving demonstrations and giving engraved screwheads to small children as usual, but I thought I might make a change and do a static display of restoration equipment, parts and tools and a job in progress ( I have lots!). I’ll take my power hone for sharpening this year as I get through the gravers at a rate of knots – I made another 4 this afternoon – I usually sell a few at Harrogate. I bought a very cheap belt sander and some silicon carbide belts which is ideal for preliminary shaping of the points, and other shaping jobs as it doesn’t heat things as much as a grinding wheel. I mean to get a coarser diamond hone disk but the 80 grit ones are very expensive, and anyway I need a new 260 grit wheel at some point. All these tools cost a lot. I am doing a quite few restorations for friends and via the blog but I have to work out costings each time and don’t always get it right so I thought I’d try to make a price list – at least with a range of prices for each job so people could judge whether it was economically viable to do a particular piece of work on their gun.
The delamination emerging top right in each of these two photos is visible along the top of the spring surface as a crack.
Above are the two parts of one mainspring – all sorts of faults are visible, including a slightly rusted surface from an old crack and several delaminations. I really find it difficult to believe a spring can be that bad! I’ve seen a fair number of breaks in mainsprings before and always look at the surfaces under the microscope but usually they are clean uniform surfaces – sometimes with a rather large grain size. These look as if they are original, so its difficult to see what happened to them – unless it was the effect of a damp atmosphere.
This spring has flaws too, not quite as obvious in the photos, but both broke – the red is modelling clay.
I hope that the metal I’ve welded on is large enough to make the spur- its quite difficult to judge – we shall see!
5th May – Had a bit of a problem today – I was derusting a pair of percussion locks for a job and after 10 minutes in the derusting the mainsprings both broke! I knew that some very high strength modern steels suffered from hydrogen embrittlement if subjected to a very long derusting electrolysis, but I’d never had any problems with mainsprings in dozens of derusting so I was a bit concerned to say the least. When I looked at the spring breaks under the microscope at x25 the answer was obvious – both had longitudinal cracks and delamination and corrosion around around the area of the break – the gun had been stored in a damp place and it looked as if that had somehow badly affected the spring – maybe it was held together by rust, and derusting it just let it fall apart. I wondered if the mainsprings might have been replaced with very inferior ones at some time as some of the faults looked as if they were the result of poor manufacture. I can usually weld mainsprings using piano wire as filler but in this case it would be pointless as there is too much amiss in the surrounding metal. The springs would have fallen apart as soon as the gun was used so its just as well to sort it now. I’ll try to get some castings from Kevin, or failing that I’ll make a couple of springs myself – its a bit of a pain to make the hooks for the link, but it can be done! I started on browning the little o/u pistol barrel – first coating it in a slurry of chalk and water that I left for about 16 hours and got this effect;-
You can see a fine twist appearing, I then cleaned the chalk off and gave it a rusting with Blackley’s slow brown, but so far it hasn’t really got rusting going – I suspect that the cellar is actually pretty dry today, although its usuallly quite damp and things rust easily.
5th May – Busy afternoon at school. I cleaned up the little over and under flintlock barrels ready for browning and they are now sitting in the workshop coated in chalk to remove all traces of oil – it also starts off the etching process – I can already see a beautiful twist coming out. I started on the hammer of the Manton caplock – I ground off the ragged break and welded over the joint area to give a sound base for welding on the extra metal that is to be shaped into a new spur for the hammer. I’ll leave the metal well oversize so I don’t have to get the alignment perfect – I’ll tack the piece on and then undercut the rest of the joint so that the weld penetrates towards the middle of the break, otherwise its not going to be strong enough. I’m running out of Argon so I’ll shortly have to make an expedition to get a refil – last year I changed from a rental to a half sized bottle on a refill contract – the big bottle lasted 4 years but this one must have leaked as its only been in use for a year. The owner of the Manton wants us to do the complete ‘breathing’ so I’ll start with the derusting over the weekend.
I hope the piece of metal I cut from a little set-square is big enough!
3rd May – Pleasant day shooting at Eriswell – I did manage to hit a few with the flintlock! emphasis on few… At long last I got to fire at a pattern plate – the Manton flintlock was a fairly even pattern at 20 m and covered 30 inches fairly evenly but was a fraction low. My 20 bore Beretta has choke on both barrels and threw a very good pattern of about 20 – 24 inches centered on the target – not too tight, so I feel more confident that when I actually manage to point it at the clay, it will break it! A friend asked me to fix a Joseph Manton he had just purchased – the spur of the cock had been broken off. I bought it home and checked it out against ‘The Mantons’. It is a caplock of around 1827 to 1829 made my Joseph Manton & Son a year or so after Joseph had been declared bankrupt for the first time in 1826. He had been forced to sell his premises and had managed to get an advance of £750 and set up in business again at Mary Le Bone Park House – New Road – London for a couple of years before moving to Holles Street in 1829 or thereabouts – a truly irrepressible man. He was not able to keep his full staff and had to outsource some work, but overall this gun is of decent quality. My friend’s example appears to be genuine and original and ‘ticks the boxes’, but is in need of a little tender love and care to restore it to its full potential (& value – anything by Joseph or John Manton is sought after). It has the classic caplock hammers with detachable face, and short, square nipples – it is interesting because the flash guards are morticed into the (flat) lock plates – see arrow on photo – I assume this was original. The serial number is 10121 and the barrel was bored by Thomas Evans (TE) and has faint proof marks. The barrel address is Mary Le Bone Park House New Road London. Apart from the broken spur and missing insert it just needs tidying – there is a bit of split wood round the lock pockets because the edges of the locks are quite badly rusted and the expansion has cracked the wood in a few places – the barrels need a bit of attention – derusting (as do the locks) and very gently rebrowning. At the moment I’ll just sort out the hammer spur and any engraving that needs replacing on the repaired parts – the owner will probably want to do the rest…..
You can see some of the rust that covers much or the lock edges.
Interesting that the flash shield is morticed in to a flat lockplate rather than made as part of it as in most guns.
Quite a rare Joseph Manton with this address – he was only there for a couple of years.
Barrel borer’s initials TE for Thomas Evans, to whom Joseph owed £285 on going bankrupt – the equivalent to 3 or 4 of Manton’s best guns!
2nd May – The 8 bore is back together – the browning worked well for the muzzle half of the barrel but there was not much pattern in the breech area – that section of the barrel was quite clearly much more homogeneous – it can’t have been made using twisted iron and steel or it would have more figure – I guess it was mostly steel. Anyway it now looks pretty good – I might try a photo later. I had a visit from a collector dealer who brought a cute pair of percussion pocket pistols to be ‘breathed on’ One has the bottom tang poorly repaired, and a bit of the butt to be fixed, and the other has a chipped flare to the cock mouth. We took them to Dick to do the breathing, along with a pair of Joseph Lang 12 bores that need a bit of TLC but nothing major. I got the little O/U flint pistol back from Dick to be rebrowned. I’m off tomorrow to Eriswell to shoot the John Manton double 14 bore flint gun, and perhaps a few shots with the 20 bore hammer Beretta if I need a break from the effort involved in loading the flintlock I had a careful look at the Manton with my visitor, and he wondered if the stock had been swapped – it is possible as there is a slight misfit in the area of the false breech that I had to sort out when I got it – I’m pretty sure the locks, barrel and breech block belong to the proper Manton as they are all correctly numbered, but from the on it could be a bitza – I am not particularly concerned as I didn’t pay anything like the price of an original Manton.
Much improved, and not looking as if it has just been rebrowned – which is the aim.
1 May – another bit of browning T+Bs+Bs+Ts – its getting darker but the pattern is being obscured over some of the barrel – there never has been any significant pattern in the thick material of the breech, which was obviouly not just a continuation of a simple twist – I tried just steaming the breech end and now I have just put browning on the bit that doesn’t show very much twist at the breech – I used my browning for that as it was a bit light for the last foot or so.
1st May – Another month gone! I’ve done a couple of brownings of the 8 bore barrel so far with quite encouraging results – I keep a note of what I do so that I can compare results, a T for a browning with my solution, a B with Blackleys and a lower case s when I steam a browning after rubbing it down with 0000 grade steel wool. At the present rate I think 6 brownings might be enough – I can fit in about 3 a day if I’m here most of the time. I do them in the cellar, which is quite damp but not particularly warm, 13.7 C at the moment – fine for red wine!
This is the result of T+Bs in my simple code system – the twist is beginning to show nicely – the steaming brings it out more – it doesn’t take much – just pass the barrel back and forth over the spout of a kettle a few times ( beware burning yourself, you need long wooden handles in the breech and muzzle) – somewhat easier on the AGA compared to an electric kettle.
This is the first browning with old printed circuit etchant – the blue seems to be due to the copper in the acidified ferric sulphate solution
29th April – I ordered some sets of honing stones from Zoro UK – I got 3 sets (different grades) of 3 stones (most hones work in threes not two like mine) that are 100 x 9 mm and one set that is 51 x 7 mm – and all for the price (about £21) of one pair of Brownells 19 mm stones with the postage. We shall see if I can devise a suitable holder. In the mean time I am pressing ahead with the rebrowning of the 8 bore. I turned up a couple of bits of wood as bungs in the muzzle and breech, sealed with shellac, and scrubbed the barrel with detergent and water and then painted it with a slurry of chalk and water to lift any remaining oil. I’ll probably give it a coat of my browning solution first as it contains copper and probably etches the surface better than Blackleys – then I’ll change to Blackleys, although I don’t have much in stock and I have the little pistols to do. I seem to have lost the last bottle I bought – things disappear! I’ll make up more of my solution when I can find a good bottle, I have a jar of strong used printed circuit etching solution that has been used, diluted at least 10:1 it works fine, and is probably OK at 20:1.
28th April – I carried on honing the 8 bore barrel – I spent a long time with the 150 grit stones – at first the muck that flushed out was mostly rust colour, but it gradually changed to a greyish brown as I wore down the rust patches and got rid of most of the worst roughness. The barrel got a lot smoother but you could still see a number of imperfections that were obviously left over from the original boring – a few marks along the barrel and some ripples. I stopped the 150 grit when it looked reasonably clean and switched to the 400, which did a reasonable job of refining the surface and flushed grey, but the stones wore out very quickly and unevenly and I had to unrivet them and swap them end for end. I did get a reasonable finish so I swapped to the 500 grit stones which did get a better finish although they wore down quite quickly. I stopped at that point – the almost shiny surface actually showed up the irregularities more, but the finish was smooth and you can see that there is very little in the way of pitting – the barrel is obviously well able to stand the sort of loads it would originally have been used with – maybe up to 4 to 6 drams and 2 1/2 oz of large shot. I rate the honing a partial success – I realised afterwards that the finer hone stones were cutting with the back corner, presumably the arm was interfering with the floating part – so that it was polishing into the depressions instead of taking off the high spots – it does mean that all the rust has gone and the barrel is smooth and nothing is lost as I can always go over it with a longer & or flatter stone. But I will have to think about a new holder, especially if I want to do smaller bores than 8 bore! So now I have to brown them a nice dark colour. When I’ve done that I’ll do the pair of O/U pistols and the little O/U ( all flintlocks).
Here is a photo of a nice Irish Duelling Pistol circa 1780 by Hutchinson of Dublin – it was on my FAC for a while and I have shot it. This was one of my first restorations – the cock was broken and had been brazed, and needed the wood sorted and the barrel browned. I had a pair of almost identical pistols by Edwards of Dublin so I got a new cock cast from one of the Edwards cocks – my guess is that the engraving on the Hutchinson and Edwards were done by the same Dublin engraver because the cock matches the lock tail engraving perfectly. For historical accuracy I still have the braze repaired cock for the pistol. I’m very fond of this pistol as it represents the peak of elegance of the duelling pistol – no half stocked pistol can ever look this elegant, and percussion pistols don’t do much for me! You don’t need to pay a fortune for big name duelling pistols to get a thing of beauty, although even this one will be worth a lot more now than the £700 I paid for it!
27th April Had a great hour this afternoon teaching a group of 10/11 year olds about programming robots – I just wish the boys would show as much interest and concentration as the girls! I fear that when the male culture that has successfully kept women at bay for hundreds of years finally crumbles, men are going to have to up their game to stay in contention! I finally got my kit of honing stones from Brownells yesterday – all their stuff is shipped from the US and only ordered once a week, so the normal delivery is around 2 weeks. I hadn’t ordered a holder for them because I wanted it to work on an 8 bore and the holder said it was good up to 12 bore. Looking at their photo I figured I could make one – I had a long fibreglass cleaning rod with a hex shank to fit a drill and a 9/32 BSF hole in the other end so I copied the general shape of theirs, turning a boss with 9/32 BSF male ends and milling grooves for the stone arms – I wasn’t sure how they applied tension to the stones, but I found that I could make an adjustable system using O rings ( I have a box with an assortment left over from various jobs) – one to hold the tails in and several in a groove to pack out the stones to the required pressure. I slipped a piece of plastic tube ( 15mm water pipe) over the fibreglass to protect the barrel and am using WD40 as a lubricant. And it works just fine- somewhat to my surprise – although its going to be a long job even with the 150 grit stones – at the moment it seems that most of what comes out is rust, but the bore is showing signs of getting better – we shall see after another hour or so with the battery drill. I was going to mount the barrel in the lathe and run the rod straight up and down but the fixtures for holding the barrel in the lathe would take too long to make, and this is easier, plus I have the speed control in my hand on the drill.
26th April – Driving much of the day – first to Norfolk to lunch with a keen collector, then over to Holts to take a couple of 12 bores to put in the sale. I hadn’t really looked at them before, but when they were properly looked at it was clear that both were very loose in the action – rattling when shaken, and the Jefferies had been reproofed in 1993 but the barrels were down to 13 thou in places. Not yet at the stage of being dangerous to shoot, but not very encouraging – we left them for Holts to see how to sell them. I always enjoy having a poke round their premises – this time all the ‘Grown ups’ were off round the country on a valuation week drumming up new business, but the remaining crew were as friendly as ever and we had a look at some pretty unusual things – they had a Nock 7 barreled gun for the next sale at £15K and a very unusual breech loading 7 barreled .22 rifle designed to fire all 7 barrels simultaneously – thought to be for ‘mopping up’ operations after discharging a punt gun, although the reloading must have taken a while. There was a nice Westley Richards 1874 patent with the classic crab knuckle joint like my William Powell – in a bit better condition than mine, but in next time for more than I paid for mine – unfortunately black powder only or I would have been tempted to swap it. I’m still thinking of what I need to cull from my collection – I have relatively few flintlocks so I shall keep most of them, but there are a number of percussion guns and pistols that could go to make room for more flintlocks…….. The popular things at the moment are little pistols in good condition – prices seem to be on the increase, as are prices of shootable sporting guns. There is very little market for junk unless it will restore into something good.
25th April – Sorting out my little robots for my class on Friday – quite a challenge to find something that will give them an understanding of how robots are programmed in the space of an hour! – still I do like a challenge. Tomorrow I’m off to deepest Norfolk with Dick to see a collector friend who has an amazing collection of flintlocks and an insatiable appetite for more – I keep trying to think of something I could take to sell him, but its my percussion guns that I want to shift! After lunch it will be a dash to Holts to deposit a couple of 12 bore guns that came from a friend’s gun cabinet when he died – a sidelock ejector by Jeffreies and a Webley and Scott 700 series non ejector – I have no use for them, although the Jefferies is decent bog standard side by side if one wants one – it will probably make around £700. I quite like my little 20 bore if I want to shoot a nitro S/S – 24 grams is a decent load as its a light gun, and I occasionally hit things with it when I get used to the weight – I’m a bit liable to wave it around in the air when I pick it up after shooting a heavier gun, and its chokes are tight so its easy to miss (anyway that is my excuse!).
24th April – Miraculously nothing to take me away from playing today – went to see Dick and look at progress on the little O/U pocket pistol he is cleaning and tidying, and saw a little Tranter .38 rimfire revolver he had cleaned up for a client – because its rimfire it is classed as an obsolete calibre and is therefore section 58 and doesn’t need to be on a FAC – rather a pretty little thing – wouldn’t mind one of those for my Tranter/Adams collection! I tackled the Richards lock that Dick and I had been working on – he had the cock and the tip of the sear welded, but Jason, our speciality welder didn’t want to weld up the broken bridle – he doesn’t know guns and I guess he didn’t know what liberties he could take, so it was left to muggins to fix it. Bits of old guns are always a gamble to weld as they may contain a lot of carbon and may fizz like a firework, but this bridle wasn’t too bad – the bit that broke was a narrow bridge between the mounting boss and the main plate, but fortunately there was room for the bridge to be thickened up a bit – so it worked! I’ve been cleaning up a lovely pair of Over and Under flintlock overcoat pistols – they really don’t need much done to them – I’m still debating whether to rebrown the barrels – I think I probably will if I can do it in a discrete way. The barrels have LONDON engraved on them, and it appeared almost completely worn down – but actually the cuts were just filled with a hard rust/oil mixture and were perfect underneath. Its not possible to get the crud out of the letters with a brush as its too hard, so I use a graver, being careful to follow each original cut and cut the very minimum of metal. Not so much recutting as clearing out – it does leave some shiny metal showing so its best if it is rebrowned or failing that, gone over with blacking using a very fine watercolour artists brush.(0000 size).
A couple of my clients have brought to my attention that putting details of significant restorations of their guns on the site might prejudice their chances of selling them, which I can well understand. Part of the problem is that Google searches will find even a single mention of a gunmakers name anywhere on this site, and if a would be purchaser is searching for details of a maker he is likely to see it in unrestored condition and may be put off purchase. Google images has lots of images from this site too. For me its a bit of a problem as I do the restorations partly to have things to put on the blog, and don’t really feel the need to charge much for my time as a consequence. I usually ask if its OK to put things on the web, and I will now generally avoid mentioning the maker’s name so that it wouldn’t come up in searches – which will avoid most of the problem. I am reluctant to charge full economic prices for jobs that I can’t post on the web, but I suppose that is one possibility. I hope buyers realise that just because they haven’t seen a blow by blow account of a restoration on the web it doesn’t mean that the gun is not in fact heavily restored – they are probably better off knowing!
The ‘N’ is cleaned out – you can see the crud out of the ‘O’
These are the original cuts minus the crud – the graver takes almost no metal off
These are a beautiful pair of London made pistols in very good condition Rebrowed they could look stunning – I’ll probably do it!
Its a question of getting it exactly right – I’m very fussy about the colour of browning!
23rd April – In Cambridge today sorting out around 100 laundry boxes of old data from Geophysical research cruises between 1957 and 1980 – records from deep water echo sounders, seismic receivers, magnetometers, gravimeters and heat flow – mostly on old paper records from various forms of chart recorder or mechanical raster recorders using electro marked paper. A lot were early digital records recorded on punched paper tape – some may remember the click clack of the teletype as it spewed out 5 or 7 hole punched paper tape! The echo sounder records were from Mufax recorders that were designed for printing out weather maps and used wet paper that turned dark when an electric current was passed through it – a process that depended upon iodine. The recorder had a beautiful helical electrode that revolved behind the paper and gave a linear sweep against a fixed electrode. The boxes full of these records had all been infused with iodine and were a uniform dark brown colour. We kept about 1/4 of the stuff for our archive, and ditched most of the rest. Some is on hold pending other institutions wanting it. It all took me back to my days in Cambridge University as I had designed many of the instruments we used at sea, and been on many of the cruises. I think/hope the rest of the week is more or less free so I can get some gun work sorted out – I’ll go to Dick’s tomorrow as he is fixing up a beautiful over and under flintlock that had a slightly bent frizzen. I will need to come up with something to do at the Northern Shooting Show to amuse the punters – I thougth I might display a set of parts/castings for making a double barreled flintlock fowler as I have a complete set I bought some time ago, including a very nice piece of wood for a stock. I also have most of the modern parts for the ‘Mortimer’ duelling pistols – although not the cocks.
22nd April – The lovely weather doesn’t make for good gun fettling! On the basis that we usually get one week of decent weather early in the year and pay for it all through a miserable summer, I’ve been outside as much as possible fixing things in the garden, or. I have to confess, just sitting in the sun! A few things needed sorting with the Lego Mindstorms for school – two units ‘disappeared’ from the school, so we are short of equipment now and I’m trying to get old stuff working with little success – I’ll probably have to buy another set, which is a blow as I’m no longer VAT registered. I still haven’t had a whisper about the Brownells order so the 8 bore is stalled until the hones get here – I tried running a fibre pad up and down the bore and it seems to be in reasonable condition ( for an old gun) but I do want to hone it. I could use the lead plug method – you turn up a tapered arbor and cast a lead slug in the bore with the arbor through it – the idea is that by tightening the lead on the arbor and forcing the taper into it, you can gradually expand the arbor as the lead wears down during the lapping with a suitable abrasive. Anyway that can wait til I se what turns up from Brownells – I will have to make a holder for the hones as the bore is bigger than the kit is designed for (12 bore). I also have a copule of over and under flintlocks to ‘breath on’ when I feel in the mood for some sensitive cleaning and light restoration……….
18th April. Didn’t get a chance to do anything to the 8 bore barrel – I’m waiting for a barrel honing set from Brownells, but as everything has to come from the US it takes a bit of time and I don’t want to get too far with the outside of the barrel before I’ve attacked the inside. I spent hours building and testing some Mindstorms robots for a class that Dave and I are helping with tomorrow – trying to find things that children of 8/9/10 who have very little idea about computers can do (apart from play) with programming robots in just one hour is difficult. But we’ll get something to work.
18th April. I finished the barrel bolt for the 8 bore – it was filed out of a bit of 1/2 x 1/8 spring steel with the boss on the end built up with TIG welding. I find with a bit of care you can build quite elaborate extensions with TIG if you melt the rod on the place you want it, rather than getting a melt pool before applying the filler rod as you are supposed to – one of my favourite tricks is building the hook on the front end of a lock plate. It’s a careful balance between getting unwelded junctions or having it all melt into a pool – it is a situation where my home made foot control is essential. I did resort to using the miller to reduce the thickness a bit but it was too difficult to hold properly. I deliberately left the head of the bolt quite chunky as I’ve seen too many barrel bolts with bits nibbled off them where they were not substantial enough to stand whatever was done to them to get the bolt out. I usually mill the bolts out of a bit of 6mm steel, but thought this would be easier – it wasn’t! 10 minutes on the hotplate of the AGA got it to a nice blue colour, a little bending made sure it held the barrel tight, pop a piece of sharpened 0.8mm wire in to hold the bolt in place, a little hard wax in the hole where the original pin was excavated and its all fine. I have now started to refinish the barrel with 240 grit, 400 grit and 600 grit paper and then I’ll run my fibre wheel over it and it will be ready for browning – I’m now covered in a fine black dust from head to foot! I took the back door lining off the Land Cruiser to see if I could fix up a way of opening the door from the inside. It turned out to be neater than I expected – I was able to fix a short length of steel as an extension on the back of the door handle and cut an inconspicuous hole in the door lining in the edge of a pocket depression to reach it – job done! I was so eager to put it all back and try it that I forgot to photograph it. I had to go into Cambridge to rescue Penny as she had driven into a curb and written off the tyre of her car – unfortunately it is a modern car without a spare and the foam sealant they give you doesn’t work for damage to the walls of tyres. For some reason the tyres of the Mazda 6 are not a stock item so we have to wait until Saturday before someone can come to fix it. Given the number of potholes around after the winter there must be a many motorists cursing the absence of a spare wheel. I’m quite glad the Land Cruiser still has one, although its slung underneath and very difficult to access.
I can never tell what shade of ‘white’ the background to my photos is going to be – I think this was taken with sunlight streaming in.
17th April. Took a little under and over pistol to Dick’s so he can straighten the frizzen – having looked at a couple it seems that the weakness with under and over flintlocks is that they are quite heavy and if dropped may well land on the frizzen steel and bend it. They are, I suspect, also prone to breaking the cock at the same time. I’ve got a couple at the moment to clean up – they are in nice condition so don’t need any dramatic restoration.
16th April – Got on with the barrel bolt for the 8 bore – I don’t have a slitting saw, so making the slot down the middle is a pain – I cut a first slot with a fretsaw and am opening it up with needle files but its anything but straight – still its not a part of the gun that gets examined often! My ‘new’ Land Cruiser has a ‘barn door’ rear door, unlike the old one that had lift up and drop down flaps, so its not so good as a camper van – what is even more annoying is that in a cost saving mode Toyota have left off the inside handle that lets you open the rear door from inside. But …. a hasty google and there was a set of photos of exactly how to fit a DIY handle – from the US of course, where that sort of make and mend is much more common that in the UK, where most of the population seem to have lost the ability to do anything original, if they ever had it! Anyway another thing for the to do list, along with stripping my Yamaha 4 h.p. outboard and digging the salt from the cooling channels – lets hope some enterprising person has made a You Tube video of how to. And I offered to make Viking a shot belt out of my left-over leather… and I have 3 meetings in school this week… I can remember when I used to wonder what I’d do when I retired………..
15th April – Shot my Manton flintlock at the AML shoot for 30 clays – I had a couple of misfires from worn flints, and it took me a while to work out how to load. Received wisdom is to place a pin in the touchhole and close the frizzen while loading, but I can’t do that because the frizzens have tabs that cover the touchholes when closed to prevent the main charge from filling the pan. I started out leaving the pans open, but that blows too much powder out of the touchhole as you force down teh wad, so I got misfires even when the priming in the pan went off – anyway closing the pan while reloading – as it was meant to be- fixed the problem and I had almost no misfires after that. My score wasn’t particularly impressive as I didn’t really get my eye in except for one crosser that was fast enough for me not to have time to think, but not too fast for me to get onto which I hit all three times I shot it. I used my little 1955 Berretta 20 Bore hammer gun in the afternoon and managed to break a few – it has very tight chokes on both barrels, as did many guns of that generation so you have to be spot on in targetting. It was good to get out and shoot after a long break from it! I took teh 8 bore and it was admired as a working tool – I’ll finish it and take it to the Northern Shooting Show where I will be doing my engraving demonstration as I might be able to sell it. Holts are sponsoring a clay shoot with us at the Cambridge Gun Club on 22nd July, which promises to be good fun – they are doing a free valuation for one gun for each entrant, and there will be a shield and prizes – which of course I will not be in the running for, unless there is a booby prize!
14th April – Anglian Muzzle Loaders shoot tomorrow – I’ll keep to my resolution of shooting flintlocks – now I have a good single (‘Twigg’) and a good double (Manton) and a good supply of Swiss No 2 powder and OB priming powder I should be set for some serious practice! I will of course miss most clays as I always do, but I was inspired by Bev who on the last AML shoot hit 26 out of 30 clays with his flintlock and beat all the percussions, proving to me at least that shooting flint is not, of itself, an excuse for missing! I did start to make a new barrel bolt for the 8 bore – I want to get it finished as I want to sell it to clear some space – but cutting the lawn took priority, and then I went to a discussion on what makes a human different from a robot at Homerton so that put paid to any gun work, leaving just enough time to sort out things for shooting tomorrow. One downside of shooting muzzle loaders is the kit you need – shot and powder flasks (different for percussion and flint), priming, wads, cards, caps, flints, loading rods, unloading rods, brushes, prickers…….. If you take both percussion and flint plus a breech loader for a bit of light relief in the afternoon you need a pantechnicon and several hours to sort it all out. The only saving grace with my current set of shooting guns ( double and single flint and percussion) is that all four are 14 bore and take the same wads and cards!
13th April – I came to re-assemble the 8 bore and found that I’d somehow lost the barrel bolt – another thing to make! I had a very pleasant visit from a friend/blog reader/client who bought me three pistols to ‘breath on’. We had a long discussion about non-restoration, and our feeling that less is more when it comes to good quality pieces. It’s a tricky area, and obviously each gun or pistol needs very careful analysis to decide what needs to be done, what might be done and what shouldn’t be done. The client’s views are clearly important, but most sensible owners want an assessment of the likely impact of any work on the aesthetics and value, and I try to give an honest answer based on my knowledge, but in the end its only my opinion. Certainly some people are keen for their guns to look as they did when first made, but its rare to find a gun that can be returned to that standard, and it seldom if ever increases the value of the gun to a serious collector, although some buyers ( I refrain from calling them collectors!) want that sort of artificial perfection. On the list of ‘needs to be done’ I’d obviously include missing or broken parts or missing bits of the stock and major cracks that would affect the strength. On the probably to be done list I’d include taking apart and lightly cleaning and getting rid of any big dents and dings in the woodwork (unless the rest of the finish is near perfect, in which case proceed with caution or leave well alone), and fixing any lesser splits. On the might be done we probably move on to the thorny subject of the barrel – to rebrown or not to rebrown, and to recut or not to recut the barrel engraving. Depending on how much work needed to be done on the stock, complete stock refinishing might be necessary, but that is a pretty drastic option for a valuable gun in good condition . The usual state of an antique gun or pistol is that the barrel finish is much more obviously worn and rusted than the lock and furniture because it is of necessity soft iron while the rest is hardened. If the finish on the barrel looks incongruous there will be an argument for lightly refinishing the barrel and rebrowning it – BUT only if you can do so discreetly, that means NO GINGER browning, beloved of many unknown restorers. If you decide that rebrowning is going to enhance the look of the gun AND you can do it in a way that doesn’t shout ‘rebrowned’ it is probably worth doing unless the gun is rare or expensive, in which case leave well alone. If rebrowning is on the books there may be a case for recutting the engraving on the barrel if it is worn to the point of being difficult to make out individual letters – BUT again the object is just to refresh very lightly so it doesn’t look as if its been done. In practice, as you will see eleswhere on this website, apparent wear and illegibility of barrel engraving is often the result of the letters being filled with rust with a hard skin on top, in which case with luck recutting will only need to consist of using gravers to (extremely carefully) dig out the mess without cutting much new metal away. Recutting engraving when you are not going to rebrown afterwards is particularly tricky and is only rarely justified. Having said all that, it all depends on the value and initial condition, and ordinary guns in mediocre condition don’t have a lot of value, so its easier to enhance their value by careful restoration, particularly if they then appeal to people looking for guns to shoot. Anyway looking at the pistols that I got today, one had a few bits in the needy category and all three were in the maybe/probably category in respect of their barrels, but with the caveat that they must not look as if they have been restored! A tall order, and I’ll have to be in the right mood to tackle them!
12th April – My client opted for the Richard’s lock to be properly fixed and cleaned, so first job was to put it in the derusting tank in its entirety for a couple of hours. The result looks much worse because the deep hard rust is now friable red or black rust ( it seems to depend on the nature of the original rust – see later) . One feature of derusting is that its almost always easy to remove screws afterwards, and in this case it was easy to strip the lock so that all the parts could be given a thorough brushing with the .03 wire wheel, which removes all the loose stuff and leaves a nice uniform patina. Stripping and cleaning the parts revealed a couple of interesting things; The bridle was cracked and in two bits, although it was more or less doing its job, and there was a brazing line on the back of the cock where the shoulder stop had been altered, presumably during the working life of the pistol, thereby confirming that the cock had been a replacement, and explaining the two different positions it could take on the tumbler. In fact looking carefully at the stop shoulder shows it hardly works as a stop because the replacement cock differs a bit in shape from the original. Anyway putting it all together with a scrap of flint shows it all works and sparks. Its now gone off to Dick to get the bridle welded and the cock hole sorted while I get on with the 8 bore.
Straight from derusting (dried on the AGA). The previously hard rust will now brush off.
Arrow shows where a piece was brazed in to modify the replacement cock – presumably during pistol’s working life. The bridle is broken just below the arrowhead but it doesn’t show until it is taken off.
Cleaned and waiting for the welding. The flint is a bit blunt, but I don’t have any good small ones.
Having got the Richards lock on its way I returned to the 8 bore. In preparation for trying to lap the barrel I decided to derust it inside and out. My previous derusting of barrels had been done in a 2 inch pipe, which wasn’t really very convenient and not big enough for the 8 bore barrel. One of my favourite distractions is making tools and aids to restoration, so this morning I quickly made up a derusting tank 40 inches long and big enough to hold a single or double barrel. I had a length of 50x 200 PVC ducting left over from the extractor fan duct at Giles’s flat, and a nice strip of worktop from the cottage washbasin fitting, plus a load of leftover black sealant and white adhesive – saw, squirt, glue and a tank appeared. It holds about 4 litres of Caustic Soda solution and I fitted a piece of 1/2 inch angle as an electrode in a bottom corner with a steel tab for electrical connection welded on (don’t allow copper in the solution on the electrode side) and found my length of 1/4 inch bar with grommets as an internal electrode and Robert is your avuncular…… It took about six hours to derust the barrel in a number of different orientations and inside the bore – my tank is set up in the cellar so I don’t have any problems with it getting in the way while its working. I took the barrel out and wiped it and intense black oxide wiped off, so I left the barrel to dry and then went over it very carefully and firmly with the .03 wire wheel, which left an intense even black graphite like finish that didn’t wipe or rub off. You can see the twist pattern in the structure of the metal but its all an even black colour – I’ve never had that result from derusting barrels before and I’m not sure why it happened this time. The black must be pure ferric oxide, but it doesn’t usually bond so well to the surface, it didn’t in the Richards lock for instance, which cleaned up to a grey finish. I am almost tempted to leave the barrel graphite black, its so even! I suspect that it ended up like this because it had a very heavy layer of browning, possibly as a protection from water – wildfowling must he very hard on guns…..
Tank in use in the cellar – bubbles are hydrogen reducing the rust from ferrous to ferric oxide
Fine black finish – I’m not sure how durable it would be. I’ll probably strike up the barrel and brown it after lapping it.
11 April – I received a nice old T Richards flintlock lock from a blog regular this morning to sort out – the mainspring was slipping off the end of the tumbler well before the cock had reached its stop and come to rest in the pan. Thomas Richards was a Birmingham gunmaker (c 1749 to 1784) and the pistol this lock came from was probably made around 1760 – it has a rounded profile, a pointed tail, not link on the mainspring or roller on the frizzen or its spring and has traces of engraving in the appropriate style for that date. The cock looked original, as did all the parts, and they were all lightly rusted to an more or less equal extent, with no evidence of significant repairs. Looking at the lock the cock seemed to be rotated about 20 degrees from its correct position in relation to the tumbler, yet the tumbler and cock seemed OK. Taking off the cock revealed the answer – sort of! Or another puzzle, depending on how you look at it. One position of the cock on the tumbler shaft is right and works well, the other is wrong. I’m not sure why this was done, and I wouldn’t want to use the pistol many times as the bearing surfaces are not great, but for an antique it is fine, and preserves the puzzle for future generations to mull over! The ‘works’ need a good derusting as the sear is a bit stiff, and the engraving would show up a bit more with attention.
As received the mainspring falls off the end of the tumbler before the cock hits its stop on the lockplate.
Here is the answer, sort of, two sets of notches on the cock, so a choice of positions, one is right, one wrong- but why?
11 April – Disaster struck! My old Welcome Post on this blog got so big that my system wouldn’t allow me to edit it as there wasn’t enough memory available on my server!! I had been meaning to prune it a bit but left it too late, so I’ve had to leave the old one and start a new Post. The old one is still there, now called April 2018 Post. I am now back from a short break in Cornwall fixing up our holiday cottage (see tinminerscottage.co.uk & on airbandb ) – I don’t advertise my absences on this blog for obvious reasons!
Now I’ve just got to work out how to sort out the too big post – the housekeeping involved in running this blog is not inconsiderable, so I’m always grateful for the encouraging messages I get from regular viewers – I now have quite a few friends out there! To finish off the last post, the ‘missing’ basin was eventually scheduled for delivery by Parcelforce an hour after we left the cottage – great timing – I phoned them and miraculously got through within 5 minutes ( a record ?) and told them not to bother! I hope they don’t just dump it outside. Anyway now to catch up with all the things that are waiting for me……..