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.
from Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..
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Welcome to my site – you’ll find this post is a sort of diary where I put things I’m doing that are (almost) relevant to the subject – they ‘fall off the bottom’ after a few weeks – bits from the diary may get put into existing or new posts when they fall off. Please feel free to contact me via the comments box in each post or by my email as per the CONTACT tab at the top. If I can I will respond – email will usually get a quicker response. Many of the guns illustrated belong to friends or clients who have given permission for them to be included.
Most of the photos on this website are mine, a few are from other sources or are photographed from books. The guns photographed mostly belong to other people who are happy for them to be on the web – I always ask. My photos are copyright – you are welcome to use them for your own purposes, but not for gain – please always attribute them to cablesfarm.co.uk. All my photos have been reduced in resolution using photoscape (excellent & free) to save space on the website, they are normally 1200 pixels wide, occasionally 1600 for more interesting things. The image you will normally see on your screen is at a lower resolution still, as wordpress fits it to the page and decreases the resolution very considerably to speed up loading. Clicking on any photo will show you the full 1200 or 1600 width version if your screen resolution allows it – they are very much clearer. All the photos were originally taken at much higher resolution – up to 6000 pixels wide – if you want a higher resolution version of any of the photos e.g. for publication, please contact me with details and we can if necessary discuss copyright and I can forward full resolution copies. For serious research publications I am happy to take new photos of guns I have access to. If you right click & ‘save image’ from the normal web page you will get an image of (for the J LANG 14 bore for example) 94 KBytes, if you left click on the image and download from the larger image that comes up on a blank screen you’ll get about 573 KBytes, which is what I uploaded to the website – if I send you the original cropped image it is 8.257 MBytes with a horizontal count of 5885 pixels !
So now you know why the photos in the normal view look a bit murky! Just click on them for a better photo.
16th November – I didn’t really get going today! So no great thought to share – or even scrappy ones I’m afraid. I did decide that the stove in the living room had to change from wood to coal so it would actually heat the house 24 hours – immediately noticeable improvement in comfort. I was trying to imitate the Purdey engraving of yeserday but I couldn’t get the hand movements right – I think my mild steel is a little too soft for such fine work and the graver seems to plough deep – I might try on a bit of EN 8 with a bit of carbon and see if it is any better. I tried to resharpen my fine graver to make the heels very short to reduce the ploughing round corners, and it did improve it a bit, but not enough – its annoying, becasue although I don’t particularly like that style of engraving I’d like to be able to reproduce it better. Anyway I think I had better creep off to bed rather than do my usual 12:30 bed time as I have to be up at about 5 to get to the shoot breakfast tomorrow.
15th November – I get a steady correspondence from this blog – several emails a week – often asking for information about guns people own. One of the requests for information that comes up from time to time is about guns that the writer has inherited but they don’t know anything about guns – there is usually a photo attached, often blurred and difficult to make out. They are usually not guns that were on certificate, they are mostly repro pistols that someone has had without a certificate, and are usually functioning firearms – and if made after 1919 (?) should be on a Firearms Certificate as a Section 1 firearm – that, coupled with the fact that they are worth a lot less than the optimistic new owner was expecting it makes for disappointing news I have to deliver! What to do with them? I can’t advise that they are kept without a certificate, or sold without passing through a Registered Firearms Dealer – it is in fact illegal to have them in your possession without a certificate – strictly an offense carrying a mandatory prison sentence for possession of an unlicensed firearm. They can be surrendered to the Police as a last resort, or to a Registered Firearms Dealer, and one or two auctioneers who are registered to deal in firearms may take them and put them in their auction. (e.g. Holts, or Southams who do sell repros.) What you can’t do is put them up for sale on ebay! All of which got me thinking of what happens when a gun owner/collector dies and his descendents are left with a pile of guns that may or may not be legal inert reproductions, antiques, on certificates -section 1 or section 2, or worse, section 7 or strictly illegally owned repros that are functioning firearms. Its obvious from the emails that I get that people are searching for information and not finding anything useful apart from my blog. So I’m contemplating putting up a post with advice, and possibly a draft letter/form to be given to next of kin by gun owners that sets out what they have and what to do with everything. We shall see if thought gives way to action on my part! On the engraving side, here is a photo of the Purdey lock I touched up the tail of – if you click on teh photo you can just see a line of brazing across the tail where all the engraving had been filed off to level the two sides. In the blow-up of a different part you can see how crude the basic cuts are – its all done very quickly and almost automatically!
14th November – Now finished 3 of the jobs on my client list – a couple to go, both jobs that I’m waiting for inspiration for! One is a little double pistol that has one cock that is a bit of a misfit and I can’t decide if I’ll go at it with a grinder and welder or wait for inspiration, the other is a gun that has had a plain and very pedestrian lock fitted that needs it to be engraved, but again I can’t think what is the right thing to do – fortunately both clients are prepared to wait til inspiration comes! The yr 3/4 ( 7/8/9) teacher came into my STEM club on Monday and asked what she needed for the children to make those ‘games’ that require you to move a loop along a twisty wire without setting off the buzzer – she needed 12 sets for her class of 36. It soon became obvious that it would be easier for me to get/make all the parts and set it all up, – oh and which day would it be best for me to come in and ‘help’? So I have been buying 3.2 mm aluminium welding rod as it should make the perfect shapes – you will be surprised how long it took me to find a supply in 1m lengths – most are 330mm. Plus all the other bits (there are lots when you work it out) so that totally unskilled small children can produce a working puzzle in less than 2 hours. And today I got a text asking if I had a breastplate (as in armour) that I could lend for something or other! I didn’t realise when I volunteered to be a school governor just what was involved, particularly in the ‘props’ department. Next term the yr 5/6 s are doing the book ‘The Highwayman’ so that will mean taking in a couple of flintlocks and staging a highway robbery while wearing a tricorn hat and a cloak – no horse though. I carelessly suggested that it would be fun if the yr 3/4s did a Dragon’s Den activity around some project – I did one at another school that went down very well – so I think muggins here has talked himself into helping/setting another one up … – plus I still end up having to do the ‘serious’ governor stuff like checking up on all the catagories of children that need special attention in class (my particular responsibility) and the science teaching and attending boring meetings……… I’ve been doing a bit of engraving practice recently – I have a pile of perfect mild steel test plates waiting to be engraved, so I think I’ll try to capture a range of 19th century patterns. I had a lock with a bit of missing engraving in the Purdy small scroll style, and I did manage to fill in the gap but the range of patterns I can do freehand and without thinking too hard is limited, and if I’m not careful things tend to drift back to a familiar pattern, so I need to do some serious practice. I can see why there were a relatively limited range of patterns, and why it appears that each engraver had a distinct style. I was quite shocked recently to find a copper bangle that I engraved about 60 years ago (when copper bangels were a thing) that had scroll engraving of the basic pattern I revert to now, despite the fact that I didn’t touch a graver for 50 of the intervening years!
Diary 13th November – Finished the horn fore-end tip today. I is quite a complex shape as it has to fit round the end of the ramrod pipe and also accommodate the back end of the rib, but it wasn’t as bad a job as I expected and its now finished – I discovered a couple of small defects in the horn that show up as pale marks, they were not obvious when I started, but until you polish the horn it all looks grey anyway. I don’t think the marks will affect the strength and they only show if you look for them, so I’m happy to leave them – especially as the alternative is to start again! I managed to fair in the horn with just a little removal of the surface finish of the wood next to the joint, but a touch of colour and some slakum and it is back to where it was. Job done. I got an email with another job today – re-cutting a bit of engraving. I failed to notice that the Birmingham Arms fair is next Sunday – I would normally go but I am shooting on Saturday – leaving home at 5:45 to get there for breakfast, so I don’t fancy spending most of Sunday driving to and from Birmingham – anyway I keep telling myself that I’m trying to get rid of guns, not acquire more! I have had a look at the Bonhams catalogue and will probably view on Sunday 27th and go up for the sale – I just like the atmosphere, and there are one or two lots I might be interested in. There is a whole collection’s worth of cased Adams pattern 1854 revolvers and derivatives, but not the one I’m looking for – I nearly bought a ‘mint’ one at Birmingham but was put off by a perfect finish but rounded arises to the engraving – I always carry a hand lens and use it! Of course the vendor swore it was the original finish, and maybe he was right, but its my money! I keep looking at the field articles but its mostly a bit breech loader specific – did see one interesting article on cartridges, showing that both the wads, top cards and cases and primers affect both the velocity and the patterning even if the powder and shot loads are identical – the differences are quite marked – sometimes half as many shot in the 30 inch circle at 40 yds with the ‘worst’ combination.
I haven’t taken out the dings in the wood – its a working gun and will only get more!
12th November – Went over to see Dick and look at some guns a client wanted sold – he buys stuff unseen at auction and passes it to Dick to restore and sell, but frankly he usually gets some pretty junky stuff and I’m sure he looses money on most of it! Which is a good opportunity to think about what is happening to the prices of antique firearms – although it is not a very encouraging situation for people sitting on a fair sized collection – it seems to me that over the last few years the market for and price of anything that isn’t of good quality in decent condition has dropped quite dramatically – and anything in the ‘junk’ or ‘in need of restoration’catagory even more so. One possible exception is guns fit for sporting shooting or rifle competitions. I’d like to think that cased revolvers of the 1850s are OK but when you add in the value of cases and accessories they are probably not commanding as high a price as a few years ago unless in very fine condition. Anyway I had a look at the guns Dick has on offer, and didn’t feel even slightly tempted at any price. I finished my 14 bore card dispenser today – I made the top for it and put a bayonnet fitting for removing it, and then made a leather sleeve to smarten it all up. If I was doing it again I would make the end pieces out of a larger brass rod so that it overlapped the leather – anyway it looks smart and complements my red leather covered shampoo bottle shot flask. Dick suggested I should sell them, but when I pointed out that I’d have to charge around £150 – 200 each he could see that this wasn’t going to make my fortune! I’m afraid nothing today on the ‘Field’ articles…………….
11th November – In school this afternoon with my STEM club – its lovely watching a dozen children aged 7 to 10 just making things. The consumption of glue sticks for the cool glue gun is impressive, I think they got through 12 today, and the bench tops I made to protect the classroom tables get heavy use. I must make another saw out of a 12 inch hacksaw blade cut down with a dowel handle and a bit of big heat shrink tube. I sorted out the electrical supplies so they can make simple circuits – 9V batteries, buzzers, LEDs and switches. My ‘job’ seems to be to supply a steady stream of interesting materials and offer a bit of help and encouragement where needed. A bit more work in odd moments on the horn foreend tip – all filed by hand at the moment using a couple of those old fashioned files that are tapered half round with included flat handles – if it were a bit warmer in the woodwork shed I’d go and use the disk sander for the outside shape – a bit more and I’ll have to Araldite it onto the stock as its getting too small and fragile to hold reliably. My ‘Field’ contribution today is the proof rules from 1806 for guns of the fourth class (d/b muzzle loaders without chokes). For a 14 bore the provisional proof (V) the load was 11 1/4 drams of black powder and a ball that was an easy fit in the barrel (hence no choke!) – probably a little over 1 oz and the definitive proof (CP) was 6 drams of powder and 1 1/2 oz of shot, with the service load defined as 3 drams and 1 1/8 oz. There was also a supplementary proof that was optional (?) using T.S.2 powder of 4 1/8 drams and 1 1/2 oz. – each proof cost 6d. except the supplementary T.S.2 proof that was 1s. 0d. Other gauge loads on a sliding scale – e.g. 8 bore provisional was 17 1/2 drams and the ball, definitive 9 7/8 drams and 2 5/12 oz. for a service load of 4 15/16 drams and 1 13/16 oz. Interesting that the powder loads were quite hefty but the ball/shot loads were very little more than the service load. – they were obviously all calculated according to some formula based on the bore size and then reduced to spuriously precise fractions! I’m not sure of the significance of the supplementary proof, unless T.S. 2 was more powerful than the ‘normal’ proof powder. – I seem to remember from my visit to the proof house in London that they now use T.S.2 for all proofs of black powder guns.
Its beginning to get a bit fragile and difficult to hold, so soon need to be worked on in situ.
10th November – Bit of gun work today as a relaxation! I bought back a friend’s Jo Manton single barrelled sporting gun from my shoot on Thursday that had the horn fore-end cap missing – – but a broken half was salvaged. So my first action is to place the gun in context – so; its a conversion from flint, the number under the barrel is 1589, which the Manton book gives as a double gun that may not be by Manton as the signing is odd. That number belongs to about 1801, which looks right for the lock engraving on this gun, the engraving probably dates from about 1795 to 1805 . There are no numbers on the inside of the locks – that is also right for that period. The barrel is unsigned, which is a bit unusual for Jo Manton but has it been struck off? And there is no poincon so not a classy gun! The stock is OK for 1801, except it has probably been chequered since then. Anyway it looks like a genuine Manton. When faced with a broken part – in this case the horn fore-end, the first question is why did it break off after sitting there for 218 years and a bit of shooting? Clue, the fore-end pipe is a bit loose. On taking off the barrel its clear that there is a split down the middle of the fore-end through the hole for the pipe lug, about 2 1/2 inches long – obviously the split was too much for the horn and it broke and as it was only held on by animal glue it flew off. So first job is to glue the split up with runny epoxy – work the joint to get it in, then a quick binding with self amalgamating tape. Replacing bits like the horn on old guns is tricky – more so than when it was made, as then a part finished horn would be glued on and shaped along with the finish shaping of the stock. I’ll make the new fore end cap from water buffalo horn ( buy on ebay for dog chews!) and glue it in place with epoxy leaving a bit of finishing to do. A tough layer of tape round the wood will give some protection while its rough shaped, then I’ll have to remove the tape and finally shape it and probably have to refinish the wood locally afterwards. I got a bar of 1 inch brass to make my 14 Bore overshot card dispenser, and found that I could use a piece of 22 mm copper water pipe for the body. Anyway I turned up the brass dispenser end and filed the necessary slots etc. and it now looks as if it will work – still to come are the spring and top cap. One of the ‘gang’ suggested it would be very cold to use on a chilly shoot, so I might make a nice leather sleeve for it! On the ‘Field’ puzzles, looking at the tables I put up on 4th Nov, one might expect a difference in flight time to 40 yards between 5 & 6 shot to be 4.2 mSec and between 6 and 7 to be 6.6 mSec. – this equates to a separation of approximately 3.6 ft and 5.5 ft respective – the difference is due to the greater falloff in speed of the smaller shot sizes. Both effects would be significant compared to the normal shot string length of around 7 ft. so using mixed shot might be noticeable, particularly if shooting in front! Is this Bev’s secret weapon?
This will work for 14 and 13 bore cards, I hope, not sure about 16 bore. ( not yet finished)
Lock border is right for very late C18 or very early C19 so OK for 1801.
This split broke the horn tip. Still it is over 200 years old!
Never be without self amalgamating / self vulcanising tape!
9th November – Very pleasant shoot today – some good drives after a few barren ones, but that is how the cookie crumbles. My browsing of the ‘Field’ articles and discussions led me to think about the consequences of swinging the gun. A common misconception concerns the idea that swinging while shooting is like playing a hose or firing a machine gun – i’e’ that there will be some sort of sweep of shot. In fact this doesn’t happen as the shot all exits the barrel still in a tight column in a small fraction of a millisecond. There is a Youtube video of a shot fired into water while swinging madly that shows that the pattern is broadly similar to a normal stationary gun pattern. I tried to do some calculations of how much the end of the barrel moves during the time the shot is traversing the barrel – which I take to be around 5 mSec (based on ‘Field’ data – but I need to check that again) . Assuming the pivot for the gun is the shooter’s shoulder and it is 4.5 ft to the muzzle and you are swinging at a bird crossing at 30 yds (90 ft) that is doing 50 mph (75 fps) as a fairly fast crosser with the wind behind it, then the muzzle is moving at (4.5/90 x 75 ) fps = 3.5 fps., so in 5 msec. the muzzle swings just less than 1/4 of an inch. Most of that movement will occur during the initial phase of acceleration of the shot down the barrel, but nevertheless the shot against the ‘upwind’ side of the barrel HAS to follow a curved path, and will be deflected within the barrel, the question is how this affects the shot, not just that in contact with the upwind side of barrel – The Youtube evidence is that it all leaves the barrel as a single column going in the same direction but I don’t know what effect this might have on distortion of the shot or patterning – I would be surprised if the gun patterned the same for a fast swing as for a static shot, in particular it might affect the tail of the shot string more than the main forward part, but I would expect the difference to be small, possibly no more than variations between normal shots?. On another tack, Bev, who is a crack shot, makes his own shot and it is not particularly well sorted in size ( I’m being charitable here!) but it shoots perfectly and he seldom misses. This got me to wondering, based on the tables of fall off in velocity for different shot sizes ( smaller shot sizes fall off in velocity faster than larger sizes) if using mixed shot would increase the length of the shot string at range, and if this could be useful. I’ll try to do some calculations next time……..
8th November – Had my shoot yesterday at Woodhall – a very good day with some super drives and no rain! I was a bit worried as my gun lost its under rib – all but a small length at the muzzle. It’s been on the cards since I resoldered the barrels and didn’t hold the bottom rib in place well enough while I did the top rib – I relaid it, but in a less than perfect way this morning as I need to use the gun for my next shoots and I didn’t want to take the barrels apart and start over. As a point of interest you can just about get away with resoldering the bottom rib if you have it free and start at one end – but once its fixed in two places you can’t heat the bit between them without creating a bulge in the rib as it expands on heating. I had an email from a regular, Robin, who pointed out, re semolina,that the early Eley patent wired shot packets made to Jenour’s 1823 patent (Eley bought the patent) were packed in bone dust to avoid ‘balling’. I was aware that it had been used in that way, and in fact I do have a wired shot packet (probably not an Eley one as there is no maker’s name on it), presumably filled with bone dust under its paper wrapper – see photo. I do know several inveterate shooters who want their ashes disposed of’ in this way – Penny points out that cremation ashes have a higher density than bone dust (some people know some pretty obscure facts, don’t they?). The subject of balling is interesting in itself – Some experiment reported in the Field articles suggested that it was a common phenomenon, even for more or less normal loads although its not something I’ve heard happen nowadays – there was also much discussion of the merits of ‘soft’ or ‘chilled’ shot as a possible issue in ‘balling’ – one of the many such discussions. An afterthought re the bonedust – I did try with a friend making packets of shot to ease loading but it is almost impossible to force a packet of loose shot down a barrel without it locking up – maybe the bone dust actually made loading easier/possible? On the other hand my wired shot is quite distinctly tapered and is meant to be loaded small end down, and the small end is a loose fit in a 14 Gauge barrel – it gets tight about 10mm before it’s right into the barrel……..The excitement of keeping this blog up is that whatever I say, someone will have something interesting to add or correct- Bev said yesterday that my speed for pheasants of about 30 mph was too low, and it should be up to 43 mph, citing a Youtube video as evidence. That raises an interesting further discussion – the measurements made by the Victorians were done very carefully and with considerable precision and accuracy, particularly to indoors tunnel flights, and with a very high degree of consistency – likewise I’m sure that the modern measurements are as good and of greater accuracy. There are two realistic possibilities – either the Victorian birds were flying in such unnatural conditions or under such stress that they flew about 10 mph slower than free ranging birds, or that selective breeding for better sport has pushed up their flying speed by 10 mph. You pays your money and you takes your choice! Just don’t expect me to adjudicate. ……….. Oh and I’d like to excuse the birds I missed yesterday on the grounds that I was given incorrect information as to their speed………………………..
The package is tapered – the small end is labelled ‘bottom’ – presumably you use the tape to open the pack. But do you take the paper right off?
14 Gauge wired shot package – presumably packed in bone dust – overall weight is 1.48 oz.
6th November – In school fixing a guard on a classroom door to stop children’s fingers being trapped this morning (I am now the honorary unpaid caretaker it seems), Sam from year 3 kindly helped me – give the lad a house point, especially if he’s in Churchill House. Whenever I walk round school now I either get accused by small children of being a knight or told of something that is broken – today a leak in the classroom ceiling ( that is firmly above my paygrade)! To return to the Field articles and the crossing bird, I realised that the angle between the sight line and the bird necessary to get a hit in maintained lead is the same for all ranges, and it brought to mind something I vaguely remember seeing somewhere – a device on the end of the barrel with a sight on either side that gave you a scale to judge lead with – in our 30 mph bird the additional sights would need to be about 1 1/2 inches either side of the central sight – I have no idea if the whole thing is a figment of my imagination or has some basis! Combining the data on the length of a typical shot string at 30 yds (somewhere around 7 ft according to Field articles) with the crossing bird speed shows that the bird will travel about 1 foot forward during the passage of the shot string. This means that if the front part of the string just misses behind the bird hit will escape, whereas if the front part just misses in front it will likely be caught by the remainder of the shot string – effectively the shot pattern is effectively 12 inches wider if in front of the bird – given a typical shot pattern of say 3 ft at 30 yds from a cylinder bore you get an extra 30% lateral coverage in front! – seems illogical but that’s what the science says. That leaves one issue to be sorted in another blog – does swinging the gun ‘ spray the shot around’ ? Here the Victorians don’t have anything to offer so I will be on my own! Off tomorrow on a shoot I’ve organised down in Hertfordshire – should be fun now I have established that I can still (occasionally) hit things. It will be my first Semolina game shoot and I’ll be interested to see how it pans out if it rains, which it might. I have a tube for my loading rod that sticks in the ground – it has a container at the top for my powder flask and I’ve now added another for the Semolina flask. My next project is to make a card dispenser for my main shooting gun, the 14 Bore Venables – now pretending to be a live pigeon gun due to having lost its ramrod pipes on account of my poor soldering! Brass bar and tube are ordered……..Maybe a good subject for a video
5th November – I am continuing my reading of the Field articles from before 1900. There is an interesting letter concerning the convergence given to barrels in a double gun or rifle. We all know that they are ‘regulated’ to hit the same spot at the selected distance by being joined converging to the muzzle – but there was a active correspondence about why parallel barrels don’t hit the same spot at all ranges. You can’t invoke the resistance of the shooter’s shoulder because a cross stocked gun still shoots more or less on the mid line. One ingenious suggestion in the Field correspondence was that on firing the active barrel expands in diameter, and correspondingly shortens in length, thus bending the pair in the correct direction. The correspondent claimed to have done experiments to prove his contention. I have to say I’m not convinced by that argument – especially for rifles. I’ve always assumed it was to do with the centre of gravity of the gun itself, the recoil being some distance off the vertical position of the CG so creating a local turning moment that is small and is not much affected by the person holding the gun. I assume the matter has been settled beyond doubt now – so if you know the answer, let me know! Another interesting correspondence was related to shooting flying birds – they had pigeons, partridges and pheasants flying in a tunnel and in the wild and measured their speed, which turned out to be pretty much 30 m.p.h. in still air – which corresponds to 45 ft per second A muzzle loader probably shoots with a velocity averaging about 900 f.p.s. over a 30 yard (90 ft) distance, so takes one tenth of a second from the shot to leave the muzzle until it reaches the bird. A crossing bird will therefore have traveled 4.5 ft while the shot is in the air. The delay between deciding to pull the trigger and ignition could be another 1/10 second ( but very variable between shooters) so if you poke at a crossing bird without swinging you probably need to be 9 ft in front in calm air. If you are swinging with the bird – maintained lead – then you need to be shooting 4 1/2 ft in front. Of course if the bird has a fresh breeze up its tail – say 20 m.ph, then your lead needs to be more like 7 1/2 ft. If you are shooting ‘Churchill’ – coming through the bird and pulling the trigger as you pass it, I’m afraid you are on your own as far as calculations go as I don’t know your personal delay time! Of course its not practical to do the calculations when about to pull the trigger, and my numbers are not precise, and the bird is seldom flying exactly at right angles to the shot direction……….but you get the message.
4th November – At our shoot on Sunday Bev and I were discussing shot strings and what effect swing might have – both having some familiarity with the physics it made for an interesting discussion and got me thinking. I remembered I had two fine volumes from 1900 that consisted mostly of articles and letters from The Field magazine from around 1880 to 1890 ish covering many aspects of shooting – there was a lot of scientific interest – breech loaders were by now well established as was smokeless powder, but past percussion guns were still more or less within memory. The two volumes, beautifully leather bound, are a delight and cover every form of measurement that was within the technology of the time – chronographs and barrel pressure gauges existed, and ingenious mechanical systems were devised to measure the length and shape of shot strings, and the penetrating power of shot. Everything was tabulated very precisely and efforts were made to avoid errors and get meaningful results, and it all stimulated a lively correspondence that yielded more data. Looking through the first volume I came across accounts of what it took to burst steel and damascus 12 bore barrels ( around 12 drams of powder and 12 oz of shot! ) with pictures of the results on 4 barrels. There is a lot on shot strings and patterns, and one experiment looked at the velocities of shot for each of a number of concentric rings in the pattern showing that the shot flies progressively slower the further from the centre of the pattern it is. A further experiment collected shot according to its penetrating power and found that the slow shot was more deformed – This implies that the outer part of the pattern travels slower because it is deformed, presumably through contact with the barrel – which might suggest that the the worse the barrel condition the more deformed shot giving rise to a bigger difference in shot velocity and hence a longer shot string and a wider pattern. This leads to the idea that the shot pattern might be a cone – the nose of the cone undeformed shot and the conical tail the slower, deformed shot. At longer ranges the slower shot will fall further under gravity, thus the cone will droop, maybe by as much as a foot. A further interesting finding was that the guns patterned tighter with a thin card overshot card than with a thicker one – this was for cartridges so how relevant that is I don’t know. But one possibility that it raises is that the slightly tighter patterns reported for semolina might be related to less deformation of the shot? Another relevant finding was in the measurement of a number of flint and percussion bores – almost none of which were cylindrical for more than a short part of the barrel – most converged from the breach, had a foot or so of cylinder and then opened out by at least a few thou.
times for shot of different sizes – not sure if they are the same as modern shot sizes.
3rd November – here at last is the semolina video – don’t know why it took 2 days to get there ;-
Shooting day with Anglian Muzzle Loaders at Cambridge Gun Club – ostensibly a hammer gun/black powder day but I had more important fish to fry so stuck to my percussion muzzle loaders. I took the Westley Richards to see if I could shoot it, and used it for the mornings competition with very little success, although it has to be said in my defense that the birds were pretty challenging and I wasn’t (quite) the worst! Anyway in the afternoon we had an informal shoot and a bit of freedom to choose which of the available targets on the stand we wanted to shoot – as Bev said, a good confidence building exercise…. Anyway I reverted to my good old Venables and got a much more respectable score, which neatly solves the problem of which gun to use for my game shoots this week. I was, of course, using fine semolina throughout ( except for the last few shots when I ran out) and was perfectly happy with the way the gun was shooting, so that settles that argument for me. There is a lot of interest in changing to semolina – either coarse or fine, and discussion of whats and ifs. One big advantage I can see is if you need to pull a charge for any reason – all you have to do is remove the overshot card and shake out the mess. We did realise that it would probably be wise in those circumstances to fire off a cap to clear any semolina from the flame path – particularly essential if you are unloading because you forgot to put any powder in the gun! My card dispenser was excellent, but I now have to find a tube of the right size to hold cards for the 14 bore Venables – always something else to do, which reminds me I bought back a fine Purdy back action lock from a hammer gun that had the tail repaired and needs to be re-engraved on the last inch. Incidentally the Anglian Muzzle Loaders continues to gather members – not all of whom are geriatrics like me, to the point where it is on the verge of becoming unwieldy. We must have made up half of the shooters today, possibly more. I was interested to hear that the Cambridge Gun Club now has a number of muzzle loading pistol shooters and a range for them – must take my Colt Army along……
2nd November – Had an email from Chris who has been patterning the 11 bore Wilkes I restored for him, with the same load ( 3 dr, 1 1/4 Oz, 1 1/4 oz measure of semolina) a I was using for patterning my Westley Richards 11 bore using semolina. He got beautiful patterns at 30 yards – a lucky sparrow might escape through the pattern but nothing bigger. I am shooting tomorrow at Cambridge Gun Club – its the Hammer Gun Competition but I haven’t loaded any Black Powder cartridges for my William Powell and anyway I want to do some more practice with the WR (with semolina as I don’t have any wads for it), or maybe revert to my old gun if I don’t hit anything – I have 3 muzzle loading game shoots in the next two weeks, so need to be on form! I have been cleaning up a big Sykes flask for use for the semolina – its a tin body under leather, and the tin is eaten away in places but the top is in excellent condition – I may try to make a new body for it. I took a Bartram flask top to pieces, but I can’t quite work out how the spring works – its within the top and is a curved piece of round wire, not a flat strip. The top and bottom plates of the flask top are separated by a strip of flat spring bent round and fitted in grooves in the top and bottom with a gap where the ‘handle’ comes out. must look out for a copy of his patent, and check Riling’s book ( it has virtually nothing on him). The flask itself is somewhat unusual in that it has an angled top.
1st November – More semolina stuff – boring – After posting last night I remembered to clean my gun – there is some discussion about whether it leaves the guns cleaner than wads or not – one might expect it to be dirtier as the sweeping action of a lubricated wad isn’t happening – but I didn’t see that – here is my experience;-
I hadn’t shot those barrels before and I’m not sure of their history – I had cleaned them a few times with a steel wire brush in a drill and got out a fair bit of red rust before oiling them.
After shooting 20 ish shots in each barrel with semolina I did get some deposit in the first wash water with bronze brush & detergent – probably charred semolina – not seen when using wads – the water was dark grey as usual – (I just fill the barrels once each to the muzzle with boiling water and a couple of drops of detergent and pump with the bronze brush)
Second scrub with nipples out using wadding as a pump and 303 cleaner didn’t get much dirt on the wad or in the water – water is usually clean but wadding is dirtier with wads
Third scrub with kitchen roll and Napier gun cleaner that usually keeps coming out black with wads was pretty clean – but given that the barrels were probably not leaded before this shoot it may not be indicative.
Pete says that, if anything, his patterns were slightly tighter with semolina – I think he was shooting a 14 bore with 2 1/2 dr. and 1 oz and an equal volume of semolina ( he works on the principle that all volumes should be the same – keeps it simple! He thinks his barrels were a bit dirtier, so no conclusive evidence either way!
31st October – Viking Pete and I had our semolina day at Eriswell! It got off to a bad start when I fired the right barrel with about 4 dr.semolina (powder volume) at the pattern target and shot a great big donut shaped pattern with a hole in the middle. At 15 m there was not a single shot in the centre 4 inches which means a pheasant sized hole at 30 m, and the bulk of the pellets were in a ring extending out to about 24 inches – what I take to be a classic case of too much powder although I wouldn’t have expected that using 3 dr of Czech powder and 1 1/4 oz of shot in an 11 bore. The left barrel shot much better at around 18 – 20 inches . and an even pattern – the same load but the left barrel has around 10 thou of choke (barrel made post 1917 ish.) . I repeated the same loads using tight fitting wads and the right barrel got rid of the hole in the middle and gave a more even pattern a little tighter. The left barrel was pretty much the same as with semolina maybe a smidgen less tight . Pete was firing his 14 bore and there was not much difference between semolina and wad – I’ll check back with him to see if that is true on closer inspection. Anyway I dropped my loads to 2 3/4 dr and 1 oz and as we’d run out of pattern targets went on to shoot clays – I didn’t have any wads for the gun so it was all shot with semolina using about 4 dr. by powder volume – I shot almost 50 shots with the gun and hit every other clay with no particular bias towards one barrel or the other – most of the ones I missed were because I was not on target so I’m happy that it was shooting reasonably well – I probably ought to get in another day’s clays before the next game shoot, but I fear there may not be time. Anyway I think the 11 bore will do nicely for game but I will have another go at patterning some time with the revised load. Might go over to Dick’s and do it in his field with a sheet of polystyrene and brown paper or even newspaper. In the back of my mind is the thought that I may have been overloading my gun at the last few shoots? What do I conclude about semolina vs wads ? Basically not enough evidence to be sure, but it seems to work in practice. I might wonder if semolina is a bit more susceptible to the charge blowing a hole in the middle of the pattern but apart from that, which might just be an anomaly, it might have tightened the left barrel pattern slightly – certainly didn’t open it out. The good news is that my prototype card dispenser worked flawlessly dispensing two cards at a time – I could push down on the card and get only one if I needed to but it didn’t fail once – although it was only loaded with about 40 cards so I ran out at the end. I don’t suppose I’ll get round to going beyond the prototype stage unless I want a different size of card.
30th October – I did a few measurements around the observations about semolina in the video (still processing!) to see how the volumes might work out. I reckon 1 oz of shot has internal spaces of about 4.6 ml, which is the same volume as 4.2 drams of powder (for this volume the semolina weighs about 2.4 drams). So my guess would be that if you use a powder flask to dispense your semolina you need at least a 3 dram flask for 1 oz. of shot. I guess that 1 oz in a 16 bore needs less semolina than the same shot load in a 12 bore since the depth of the semolina layer is what slows the shot. I’d never want to go for a smaller volume of semolina than powder, and to be on the safe side 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 times the powder volume. I can’t see any down side to using slightly more semolina than the above calculations. I might have reservations if my loaded gun was going to be subjected to prolonged shaking as the shot might fall through to the powder – in that case I would feel the need for a card over the powder. As the video shows I think the semolina is probably a good thermal buffer provided the shot doesn’t penetrate to the powder layer. I might try my video experiments with coarse semolina some time.
30th October – I am going to the clay ground tomorrow to try out semolina and see if I can actually hit anything – I need to get my eye in again. I have been meaning to have a look at what happens when you load semolina so I decided it was an ideal opportunity to make a youtube video. I wanted to see if the semolina and powder stayed separate, and if the shot sat on top of the semolina or got buried in it. I also wanted to see what happens to semolina when you apply heat, and I was wondering if the grains more or less locked up into a solid when under breech pressures. I managed the first two experiments and given the results I’m not sure the last objective is particularly relevant. My video explains it all, so I have put it in the VIDEO tab, and there is a link below. I’ll try and see how it goes on a pattern plate tomorrow if I get time, and maybe make another video. Now to see if I can remember how to link youtubes in to the blog – I think it may take some time for youtube to process – I seem to have read somewhere that it takes a while to put them on line ( its now been many hours!). Another little project that, like the semolina experiments, has been hanging around at the back of my mind came to the fore – I’d had in mind to make a card dispenser but hadn’t got round to it (familiar story?) until I saw someone had one at the last shoot, so having an odd half hour and a pile of 11 bore cards I happened across a piece of 1 inch PVC conduit that was the right internal diameter for the cards, so I turned up an end from a scrap of plastic and found a couple of springs and put one together as a prototype. Its a bit Heath Robinson but it (mostly) works and will hold and dispense around 50 cards – The design is pretty basic and could be tidied up and made more attractive, but first it needs field trials – and I need to know what bore of gun I end up shooting most often. Oh and I realised that the tip of the sear of the early 18th century pistol I made the tumbler for was not properly hard so I must do that before I forget.
In theory the gap at the end between the white tube and the black end can be adjusted for dispensing one or two cards for greater economy of effort shooting doubles! It needs some form of suspension loop and it could be prettier!
This was a trial run – I used more semolina than powder by volume – probably twice as much, and it went in with quite a slope on top. My flask got stuck and dispensed far too much shot – but even when it only dispensed 1 1/4 oz it mostly buried itself in the semolina. I didn’t have a problem with the black powder forming a level surface, and the semolina didn’t mix in with it. But the semolina usually formed a sloping top surface. For what I thought were reasonable loads most of the shot was buried in the semolina and it almost reached as far as the powder. Shaking and banging the ‘barrel’ caused the semolina to float up through the shot, but left the interface between powder and semolina pretty much undisturbed – although I guess the shot would eventually reach the powder.
29th October – Still no body in the ditch…. I finished off the tumbler and hardened it and made a new cock screw as the old one didn’t fit the new thread I’d cut – I put the trigger back in the stock and the lock all works as sweet as a nut. Someone had painted the whole pistol in some kind of varnish that turned all the brass into copper colour – most of the furniture had been stripped and cleaned but the ramrod pipes were still ‘orange’ – I had hoped to remove them but looking at the pins holding them in, I decided to try to strip off the varnish in situ using paint stripper and various tools and 0000 steel wool and a small polishing mop in my ‘psuedo Dremel’ – it all worked a treat and saved any damage to the stock from knocking out the very rusty pins. Dick now has the wood to patch up a couple of chips. I was intending to try the Westley Richards some time but don’t have a wad punch for it, although I am expecting to be using semolina instead of wads now – still I need a punch for overshot cards, so a chunk of the 1 inch bar was made into a punch, starting off by putting a 3/4 inch drill up the middle for 35 mm (I like mixed units – so soothing) I turned the inside with a slight taper (2 degrees) out from the mouth so that cards free up. I was going to mill the opening in the side but alas the controller on my Axminster milling machine packed up, so I cut the slot with an angle grinder and files – just as good and in truth probably quicker. The cutting mouth got hardened along with the tumbler and cock screw and works fine, although I may have made it a trifle large – the cards will be a tight fit.
Its designed to be run in a drill press or hit with a club hammer.
28th October – Expecting to find Boris dead in a ditch shortly! Hope its not the one in my garden…. Went into school today to see how many children had taken up my challenge – 3 so far out of 20 ish – more to come. I’ve been making prizes – little wooden boxes (£1 each from the cheap shop) with engraved brass plates. Must be mad… I had some time to attend to the tumbler of the early-mid 18th century pistol. Having made it, I then had to tune up everything to get it so that everything was just right – that means making sure it lets the cock stop on the edge of the lock as it should, making sure the end of the spring rides smoothly on the tumbler arm, working on the bents to put the half cock and full cock positions where they should be, and the sear bar is in the right place in relation to the edge of the lock etc. and the half cock bent is secure but isn’t caught by the sear on firing and everything runs freely without binding… All this has to be done in small steps as the only way to put things right if you take too much off is to apply weld and file it all up – nasty! I think I must have put on and taken off the tumbler, bridle, sear, cock and mainspring about 30 times (minimum!) this evening as I sorted it out. I think its all exactly right now, so I’ll leave it until tomorrow and check it in the cold light of day and if it is OK I’ll harden it – I think the steel has a fair amount of carbon in it, so it should harden nicely. The mainspring is pretty strong and is marking the tumbler arm when you cock and uncock the pistol, so I’ll have to repolish it when I take it out before hardening it. I’m planning to go to Eriswell to shoot on Thursday – its scheduled as a semolina day and I’ll try my guns out on the pattern plate as well as trying to remember how to hit clays!
I put a a flint in the lock to check the fired and half cock positions as I tweaked the bents etc. The mainspring end acts quite close to the tumbler pivot, but it works OK.
27th October – Very pleasant sunny day – inspired me to trim the hedges this morning – I spent the entire day being disorientated by the time change but I survived. This afternoon I made the new tumbler for the pistol as I found a 1 inch bar of some very tough steel in the workshop. My usual technique is to turn up a disk with the lock bearing and blank for the square and tap the hole for the cock screw then partially turn the back and part it off and glue it onto the end of the bar (with a hole in it) so I can work on the other face. I used epoxy in the past but this time I was in a hurry and used instant glue which worked just fine – I couldn’t break it off but a bit of heat shifted it. I printed out the photo below on A5 and marked up lines to give a guide to the geometry and hacksawed off most of the spare metal and filed it up – first clear the part of the diameter that goes past the top tumbler mount, then the bit that has to clear the pivot of the sear, then shape the bit where the spring end rests. I then put in the full cock bent some way round from its probable position. At this point I put the square on the shaft by careful comparison with the old one and pressed the cock on – perfect fit! Now it’s possible to fix the full cock bent and start work on the half cock position – while the full has to release, the half cock has to capture the end of the sear and hold it when the trigger is pressed, which calls for a bit of tricky filing. I had to reshape the end of the sear as it was too thick to go into a reasonable half cock bent, but it all seems to work as for as I can tell – I will put the lock together as soon as I get time, and if its OK I’ll harden the tumbler. I may have to do a bit of fiddling with the bents when I can try the gun with the spring in place to make sure the sear doesn’t pop into the half cock bent as it goes past in firing. It all seems to fit reasonably together and I think there is no need to do anything with the bridle – most of the slop in the system has gone with the bearing fit of the new tumbler in the lock plate, and the gun will not be used for shooting, I assume! A good afternoon’s work – with a bit of the evening to put in bents and finish it – say 5 or 6 hours work.
26th October – Had another offer of a muzzle loading shoot yesterday – they seem very popular at the moment! I had a discussion with the owner of the pistol I mentioned yesterday and we decided the best course of action was to make a new tumbler rather than try and mess about with the old one. The first step is to sort out the dimensions for the blank – mostly measure with calipers or a micrometer, but also photograph it against a ruler to get a better clue to the shape. I’ll have a look for a suitable bar of metal when I go into the outside workshop tomorrow. I’m still hoping someone will tell me what the slot across the tumbler is for – it must have been quite difficult to shape the axle in the middle of the slot! I had to make a couple of wooden bench hooks/tops for my STEM club – the kids discovered the hacksaws in out trolley of bits and pieces and decided it was fun to saw up the strips of wood I provide for projects – I have no problem with that except I live in fear of them cutting into the nice classroom tables ( we don’t have a craft room and we always make a mess so I live in fear of the caretaker – I seem to remember that traditionally the caretaker strikes more fear into everyone than the head teacher! – certainly does for me) – hence the wooden bench tops.
The cock screw hole is well off centre in the square. It looks like 25 mm bar will just do without using a 4 jaw chuck.
25th October – My shoot wasn’t the best I’ve ever been on – I hit an unlucky run of pegs and didn’t see much action, and what I did see I didn’t make much of! The last two drives were shot in pouring rain which with a muzzle loader is a bit more of a bother than with a breech loader. I did feel a bit smug as I’d put on waterproof overtrousers at the start when the rest thought they could get away with it so I was comfortable and dry throughout. I expect my gear will dry out sometime! We had several discussions about the use of semolina instead of wads so I must do some quasi-scientific experiments some time. I had a visit from the owner of the Wilkes 11 bore so that has now left the workshop and another satisfied customer. He brought a single barreled gun to ask me if the nipple ( a new commercial 1/4 BSF one) was a tight enough fit to be safe from blowing out. It was a slightly wobbly fit all the way down although the thread in the breech looked fine – it would probably have been OK, and if it had been my gun I might have used it, but if someone asks me, I feel obliged to ere on the side of caution as they are relying on my judgement. Anyway I was able to find a titanium nipple that I’d made with an oversize thread that was perfect. As I’ve mentioned before, titanium is funny metal to work with as it does not like very fine cuts with a die so I tend to cut just once with the die opened out to make a slightly oversized thread as most nipple holes have worn a bit and when cleaned out with a 1/4 BSF plug tap ground a bit flat at the end come out perfect for them. I got another job in this morning – a nice classic flintlock pistol from the first half of the 18th century – its only unusual feature as far as I am concerned is that it appears to have a detachable pan. Its main problem is that the half and full cocks don’t hold – basically a wear problem that is exacerbated by a bit of messing about at some time. The bents in the tumbler seem to be worn but also reshaped with a file, as has the nose of the sear. The tumbler is loose in its bearing in the lockplate but also in the hole in the tumbler, which has been crudely countersunk on the inside. The tumbler has a fine crack and part is almost broken off. The tumbler also has a groove filed across the middle that I can’t quite work out – my first thought was that it was for a fly – the little arm that steers the sear past the half cock notch when the gun is fired, but it doesn’t correspond to the form of that device that I am familiar with on later guns and I can’t see how it would work as it is. So the question is how to sort it out. The tumbler is straightforward – it needs annealing and flattening – I forgot to mention its a bit warped – and a spot of weld put on the crack. The sear can probably be reshaped, possibly with a spot of weld on the nose. The tumbler has three problems – the lock plate bearing, the tumbler bearing and the bents, so the best solution may be to make a new tumbler with oversize bearing surfaces, or just to forget the poor bearings and pop a bit of weld on the bents and refile them. To be discussed with the owner……….
Red arrows – evidence for detachable pan – green arrow bad sear/bents
What is the slot across the tumbler for? The full cock bent is very deep, and there is no safety element to the half cock bent.
The countersunk bearing for the tumbler shaft is cracked at the thin bit and the large look has lost part of its side, its all also warped a bit.
23rd October – Shoot tomorrow, usual gun so I got the kit ready. Its only just over an hour away so no need to get up at cock crow (ours starts around 4 a.m.). Had a session today replacing duff fluorescent tubes around the workshops – in total I have something like 20 tubes in use, mostly 6 ft ones. I’ve just replaced the first with an LED strip fitting which is very effective. I changed over to white tubes some time ago and the one or two old ‘warm white’ ones look very dim by comparison. The fluorescent LED fittings are pretty expensive, so I don’t think I’ll be doing a wholesale change yet – just the odd one or two. They are not all used very often so there isn’t much saving in power. I’ve been doing a bit of engraving for prizes for the school children’s half term challenge – mostly in CZ120 brass – I can now handle that as well as I can steel. It’s mostly lettering which is good practice – I have got my spacing almost up to scratch! I was looking over the two 11 Bore guns I have in the workshop (finished) at the moment – the Wilkes has a bore of around .751 in both barrels which is bang on for 11 bore, but the ’11 bore’ Westley Richards clocks about .753 in the right barrel and about .740 in the left – i.e. there seems to be a bit of choke in the left barrel. The WR barrel is so late for a percussion gun that I began to think it might be a 32 inch breechloading barrel from a 10 bore with the chambering cut off ( the barrel itself is 29 1/2 o.a.) but the bore is a bit small for that possibility ( 10 bore should be .775 ?). Actually, having had a look at replacements for LED tubes its not too bad – but I can’t find a simple rewired 6 ft tube in daylight, but I’ll keep at it.
22nd October – tried to harden the WR lock plates in my electric furnace but the element kept popping out and shorting – needs a new element – they come for China so a week’s wait. I did it with a couple of gas burners – seems OK . I put the locks together – the mainsprings were a bit of a struggle as my mainspring clamp is a bit worn and the springs were strong and quite open – I got thee eventually without breaking either spring! So now that is all together – there are a couple of small wood repairs that I could make, but I’ll see how it shoots before I get carried away. It promises to be a cracking gun – quite modern in its balance ( there is some lead in the stock for balance, or so it seems) and about the weight of a modern o/u 12 bore. It seems to come up nicely. That leaves me with a dilemma – I have a shoot this Thursday – should I take it, or stick to my regular gun? Probably stick to the regular as I haven’t got any wads for the WR and I haven’t explored the equipment needed to use semolina instead of wads in the field – a jam jar and spoon probably won’t cut it with my fellow guns! I have one small job to finish – I bought what I thought might be an original Spanish military pistol from a photograph but it turned out to be a repro – the buyer was happy sell it to me at the appropriate price as I wanted one as a demonstrator for the through the lock sear. I am tweaking it a little to make it look a bit less like a repro – the screws are a terrible so I’ve made some new ones, and cleaned up the stock and distressed things a bit so it looks more presentable – I do NOT intend to pass it off as an original – the buyer had acquired it on her father’s death so had no inkling that it might be a repro, and had consulted an antiques expert – who of course would not necessarily know about guns.
Very modern semi pistol grip for a percussion gun – the gun is part 1843 part 20th century.
21st October – Quiet day – went up to school to take advantage of half term to try out a bit of soundproofing between classrooms – there is a big gap I was trying to fill with foam sheet to see if it had any effect – just as a test, as obviously foam is not a good sound insulator – anyway playing sea shanties at full blast (ideal as the sound level is pretty constant) I measured the loss through the existing structure as -20 dB and with the foam as about -25 dB so its probably worth replacing the foam with something more solid – it’s wonderful what you can get a phone app to do – think of the cost of a sound level meter! My gun time was spent finishing the re-engraving of the Westley Richards locks – They are not perfect, but I am happy to leave them like this as I don’t want to refinish the lockplates down to clear metal as a) the job isn’t worth it, and b) it won’t add that much to the overall effect when I’ve coloured up the plates and put them in the gun. If I wanted perfect lock plates I’d probably make new ones anyway! I now have to re-harden them and temper them – not sure if I’ll do it in the furnace or just with a gas torch – I’ll need to check the book for the right temperature. There will be the problem of avoiding scale again – more important this time as the engraving will suffer if it scales up.
20th October – looking on the Westley Richards website at ‘New Guns’ I saw a picture of a very nice duplicate pair of rifles in a case and a nice leather label saying what they were, with special mention of their Patent Detachable Lock’s (sic) – you would have thought that if you were selling a pair of rifles at, lets say £100K, you would at least proof read your labels and not commit the apostrophe sin! I of course emailed them, troublemaker that I am…. I decided to bite the bullet and re-engrave the Westley Richards locks – One problem is that you have to anneal them or they are as hard as the gravers and you get no-where. To anneal them you have to take them up to about 820 degrees C for 20 minutes or so and then cool them very slowly. If you are not careful this puts a hard oxide layer on the metal that you then have to clean off – I have two ways of defeating this – I have a coating from Brownells that in the past has been almost as difficult to remove as the oxide, and a stainless foil that you can make a supposedly sealed packet from to exclude oxygen – you put a piece of brown paper in the packet to burn up the residual oxygen. On this occasion I painted the goo on the backs of the locks, and put the faces together with chalk between them, wrapped them in brown paper and sealed them in a foil packet (its deadly sharp stuff so you have to handle with great care) – I then put them in my furnace set to 820 C and left them to get up to temperature and soak for a bit, then turned on my graduated cooling heater for 4 hours, after which they had got down to 100 C. When cool I opened the packet and to my surprise the coating all brushed off and there was virtually no scale on the lock faces. A first! I gave the lock faces a rub with 600 grade paper and am re-engraving the first one. It is always interesting re-engraving gun bits as long as there is enough of the original left to get an idea of the pattern. In this case 95% was just visible so I was able to keep to the design – after a bit you get to work out exactly how the engraver did each sort of cut and are able to imitate his cutting, and with a bit more practice you can easily extemprise where there is not enough to go on. I will go over all the engraving including the name as a first go, then look at whether I want to refine the finish on the lock, which will knock the engraving back, so I would have to re-cut a second time over my initial re-cut. Here is the first recut of a bit of the lock – I have just done the W of the name, no more yet.
At this stage I’m just re-cutting the bits I can see clearly – in the next iteration I will look at possible missing bits, and do the name. I haven’t recut the fine border line yet but I have cleaned out the main line a bit.
18th October later – Just got back from ‘The Greek Play’ – every 3 years the Arts Theatre, Cambridge puts on a play from ancient Greece all spoken in ancient Greek – mostly performed by students. Its a sort of culture fest – we have been going for many years so its become a regular if infrequent outing – my ancient Greek is no better than it ever was, i.e. non existent, but there are subtitles and its mostly declamatory so quite easy to follow. This year it was ‘Oedipus’ – the chap who murdered his father and married his mother, all ordained by the oracles – very complicated stuff, makes Brexit look like a walk in the park…………..At least this one didn’t have any blood – most are pretty full of gore. The culture infusion will last 3 years! At last the Wilkes barrel can be called finished after 14 rustings – I think probably the early rustings didn’t have enough time to bite, although the ramrod tubes that were made out of a different twist did go much earlier. Anyway its now an acceptable shade of chestnut – its not as shiny as some jobs turn out, but I couldn’t take off enough metal to get rid of the twist texture – the original finish was quite deeply textured. The whole gun now looks so much better – the stock is showing some figure – I deliberately didn’t take out all the dings as it’s not a new gun and shouldn’t pretend to be one. The titanium nipples I made for it do fit and the barrel is not too bad, there is a bit of pitting about 10 inches from the muzzle, but by then the stress is much less – altogether its taken a sad gun worth a couple of hundred pounds to a useful gun worth maybe £700 – not sure what the final bill will be – probably £240 for the barrel browning and new pipes and nipples etc, and £120 for the for the stock and foreend pipe and general cleaning. I usually give a bit of a discount if the owner doesn’t mind the job going on this blog – if they want to keep it off it costs them more! I sometimes do a halfway house where I put a record of the work on the blog but don’t mention the maker’s name and blur it out on locks and barrels so that the work can’t be found by a google search but in general I like to put it all on the web!
18th October – Looking at the statistics for this blog, I had been puzzled why the post on the New Land conversion had had over 24000 visits – seemed a bit strange that something so obscure should be the second most popular visit after the main page. I discovered that sites in Russia had been visiting that page every 5 or 10 minutes day and night – the Russians were using a block of IP addresses rather then a single address so they didn’t all show up together. I noticed a lot of visits from one site a week ago and spotted other visits from sites with close IP addresses so I blocked the whole block of addresses (easy to do in Wordfence) so now all those visits just get blocked – I can look at blocked visits and they still persist with the futile action – someone must have programmed it into their computer and they must also have access to a whole contiguous block of IP addresses, which is unusual – it has been going on for several years! It’s probably not a solitary amateur. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Wilkes barrel browning is getting somewhere – maybe a couple more iterations, maybe only one – photos will follow when this browning with Blackleys following steaming is done. I rang Westley Richards re the 11 bore – they have records for 1917 but they say that if it was rebarreled and in the records it would have had a new number assigned to it and stamped beneath the old number on the barrels. It doesn’t so the assumption has to be that it isn’t in the records – all the original percussion records for the original number 1019 are lost. In all probability it was indeed rebarreled by WR, but how or why is a mystery.
17th October – later – My strong treatment of the browning might just be paying dividends! before rubbing off it was a pretty solid brown overall, see below. After rubbing off there was some coverage over the steel but still some way to go – I’ve given it another go with Blackleys and we’ll see, maybe steam it after that and perhaps another go with my solution – I rather like browning with a blackish tone – anything but the dreaded ginger browning! Dick had got the bridles of the Westley Richards welded for me – a really neat job – I can’t keep my welds anywhere near that neat – it cleaned up in no time on the diamond hone and the hole only needed a couple of strokes with a round needle file to clear it. Dick has more or less pursuaded me that I ought to anneal and re-cut the lock plates of the WR – I am almost convinced. I will ring Westley Richards archivist tomorrow and see what history he can dig out on this gun or general information that might be relevant – The locks are 1843 ish but the barrel has a post 1917 WR address and post 1868 proof marks but the only number on the barrel is the same as the locks – 1019 – an approx 1843 number which implies that it was a replacement barrel from WR numbered for the gun ?
This has gone a bit further than I usually let it but desperate times call for desperate remedies!
That is a dummy tumbler to support the broken bridle during welding ( and soft in case I needed to drill it out if it got welded) The sear bearing pin is most unusual – it screws in from the outside of the lock plate with the thread in the plate and the head countersunk slightly on the outside – it is a plain bearing in the bridle hole. Niether Dick nor I have seen one like this before.
17th October – Very frustrating – I’ve now clocked up 11 rustings of the Wilkes barrel and so far there is no sign of any browning on the steel elements of the twist – I’m beginning to think that the barrel maker inadvertently invented stainless steel! I’ve now tried Blackley’s and Dysons’s slow brown and my own pretty aggressive used printed circuit etchant, all to no avail, although the iron component is being well etched! This morning in desperation I steamed the barrel pretty thoroughly and then put a coat of my solution on while it was still hot – if that doesn’t get it going I don’t know what will! I am not filled with hope. I am going into school this pm to give the yr 5 & 6 children a challenge for their half term – to decypher some (fictitious) emails relating to a (fictitious) raid on the school – Penny is worried that they won’t realise it is fiction and I’ll scare them! We shall see…………………. I took the locks of the Westley Richards to Dicks and he is going to take the bridles to our speciality welder as they both have small cracks across them. I made up a couple of small dummy tumblers so the bridles could be welded while on the lock plates to ensure they are aligned properly – The dummies are soft so can be drilled out if they are inadvertently welded to the bridle. My welding is not really up to such fine work and if I try to do it I’ll end up spending ages removing all the surplus weld and ruining my best files on bits of the tungsten electrode that get broken off when I touch it in the weld pool, which I do occasionally. Every time I look at the WR lock plates I start to wonder if I should anneal them and re-cut the engraving as they would look so good. The gun is obviously made up from bits of different generations, so I wouldn’t be destroying a straight antique…. I still can’t decide……
14th October – AT the Bullard Archive a.m. and then school this afternoon. I managed to fit in a bit of barrel browning – but still not touched the steel bands after 7 rustings with Blackley’s slow brown. It really is resistant stuff! I’ll keep at it although I think I’ll try some of my solution as its a bit more dynamic! I purchased a small Spanish flintlock pistol stamped for the King’s guard from a correspondent – it looked interesting and is in need of a little, I hope, gentle cleaning and tidying up. It should arrive tomorrow so I’ll put up some photos when it does. Tomorrow I’ll get a load of logs dumped on the drive so my day’s work will be shifting them to the log store… tedious! Not too creaky from the climbing but my right hand had the odd twinge – I guess I don’t usually hang by my fingers so climbing is a bit of a shock for them! Better remember to take the Slacum off the Wilkes stock before bed!
13th October – Climbing (boulderng) this morning has left me a bit creaky – I do feel a bit out of place there as I’m usually the only person over about 25! I am some way into browning the Wilkes barrel and its not going quite as I would hope – I’ve done 6 passes with Blackley’s slow brown and a bit of my ex printed circuit solution but it is quite uneven in its action – it is etching the iron bands quite enthusiastically but has still left the steel more or less unmarked – the twist pattern shows clearly but I wish the shiny bits of steel would start to bite. I guess its the metal, and it would account for the fact that when I first saw the barrel I thought it had been etched – I guess it was just that there is a marked difference in the effect of the rusting on the two components of the twist – more than usual. Patience is the name of the game….I will carry on and see where it gets to – I may move to using my solution as it has a bit more bite than Blackleys. I’m still putting Slackum on the Wilkes stock – that’s up to about about 5 coats and is beginning to have a uniform shine – I’ll probably be able to stop in a few more. This afternoon I decided to try and melt my lemon brass and cast up some rods for making ramrod ends so made a mould and fired up my flower pot furnace with charcoal – I made the furness some time ago from a large flower pot that I set in plastic tub lined with weldmesh and filled the the gap with a mixture of cement and vermiculate ( plastic tub removed when set) – I put an old vacuum cleaner on blow through a hole near the bottom. Last time I used it I managed to melt and cast brass – this time I just couldn’t get it quite hot enough -I packed the crucible in charcoal but the blower didn’t reach round it so it mainly heated from one side and that wasn’t enough so I ended up with a crucible of slush – I’ll have to do better next time! We live and learn… Following my visit to Shuttleworth and meeting up with my old school friend I thought I might learn to fly – not necessarily to get my license but just to find out how. Anyway John kindly offered to take me up in his Auster which has dual controls so I might just do it!
Wilkes 5 rustings in….Not great quality twist here – very different widths on the two sections.
Pot furnace and blower – I need to sort the air path within the pot so it heats all round.
11th October – I have started to brown the Wilkes barrel after scrubbing it with detergent and water and coating it in chalk paste – it’s had a light coat of Blackley’s slow brown and is hanging in the cellar, but I have to say after 10 hours its not showing much sign of any rusting although the pattern is emerging in places. Patience…. I made a couple of titanium nipples for the Wilkes barrel but as its being browned I don’t want to mess about fitting them so I don’t know if the threads will be a good fit – they have a 1.2 mm hole at the bottom about 2 -3 mm long, then 2 mm up to the top – that’s the generally accepted standard for modern caps. Some people use 1 mm for the bottom hole, but I broke the 1 mm drill so its 1.2 mm! I’m still putting coats of Slakum on the Wilkes stock – the workshop isn’t heated and it seems to get to a good tacky/gummy state in about 12 hours so as long as I remember to remove it before bed I will be OK – I have only left Slackum too long once before, and I had to take it off with steel wool and start again, so I am ultra careful.
10th Ocober – I filed up the cast Westley Richards cock to get rid of the casting ‘orange peel’ effect and engraved the tails and colour hardened both and fitted them. It is amazing how exactly they now match – there must have been a limited number of patterns of cock made in whichever suburb of Birmingham made cocks, and the squares must have been put in by the maker/filer against a jig, leaving the lock fitter to put the square on the tumbler. Anyway as you can see, the cock that was on the WR and the cock from Dick’s junk box line up exactly without touching the squares. I keep looking at the locks of the WR, as the outside surface is quite worn/polished down and I did wonder if the lock plates were in fact a modern casting, but further examination at x25 has convinced me that they must be original, with the engraving just worn down and polished almost out. I can’t decide whether to anneal the lock plates and re-engrave them – I probably won’t as its a working gun and from that point of view re-engraving them doesn’t do anything for the gun. I just have to get a spot of weld put on the bridles where they are cracked from being dry fired out of the gun. I bought some 400 grade wet and dry to finish the Wilkes barrel, and took it down to 2500 grit. I managed to extract the remaining nipple without any damage – I got the tip of a square needle file onto the nipple so I could get a sharp bottom corner on the faces that the nipple key works on. Just to make sure I touched the end face of the nipple key on the grindwheel to create a sharp edge with a bit of a burr to bite onto the flat of the nipple. I put a fine hot flame on the nipple for a while. The nipple key gripped well but I had to put a large vicegrip on it to get enough leverage and at one point I thought I was twisting the nipple key shaft! I soldered on a fillet at the muzzle to hold the ramrod in place. So its all ready to go – wash down with hot soapy water, coat with chalk paste and allow to dry, (? dip in copper sulphate – not sure about that) and brown very slowly – the last gun I did was too quick and the browning wore off quite quickly.
Wilkes 11 bore barrel – I can live with that finish as a base for re-browning.
Westley Richards 11 bore – Matching cocks! I will have to do something about the german silver(?) plug in the breech plug – someone has tried to prize it out.
9th October – A couple of school meetings this morning, and then another look at the Wilkes barrel – I found I don’t have any wet & dry between 240 and 600 so I’ve ordered various grades and will wait til it comes. I started on the old cock for the Westley Richards that I got from Dick – the spur was a bit oversize and the engraving was wrong, but fortunately the one I got from Dick was 1/2 mm thicker than the other so I could file off the unwanted engraving. I reshaped the spur to be pretty nearly the same shape and size and recut the chequering with the Gravermax – the advantage of the gravermax, apart from it being less effort and less liable to slip, is that you can hold the cock resting on a surface while you engrave it, which means you can turn it to cut the lines across the curved surface without forever resetting the vice. Having done that I ran it against the fibre wheel to wear the cuts down a bit. Next job was to mount the cock on a piece of wood with setting wax and engrave it. The metal was pretty horrible so I used a mix of hand and Gravermax. It is now done and looks remarkably similar to the other cock – I do find it amazing how much standardisation went on in the gun trade, particularly in Birmingham. Anyone who imagines that every gunmaker lovingly made all the bits of his guns in his own workshop has some serious explaining to do! Looking at the photo, I realise I ought to do some more surface filing on the casting to get rid of the cast surface – nothing is ever finished!
The re-engraved casting is on the left, the re- engraved cock from Dick’s junk box on the right – amazingly good match – even the square is right!
8th October – I spent a dirty couple of hours stiking off the Wilkes barrel – it looks possible although there is really no prospect of getting rid of all the pits etc. I need to get rid of some of the remaining scratches – its distressing how many faults always show up when I photograph things- my photos are always very revealing – most of the photos I get sent to look at are , by comparison, like looking through soup! I keep my Canon M50 with 18 – 150 lens handy and have a 500mm square white LED panel on the ceiling so its very quick to do, and I always use manual focus. I went to Dicks and we has a look at the locks of the Westley Richards 11 bore – the lockplates are castings as are the cocks, although the works look like they were originals. Unfortunately the bridles have both been cracked – probably because the tumblers stop against then instead of being stopped by the cocks hitting the nipples. I will keep the cast lockplates – they need the engraving recut – I managed to get an almost perfect original cock to replace the really bad one from Dick’s box of spare cocks, its a good fit and as often happens with late locks, the square drops on teh tumbler in exactly the right orientation. Dick’s supply of percussion cocks is fine if you want a left hand cock (I did) but not so good if you want a right hand cock – in fact he has hardly any, not sure why, I think he bought them years ago in a box of junk from aWeller and Dufty auction, which is where most of his stuff originated.
7th October – I derusted the Wilkes barrel to see where we go from here – still not clear on the best course of action – the barrel has a very uniform fine pitting over its surface with no obvious areas of serious corrosion – I’m still puzzling out how it got to be as uniform ! I’m not sure how much metal I’d need to remove to get a smooth surface, or what it would look like if I did a partial strike off. In any event its probably not possible/sensible to strike it off to get rid of the deeper twist related fissures. But I do realise that leaving it as it is is not a viable option, so something has to be done…… And I still need to get one of the nipples out – I don’t like drilling them out as it risks messing up thread. The one I did get out left a reasonable thread in the breechblock that I cleaned out with a 1/4 BSF plug tap but its a bit oversize so I will make up some (titanium?) nipples oversize for it. I need to collect my fine gas torch from Dick’s where I left it, to see if that will shift the second one. I probably need to make/find a better fitting nipple key as I can’t get a really good grip on it to put enough force to turn it – to do that I’ll need to buy some more 10 mm silver steel rod from ebay! I have learned to be patient and try different things before resorting to anything too drastic! There is always the option of recutting the nipple holes to 9/32 BSF (same pitch as 1/4 BSF) but I prefer not to have to do that.
Very uniform pitting over all the surface, with some deeper fissures as part of the twist pattern.
7th October – on Saturday I went on a trip to the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden airfield – my old school friend John had been the Director for several years and my nephew wanted to give my brother a day out as he is suffering from Parkinsons, so John kindly flew him down to Old Warden in his vintage Beechcraft Bonanza and we all had a tour round the collection – almost all the aircraft there are kept in flying condition and get an airing from time to time – John was one of the Collection pilots and has flown most of the planes, so was able to give a real insight into the merits and demerits of the various planes. One thing I learnt was why the Spitfire became the dominant fighter plane in WWII in preference to the Hurricane – the Hurricane could never have stood the development that ultimately resulted in the Mk 10 Spitfire which involved fitting an engine of over 2000 bhp in an airframe originally designed for 850 bhp! As John pointed out, you only have to look at the thick aerofoil section of the Hurricane to realise that the drag was always going to restrict it – its more like the (Clarke Y??) sections we used to use on our slow flying model planes when John and I were mad keen aeromodellers in the mid 1950s ( mostly control line planes – John gave me back the last plane I built – a Lucky Lady stunt plane some time ago). Great day out, if you haven’t been to the Shuttleworth Collection – GO!
6th October – I think I’ve put enough coats of Slakum on the Wilkes for the time being – I’ll let it harden off for a few days. I derusted the barrels inside and out in the tank and got all the superficial rust off. There is quite a lot of structure in the exposed surface and I’m not sure how much I would have to take off to get a better finish – I’m not sure it is sensible to take them down to a perfect surface – it would mean removing a fair amount of metal, but I may be able to take it partially down and etch it slightly in copper sulphate before browning – I’ll have to see what looks possible. I had another careful look at the Westley Richards and decided that the locks were a recent replacement from castings – nicely made but in need of some work on the engraving – luckily that’s something I can do. I have been p[
lanning a challenge for the children at school and was looking for some prizes – the school ‘badge’ is a couple of owls so I am engraving them on slices of rod and mounting them in oak blocks as I do with screwheads for the kids when I do engaving demos.
4 th October – I woke up in the night and realised that I’d left a coat of Slakum on the Wilkes stock and it was probably getting past the gel stage, but my concern didn’t overcome my desire to go back to sleep! I had a meeting at 8:30 so rushed into the workshop early to find the Slackum still just about workable, so rubbed it off with kitchen roll and linseed oil – hard work, but it looks good & I made the meeting. I put another coat on today (and I’ve taken it off before bed time!). I made up a couple of screws – as regular visitors to this site will know, its one of my favourite jobs. I made a side nail for the Westley Richards 11 bore to replace the brass one. I reckoned that a 2 B.A. thread would fit as that seemed to be what the brass one was, so I made a blank and cut a thread with a new 2 B.A. die -it didn’t fit the thread, so I closed the die right down and recut the thread but it still didn’t fit, which was odd as I’d tried it with a different brass 2 B.A. screw. Rumaging in my screwcutting box I found an old 2 B.A. die that turned out to cut quite a bit smaller than the first one, so success. I also had to make a small screw to hold the foreend pipe on the Wilkes – those are very short screws with large flat heads filed into a hollow to clear the ramrod – it worked so that is in place now. P.M. I went over to Dick’s to see about the Wilkes barrel pipes that needed resoldering – a tricky job as it means locally heating the barrel up to around 300 C to melt the tin ( tin is the preferred soldering material as it melts at about 100 degrees C lower than lead and is stronger) – Dick had made a couple of pipes out of a bit of a twist barrel, so they were tinned, and the mounting places on the barrel/under-rib were gently tinned keeping the heat to the minimum as one doesn’t want to expand the under rib to make it bulge out – anyway suffice to say that they now appear to be soldered in place and the ramrod fits. I have a gas/oxygen torch with a tiny nozzle that is ideal for localised heating – it was sold for lead welding. We will see if they stay in place after derusting – I’ll derust the barrel inside and outside over the weekend, then take a view as to whether to strike it off or just rebrown as it is. I might be able to get the nipples out after derusting, as the moment I can’t shift them. I filed off the face of one of the Westley Richards cocks at it was a plain but rough surface and engraved it in imitation of the other cock – both were modern castings and the metal isn’t ideal for engraving so I used the GraverMax machine – it’s a bit of a cop out but the metal was so horrible that I couldn’t really get passable curves with hand engraving – even with the GraverMax it was difficult to get flowing curves, but I think its passable.
Wilkes stock – Photo shows the grain but not the shine!
Westley Richards cocks – made from reject castings ? I engraved the one on the right -not as conspicuous as the one on the left as that was smeared in the casting process
3rd October – Carried on with the Wilkes 11 bore stock – after removing most of the shellac based finish the wood was looking a bit grey so I wiped it over with a damp tissue with oxalic acid on it to lighten the finish, then when dry put on a couple of coats of sanding sealer with another tissue and filled a couple of pits with instant glue and walnut dust. After rubbing down with 0000 wire wool I’ve started to put on an oil finish – rub on ‘Slacum’ – a mix of boiled linseed oil with colouring from alkonet root, beeswax (4%) and Terbine drier (1%), then leave till it gels and rub off with linseed oil – it will take many coats to get a good finish but each takes only a few minutes. The foreend pipe was missing so I ‘stole’ one from an old stock – its not quite the correct shape but will perform the function and with a bit of filler it will not look out of place. I could have made a new one as an exact fit, but I’m afraid the job doesn’t really merit the expense. See photo below. Looking for a suitable foreend pipe I came across the 11 bore Westley Richards I’d picked up at auction and hadn’t done anything with – it looks like a good shooter so I’ll see what needs doing to it – If you look at the post about it, it is a mystery – I haven’t yet got on to WR to see if they have any history on it. The first and obvious job is to replace the threaded Brass 2 B.A. screw used as a side nail for fixing the locks with something a bit more appropriate – a job for next week. Tomorrow I have a meeting in school again – being a school governor is a very demanding ‘job’ if you take it seriously. Schools are run and managed in a way that seems totally illogical to anyone who has been involved with businesses in the ‘real’ world. How any small organisation can generate so many different policy documents, development plans, termly reports, head’s reports, action plans and newsletters not to mention inumerable charts, tables and graphs is well beyond me. They almost always duplicate something that exists already with slight variations and many repetitions. The nett result is that no-one can see the wood for the trees and there is no time to think – it’s what I believe is known as displacement activity. One of the wonderful concepts introduced by the Department of Education and OFSTED is ‘British Values’. Not only are the children supposed to learn and understand these hypothetical concepts, but be able to recite them if anyone asks ‘What are British Values’. No one has yet given me a satisfactory explanation of what is ‘British’ about them – one is democracy (presumably a bit dented at the moment) and the rest are in part derived from (modern) Western Christianity, which is in turn based on evolved ways of cooperative living with a bit of authoritarianism thrown in. All seem to me to be shared by any number of countries – Scandinavia, western Europe, Australia, Canada etc etc. The only truly British Values I’d be sure about are a propensity to form queues, and to laugh at Monty Pythonesque humour…….but that won’t cut much ice with OFSTED…… Howsoever, I’m told that as a governor I must take it all very seriously, which of course I do, as anyone who knows me would expect!
It will cover almost all the cutout – the fixing hole in the stock will need moving and some filler put in a few voids.
2nd October – One of my regular viewers rang me this morning and complained that I had ruined their mornings for too long by ignoring my blog – Apologies – I have been busy with school things and trying to bring a little order to our lives – alas without much success so I have reverted to playing with guns! A friend brought a couple of guns he was thinking of buying to my stand at Sandringham. One was a somewhat tired 11 bore double percussion – sound and once a good gun. He was looking for something to shoot so I suggested he go for the other gun which was in better condition and didn’t need any work, but in the end he bought both – he paid at the low end of my suggested price for the 11 bore which I reckoned left a bit of a margin after I had sorted it. The gun is signed T Wilkes London on the locks – I can’t find a T Wilkes in my books , lots of J Wilkes but earlier than this gun, and a T Wilks of the right date – so none the wiser – could just be the retailer. I forgot to take pictures of it before I started, but it looked sad but not bad! The barrel was, I think, originally quite deeply etched twist as in the French or Rigby tradition, and had been a bit rusted but because the etched twist was an uneven surface it probably looked worse than it will prove to be. One ramrod pipe was missing and the other was soldered on with a great mass of solder over the pipe and barrel. The bores looked possible but not perfect, although there was plenty of metal at the muzzle. The locks were OK – a bit of surface rust but still decent engraving and the actions were fine. The furniture had need pretty well rusted so that there wasn’t much engraving showing, but the fit in the wood was very good – always an important clue. The stock looked a bit worn and had the remains of a fairly shiny black finish, with little of the chequering visible through the thick layer of dirt/oil/varnish. There were a couple of old splits in the foreend and the foreend pipe & finial was missing. Estimating the value when restored as £600 to £800 leaves around £300 – 400 for restoration and a small margin- not a lot, and not enough to get too fancy! My first job was to give the barrel to Dick to sort out the pipes, then I’ll get it back and de-rust it and decide if it needs to be struck down or just wire brushed and browned. In the meantime I had an investigation of the finish on the stock as it was clogging up the chequering and didn’t look right. First test was to go at a discreet bit with meths to see if it was shellac based – it was. That meant I could use my normal method of getting rid of the finish – apply meths to a couple of layers of kitchen roll and wrap them round the stock and cover tightly with kitchen foil, then after half an hour remove and rub with 000 steel wool soaked in meths and wipe the gunge off with more kitchen roll. A whole lot of dirty black muck came off with the shellac and the grain became visible. After soaking the chequering under paper and foil I brushed it with a brass suede brush along the lines and it came up fairly sharp and clean after a few iterations. I decided that I would strip all the furniture from the stock – its not always sensible but in this case all the screws came out fairly easily and the edges and backs of the furniture were not rusted so it all came to bits OK. I took the mainsprings out of the locks and a all the metalwork went into the de-rusting tank in relays, was then dipped in clean water, dried at gentle heat and brushed hard on a fine wire wheel and sprayed with gun oil. Stripping and de-rusting and brushing took about 2 1/2 hours in total – all the parts could go back in without further work, although I might strip the locks right down later. I may, if I feel like playing, recut some of the engraving on the furniture but the surfaces are rusted and for it to be effective I’d need to file the surfaces smooth, and that is probably too much work – I’ll see. Back to the stock, after a number of goes with meths I steamed the surface to lift a few small dents, and cleaned it up with meths again. I could call it a day and apply sanding sealer and then oil, or I might do a bit more before I start to refinish – so far I think I’ve spent about 2 hours on the stock. The whole gun begins to look like it will be nice when done, and I look forward to finishing it. Although I didn’t take photos to start with ( I’d not done restorations for the blog for so long I’d forgotten), I do have some progress ones;-
As luck would have it, it was a shellac based old finish – easily removed!
After derusting & brushing:- The lockwork and insides of parts is in good condition – the edges of bits are not rusted at all.
While the lock (hardened) is fairly rust free, the furniture engraving is pretty far gone and would need a lot of filing to get it flat enough to re-engrave – its probably best left, but I’ll see whether I feel like having a go at it later for fun – almost certainly not an economic proposition.
26th September – I went to a School Governor’s meeting yesterday and was told that I had to send in a (short) report on my trip to Norfolk and to Kentwell Hall – there is no such thing as a free holiday! I’ve been struggling with making my cupboard – the doors are a bit of a problem as the outer layer is planked in t&g and that is not ideal for screwing in hinges – in the end I bought a couple of pairs of ‘Parliament Hinges’ which are deep and will screw into the blockboard behind the T&G. I had to buy large fancy ballbearing ones that will support 120 Kg per pair, rather overkill for a 900 x 450 door as they were the only ones Screwfix had and I wanted them today. I’m looking at my pile of gun jobs that I should be doing – a double percussion to restore, a single tubelock needs the lock engraving and an o/u pistol needs sorting – in fact I’ve even forgotten what needs doing to it, I think it needs its cocks refitting and matching….. Plus my own Venables is crying out for the barrels to be resoldered (again).. Ah well, I’ll do a bit when the cupboard is finished. Tomorrow I must take the funny pistol back to Dick as I’ve done a bit of engraving on it, and send back the rat tailed Albanian job.
24th September – A day at the Kentwell Hall Elizabethan Re-enactment with ‘my’ class of 9/10 year olds and their teachers. The reconstruction was set in the year 1588, which was a momentous year – in July the Spanish Armada arrived off Plymouth giving rise to the apocryphal(?) story of Drake and the game of bowls. The English fleet harried the Spanish but would not close engage, denying the heavily soldiered ships of Phillip the opportunity for hand to hand combat. The Spanish needed to rendezvous with the Duke of Parma in Calais to pick up the main body of the invading army, but the wind was unfavourable and blew them into the harbour, which enabled the English to send in fireships and cause havoc. Most of the surviving Spanish cut their anchors and fled north, eventually going round the north of Scotland and into the Irish sea, most being wrecked on the way. Only the gentry talked of the great sea victory on our visit. The whole of that period was one of religious upheaval following Henry VIII’s break with Rome, Mary’s Catholic revival and Elizabeth’s return to Protestantism all pursued in a mightily brutal fashion. The rise of Puritanism was smouldering around 1588 with the satirical Martin Tracts, although Elizabeth succeeded in keeping the lid on it during her reign, but of course it burst forth during Cromwell’s Commonwealth and then petered out. The Clopton family of Kentwell Hall were, one presumes, safe Protestants, so the Hall presumably has no priest holes for recusants! The children had a great time and two small boys left the Alchemist’s demonstration hell bent on making gunpowder. I found it difficult to discourage them as that is exactly what I did at that age – and I’m still playing with the stuff – mysteriously I still have all my fingers, eyes, hair etc although I might once or twice have had rather singed eyebrows. Wonderful time was had by all – they are a lovely bunch of kids. My only reservation was that the woodmen were cutting up Sycamore, although it had only been introduced into England in the last hundred years of so as a park tree.
22nd September – Another few days of hectic activity – a couple of days interviewing job candidates and a fantastic shoot on Saturday down on the Essex coast after Partridges. We were expecting lots of English but in the end the bag was almost entirely Frenchies. The whole shoot was on dead flat terrain and there was a steady breeze of around 15 m.p.h or so and all the drives were downwind so the birds were going at a fair speed – there were some massive flushes – with that wind its difficult to pick and stick to one target when there are several nearby, and I find it almost impossible to pick up and hold a second bird by the time they are on top of me. Anyway it was a great first of the year. I always live in fear of accidentally shooting a pheasant before the season for pheasants opens, but this was not natural pheasant country and I only saw one in the whole of the shoot. Ours was the first muzzle loading shoot on that estate – an experiment that I hope will be repeated. Things should calm down next week – just the start of my STEM club at school and I put myself down for the school trip to Kentwell Manor, where the children will be taking part in an Elizabethan activity day – the only condition is that I go in some sort of period costume – I’m working on it but I don’t think I’ll be putting a photo on the webside!
17th September – Spent the day talking to a dozen groups of 14 year olds about seismics – its great fun and they are, for the most part, engaged and interested although I did have one group that was so badly behaved that I threatened to throw them out – and the ‘teacher’ sat there and did nothing… Its the first time in 20 years I’ve had to do that! I’ve got another day of it tomorrow and then a couple of days of interviews, so no time to even think about guns, although Friday night I’ll have to get ready for a partridge shoot on Saturday ( 6:45 a:m start). I did manage to get fine semolina from ‘Daily Bread’, a wholelfood supplier in Cambridge – at £1:87 per Kg. it is a lot cheaper than wads so I’ll see how it works some time.
15th September – There is still a large pile of sailing stuff in the living room and I didn’t want to put it back in the bedroom that I have to renovate soon, so I spent most of the day making a cupboard in a void over the stairs to put it in – now got to make doors etc….. I went to Dick’s yesterday and brought back a strange percussion over and under pistol that he has been renovating as it needed a couple of bits of engraving 0n the tang of the breech and on the tang of the trigger guard – the breech one I can do easily but I hate trying to put lines on a very curved trigger guard tang as I can never get sufficient room to maneuver the tool. anyway it’s done – the rest of the engraving is very poor – its a low value job so I did mine to match rather than go over the whole thing and tart it up. I have to confess I used the Gravemaster to do it. I failed to find fine Semolina in Waitrose today………………..
14th September – While we were sailing I asked Giles’s friend, a metallurgist, about brass and how to make a pale brass as used in 18th & 19th century guns. Brass is basically an alloy of copper and zinc, in different ratios for different purposes, with a melting point of 930 degrees C plus or minus 20 degrees depending on composition. It is relatively easy to heat brass to melting point for casting but changing the composition is not so straightforward. Copper melts at 1084 C so you need to get the brass to that temperature in order to up the copper content and make it a redder brass – I tried this but couldn’t get the temperature high enough and the copper stayed in clumps within the brass. Going the other way and trying to add zinc is much more difficult for although the zinc melts at 419 C, well below brass, it unfortunately has a boiling point of 913 C so dropping zinc into molten brass just boils off the zinc at great hazard to anyone near. One suggestion was to add tin rather than zinc, which would make a form of bronze (a tin/copper alloy) – tin has a very low melting point of 232 C but doesn’t boil until 2720 C so adding it to molten brass should be OK, but I’m not sure what that would do for the colour. There are a number of alloys of copper, zinc and tin – its the basis of Admiralty or Naval brass. Nickel was also suggested but that melts at 1455 C so is beyond my furnace. Perhaps just melting old brass is the answer!
13th September – I bought back a’rat tailed’ pistol from Sandringham to be repaired- its quite an elaborate, well made brass bodied Miquelet pistol, almost certainly of Albanian origin, that would go to half and full cock but wouldn’t release by pulling the trigger. I stripped out the lock to see what was wrong, and as I expected it was simply a bit of wear on the trigger where it contacted the sear, so a dab of weld along the edge of the top hung trigger fixed it – a quick and easy job. The lock was in reasonable condition so I just gently wire brushed its exposed parts and oiled it rather than a more thorough derusting which would have disturbed the patina. One of the hot topics at Sandringham was Semolina – yes, the stuff you used to get for pudding at school? But not in the pudding context here, more serious use! Our team shooting in Hungary had discovered that some Hungarian team members were using fine ground semolina instead of wads between powder and shot – just put the powder in, then a scoop of semolina, then the shot, then the overshot card. It sounds improbable but if people were using it in International competition they must be pretty confident it works. Some of our shooters tried it a Sandringham and couldn’t tell the difference. I wondered if the fouling would be worse and cleaning more difficult because there was no lubrication from the wad, but was told that if anything the barrels were easier to clean out after semolina. So there is a thing. I can see it being a convenient technique at clays, but I’m not sure about using it on a game shoot or in a strong wind, although perhaps if made up into paper packets it might work. Something to try….. Oh, & it does need to be the fine ground semolina – I think the stuff we endured at school was coarse – and you must omit the jam in guns…………………………
The red arrow points to the blade on the cock, the green arrow points to a button that pops out under spring pressure. it has a notch to capture the blade. The full cock detent is a flat plate hidden above the button. Both plate and button are pulled back against the spring when the trigger is pulled.
The red arrow points to the sear spring, the green arrow to the sear and the purple arrow to the arm of the sear that is towards you. When the top hung trigger is pressed the sear arm moves backwards and tilts the sear and withdraws the button and blade. The sear pivots on its rear edge and is located by the tongue that is through it.
2th September – A chance I might get things under control again and find a bit of time for the blog! I had a couple of weeks sailing round the Hebrides in a Jeanneau 419 during which time our home part of the UK was in a heatwave, while Scotland was wet and windy – it was ever thus! A fair amount of motoring as the wind was always ‘on the nose’ and we had a series of drop offs and pick-ups planned that didn’t leave much leeway for waiting for the wind to change. I got back from that and the next day set off for the Sandringham Game fair where I did an engraving display/demonstration to almost nobody! The MLAGB stand that I’m part of was located in a backwater well out of any passing trade, so although the dedicated muzzle loader shooters found it, they were only interested in that. Still I picked up a couple of small jobs – a ‘rat-tailed flintlock from ?Turkey? that wouldn’t fire when cocked, and an old double percussion gun that will probably clean up into something presentable. Back from that on Sunday evening and off on Monday morning with the older children from ‘my’ school for their adventure camp in Norfolk – as the school has no male staff I go in charge of the boy’s dorm – I had 15 boys and the two staff had 5 girls between them! Anyway I I should have a few days before I do a couple of days at the Cavendish Labs in the University talking to groups of 14 & 15 year old would -be scientists – 12 groups a day – come October things should have settled down a bit, although I’m threatened with having to finish and replaster a bedroom that has been used as a junk store for 20 years – it was lathe and plaster but has had the plaster stripped off so I have to make good the lathes and then do it out in lime plaster – easier than gypsum plaster as its setting time is hours not minutes! All this with the shooting season starting…………………………………..
Martin Crix and a very pleased young shot, Molly, at Sandringham.
21st August – Things have got a bit manic on the commercial work front so I have had to put off any more playing guns for a bit, but I hope to get a day or two off sometime to play! Maybe I ought to retire. I do have to get in trim for my engraving demonstration at Sandringham – I can’t do engraving ‘cold’, I need to get my hand/eye in for a day or two beforehand. Oh and I made a discovery today watching a YouTube of making a Holland and Holland gun – their engravers use chasing, ie hammering chisels, or much to my horror, pneumatic gravers, probably GRS Gravermax like the one I have but hardly use. There goes my illusion that they did it by push engraving……….
19th August – The last two days have been spent struggling with my internet – one or two devices were loosing the internet while still having connections to the local network while others are perfectly OK. I got a new router but I am minded to send it back – the cord from the power adaptor is just over a meter and the LAN cable supplied is 2 feet long – not sure why they think that it is a good idea to require users to rewire their houses to accommodate the router! Anyway work in progress. Following my visit to the Open prison, I’m pleased to tell you that my name has been put down for a rather nice room should I need it! I did sneak a moment to do a few little jobs on the Fishenden to keep myself sane – I cut up a piece of 2 m.m spring steel for a turnscrew and found a chunk of ebony for the handle and turned up a brass ferule – The handle was turned and then flattened each side on the big disk sander – doesn’t look bad and fits the intended compartment perfectly – needs more coats of sanding sealer…… I ‘economised’ and used a bit of Indian Ebony instead of my real black Ebony so it isn’t quite as dark and has a much more open grain but I didn’t want to cut 4 inches off my ramrod stock length. I also made a brass ring for the lid – it is probably the ‘right’ thing, although maybe my boss shape is wrong? The wire could be a bit thicker but there was nothing between 1 m.m and 1.6 m.m on offer.
Needs holding down tighter – how I got a 1.2 m.m. hole through the centre is a mystery!
The only thing wrong is that the bullet mould is 30 bore and the pistol is 16 bore – I have to look out for one the right size.
One might almost think it all fitted together by design!
15th August – Day out today on a visit to an Open Prison – since my time as an Independent Prison Monitor I’ve been interested in what goes on in prisons – I have to say that this catagory 4 prison is a pretty good place – 300 acres of estate, massive greenhouses and immaculate gardens and lots of the prisoners working in the voluntary sector and commercially outside the prison, and many of the rest working within the prison – all working towards release and rehabilitiation. Although I’m not planning to commit an offence in the near future I can think of worse places to be – like the old people’s home my father ended up in, about which I still have nightmares! I did crack Fusion 360’s toolpath generation but still haven’t cracked is zero reference positioning so although I can make the miller follow the correct path its still displaced about 5 mm from where I think it should, so it partially misses the piece of brass I’m trying to shape – I WILL crack it…………………….
14th August – Busy with clearing out another space.. But I did spend a little while on the Fishenden case – I had made a case label in A4 size on the assumption that by the time I had reduced it any imperfections wouldn’t show. I was wrong! So this morning I had another go at drawing one in A4 but being a lot more precise. I photographed it and printed it out and it looks much better than the first effort, although I probably ought to steer clear of script ….. I had a bit of trouble getting the exposure right as most of it is white, and in the end it came out slightly shaded, which doesn’t look bad. Note that this isn’t a fake label, its for information, and has my name in small letters on the corner.
This is about the size I’ll use it.
13th August – More clearing out – generated the best part of a full load for the dump! In the course of clearing out I’ve generated at least another car boot sales worth! I just bought a derelict Mortimer duelling pistol in need of some serious restoration that will become an autumn project, after finishing the pinfire double 12 bore and a client’s percussion pistol…… And put the finishing touches to the Fishenden case – Each time I pass it I rub on another coat of sanding sealer with a touch of darkish brown spirit dye to tone down the colour a bit. I have been trying to pursuade my cnc miller to profile out an escutcheon with scalloped corners for it, but so far I haven’t mastered the Fusion 360 software toolpath generation – it is the most awkward piece of software ever written, but its very powerful and free for startups. Went climbing tonight- did manage a few good climbs – a bit tired after an hour of it……….
12th August -Clearing out the attics today – very dusty, although I only got about 1/4 done – I’ll have to go to the dump tomorrow! I collected the pinfire that Dick has tightened up for me – it is now very good in the bite and and ‘on the face’ – I guess there is now no excuse for not getting on with it, except that I have a lot of ‘serious’ work on over the next month or so, so my playing with guns will be curtailed, as will my postings on this blog – I’m afraid a Non Disclosure Agreement prevents me from revealing what I’m doing – I’ll try to find time for a few gun bits on the blog, and I do want to wrap up a youtube video I’m trying to do on making springs – always too many things to do,……….. and I thought retirement would be restful, although I suppose in all honesty I don’t really want it that way!. I hope to fit in a climbing session tomorrow evening – I am getting a bit rusty.
11th August – Did a car boot sale this morning to get rid of some junk – fairly successful but still have too much. I was selling a couple of brass candesticks, and realised that one pair was a somewhat paler brass than the other – the pale pair looking genuine and the others obviously being modernish (Indian?) repros. That got me thinking about ‘lemon brass’ for old gun parts, and wondering if most 18th/early 19th century brass was paler than modern brass. I made an escutcheon for the Fishended box from modern ‘engravers’ brass’ and then found one stripped from an old box with a genuine Chippendale handle that was a whole lot paler – you can see in the photo, even though the surface of the original is pretty rough. Checking out details of modern brasses, I can’t find any reference to the colour of the resulting brass – I’d like to get hold of a couple of feet or so of 1/2 inch ‘lemon brass’ for making ramrod fittings. I’ll have to consult Kevin Blackley as I know he uses it for antique brass castings. I presume it is high in zinc, does it also have nickel ( which takes it Towards being German silver)? I might have to sacrifice my candlesticks to cast a rod! Maybe a helpful correspondent can help? One such did enlighten me about the hole in the bottom of patch boxes (blog passim) – its to push out the patches, especially if they are oiled or greased. I’ll have to see if I can put a hole in the bottom – I keep learning from this blog! Anyway thanks – see comment….
9th August – My making treat for today was a quick box for the Fishenden for 1 1/2 inch patches – occasionally found in pistol and rifle cases, Keith Neil and Back say that the ones for patches had a hole in the bottom (why?) but the ones -later – for percussion caps obviously didn’t. Anyway the thing to make boxes out of is clearly Box (the wood) – and I happen to have a branch of rather manky Box just big enough so I cut off a 6 inch length some distance from the split end and chucked it and rough turned it until it was a full cylinder, which fortunately turned out to be just big enough to make the box with about 51 m..m outside diameter. I turned a bevel on the end to rechuck it the other way round with better grip and marked out the lid and body parts. I filled the small crack that ran along one side with instant glue and activated it. I cheated on this box – normally I would put a bevel on both ends of the blank so that I could work on the hollowed sides of lid and box so as to keep the body and lid as one continuous grain so the lid grain matched the body grain ( except for the bit missing from the overlap of lid and body). In this case I was a bit short of length so I made the lid on the same blank as the body – meaning that the grain doesn’t match up across the joint – the lid being effectively reversed – but box has very little figure so it doesn’t show. The top of the lid was turned by pushing it onto the finished box while that was still chucked (with a bit of tape to make it tight). Anyway here it is – looks very good in the box, but I found I’d made the loading rod too long to share the space – luckily I had only pushed the knob on the rod, so I could redo the end 20 mm shorter – still long enough to load but now fits! I bit the bullet and cut a bit of decent mahogany for the compartment lid and planed it down to about 5 m.m. Its a bit fraught as you push the bit of wood into the thicknesser and then put a strip of ply in to drive it through – it worked although I did get a bit of a groove on what is now the underside of the lid. I had a 25 m.m. scrap of fake ivory that was going to make a knob for the lid, but its made of polyester and if you don’t turn it right it starts to chip out big concoidal fractures – so I destroyed it pretty thoroughly – Ive just ordered some more (£2.99 for a 150 m.m. length of 25 m.m bar) so it will be a day of two before that is done. (too many boxes in that paragraph!)
The Box box – 1 1/2 inch patches are a perfect fit.
The top right compartment might just a take a turnscrew with a ‘flag’ on the side for the cock screw – we shall see!
I picked up a couple of branches of Box during a walk along the Devil’s Dyke – someone had planted some bushes years ago. Woodturning is a good way of producing waste – you start with a decent sized piece of log and end with a little box!
As shown its chucked on the log, which is not particularly good as it can’t be put back true and it needs the tailstock centre – the bevel on the tailstock end will let it be chucked and rechucked if necessary. The body and lid were parted off near the chuck and chucked on the beveled end- the lid hollowed and parted off, then the box hollowed and finished and the lid put on and taped in place while its top was turned and rings marked.
8th August – Most of today I was clearing out the rubbish from various glory holes about the house – a mere 5 bags of rubbish and a half a Land Cruiser full of recyclables plus a couple of boxes for stuff for a car boot sale. I was clearing my tools from the casemaking and happened to look in the oil soaked instruction book that came with the aforementioned Record No 50 plane and saw that it could be used to plane dowels with its fancy cutters – well I had to try it out on a loading rod for the Fishenden – as I had a roughly correct sized ebony square already the plane didn’t turn out to be ideal, but I ran the square a few times through the thicknesser to get it the right size and got some way with the No 50, then reverted to a small low angle plane and eye. Then it went in the lathe for 10 minutes treatment with hard 80 grit paper and it came out perfect – a few minutes with finer grade papers, burnish with a handful of shavings and a quick once over with friction polish and it looked perfect so I had to turn up a knob from figured walnut and a brass end with screw. I am very suspicious of the highly tapered screws that are used in ramrods etc when used for ball as the expand the ball against the barrel walls as they are driven in, making it harder to get it out. Anyway my loading rod wasn’t meant to be a fake so I sorted out a modern woodscrew with a vicious point and not much taper. I do have a number of ramrod ends, but none suitable for a pistol loading rod. I mentioned yesterday that I’d made the case with the pistol the unconventional way round – I did check ‘The Book’ and knew which way round it should be, but when I drew out the partitions on a sheet of card in the case I forgot to mark front and back, and it just got made the ‘wrong’ way. I think I would probably have done it this way if I’d thought about it anyway as the main function of the case is to display the gun, and it does that much better this way round!
7th August – Almost there with the case – internal lid and escutcheon and a few more coats of oil/shellac on the outside still to do but it is OK for the time being. I anguished about the finish – in fact I still am. I got the ‘Dark Brown’ suede dye but it gave a bright ginger colour. I tried the traditional colourant for mahogany – a solution of potasium permanganate – it looks violent purple but soon goes dark brown, but I didn’t really like it. In the end I put on a coat of diluted ‘Slacum’ (linseed, beeswax and turps) – it will probably go darker with time. I was going to make a lid for the triangular compartment but the thin mahogany I had was too light and open grained ( it was a piece of a punt). I am very mean with nice wood and reducing stuff to 5 mm thickness is wasteful as my thicknesser likes quite big bits of wood or they don’t come out of the other side! I will find something better in time, probably by sacrificing larger pieces of better mahogany.
I can see a couple of bits that need attention – one see things in photos that escape the naked eye! Case experts will immediately recognise that I’ve made this one the unconventional way round – normally the top of the pistol is nearest to the front of the case – i.e. the whole thing 180 degrees rotated. It is normal to case single barreled pistols and guns with the lock up and I guess if the pistol is the conventional way round you can open the case and pick up the pistol with your right hand in a ‘shooting’ grip. Having said that I have seen a number that break the rule.
Its crying out for a loading rod, a round box for wads and a pan brush, plus some spare flints in a leather pouch.
6th August – one of the mysteries of this blog is who looks at it – every day it gets between about 120 and 180 visitors, and only very occasionally gets to either limit – given there must be many tens of thousands of people round the world who might be interested, why does the number not fluctuate in a more random way? Or are most of them regular viewers? Between 20 and 45 each day come via a search engine, still not a lot of random variation. I suppose I could put software on the site that would tell me how many returning visitors there are each day, but given the GDPR regulations that might be difficult. Incidentally almost half the visitors are from the US, twice as many as from the UK. Africa and Greenland are poorly represented!
The case making occupied most of the day – AGAIN! We used to have a motto at the lab when things got complex or our equipment had to be fixed in zero time on board ship with 50 crew waiting – ‘ Had I known what was involved I wouldn’t have started!’ – that probably applies to this case. If you decide to make a case, start with a nice simple one all one depth and with fabric over the dividers – it is much easier. Having said that, it is looking quite fancy, and coming together fairly well – I will prefabricate the compartments and part cover them before fixing them in place – I’m still waiting for the suede dye before I can finally put it together, but I did hinge the lid on today – at which point I discovered that the two hinges I had salvaged from a box were of different widths ( back to front). I had already made cutouts on the assumption that both hinges were the same and couldn’t remember which I’d used as a template – but a bit of jiggling and a bit of screw hole filling got it there in the end… …I’m having second thoughts about the escutcheon with the running leaf border – watch this space.
I had planned to use the red baise, but when I made up some sample partitions it didn’t contrast enough and the paler green that we had initially rejected came out as favourite. The upper left compartment will have a lid, the upper right is for a brush that I will have to make! The rectangular one is for the flask – its a bit big. All the rest of the junk will go in the lower compartment. Compartments not fixed.
5th August – still playing with the case – made a small brass escutcheon for the keyhole and inlet it, fitted the lock and cutouts for hinges and made up some of the partitions. The Fishenden double pistol is very wide so the case has to be around 100mm deep to accomodate the widest part but that makes the rest of it far to deep to be practical so most of it will have to have the base raised with packing by around 40 mm. I found a box of pieces of balsa wood that we had bought for making things years ago – lots of different thicknesses, so that will be ideal for packing as it won’t add significantly to the weight – I guess there is some merit in not throwing anything away! I made an escutcheon to put on the lid and felt like doing some engraving so I put a ‘running leaf’ border as on 1800 locks round it. I might just feel the need to put a ‘stand of arms’ engraving in the middle there is one on the tails of the locks of the pistol. I’m now waiting for Amazon to deliver a bottle of dark brown suede shoe dye – it is by far the best way to colour wood if you want to go for a significantly darker colour – my bottle is almost empty.
Probably ought to be mounted the other way up?
4th August – Bit more work on the case – preparing stock for the partitions – I decided that as its not meant to be a ‘fake’ old box I could do what I liked, so I’ve started to make partitions that show a strip of mahogany at the top rather than fold the cloth over the top – more work but more fun. I have 4 different biases for lining cases – all dyed in original military colours from Bernie the Bolt – I got Penny to help me decide which went best – to be revealed later….
3rd August – Got the basics of the box done – the ‘lining’ round the inside of the box that stands proud of the base to form a lip is a tricky machining job – the outside needs to be chamfered at about 15 degrees so the lid closes. I managed to do that on my table router. The inside surface is less easy – the biase only comes up to the level of the sides of the box and ends in a recess that needs to be tapered – I spent a long time trying to work out how to do it with a router, before I realised that I had a very fancy old Record plane that did all sorts of ploughing jobs somewhere in a box – I tend to forget that often hand tools are much easier for some jobs than trying to fudge things with machine tools. In a similar vein I made the traditional bead round the bottom of the lid using a simple scratch plane with a blade I filed up for the job. Anyway it is now looking like a box – a few more jobs to do – fit hinges, make internal partitions, make keyhole escutcheon, make lid escutcheon/handle, plus all the finishing – colour it down, sanding seal it, varnish//wax it and line it etc etc. In the end it will represent almost a week’s work – no way an economic proposition but I’ve wanted to have a go at casemaking for some time, and I can rest on my laurels when that is finished. I didn’t put hooks on the front as I wasn’t confident I’d get them right, so presumably I should not really put a handle on the top – I do have a lock for it, but no key If I were doing it again I’d try to get my cnc machine to make the pockets for the hooks before I assembled the box, and also get it to machine the hooks themselves from brass. Maybe I’ll fit hooks after all – by hand…………
Thinking about the typical construction of cases, I reckon that the bead round the edge of the lid (sometimes round the box instead) is there to hide any misalignment in the two parts, which it does rather well!
2nd August – Bit more work on the pistol box for the Fishenden and on discovering how the cnc software and hardware interact – I could be getting there but I can’t get the hang of the z axis – the tool raising and lowering – I think I have got it sorted, and then it goes and digs a hole in the piece of wood I’ve put on the bed to protect it from just such events – I will get to understand what it thinks it is doing – at least with computers I’ve learnt that everything that goes wrong does so for a reason – almost always human error or misunderstanding. One little quirk of the free software I am using is that every time something goes a bit wrong I have to restart the whole shooting match. I went over to Dicks – he has just fitted new frizzens on a pair of locks that had lost theirs, and they really look as if they have always been there – he also found a perfect matching top jaw in his box of old parts – great to have a workshop absolutely packed with the pickings of 30 years in the game! Dick is now sorting out the Sturman pinfire – tightening up the action and getting it back on the face – that involves putting a bit of weld on the breech hook to move the barrels back a bit, and putting some on the rotary catch to pull them down onto the action flat. I probably ought to learn to weld properly as our specialist has now started charging a high price for his expertise! I did manage to weld a pin on the side of a small mainspring for the Harding pistol so maybe there is hope for me yet!
31st July – Trapped at home waiting for a delivery that didn’t come so a repeat tomorrow! I was going over to Dick’s to see how he is getting on with pair of locks that he is conjuring up frizzens for – I need to take the Sturman to get him to tighten the action – too modern for me. I also need to sift through his collection of percussion cocks to see if I can find a better pair for a double barreled pistol I’m restoring for another client – both cocks are replacements and don’t match, one doesn’t strike the nipple and neither are anywhere near the right half and full cock positions. When I think about it at least half of the antique guns that pass through my workshop have had the cocks replaced – flint as well as percussion. Most are modern replacements – by modern I mean in the last hundred years – I had one replacement flint cock that was dated 1969 on the back – I think people, including Blackleys, have been selling casting since the 1950s. It would appear that quite often replacement percussion cocks are recycled old ones, maybe from the recoversion of percussion to flint, and they often have their squares in the wrong alignment. Actually gunmakers from about 1830 ish seem to have had a standard square alignment that many followed, especially for sporting guns. I have been able to swap cocks with perfect alignment – in one example I put John Manton cocks on a Samuel Nock double gun and the were perfect – they were even a decent tight fit. I’m still using them regularly!
My ‘playing’ today took the form of making a case for my double flint coach pistol by Fishenden. There are two photos of cases in the Keith Niel and Back Case book , and I am more or less copying the one for a John Manton pistol as the pistol looks similar. My first task was serious timber conversion to get enough strips of 10mm wide mahogany for the sides, and a sheet 8 mm thick for the top. I’ve done the dovetails and glued up the bottom of the case – I made the sides 10mm tahick but I had a bit of a job chasing round to find a small enough lock and hinges. Hinges for gun cases can be a problem as gun always had ‘stop hinges’ that allowed the lid to be opened just over the right angle. Stop hinges are difficult to buy and can be horribly expensive if you can find any. They do come oon old boxes from time to time, but take some tracking down. The best proper antique stop hinges were made from solid brass but I’ve found two alternative constructions – cheap stop hinges made of folded brass sheet are like normal cheap hinges, except that the brass is folded back from the ‘inside’ edge of the hinge and carried back under the hinge to protrude at the back and form the stop. The other ‘cheat’ is very useful – just cut a piece of brass sheet to go under each side of the hinge and let it stick out the back and file bevels to act as the stop – they are drilled to match the hinge and could be soldered on for added security – that means you can turn any cheap hinges into stop hinges.
I was trying to look at some adverts for guns on Gunstar to see if it was worth putting any on there. The thing that struck me most was how awful a lot of the photos are – it may be that Gunstar cuts the resolution down to save space although that would be both silly and unnecessary. I think it is that in spite of mobile phones being perfectly adequate cameras, people just point them in the general direction of the chosen gun and never look at the result – failing to notice that the framing was all over the place so it doesn’t show what they want, the lighting is terrible and the focus is like looking through thin soup! Some of the correspondents to this site send me similarly awful phots – some are OK, a few good, but mostly its difficult to say anything constructive about a brown blurr, or worse, half a dozen brown blurrs. I do take a lot of trouble to get good photos for this blog, although sometimes I can’t get the optimal lighting and occasionally I don’t remember to manually focus perfectly – I probably take 6 photos for every one that gets on the blog. I am awaiting delivery of another Canon lens for my M50 – I managed to find a good second hand one with a year’s guarantee for half the price of a new one – lenses are far and away the most expensive part of serious photo kit.
Sturman;- Recut engraving – first iteration. The barrel will be ‘struck off’ ready for browning and I’ll then go back over any lettering that has disappeared and recut as necessary.
30th July – I got a coarse diamond disk for my hone and tried grinding flints with a view to reusing worn ones – it works to an extent, in that it does grind down the flint, but the grinding chips off the edge in a way that doesn’t leave a sharp edge – so you need to grind down to a suitable angle and then tap along it as you would to refresh a blunt flint, and take off a series of very small chips – the flints then spark well. I managed to make a mini flint for the Harding pistol by putting a larger flint in the lead covered jaws of my 4 inch vice and using a pin punch and a tack hammer to take off the back and edge and then grind down the thickness a bit – works and looks OK. I spent this evening recutting the engraving on the Sturman pinfire barrel – it is presumably an 1860s gun so its quite old – it has a fairly simple single bite action of the early form – well back from the action face- the action flat is signed EMME – as with most of those early single bite actions this one is quite loose and ‘off the face’ so I’ll get Dick to tighten it up when the barrel is done. Pinfires had a very short period of popularity before Daw’s centrefire rendered them old fashioned, although they went on being used for many years. Anyway it is now ready to be struck off and then re-browned. I came across an article in a 1995 copy of Gun Review (There used to be lots of mags for us then!) about a magic gun cleaning solution – so I checked it out on the ‘interweb’ as its known locally. Found a firm selling it for lab purposes and had a chat with their technical people, and I have a sample on its way – I will report back when/if I get it….. Oh and I read the Home Office consultation on firearms licensing and filled in the online questionnaire _ I’m afraid we are moving towards a more tightly controlled system, but the arrangements for medical checks are very dodgy and may make it very hard for some people to who have uncooperative GPs to get licenses – plus undefined fees for the medical records check. The main problem is the discretion it gives to Chief Constables to make decisions about the significance of mental health issues and ‘intemperate behavior’ while the aim is OK we are putting far too much power in the hands of the police – which mostly they don’t abuse but there are enough cases where they do for it to be a matter of concern.. I heard of one case where a person was refused because they went to the pub regularly – irrespective of what they consumed there. Find the survey here;-
For the guidance here;-
29th July – Now that the Harding pistols are done and dispatched I had a chance to get rid of some of the clutter from the workshop and take it to the loft ( or in the case of a depressingly small amount, bin it). In the process I found my little cnc machine that had been moldering for 4 years since I bent the spindle shaft – so I thought I’d better replace it and try again to use it as I want to make the stocks for a pair of duelling pistols and it would just be big and powerful enough – watch this space. I also uncovered 20 gravers waiting to be sharpened – so I’m some way through that. Before I get distracted into doing any other projects though, I must finish off the video on making a mainspring, including film of the flaming tempering. I have at the back of my mind the fact that I am scheduled to take my engraving demonstration to the Sandringham Country Fair at the beginning of September and, this being the summer and distractions many, I ought to think about what I’ll need to take – to that end I took the dramatic step of ordering business cards instead of endlessly printing them and cutting them up myself with pretty second rate results – you get 250 cards for £25, which seems OK compared with the time it would take me to make that many, and the ink for my printer isn’t free either – people seem keen to take them when I’m doing demonsrations. It was a day of extravagance on account of getting paid for a job – I found a good cheap secondhand 18 -135 lens for my Canon M50 so I don’t have to carry round the big old EF-S 18 – 135 lens and adapter from my old 760D! Spent out now so I can rest. Out of curiosity I was searching the web for pictures of other similar Harding Post Office pistols – they are certainly rare – I located one that was sold in an American auction, and one in the UK Postal Museum in poor condition, plus Dom Garth Vincent sold a very similar pair by Mortimer that were supposed to be the design patterns for Harding when he got the PO contract. Anyway the Postal Museum specimen is a bit rusty and missing the top jaw and screw, so I offered to fix it up for them, pro bono.
28th July – Most of the Harding stuff is now on its own post. I finished the Harding – pinned the brass ‘bolt’ to the slider with a piece of 0.8 mm diameter rod tapered slightly and driven in and hardened the tumbler and sear, so now its finished! I had made a spare spring blank so I thought I’d replace the spring in the first (PO) Harding that had a cut down main from something else. I was doing a video of bending the spring, and got so carried away that I bent it the wrong way, so the tab for the pin was on the wrong side. I didn’t fancy straightening it and starting again so I filed off the tab and welded a small pip for the peg on the correct side – I managed to get a blob of the right size in the right place and it filed down into a 1.8mm peg perfectly. I hardened the spring in oil and the used the traditional method of tempering springs in burning oil – I made a video of that too. Anyway that seemed to work – at least the spring is in and working and hasn’t gone ‘ping’ yet. The spring and the metal container I fired it in are both pretty black! The process looked a bit like a firework display – I thought it was because of the light rain but it persisted when I held a slate over the top. Anyway both Harding pistols are now done and look fantastic, especially when compared to the starting point. They are quite special – I might even make a box for them one day, its a shame they are not an exact pair! Anyway its now time to move on to the next project! Nick suggested the pinfire I got from him might make a good project – so I’ll see what I can do! My first job was to get rid of the absurdly highly polished finish to the case which looked completely over the top. It would appear to be French polish as fine wire wool and meths ( alcohol) broke the surface. here are some photos – the main jobs are:- tighten the underlever catch and put the breeches firmly ‘on the face’ ( a job for Dick), recut the engraving on the barrel and strike it down and rebrown SLOWLY. Engrave the right hand cock which is s replacement. get the dings out of the stock. recut the chequering, inlet the barrel bolt escutcheons as they are proud of the old chequering. Make a new horn bit for the foreend. Then sell it! Perhaps keep the case as it would do for the Venables, which deserves a good case! Talking of which I need to sort out the barrel again(!) as the ramrod pipes came off!
Before: What a depressing sight!
I’m really pleased with the way they have turned out – it almost justifies what I paid for the bits.
And the next project;-
27th July – bit cooler and wetter today! Had a visit from a regular client to collect some pistols – I swapped some work for a little 1860s pistol case and a cased double pinfire 12 by Geo Sturman that need a little tidying – the barrel needs striking up and rebrowning – I need to have another go at browning as I am keen to improve my technique – basically slow it all down… I did a bit more fiddly work on the sliding safety of the second Harding pistol – this one turns out to be a bit different in its internals from the first, which was conventional. here there wasn’t a lot of space so I modified the mechanism so that the slider itself actually bolted the tumbler, the slider being retained by a small brass ‘bolt’ that had the ramp on its tail that engaged with a pip on a small spring retained by the sear spring screw. I found that this time the bridle had a slot that aligned with the slider, so I left a pip on the slider to engage in the slot – actually that’s not true – I’d already filed off the slider when I realised that the slot lined up, so I had to weld a tiny blob in the right place…..
Slider and its brass retainer – ramp on the tail, plus sear and slider springs – slider spring has dimple to engage ramp. ( bridle removed) All very fiddly as its a very small pistol.
25th July Predictably the pool got a lot of use today from friends and neighbours -seemed to be full of children all day! I sheltered from the heat in my ‘machine shop’ which keeps a reasonable temperature, so I was able to finish a couple of jobs on the Harding – I glued up a piece of dowel with a turned end into a horn blank – Araldite went off rapidly in the heat, and turned it all down together – looks fine and fits perfectly. I also turned up a side screw – I was going to cut off the thread portion and weld on a new head but found that an M3.5 thread would just do, so made a new screw – I had a very cheap non adjustable die for M 3.5 which worked well enough. I filed up the slider for the safety catch from the blank I machined yesterday – it must be one of the fiddliest jobs – especially for such a small pistol – anyway its almost done. Not quite sure how to do the mechanism inside – there is precious little room for the bolt to intersect the tumbler so I might just make a slot in the tumbler to take the blade of the slider, then make a dummy bolt to stop the slider falling out…. I’ll see what is possible. I gather we have a small group for the ‘Have a go’ tomorrow, and I’ll take a breech loader for some lazy shooting afterwards – not sure which – I’m not sure the Beretta I bought fits terribly well, so I might take something else.
24th July – rather warm today – when I got in my car to go to Dick’s it said 38 degrees (C) – that went down to 33 when I was moving! By 4 oclock I was ready for a swim in the giant bag of water – I reckon I’m up to 700m a session and am aiming for I km – that’s a lot of turning as its only 10m long- I think I’m going to have to make something to keep track of how many lengths I swim!. A good day on the tinkering front – I machined blanks for the top jaw and slide safety, and turned a top jaw screw and a better cock screw, and filed up the top jaw and gave them a once over with Blackley’s case hardening powder to colour them down a bit – they actually look quite good now. I ‘spiked up’ the bottom of the top jaw with a 45 degree graver without the heels, mounted in a metal rod and tapped with a small hammer – it throws up really vicious little hooks that are just like the originals must have been – its always a give away that a cock has been replaced by a casting as very few people bother to file off the cast ‘teeth’ and replace them with nice sharp ones. It only takes a few minutes! Anyway the little pistol is beginning to look really good – the photo has a nasty bit of flint I broke off a larger on as I don’t have any micro flints in stock – it does actually spark up although probably not reliable enough to set off priming consistently – anyway better than a repro Scottish Pistol I was looking at with Dick that would not spark except very occasionally one feeble little spark. I didn’t have any perfect flints with me – most had been used but you can usually persuade a few sparks out of the lock if you tap a new edge on the flint. It was sold as a working repro with proof marks so presumably was intended to shoot but I think its going to need some work on the frizzen, either some heat treatment or facing with a bit of old saw blade or whatever – I’ve never had any problems using Blackley’s frizzen casting – they spark OK – and I’ve never worn a frizzen to the point when it needed refacing. I don’t shoot flintlock that much – I have enough of a job hitting things with a percussion! Having said that I’m doing another corporate ‘have a go with a muzzle loader day’ on Friday for Cambridge Gun Club and I have to take both a flintlock and a percussion.
Slide safety and ramrod to do and it can join its ‘almost’ pair, the P.O. pistol
23rd July – I went into ‘my’ school for the ‘Leaver’s Assembly’ to say goodbye to the year 6 pupils who are moving on to secondary school – a few tears amonst them, but they will do well – their teachers have been so caring. More tinkering with the Harding – I used a chunk of thick tubing as a heat reservoir to temper the spring and it worked just fine with the radiant thermometer and got a good uniform blue towards the bright end of he spectrum – the spring fits, so I adjusted the full cock bent on the tumbler – very carefully in stages as I didn’t want to loose any more cock swing than necessary. Once that was done I case hardened the tumbler – it was made out of mild steel – and made a ‘cut price’ sear spring from a bit of spring steel sheet – works fine but looks a bit naff! might have to revisit. Anyway so far so good, the lock fits, the spring, trigger and sear work fine – I’ve filed up the cock to a slightly better shape and put a bit of engraving on it – I now need to tap the hole for the cock screw that holds the top jaw, and make a top jaw, plus the safety slider and internal bits – I realise that I case hardened the tumbler and haven’t put in the notch for the safety bolt, but I’m sure I can file through the case. I reckon the restoration of this pistol has already cost far more than it could possibly be worth and it isn’t finished yet – a true labour of love – but at least it all goes on the blog!
Thick tube as heat sink for tempering springs etc. Bean can holds wood ash insulation so parts cool slowly to avoid hardening them.
22nd July – Went into Cambridge to do some work on the Bullard Archive but ended up towing a giant skip with my Landcruiser and sorting some junk. I made one of the springs for the Harding pistols. This one looks a bit more convincing than the last one. I’ve hardened it with an oil quenching and its now glass hard so I’m being very careful not to break it – I suspect dropping it on a hard surface might even do it. Now I have to decide how to temper it, since I screwed up on that stage last time. I normally find a spot on the hotplate of the AGA which is the right temperature, using a remote temp probe and pop it on there with a couple of layers of aluminium foil over it and shut the lid down for ten minutes, but the AGA is out for the summer. The traditional method is to put the spring in a pool of oil in a tobacco tin (now a historic item!) and burn it off, after which the spring will have got to the right temper as if by magic. There is always a discussion about what oil to use – used engine oil is often quoted, but whether its the engine oil or the used bit that’s critical isn’t revealed. I think I’ll probably heat a thick walled tube in my furnace to 300C, check it with the radiant thermometer and then pop the spring in and leave it to cool down. – a lot more trouble than the burning oil, but at least measurable! As I wrote yesterday, the spring feels different now its fully hard, even when its just resting in my hand – mysterious or imaginary?
I can never decide if the two arms should touch along the joint – I think most original springs don’t so I’ve left this one slightly open – you can get a piece of thin card in the joint. I think this spring is a better shape than the last one. We shall see!
21st July – What a lovely day sailing in the dinghy on the Orwell! Yesterday I made a couple of blanks for new springs – This time I did the thicknessing of the blank on my medium soft grindwheel (after flattening it with a diamond tool) rather than the linisher and it worked much better. I had a look at the broken spring – it was fairly clear that I hadn’t tempered it sufficiently as I could barely mark it with a file – a spring properly tempered should just be fileable. Thinking about hardening, I sometimes think when I handle the occasional metal component that I can tell if they are soft or fully hard just by the feel of them – and not by trying to flex them either. It sounds pretty improbably, but I guess the elastic properties are quite different and maybe this affects the internal damping of vibrations so they do feel different? Or maybe its just a vivid imagination…….
19th July – Tragedy – my new spring broke when I tried to put it in the pistol! I had hardened it and tried to temper it in my furnace, the AGA being out for the summer, but its not good at controlling temperatures as low as 300 C and I don’t think it was taken to spring temper. Anyway it seemed a bit strong, and pinged when I compressed it – I think maybe it should have been thinned a bit more, and I need to be more careful to compress it at the ends to allow more of the spring to flex. Anyway its busted, so I can have the excitement of making another one – I’ll probably make two whle I’m about it as the other little pistol has a fudged spring…. Oh well, I’m going sailing on Sunday and will be busy tomorrow so it will just have to wait – at least I should be much quicker this time.
18th July – yet more tinkering with the little pistol! I worked on the tumbler and spring to get the combination working – its an iterative process – check, file, check as you converge on what looks like a satisfactory arrangement. I filed a square on the tumbler shaft and drilled and filed a matching hole in the cock so that I could see how that fitted at the same time. It all went together quite well as far as I can test at the moment. I found a sear that will probably do although I might have to bend the arm a bit as it threatens to foul the edge of the lock pocket – so now I’ll need to file the bents in the tumbler for half and full cock – the half cock is more difficult as it has to resist firing by letting the sear nose enter a slot. I’ll have to make a cock screw to keep the cock in place – although its not loose it still comes off, and also a screw for the sear pivot. The cock screw is 5 UNC ( I made the tumbler) but the sear pivot seems to accept an M2.5 thread, and I don’t have a die for that one – for the moment I can use an existing screw. That just leaves making hardening and tempering the spring and any other bits, and making the sliding safety catch and spring, oh and the sear spring…. not much to do then!
The shape of the end of the spring, the ‘spur of the tumbler and the orientation of the cock on its square all have to be right – its a slow job if you haven’t done it very often.
17th July Bit more tinkering with the little pistol – I made a new mainspring and also made a video of the operation – difficult to concentrate on two things at once – tryiing to bend the spring into a ‘hairpin’ while juggling an oxy/gas torch and talking to the camera is fun. I can’t put it down without turning it off, by which time the spring is cold. I got it in the end though. Anyway it is almost there – just got to alter the bend a little to make it more even and slightly less open, and shape the end that bears on teh tumbler. Very satisfying making springs! Much more so than struggleing with editing documents in Word – I’ll have grey hair if I have to do it much more – making springs etc is a doddle compared to struggling with Bill Gates’s constructions. I think I got the bridle to fit as well, so progress!
The bend has a face with a slight angle so it looks dark – its fine!
16th July I did some work on a gun case – I bought a set of ‘furniture pens and crayons’ from Amazon for a few pounds – they are meant for touching in scratches on furniture but they might be useful on guns and cases – I’ve aleady deployed the mahogany one – it helps but I really need darker shades. In my ‘spare’ time I’m still tinkering with the little Harding pistol. I put the proto tumbler in the miller and got a bit more metal off it, and have now filed it to an approximate shape. I found a sear that looks as if it will fit so I’ll have to sort out the bridle and fixing screws – I think I can use the bridle out of the box of bits if I weld up the hole for the tumbler extension shaft and re-drill it in the right place. Then its just a case of making the mainspring, the sear spring, and the sliding safety catch, bolt and spring – nothing really!!!!!
Part way there with the tumbler. not sure about the sear?
15th July – Looking through my Manton book yesterday I realised that whoever botched the single NOCK barrel to have a recessed breach didn’t need to recess the side opposite the lock – Joseph never did on single guns….
I bought back a pair of continental locks sans frizzens to see if we could find replacements for the owner – and indeed we found a pair of matching frizzens with pan lids exactly the right size – the tails need extending to reach the pivot position but that can be done…. a result.
My ‘office’ table is now covered with nautical charts as we begin to plan our summer trip to the NW of Scotland – we have a new charter yacht from Skye and will head out to the Outer Hebrides – we are a bit light on crew this year, so a bit more work for me, although the boat has in-mast reefing on the mainsail so not so much deck work needed – its 43 ft long so it will be interesting to see how we get on with just 3 of us. It’s the coming alongside in marinas that’s tricky, although we don’t do that very often. The last few years we’ve had the same boat so I knew how it handled under power – its going astern that is always tricky – most boats just won’t steer until they are moving so you never know quite how they will set off backwards so there will be a learning curve with this one.
The table is also covered with the bits of a pistol case that I am remaking – fortunately was just held together with animal glue – or indeed no glue at all! Anyway its all in pieces now.
I’ve had a couple of conversations with experts on gun browning in the last few days – one, supposed to be the best in England says it can take up to a month to get a good browning on some barrels, and he stops if the weather gets too hot. The other friend says he reckons up to 16 days and thinks that if you brown them faster than one rusting a day the browning wears off very quickly – so maybe I need to slow down as I had been aiming to get at least two brownings a day……..
14th July – Holts shoot at Cambridge Gun Club. Not my best day – but I did manage to hit one of every different clay except one – at least that shows something! Derek brought the owner of the Joseph Manton 22 bore featured in the posts and the gun for Nick Holt to have a look at – I was able to assist him in unravelling the gun as I’d done a blog on it. He was shown another gun that was a bit of a mystery – a very late Jo Manton flint lock on a single barreled gun signed H Nock on the barrel – its difficult to appraise a gun without my list of dates and references etc, but the gun had the patent Jo Manton recessed breech C1810(?), while the barrel and trigger guard looked older. My suspicions were confirmed when I noticed that the breech blocks had been machined down from a normal width to the recessed width to take the late lock, and not particularly carefully. The lock fitted quite well. Nothing on the bottom of the barrel made a lot of sense – no HN maker’s stamp as I would expect, or a number (Henry Nock was amonst the first to number his guns around 1790). In the absence of any further info I thought it was maybe a Nock gun of maybe 1790ish with the ‘wrong’ lock. Possibly a spuriously engraved NOCK? The left side of the breech plug had also been recessed – I didn’t see if the stock had had a bit glued on to fill the gap where the barrel was milled away. If not I’d have to suspect that it had been restocked – the lock was very well inletted so a possibility. I’m afraid the jury is out on that one! I was hoping for a valuation on the Post Office pistol – I know what its worth as a little pistol but not what the rarity value of the P.O. connection is – but it wasn’t fair to expect Nick to guess that. I actually found a reference to one similar being sold at Bonhams in 2015 for $2800 – so obviously some rarity value there….
13th July – bit more tinkering with the pistol below – I had to make a replacement screw ( I had to grind it out) for the tang of the trigger guard – I don’t like just using a woodscrew as the heads are never right and in this case they don’t work well into the endgrain of the plug I had to glue in, so I turned up a countersunk screw with a No 5 UNC thread and an extra false head. I slotted the false head and screwed it in, then marked the fore and aft line, cut off the false head, put in the aligned slot and filed it to conform to the curved shape, then engraved a few lines on it and used Blackley’s case hardening powder to colour it down (and incidentally harden it). Jobs left include all the works of the lock, some reshaping of the cock casting I have, to reduce the prominent breast it has and scale down the spur, and make a ramrod. Tomorrow is the Holts Shoot at the Cambridge Gun Club – I am, of course, going and will hope to exceed my 50% target – I didn’t quite make it at the Helice shoot – I was on target but missed all of the last 4 ‘easy’ birds! I’ve finished a batch of de-cappers to take to CGC – they make good engraving practice so I did a little stand of arms, and a stand of music and a sunburst and a scroll plus some borders. Quite interestingly (at least for me!), the strip I was using that I said was as soft as butter turned out to be pretty tough down the other end – just goes to show what cold rolling does to the grain structure near the surface.
11th July I more or less finished the woodwork for the second Harding pistol, at least in so far as anything is ever finished in this game! I’ve given it an initial coat of stain to darken it down and match the wood repairs in – a coat of Van Dyke solution first, that didn’t do much, then a coat of Jacobean Oak stain. The problem with stains that are supposed to be black is that there is no effective black stain – so they mostly contain black solids, which in this case I had to rub off, which leaves a decent dark brown colour that matches the original colour pretty well. The various joints are still visible but not too bad – I’ll work on them a bit as I apply finish – probable a couple of coats of sanding sealer, then alkonet root coloured oil finish to give a deep rich colour and finish off with a very hard wax finish. Any recalcitrant joints will probably get blended in with a black Sharpie pen and smeared with a finger! – it works a treat. One trick that does help if you want to disappear a joint is to take a very sharp modelling knife and create some ‘grain’ across the joint matching that around it – do this early on in the process so they get treated the same as real grain! Oh dear, maybe I shouldn’t reveal trade secrets here but anything that is continuous across the joint hides it from attention! On this pistol the main joint runs with the grain, so that technique is of marginal benefit!
10th July – I seem to have got landed with compiling a document for the school governors – I am thinking of enrolling for ‘Say No‘ lessons! It rather got in the way of my gun activities. I finished the blank for the tumbler for the Harding pistol and unglued it (heat) and then glued it onto a piece of scrap plate to put it centered on the turntable in my miller so I could reduce the diameter over most of the circumference – I did get some way, but the strain was too much for the glue, so I’ll have to finish it by hand. I’m made some progress on with the woodwork – I now have sundry bits of wood stuck onto the pistol and tonight I managed to inlet the barrel – I think its now just a matter of filing/sanding everything to shape and inletting the lock. I put some oxalic aid on the existing wood which got rid of most of the black stains – I should have done it before selecting the wood for the repairs as its now a bit darker than the original – but the other little Harding pistol is almost black so I can colour this one down – it will help to hide the repairs too. In the course of sanding down blocks of wood for the repairs I managed to sand the end of my thumb on the 12 inch disk sander – painfull still!
Tumbler blank on a scrap plate – the glue failed!
Clingfilm on a dowel to locate the repair in place – self amalgamating tape as an elastic binder. see earlier photo for the ‘before’ state.
9th July – several jobs on the go, which is handy when there is adhesive setting time involved. I started the new tumbler for the little pistol – I turned the axle that bears in the lockplate plus a bit for the square and tapped it No 4 UNC, and faced a 22mm diameter disk to make the actual tumbler out of, I then parted off the disk and axle, leaving a bit for the bearing in the bridle, faced off the bar left in the lathe and drilled a hole that is a good fit on the lock axle and Araldited the proto tumbler to the bar so I could finish the other side of the tumbler – its still in the lathe hardening off. I milled some of the broken wood from the pistol lock area and glued in a piece of walnut – there is still quite a lot of wood to be fitted in, but its starting to look less bad. I also decided to make another batch of de-cappers in case I get orders from the Holt’s shoot participants – I know Martin is keen for everyone to have one on safety grounds. And I got the new screen for my PC so that had to be set up…….
8th July – I got a request for a couple of my personalised decappers – I had run out of my original supply of metal and bought some 15m.m wide strip but it is a bit wide to fit round the nipples of some guns, so I picked up a length of scrap 1/2 x 1/8 from my old lab and made two decappers – when I came to engrave the names etc on them it was a bit of a revelation – they cut like butter, and it made me realise how horrible most of the metal I engrave is! I guess the scrap was mild steel but it didn’t have the cold rolled crust that most mild steel strip has. Anyway a pleasure to work with. I did some more on teh little pistol woodwork. It was fairly riddles with cracks as well as having chunks of wood missing, – the first job is to find all the cracks and see which move if you gently flex the wood. If they are wide or full of muck they need clearing out with the back of a modelling knife blade – these I fill with liquid epoxy, mixing in a bit of walnut dust to fill the surface. As you put the epoxy in, flex the wood to open the joint more and suck the glue in. You may need to clamp or bind the wood to close up cracks while the epoxy sets – I find self amlgamating tape is ideal for quick elastic binding of parts while glue sets – a couple of turns and it will stick to itself and hold things in place. For small cracks I use an instant isocyanate glue and again work the joint to get the glue in – I keep a spray can of activator handy to start the polymerisation. I also put walnut dust in the top of these cracks and drop a little instant glue on it and set it with the activator. I’ve done all that for the Harding pistol and the next step is to work out how to do the replacements and what needs milling out, and find a bit of matching walnut from my offcut box, or go over to Dick’s as he has a much bigger box of offcuts.
7th July – I started to strip the little Harding pistol so that I could sort the woodwork, but the woodscrew holding the tail of the triggerguard proved to be a major problem – first, the slot had got worn into a ramp and wouldn’t shift even with heat, then it turned out to be dead hard and I couldn’t drill it with any of my drills. I ended up grinding off the head and digging out bits of it with the GRS graver – that released the guard. That left the stub of the screw very firmly embedded – I tried cutting a slot in it with a small disk but the screw broke when I put a screwdriver on it! Only solution was to core out the remains of the screw so I made a corer from 8 mm silver steel with a 4 mm hole in the centre and a 5.5 mm outside diameter and filed up some teeth and hardened it – at least that got it out and I could glue in a wooden plug for the next screw! A lot of work to get one screw out – lucky I enjoy making tools! I derusted the lock and the barrel, which is in good condition – I lightly recut the barrel engraving. I will have to make a new tumbler as the one with the pistol is completely wrong, but I might get away with the existing bridle – I think it might have been the right one, but it had been broken and rewelded with the parts not quite aligned – I will make the tumbler and see if the sear is right before I decide whether to make a new bridle or fudge that one.
Corer for removing headless screw.
A bit of pitting but not too bad!
6th July – Dick got the pair of hammer gun hammers welded and filed up – they are a pretty good match in shape, but without the gun to try them on its difficult to be certain. Photo below. I was looking round for another project to do – apart from the documents I offered to edit for the School – I decided it was time to tackle the wrecked Harding flintlock pistol. I bought a box of junk that purported to contain two rare small post office pistols by Harding. I paid good money for them, heaven knows why. Anyway one was actually stamped for the Post Office and was more or less complete so I’ve done that one up (see diary past) and it is a very pretty little pistol even if a bit corroded on the barrel. The second set of parts is more problematical as these photos will show – the wood is badly broken with large missing bits and cracks, it has no mainspring , no cock or topjaw or screws, the bridle is a bit wrong, the tumbler is completely wrong, I’m not sure about the sear either, and so on…. I will strip it down and derust it (for a short while so as not to disintegrate any faulty metal) then mill away the broken wood so I can match in new wood to clean flat surfaces -As you can see, there is quite a lot of work in reshaping the inserted wood to match – I usually leave such woodwork to Dick, but I will do this one – I need to up my woodwork skills – I can make a reasonable job of it but Dick usually manages to find better matching wood and grain, and make tighter joints.
There are slight differences in the overall shape of the cocks – the one on the left has a less rounded breast. possibly one was a replacement, or more likely they never matched fully.
Pistol has very nice brass furniture
The barrel, lockplate, frizzen and frizzen spring and barrel bolt are the only parts of the original pistol – the tumbler,bridle and sear don’t fit and will need replacing.
4th July – I tried out the CZ120 brass to see how good it was for engraving – its a ‘free cutting’ brass with about 2% lead, 60% copper and the rest zinc. Its better than most brass that one comes across for hand engraving, but still not as ‘steady’ as copper, silver, gold or well prepared steel. I did a quick trial freehand to see what it was like – I’m sure if I used it for any length of time I’d adapt my technique to work better, possibly even sharpen my tools differently. I found it more difficult than steel to cut long straight lines of uniform width – it was more difficult to maintain a uniform depth and the resistance of the metal seemed to be more variable. I found it had two modes of cutting – in one it cut in a series of small jerks that were visible in the cuts under the microscope, in the other mode it cut smoothly – it wasn’t always easy to predict which would prevail. I did get a couple of skids, and the tool had a tendency to dive deep and it wasn’t easy to drive the cut back up – cutting ‘O’ s I had to stop half way through the down loop and come back from the bottom. The $64,000 question – would I recommend someone learns hand encraving using CZ120 brass? It requires a good deal less force to cut than steel and is much kinder on the gravers, both of which are advantages for the beginner. Its not a pushover so you’ll learn most of the basic skills, although it will take you a while to adapt to steel if you ultimately want to be able to do that. On the other hand if you have reasonably strong hands I’d probably say go straight in with the steel. Here is my test piece, skids and all….
The brass is 22 m.m.high – a very quick & dirty test….
4th July – bit the bullet and bent the 38 bore Adams spring – I’d filed up both ends while it was flat, so the bend had to go in the right place – difficult to change if you get it wrong! Anyway it all bent & went together just fine, I haven’t hardened and tempered it yet, but it all works and I suppose I could just leave it – the thought is tempting as the cock tension is just about OK and it all functions as it should and it was a bit of a b***** to assemble……… It even looks the same shape as the original although the bend is not quite as tight – there is no point in stressing the metal any more than necessary! I really enjoy making springs although I have had my share of failures!
The Adams patent is a very simple self cocking mechanism.
3rd July – more work on repairing the Adams revolver – Tom has now left for St Andrews so I have to do my own filing! I never served a proper workshop apprenticeship so my filing is not so hot. Anyway I finished off the link and started making the new spring from a piece of 15 mm x 2.5 m.m. spring steel. I first annealed the steel at 950C for half an hour and cooled it over an hour or so as it was a bit hard to file. First job was to build a ridge of weld across one end so I could file the claws that hold the link when the rest of the spring was shaped. ( I should have done that before annealing the metal, as I had to anneal the weld anyway.) There was quite a lot of thickness reduction to do – the business end of the original spring was 1 mm thick, tapering to around 1.4 at the other end – most of the removal was done on the linisher, both flat on the platform and over the end roller, but eventually I got there. The width had been roughly cut with a 1 mm cutting disk, and I filed up the claw to fit the link – the next problem is bending the spring to shape and hardening it.
Link and flat spring without the slot to hold it to the frame
A lot of people ask me about engraving and want to start off engraving brass. Most brass is a pain to engrave because its very hard and the tool chips rather than cuts cleanly – its very prone to slip etc. I checked a couple of websites and found the spec of engraver’s brass, which is what its name implies. Brass is the usual copper /zinc mixture but some had lead added to soften it up – engraver’s brass should have between 1 and 3 % lead and around 60% – the type numbers seem to be CZ120 or CW612N or C35600 – all thses are classed as engravers brass. I have ordered a sample of CZ120 to try out and will keep you posted with how I get on.
Here is a summary of the countries that visit the site most often over the last three years;-
2nd July – In the end I milled the blank for the link as it was easy to make several in case they went wrong. Luckily I left the ‘pins’ oversize as I did have a problem matching the milling on the top and bottom in spite of having a clear index hole. Tom has done the bulk of the filing and it is looking good – a little finishing at the spring end, and then its making a new spring……….
part filed link and blank for a spare.
1st July again… A small problem – Tom was looking at my Adams 38 bore revolver and was testing the action when the mainspring stopped functioning – I don’t think he did anything wrong as its difficult to see what that could have been, but it seems the link broke and the mainspring then broke as it ‘dry fired’. So that has to be fixed! We have drawn up the link and one possibility is to turn up a blank from which to cut the link – the plan is to turn up a disk with one pin at the centre and a rim that will yield the other pin, then part it off and glue it onto a boss and repeat on the other side. Its rather a longwinded method but I have done it before. An alternative would be to mill the shape with square pins – but turning it over to mill the back and ensure register would be a little difficult, although I guess it too could be glued into registered holes. not sure there is much in it! The easiest way to measure such things is to photograph them with a ruler and print it out A4 and scale from there – you need a good mm ruler graduated in 1/2 mm as in this pic, and a micrometer to check the pin diameters. Anyway its another job to keep me busy….
The break is just visible at the arrow tip.
1st July – half way through the year! Here is the promised pic of the finished trophy – off to cut the hedge now…..
beautiful piece of old stock and offcut for base – but not very good photo!