May 092017


This site contains details of what I do – it does not mean that it is safe or legal for you to do the same, and I accept no responsibility if you do.  You are responsible for ensuring that what you do is within your capabilities and is safe and legal in your country.    Guns, even antiques, can be dangerous and if you don’t know what you are doing get expert help.  Many antique guns are of historic and/or financial value, and its your responsibility to find out if what you want to do will damage their value.  Remember, leaving them as they are won’t diminish their value  but inappropriate repair might well make them worth less, maybe much less!  If in doubt don’t do it.


I assume he is holding the sling out of the way with his left hand?  from  Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..

Find your way around – There is a MENU of PAGES  used for fixed items along the top of the screen.

All the regular POSTS are in the HOME page – use the menus on the right to jump to whichever POST  you want, or the MENU below the header  will show you POSTS that are relevant to the given subject  and the top menu on the right will keep you up to date with changes…

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. I am fond of obscure English sayings which are marked* – you can look them up on Google if you  need to interpret them.

PHOTOGRAPHS:   Most of the photos on this website are mine, a few are from other sources or are photographed from books.   My photos are copyright – you are welcome to use them for your own purposes, but not for gain – please always attribute them to   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 JLANG 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.

___________________ DIARY ______________________

23rd July – very heavy rain – ‘fun’ unblocking overflowing gutters!   I flashed up my furnace as I thought I’d see about a bit of aluminium casting but the element was broken so I had to stretch and install the spare which means partially disassembling the insulation bricks – still it wasn’t too bad to do and its up and running now.  In the process of finding the break I discovered that I’d got the live and neutral wires swapped at the main switch (unlike in the US, our power lines are not balanced about earth) so I put that right, it didn’t make any difference  but is inelegant. I also added a switch so I can use the P.I.D. controller to monitor the cooling temperature with its output disconnected from the heater, to save having to reset the temperature to room temp.

The number of visitors to the site, the number of  visits within the site and the number of search engine hits is rising slowly but hasn’t quite reached the heady heights of last winter!  The site gets a lot of spurious visits from ‘bots’ trying to log in – the blog is supposed to be protected from them and they can’t do anything as they  can’t find the real login entry – I’m sure the site is safe from them, but I think they may be added to the visitors count and I’m trying to work out how to avoid this.

22nd July – photo of the tap wrench below as promised. Casting around for some thing to post, I picked up an old New Land pistol that has been converted to percussion – its on my list of things to love,but hasn’t got there yet.  BUT it has a nifty safety catch that I haven’t come across before, and as I’m sure someone ‘out there’ will tell me all about it, I decided to put a some photos  on the site – for more see Post ‘New Land Pistol Conversion’

Magic tap wrench – the top part swivels +/- 90 degrees for unscrewing or screwing taps in awkward places – it will shift the toughest fittings! Top jaw is sprung.  It latches onto the nut and can be used as a ratchet with care.

New Land with plain New Land pattern lock converted to percussion with new breech block with cross bolt safety shown in ‘safe’ position

21st July  -Turns out I hadn’t finished work so I missed yesterday, except that I did pop down to Dick’s with the funny pistol I had engraved – he was pleased, which is just as well as there is no going back!  Bit like being a brain surgeon or a bomb disposal expert, but with somewhat less critical outcomes!   Actually I’ve always thought I would have been temperamentally suited to either career – probably not so, but one can always fantasize.  Anyway, enough nonsense….  I got round to fitting a new kitchen tap today – I was reminded what a fantastic tool the tap wrench is – I’ll post a picture in case anyone hasn’t met one yet.  But I did a bit of engraving too – I got back to playing with tiny engraving which involves grinding up some very small tools and trying to cut lettering in smaller and smaller sizes – I polished the tools on half micron diamond paste on a ceramic lap (horribly expensive – around £180 I seem to remember) but the finish still isn’t fantastic.  I tried engraving the EN8 plate I had annealed but it is a bit soft and the unannealed plate is better as it provides a bit more resistance to the tool.  It is relatively easy to engrave readable lettering 1/2 mm tall, and 1/3 mm is OK too – I did manage to get down to 1/4 mm – I am thinking of changing my name to get rid of the O in my surname as its the only curved letter in my usual short name, and curves are much more difficult to cut at that scale than straight lines.  No photos of that as its a bit difficult to take them.  I did manage to photograph the last of the guns I borrowed from Dick to put on the site. Its an 1853(?) French ‘ Le Faucheux a Paris’ 16 bore pinfire converted to centrefire – photo here, I’d be interested in any more info anyone has on similar guns.  (More on Post ‘French 16 bore’)


19th July  Almost finished my recent gainful employment so I can retire again!  I’ll have to un-retire when I do Gile’s flat, although that is taking forever to get completed as there are 7 parties in the transaction – a company selling on behalf of the executors of the previous owner, the executors, the vendor’s solicitors, Giles’s solicitors, the leaseholder and the selling agents, plus Giles!   So each iteration takes about a month to sort!   Anyway I did manage to steal the odd hour to go and finish Dick’s pistol – I’ll have to take it to him tomorrow, and see what delights he has to offer.  I have one more gun to photograph and put here when I get a moment.


I can see a few bits that need touching up!  Always the same when you photograph anything – you look at it with different eyes!

It does look different in the flesh as the metal is shiny  and the contrast is greater.


17th July – I put up a full post on the furnace for info……………….See ‘Heat Treatment Furnace’

I have almost finished the tang of ‘another one of Dick’s funny pistols’ – just got to put some structure on the raised bits, but it looks better than I expected so far…..  A few things I would do differently if I did it again, but life is like that!

16th July  Lawns today!  I did a bit more on the tang of Dick’s second funny pistol – I dread to think how many cuts it takes to do the backgrounds but I guess when its finished there will be well over 1000 cuts in the engraving – judging by the rate at which I’m having to sharpen gravers, I’ll have done about 60 and re-ground about 15 of those with broken points!  I have swapped to using the gravermax for the background lines as it keeps its edge better and is easier to avoid over-running into the raised areas.    Not sure I’ll have much time tomorrow………

15th  July – I used the furnace for the first time, annealing a piece of EN8 steel for an engraving test piece at about 900 degrees C.  I got the PID controller and wired it in and checked it – using a decent voltmeter and the tables for a K type thermocouple I reckon the controller under -reads by about 30 degrees at high temperature, and it doesn’t seem to get up to the set temperature but starts to cycle while still below it – still, with the voltmeter and tables I can set the PID controller to a temperature that gives the result I want.  Anyway it worked!  I had the piece of steel in an envelope made from stainless & titanium foil from Brownells & crimped tightly to exclude air so that I didn’t have to deal with any scale on the surface after the heat treatment  – that was a great success, there was a very light colouration on the surface of the metal – as with tempering it, but no loss of metal – definitely recommended for heat treatments above about 5 or 600 degrees C.  I wasn’t absolutely sure if the metal in the envelope really got as hot as the furnace, but it took almost on hour to get up to temperature, and I held it there for at least 20 minutes and cooled if very slowly, so I guess it did.  I must put another switch on the panel to disconnect the PID output so I can just use it as a temperature readout while it cools.  I also have a cooker control on the panel I can switch in to control the rate of cooling if necessary.   Its a really neat design – well done to the young lad who designed it – he’ll go far!


The two bolts sticking in the furnace bricks are blocking alternative holes for the thermocouple probe. 

I carried on with Dick’s ‘other funny gun – engraving the tang – I decided I’d experiment with a cut out background, so I came up with a design and started at the top – stages are ;- black the metal, scribe a rough design, cut outlines with a push graver, remembering that with cut backgrounds you need to make the raised bits slightly oversize and bold, then go round all the edges of the areas that will be cut out with the gravermax canted over so that you cut an almost vertical edge to the raised areas and a sloping edge to the cut areas – these cuts should be fairly deep.  Then cut out the background using closely spaced parallel cuts with a push graver – the skill is in starting close to an edge and NOT running into the raised area at the end of the cut, and keeping the cuts even.   As the graver wears down it will cut deeper and take more force to cut so you are more likely to slip at the end of the cut  – getting through the stages below needed 3 sharpenings of the gravermax graver, and 10 of the hand gravers.  I made a couple of small slips but fortunately nothing that couldn’t be burnished out with a polished carbide tool.

Outline design.

Cut edges of raised part more or less vertical


Cut background with closely spaced parallel lines – keep them as even and parallel as possible.  That leaves the internal detail to be done.


14th  July  More grappling with ‘Prior Art’ and suchlike.  I started to do the barrel and tang of Dick’s ‘funny gun No2’.  I got the rings round the breechblock done in traditional ‘fir tree’ design and put a plain border round the tang and screw hole- its a very narrow and long tang which presents a bit of a problem – its too narrow to put the ‘wiggly line and tadpoles’ on as it would leave a silly strip in the middle.  I had half an idea for the filling the space, but it involved lots of curves and I wasn’t sure if I could get the breechblock out – curves means rotating the part and with an 18 inch barrel that’s a pain  – anyway I did manage to get the breech out without using heat so that frees up the design a bit.   I have to do a practice for new designs, or if I haven’t done old ones for a while to refresh my muscle memory, and all the bits of plate I have are EN8 and not free cutting so they are difficult to cut and play havoc with the gravers – I will have to source some nice ‘soft as butter’ mild steel – most bits of the guns are better than my practice plates!  I’m sure the ones I learnt on were better or I’d never have got anywhere!   Will do some photography at the weekend and put up another gun – I have one sitting here, although its not a particularly puzzling one.

13th July  As a break from hunting patents and publications on the web I engraved the lock of ‘another funny gun’ of Dick’s to match the other borders, and invented a small motif for the tail as ordered, something a bit unusual was the order.  So the border is the wiggle with ‘tadpoles’ and I did a wreath for the motif – I did start to cross hatch it but that went wrong so I cut the surface back a bit and stippled it with the gravemaster and a slightly rounded point – it worked fairly well after a few tries – the wreath may need a cut or two to even it up, but it works OK.  We decided against putting a  spurious name on the lackplate in a fit of moral rectitude, despite the fact that its a Blackley casting!  Talking of which, I have been trying to persuade Dick that its wrong to put conjectural bits on the 1630 blunderbuss just because the owner asked him to make it look good – I was telling him that he ought to be awkward, like me.   I’m afraid I haven’t got round to photographing the next puzzle, so you will have to make do with the  JR Cooper patent (or not a patent as I believe is  the case) for tonight’s puzzle  gun.  With luck there will be a gun tomorrow – I was planning to go to Dick’s so I’ll try to hunt some more out – I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up !

I haven’t tried stippling before and it took a while to get the effect even when I inked it – it probably still needs  more done to it. .

 13th July Again the puzzle has been solved by Joerg who may just have an advantage since the last two were German guns – its to a Franz Jaeger patent of 1909 or a slight variation of it and again is a known design – see post still called Weird gun. I’ll have to try to find an English gun as a puzzle – can I suggest a look at the so far unsolved puzzle of the ‘J R Cooper patent hammerless percussion shotgun’ ?  see ‘latest updates’ – I’ve bumped it up so you can find it!  The puzzle is – is this the only one made? was it ever patented?  did it work?

12th July  Yesterday’s puzzle gun was solved very quickly and turned out to be a reasonably well known German pre 1914 design  – in fact when I went back to Dick’s this afternoon and said it’s a Collath gun he dived into his junk cupboard and produced another Collath that had been sleeved and re-chambered as a 20 bore!  He also brought out about 10 other junk guns of various degrees of interest and I looked them all over with a view to giving you something more challenging – and I found an amazing gun – almost unbelievably complex and so intriguing that I bought it back to photograph.  So this is tonight’s challenge – its a double 16 bore toplever opened boxlock non ejector, with a Deeley forend catch and steel barrels without any maker’s marks or names, with the number 2812 on it.   From the outside it looks quite normal although two pins rise from the top of the action body to signify that it is cocked.   See the post ‘Weird Gun’ for what is weird about it, and drop me a comment if you can throw any light on it!  ( I hope the post name will change when I know what it is!   Here is the side view, which is fairly normal……  Oh, and the proof marks look like post 1950 East German Suhl marks…..

Apart from the cocking indicators it could be any hammerless boxlock – but see post ‘Weird gun’ to explore the weirdness!

12th July  It turns out that my ‘French 16 Bore’ is in fact a German Collath  gun – thanks to Joerg who came back pretty quickly to my post.  I conveniently found an auction description (Holts Dec 2013 Lot 965) that confirms Collard chambered guns as antiques if kept as an ornament or  curiosity – which it certainly is – so no certificate needed!   It is difficult to exaggerate the power of the internet as a source of information!  He also pointed me to a website with a host of information on Collath shotguns , rifles and drillings and their special cartridges.

11th July   The STEM club children came good and did a really smooth presentation, so that was great and justifies our ‘hands off’ approach.   I was on school matters most of the day so everything else rather went by the board!  But duty calls, so I found another treat for you – a  French breechloader without any identification.  Its a 16 bore hammerless double gun with damasus barrels with an underlever that initially moves the barrels forward away from the breech faces while leaving the extractors behind.  Once the underlever has opened 90 degrees, further motion moves the barrel further and causes  the bolt that is attached to the underside of the barrel flat to disengage from the slot beneath the breech face, allowing the barrels to fall on a small hingepin at the front of the fore-end. Dropping the barrels disengages the pin that has been holding the extractors in the backward position. The process of opening the gun also cocks it.   There is a strange safety catch in the form of a butterfly nut on the top of the breech – when it is aligned fore and aft it is in the safe position and it obstructs the sight line down the barrel – when in the fire position at right angles to the sight line you can see across the middle of it, so it is immediately obvious when you come to shoot that the safety is still on – although it would be difficult to move it from one position to the other while it was anywhere near mounted.   It has the usual continental decoration of raised design against a punched background – possibly etched before punching – rather fine when viewed under the microscope.  I would be very interested in any suggestions of a maker or patent.   The gun has sling swivels as was common on continental shotguns, and the chambers appear to be highly tapered for the first 1.5 cm, loosing at least  .5mm in diameter – I don’t have a 16 bore snap cap or cartridges to try.  As before I have started a new Post with all the pictures on it  ( French 16 bore ).

10th July – Meeting in School this morning – its going to be a very schoolful week!  Tomorrow my science and technology club ( AKA the cardboard box club, after its favourite making material) is giving a presentation to the parents of the creations they have made using Lego Mindstorms – its going to be exciting as I leave it all to them to organise and do – there is usually a bit of chaos and confusion on the day, but my take is that its all part of the learning process! Its really not because I’m too lazy to help – honest!    Anyway I finished recutting the casting for the triggerguard for Dicks other funny pistol – I noticed when I looked at the photo that there were still a few cuts to add.

9th July – Splendid day’s sailing on the Orwell in the Cornish Coble – the wind was just perfect , not too strong but pretty steady and it was hot enough to be pleasant to be out in the breeze.   I’ve done a bit more engraving on Dick’s extraordinary pistol – the butt strap is now finished and I’m starting to recut the trigger guard which is a Blackley casting – the metal is pretty tough so I’m having to use the gravermax to cut it efficiently – I can cut it with a push graver, but gravers wear and loose tips much quicker with hand engraving than with the gravermax,  its not clear to me why that should be – at least the wear bit, I can understand the points surviving  on the gravermax  as it doesn’t put such strains on the tip at the end of cuts.

The Trigger guard casting will need quite a lot of work on the surface to get it right – but its usually best to recut the engraving once, before any other action, so that you can still decifer it before it gets a nasty layer of oxide on the surface. and you can just see where the lines went.

8th July  – a day away from reading patents!  Got the boat ready for sailing tomorrow, we are missing out on our Hebridian charter this year as our crew is unavailable  so are taking every opportunity to sail the dinghy.   When I was at Dick’s last week he had got out a pistol that he started restoring many years ago from a wreck someone found in a garden shed  – it turned into one of Dick’s famous flights of imagination but never got finished – we’ve all been there, haven’t we?  He had got as far as to get Geoff Moore to engrave the trigger plate but the rest was a work in progress – only without the progress!  Anyway he got it out and asked me to complete the engraving – lock, barrel and tang, trigger guard and the butt strap with a fitting for a stock.  So here is the pistol –  I got started on the butt strap tonight, I have had to keep the same borders as Geoff Moore started – not one I’ve seen before but it will do nicely, and is quick to do – its a wiggle line with tapered cuts in the wiggles – the line is cut in one go with the gravermax (cheating!) and the side cuts by hand.   I realised how nice it was to engrave a free cutting mild steel – its like butter compared to the bit of steel I was practicing on – no wonder I break so many points off gravers.

There IS a real antique buried somewhere inside this – quite a bit of the original wood is there but with a lot of additions!

I wish I had Dick’s eye for shapes – its a totally bizarre pistol- but so elegant in a French sort of way!

Geoff doesn’t do the traditional English style, but its quite continental and suitably elaborate – quite a challenge to put my work alongside his!.

The wiggles on the right haven’t had their separate cuts added yet.   I’ll leave the rest of it plain as its part of the grip.

7th July –  I’ve got a lovely gun for you tonight in my run of early breech loaders – this one is a bit later than the Joseph Lang guns of the last two posts – it is more or less the second hammerless breechloader design to reach any market after the Murcott patent 1003 of 1871.  Its made to patent No 284  of Gibbs and Pitt  of 1873, and has  an underlever that opens the gun and cocks the tumblers (if fired) and snaps shut.  It is a double bite closure with a spring driven bolt into the lump, and has a triggerplate action.   See post for more details of this lovely gun which is in very good condition, having been lapped and reproofed at some point.   I am a bit confused –  the gun is engraved ‘Gibbs & Pitt Patent  204 Bristol’ but the patent cited by Cridington & Baker is actually No 284 – I guess the engraver got it wrong.. Anyway I’ll put the rest on the post…..

6th July – I did my 9 hours work today so I can have a few minutes for the blog!    I’ll put up the other Joseph Lang photos in a new post – its a 14 bore double centrefire gun with his second pattern closing – the bolt has got a bit further from the hinge and the lever is now wrapped round the trigger guard instead of pointing forwards – its still a single bite inert bolting system.  When I get some spare time I’ve got an engraving job to do for Dick – another of his ‘funny’ pistols he is recovering from a rather sad antique – I had a little practice of the border that Geoff Moore cut on the finial  – I need to keep more or less the same border on all the bits – I have the lockplate, the backstrap to engrave  and the trigger guard to freshen as its a raw casting.  I’ll put up some photos when I get a mo……..

5th  July  – I should be beavering away, but I escaped to see Dick and he pulled out a stream of interesting old breech loaders for me to look at – he has lots of the ones illustrated in Cruddington and Baker’s books.  I was particularly looking for Joseph Lang guns as pictures are sought, and I found on in addition to my own.  Looking through his old guns I found a number of interesting guns in odd bore sizes  – I decided that I’d borrow three that were obselete calibre – a 14 bore Lang double centrefire, a really fine  Gibbs & Hill hammerless 10 bore and a little French 14 bore.   I’ll picture them all on separate posts for simplicity – J Lang Pinfire 16 bore (mine),  J Lang 14 bore double and  Gibbs and Hill 10 bore.  so far I’ve done my own Lang ;


5th July  Work has kept me a bit busy the last day or two, but I haven’t forgotten my responsibilities!   I emailed a MLAGB Black Powder contributor about a 16 bore Lang pinfire I have and he would like photos for a book he is writing on Lang – so that’s another job!  I fixed the furnace but haven’t had time to use it yet.  I have now resolved to thin out my gun collection a bit, so watch the GUNS FOR SALE tag in the next few months when I get a chance to take a few photos.

2nd July – Reading papers and patents today – boring so I went and cleaned and sanded the gunwales of the boat and fixed up the graphite crucible in my furnace, but the element broke and I had to take it to pieces to fix it.  I was hoping to melt some metal  for fun.

1 July  –  In a rare spare moment I drifted back to the engraving – the test plate I have is slightly hard – EN8 or somesuch – and is a bit difficult to work with hand tools so I tried the Gravermax pneumatic graver – it would be much easier if I could control it better, but at times it decides its going to cut very deep lines and at other times it behaves better – practice, practice, practice…….   One good feature is that it isn’t so prone to breaking off the points – I find that cutting out the background is a sure way to take the tips off the hand gravers!

30th June  – Another month gone – we have probably had the best of the summer already!   I’m afraid that I’m not going to have a lot of time to play with gun restoration  in the next two or three weeks as  I have a deadline to do the consultancy work I just took on, which will keep me busy for most of the time.  I did manage to play with the furnace before I got the brief for the job sorted out – I put an ordinary  cooker control  in parallel with the digital temperature controller so that I could use the control to set the temperature with the digital control cutting in if the temperature fell.  I got more stable control, but of course I had to do some fiddling to set the desired temperature.  I think these problems will disappear with the proper PID controller .  P I D stands for Proportional Integral Derivative, which means that it anticipates as it gets close to the desired temperature and turns down the power so that it doesn’t overshoot.  I’m struck by how overpowered the furnace is once it has heated through so it really needs the PID. Mine is on the way from China!

29th June – a lazy day – I felt like doing a bit of engraving and I’d taken a few photos of a modern gun Dick was making that had been engraved by Geoff Moore, so I thought I’d try imitating his design, but I just made a horrible mess of it – I’ll have to spend time with paper and pencil to get the style right first.  I wired up a cheap 400 degree temperature controller on the furnace and tried it out, but its a cheap on-off controller not a P.I.D. and it overshoots horribly – going about 25 degrees over the set temperature after it turns off and then undershooting by 5 degrees before it comes back on.  I guess a solid object in the furnace would be more stable due to its thermal inertia.   It now looks as if I’m in for a busy summer as in addition to renovating Giles’ flat – whenever that completes – I am in danger of coming out of my third retirement in 16 years and being a consultant again – just when I thought I could ditch my VAT registration too.  Back to planes and suits if I’m not careful – its unfortunate that I can’t resist it when people come knocking on my door with interesting projects!  I ought to practice sitting in front of a mirror and saying ‘NO’ but its too late in this case.  Maybe it will fund a nice cased pair of small flintlock pistols like the ones I stupidly failed to buy at Bonhams last sale ……………….

I’m NOT going to show my attempts to imitate this!

28th June – Dick & I went to look round the J W Evans die-sinking and stamping works in Birmingham, which was in operation from about 1850s (?) to 1990 and has everything still in place including thousands of dies and stamped parts.   The works produced all the stamped metal parts that were hard soldered together to make fancy Victorian and 20th century silver plated tableware and other decorative household items.  J W Evans output was  the completed object ready for plating, or, in the case of a small fraction of the output made of solid silver or gold, ready for proof marking.   The dies (female part) were cut in a steel block and the corresponding male part was cast in a relatively low melting point metal directly into the die.  The cast part was then fettled to allow for the thickness of the metal.  Very interesting trip – the works/museum is run by English Heritage and is for prebooked visits only – I could have done with a bit more specific information – e.g. what metal alloys were used for the stampings and the male mould part, but a good effort. Horrible journey there as the A14 was closed and we got sent all round the county but we arrived only 1 minute late for our slot and miraculously found a 2 hour parking space right outside the door – how unusual is that!    When I got back I did a bit of touching up on the brass bits of the little turnoff pistol that I had engraved, now that Dick has fitted the two bits together.

27th June – Another session of the STEM club for children – we are still struggling with the Mindstorms software despite most of  a lifetime spent computing – it is a pig!  Anyway not much happened today on the gun front and I have to turn in early as Dick and I are off on a visit to J W Evans old silvesmiths workshop in Birmingham, courtesy of English Heritage.  Not looking forward to the rush hour drive on the A14!   And on Monday I seem to have agreed to go to London.  Life was much more stable and peaceful when I had a regular job, at least I knew where I was going to be from day to day and didn’t need a diary to rule my life!

26th June – A bit more work making a panel to mount the control electrics for the furnace – I ordered a P I D temperature controller from Amazon but failed to notice that it won’t be delivered until mid July – I didn’t think Amazon did that sort of nonsense – one lives and learns!   A well as refitting Gile’s flat, which seems to be on the horizon for  a six week spell I seem to have got involved in another consulting job in the U.S. – I wonder how many times I can retire!  I had come to the conclusion that  in my activities the only noticeable difference between ‘retirement’ and work is that I get paid for one and not the other!  Ah well, my idea of hell is playing golf, so I suppose I’m on the right lines!  But I would like time to take the Samuel Nock rifle to the range again!

25th June – I made a steel ‘crucible’ for the furnace out of an empty disposable oxygen cylinder from my small oxy-gas set, with suspension points and a loop to tip it.  I’ll post pictures later.   I fitted the top closely and made a tube to hold the thermocouple  so it is all now Ok and ready to get the electronic controller working. I did another run, recording the thermocouple voltage at intervals so I can plot the rate of rise of temperature and get some idea of  what the input power is in relation to the heat loss.  I picked up the wrong thermocouple data and couldn’t understand why it was taking so long to get hot – it crawled up to a calculated 600 degrees so I had a look through my peephole and realised that it was actually above 1000C  – at that point I realised my mistake and turned it off- since I had the raw data no harm was done!  From the plot of actual  temperature against time  you can see that the furnace has plenty of spare power – the curve is actually a bit odd but I’m sure I measured it correctly!  Anyway it looks as it will do everything I want including melting brass.   From the graph below I calculate that there is about 30% more power input at 1000C  than needed to maintain the temperature.     My mind is wandering off on the design of a slightly bigger front opening furnace with a bit more power, say 8 inch cube interior instead of 4 x 4 x 8 vertical – I reckon it would still work off a 13 Amp socket and reach 1100C.

I didn’t expect the rise above 600 degrees to follow such a straight line!  Peak temp is about 1087 C

24th June – I finished making and TIG welding the two frames that hold the furnace together and put some 10 m.m. studding legs on the bottom frame to hold a couple of half thickness bricks as a floor.  The whole thing has gone together pretty well so far – the Youtube design is well thought out by the author who says in the video that he is doing his GCSEs  – so he is presumably still at school –  a highly commendable effort.  I deviated somewhat in my construction as I wanted to use up scrap materials I had around the workshop – which included a lot of M10 studding amd M10 nuts.  I  found a bag of 10 mm. Belville washers – they are the dished washers that act as a spring – I used them with the nuts that hold the bottm bricks in place – as I didn’t have any M10 washers I used two Belville washers facing each other.     I found some high temperature wire I had saved from the inside of an old electric cooker and used that to do the wiring.   This evening I finished the main parts of the furnace, but need to do a bit of shaping around the top opening to get rid of some 1 to 2 m.m.gaps that are letting heat out – it probably needs a proper lid.   I did a test run with a temporary top in place, and the temperature gradually climbed over half an hour to almost 1000C !   The outside got a bit warm and the aluminium plate that holds the bottom bricks in place also got quite hot.  Anyway 1000 C is not bad, and the temperature was still rising

The frames are earthed, as they should be. The furness will shortly be controlled by a P.I.D.  (Proportional, Integrated, Deririvative) controller if I can get one covering the temperature range – otherwise I’ll just use a cooker control with its simple on/off regime.

23rd June – Clearing out my ‘rough’ workshop left the big bench empty so an invitation to start a project I’ve had in mind for some time – a simple electric furnace, primarily for annealing and hardening, but alse possibly for colour case hardening and maybe brass casting.  The design comes directly from a Youtube video  (How to Make an Electric Foundry For Metal Casting – Part 1)  , so I can’t claim any credit for what is a very elegant little vertical furnace.   It uses bits from ebay – the most expensive part being the silica kiln bricks – 10 bricks at £26.00 for 5 inc. carriage.  The heating element is a length of heating element from ebay – there are lots on offer, mostly from China, but I found one with next day delivery for a few pounds.  I won’t go into the details as the video is comprehensive, but so far I’ve grooved the 4 main bricks for the element- they are very soft and fragile, and stretched and checked the element – its around 1.6KW, I had to cut around 200mm from the length to get the correct heating effect, and ended up with about 67 inches which equates to around 4 complete turns within the four brick enclosure.  I bought a K type thermocouple from ebay for a few pounds – using a simple testmeter on the milliVolt range enables me to measure the temperature to within about 10 degrees – I put the 4 bricks together on another couple of bricks for insulation and fired it up with the thermocouple suspended in the middle and a couple of bricks on top and in less than ten minutes it had got to about 530 degrees Celsius – I didn’t bother to leave it longer as the corners are not very tight and have gaps at the ends of the grooves so there is quite a lot of heat loss that will disappear when the extra bricks are used to fill in the corners.  I now need to cut the bricks for the corners and base etc and make a metal frame to keep it all together – I have some old Dexion angles that I’ll probably use as it will help clear some ‘junk’ from the workshop – thus killing two birds with one stone ( I’m not sure if the RSPCA prosecutes anyone who uses that saying – I think I’m safe as I understand they have seen the error of their ways and stopped being so litigatious – they are in a bit of a mess at the moment and the Charity Commission has put in its people!).  I have a temperature controller that I will fit, but it needs a bit of fiddling as its meant for a K type thermocouple but only goes up to 400C so it will have to be ‘doctored’………..

The maximum temperature will depend on the insulation and I’m not sure that the elements will be good for much above 800 C.

The corners need filling in and a proper bottom shaped and the whole lot held in a frame welded from Dexion angle.

22nd June  –  My evening reading lately has been Cruddinton and Baker’s books on the British Shotgun – all 3 volumes.  I am getting interested in old breech loaders in spite of my earlier resolution not to get involved in anything later than percussion, except for the odd modern over and under.  Dick came up with an old hammer gun – a rather nice bar in wood to  Smith’s patent with rebounding locks and a single bite snap action closure with a lever on the right side of the lock – it looks in excellent condition and is having a few bits of the wood repaired – it looks as if it was reproofed after 1955 as its stamped with BNP and 12 x65 on the underside of the barrel.  It has a very fine damascus barrel.  I guess this is the 1863 patent of J Smith although the opening lever doesn’t seem quite the same as the description in Cruddington and Baker.  I’ll have to get a copy of the original patents from the British Library.   I gather the gun is probably for sale, so if its within my budget (very low!) I may be interested in adding it to my growing collection of breech loaders! I’ll try to get some pictures.   I didn’t watch the Holt’s Auction live as I was trying to get my outboard motor running ( it took 4 hours but its now good!) but it looks as if the auctioneers had a tough job getting the punters going – I don’t think I’ve seen so many unsold lots in a Holt’s sale before, and many lots sold a few bids up from the bottom estimate.  There were one or two that beat the top estimate, but the best percussion shotguns – the Blissett and the pair of Beaties didn’t find a buyer.  Several lots were knocked down at below the lowest estimate, which is not something you see often at Holts.  I don’t know if the market is in a sulk over brexit, or the extreme heat of the viewing days kept people away. The ‘Manton’ I mentioned at 200 to 300 went for 340 hammer price, that’s around £440 to pay, which is probably a fair price – If I’d tidied it up I’d probably sell it at £550 – £600 but the next bid up on 340 would have been a bit close to the bone.   Anyway not sorry I didn’t bother to bid, but it would have been interesting to have watched a bit of the action.  One cheering outcome is that our Heavy Dragoon ( see Guns & bits for sale) is something of a bargain at £1200 – hurry before we think better of it and up the price  – 1 went for £1000 + 300 and one for £1200 + 400.

21 st June – back from an exhausting day in London at the Holt’s viewing.   Not sure what to make of the guns – there were a few really fine muzzle loaders if you have a lot of dosh – the pair of Beaties were very fine, as they should be at those sort of prices, and there was a nice Blissett but a lot of the less good percussion and flintlock guns have low estimates on them – I am in two minds whether to bid on a couple of items or go shooting instead! Difficult call!  – There were one of two cheap percussion guns that might possibly make shooters with a bit of cleaning up e.g lot 516, the (possibly spuriously signed) ‘Manton’ at £200 -300 estimate ( that’s £260 to £390 cost), but I don’t really have time to do it, so I guess I will stand back!  Nothing like as inviting as the Bonham’s recent sale in spite of the much greater volume!   I din’t manage to find a single wooden antique gun case or anything else that really took my fancy.  The sheer volume of stuff is overwhelming – the sealed bid sale for July has a pile, literally, of repro percussion revolvers, mostly in good condition that have to be on a F.A.C. so not to be bought on a whim- where will they all go?   I guess for a collector of percussion rifles there might be more joy in the sale – one or two very nice offerings.  As usual side by side non ejector shotguns by lesser makers can be had for a song – but a bit more expensive than Southams where many fetched only £5.     But I think overall I’ll keep my hands in my pockets!  It will be interesting to see what things go for but I have too much on to watch it on the web.

20th June – I don’t seem to have time to catch my breath these days, but I’m off to Holts viewing tomorrow to see what is happening to the market and meet up with friends.   It seems there is a widening gap between good antiques and the indifferent stuff –  good percussion shotguns are becoming more popular as the prices of fine flintlocks disappear over the horizon, and a decent gun by a good middling  maker  might make two to three thousand – and that is the hammer price!   I was having a look at Holts selling commission, but their terms and conditions seems very coy about it!  I have decided to pass on my almost new Pedesoli modern reproduction  Mortimer  12 bore flintlock shotgun as I have a single ‘Twigg’. – I’m told its a fairly early one, but in mint condition – I doubt its fired much above a couple of dozen shots  – it is of course a section 2 firearm and must be on a shotgun license  – offers around £750 if you want it…..  I’ll put it on the website later.      I was going to deliver a gun to someone at Holts, but I don’t think I want to be wandering around London with a gun in a slip, things being what they are!  Discretion and all that – it will have to wait……..  I’ll follow up the Holts sale with a trip to Birmingham arms fair on Saturday to see what goes there – I’m suspicious that there are one or two dealers who seem to shut guncases when I approach their stands – I can’t imagine why…………….As the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera goes…. ‘I have a little list’  – its growing!

I noticed there was a ‘Samuel Nock’ in Holts without a name on the lock and with the barrel name ‘recut’ – I shall be interested to see if its as bogus as the photo suggested – but then I am on old cynic !!

18th June – I’m sorry I missed posting yesterday – driving to Rugby and back without aircon and being out all day in the heat left just enough energy to clean my gun when I got home!  I got a taste of things to come today as son Giles is buying a flat that needs complete renovation and muggins has volunteered, so today was a trip to IKEA in Milton Keynes to look at kitchen units – and another 3 hours of driving without aircon – the car showed 31.5 C so another ‘boil in the bag’ experience!  I took some videos at the helice to see how easy it was to track shot – helice is not the best discipline to try the experiment on because you don’t know there the hit will be so need to keep a wide field and thus a rather low resolution, and you need to be fairly well in line with the gun which put you directly in line with the smoke with muzzle loaders – plus a lot of shots are with the bird not rising above the horizon – I managed one shot where you could see the shot going away after the impact, but the impact itself was obscured by smoke – so not much use. I haven’t looked at all the many videos yet but I’m not hopeful – the rabbit one I did previously was much easier as I knew where the impact would be, and it was shot with a breech loader so no smoke.  I’ll have to set up a better trial of airbourne shots!  I took a number of photos of shooting, but didn’t manage to get any of the moment of firing!

This is the helice layout – when ready the 5 traps spin up the ‘birds’ and oscillate the launch direction back and forth and up and down , and on the pull command  one at random fires off a clay in a random direction – they have a more or less completely unpredictable flight path although in general they follow one of a number of familiar patterns.  The object is to separate the white inner part from the orange wings – the white part must drop within the fence for it to score -one of my precious and rare hits took a long time to separate and carried over the fence – no score!    Its a tricky target and you have to hit the ring at the centre of the wing to break them apart – probably easier with a breech loader with some choke – anyway our winner managed 12 hits out of 20.  My score will remain a closely guarded secret!  ( I think the photo above is a breech loader shooting between our details)

Helice is great fun and we are extremely lucky to be hosted by the kind folk at the Rugby club – one of only three helice layouts in the UK – explained by the fact that they are very complex and expensive installations to run!



16th Off early tomorrow to Rugby for the Helice Shoot – I will use by little Henry Nock converted percussion – probably with 1 1/4 oz and 2 2/4 Drams of powder if my shoulder stands it – when its hot I shoot in shirtsleves so no padding. We only shoot 20 shots, spaced over the day so its not very hard going.   I have packed my best camera and tripod as I want to catch some videos of the shot pattern if I can – the camera shoots at 50 frames a second so given the success of the rabbit video there is some hope.  I tried to buy a spare battery for the camera but it turned out to be the wrong type – I’ll pack the charger in case I can find a socket.  We go to the pub for a meal after the shoot, so I’ll be late back – so the video results will have to wait until Sunday.

15th June  A morning at Cambridge Gun club – I took along my Blair and Sutherland double flint 18 bore to see if I could get it going but I couldn’t  get the ignition speed anywhere near fast enough for reliable shooting – Bev had a go and of course got it to shoot perfectly!  I was using some fine powder I had for priming, maybe old FFF, not the Swiss OB that ‘proper’ flint people use, so that is probably at least part of the problem. Anyway I gave up and got out my ‘new’ Beretta hammer gun – by then I was really not in the mood and was trying too hard so I didn’t hit much – I should have gone for a few simultaneous pairs – that usually gets me going!  The Beretta is nice to shoot – when I came to clean it I looked at the date stamp under my microscope and found it was clearly 1931 not 1951 – so IF that is the date its quite a venerable gun – a very early M401 Vittoria? – not sure when they came in.  I showed it to Dick, who knows breechloaders and he thought it hadn’t seen more than 100 cartridges through it in its life.    When I came to clean the B & S I poured water throught the barrels and used the bronze brush and wadding and tissue and got the barrels  clean – although old guns always come out dark grey unless recently honed.  When I put it away muzzle down, shot came out of the end of one barrel!  It wasn’t fully loaded – there was no powder  but I had been loading just one barrel for the last couple of shots and I must have put shot in both – just shows the need for care…..   In the afternoon I had a meeting in the Engineering Department about STEM clubs in primary schools – currently a hot area – lots of interest and lots of support if one can think of ways to utilise it – the only problem is that the kids in my club REALLY like making things with cardboard boxes and tape and bits of string plus a handful of cheap components from ebay etc and that is very resource light!  We are trying to use expensive Lego computers but its a bit of a struggle and they still manage to incorporate cardboard boxes into everything – I brought half a dozen in with me this week and  they had been seized and carried off before I had walked across the room!

14th June – A small engraving job – Dick had an unusual Queen Anne turnoff pistol to renovate that had a brass sheet wrapped round the front of the stock under the barrel  that continued into the long brass trigger guard.  It had a crack in it but when he took it off to repair it fell into several pieces that had to be silver soldered together – when he was refitting it he dropped the brass piece on the floor and in stepping back to look for it, trod on it, whereupon it fell into numerous pieces – to numerous and too fragmented to be re-used.  Anyway having a workshop full of bits he found a piece of brass the right colour and made a new one which I have now engraved a border on.  Brass is a pain for not only can it be cussed to engrave, but it comes in many different colours, and old brass is usually what we would call ‘lemon brass’ – somewhat paler than modern brass, presumably more zinc and less copper.  Strange stuff brass – it isn’t an alloy ( Bev says it is, but if so its a very funny one!) and you can’t change the composition by melting it and adding more of either component – it just doesnt form a homogenous material.  I’ve also been fitting the cock to the other Lancaster  lock, and filing them both to get rid of the outer skin left over from the casting process – it is possible to leave parts ‘as cast’ and many restorers do, but it looks a whole lot better to put a better finish on parts.

It needs to be silver soldered to the trigger guard and a countersunk hole added as per the top fragment

14th June – Bev pointed out that I was two days ahead of myself – I thought time was flying!   I checked the Beretta hammer gun more carefully and its dated 1951 – in the US they seem to go for $1000 up so I probably did OK!  They are not that common and went out of production in 1958 as the last model of hammer gun Beretta made ( maybe there was a retro line at some point?) so I’ll do a post on it later.

16th June – Collected my ‘new’ 20 bore from Southams at Bedford – it looks good and little used so I look forward to shooting it on Thursday.  I have no idea when it was made, or why Beretta were making hammer guns, but perhaps someone will tell me.  I’ll put a picture in the blog when the camera battery is recharged – I just ordered a spare as it doesn’t last long when you are recording 50 f.p.s videos as I was with the pendulum apparatus.  One of the amusements of running this blog is looking at the Google search terms that brought visitors to the site – I can usually see a vague connection between the search term and something on the site, but I’m puzzled by one of today’s searches for  ‘roofing services MOUNT HOPE’  – how that brought anyone to is a mystery – maybe I should enter the same search term and see where I end up!  I tried but no sign of Cablesfarm, although I realise there is a very old post on renovating part of the roof of our house that might have got caught up in a search.

A bit of checking on the internet suggests it a Beretta model 401 Vittoria made around 1956 – it has a triple bite lock with cross bolt. I suspect that a 20 bore Vittoria in this condition is quite rare – maybe justifies the £300 I paid for it!


15th June – I spent today at the lab in Cambridge trying again to get a video of the pendulum gravimeter working – it was the original method of measuring gravity – prompted by the observation of George Everest in 1856 that his pendulum clock gave a different time when near the Himalayas than when far away.  We have an original apparatus from 1926 that was used from that date until the early 1960s as the best absolute method of determining the value of gravity at any place.  In the 60s it was used by the American military to measure the gravitational field of the earth so that they could calculate the orbits of satellites they intended to launch – if course once the satellites were in orbit their trajectory could be measured and a more accurate measurement thus made of the gravitational field affecting them. The method involves swinging two pendulums in antiphase ( to balance any forces) and timing the swings against a very accurate clock – and therein lies the difficulty!   In it was a few years before radio time signals were available, but for convenience I’m using my Casio watch, so it won’t be an absolute measurement.  Tomorrow I’m off to Bedford to pick up the 20 bore hammer gun from Southams – its always a slightly  tense moment when you first get your hands on a gun you have bought, even if you viewed it before the sale.  Dick and I see a lot of guns that people have bought at auction without seeing them – sometimes it turns out to be a bargain, but occasionally there is a good reason why it seemed like a bargain at the time!

11 June – Out at a party – friends have been having Elderflower wine making parties every June since 1981 – they used to make 60 gallons a year, but are now down to 20, anyway a very peasant day.  I sharpened another batch of gravers when I got back and was going to do a bit of practice but started to look at the Holts online catalogue for the 22nd June sale – the website was driving me mad because I couldn’t get back to the catalogue after setting a track.  There are lots of interesting guns in the catalogue, but I can’t help getting the feeling that the cheaper items are now being given deliberately low estimates to get more people interested – I’d be surprised if any of the low priced flint and percussion pistols and guns sold for anything near to the low estimates based on prices that Southams got.  I don’t think it applies to the mid & top  priced stuff, which I guess may fall within estimate or within a bid or two  as usual, with the odd exception.  The only factor likely to bring the price down is the sheer volume, but I’m not getting excited about bargains, although I might have a punt or two on spec..  I’ll see if I can get a sense of the pricing policy from an inside source when I view!  It’s an interesting sale, and I’m tempted by one or two things – I wouldn’t mind  extending my revolver collection to later types from the Adams and  Tranters etc. and the last bit of the Bull collection is for sale.     I’m puzzled by changes in the number of people visiting this blog – its usually pretty steady, varying by +/- 20% each day but pretty much keeping around an average number that varies slowly on a month by month basis.  It went form about 200 a day in the winter to around 130 recently and then to 100 in the last couple of days until today when it jumped to almost 400, an unprecedented number.   Before that happened I thought that the number of visitors was weather dependent, the better the weather the less time people spent indoors on their computers – but that doesn’t explain today’s jump.  My only guess is that a new version of the  software that does all the hard work of  recording visits to this site, and which was loaded automatically today, has in some way double counted visitors…….. we shall see!

10th June – Our recession shoot at Cambridge Gun club – a beautiful sunny day to be standing round outside, and a fun shoot.  A good range of targets for the main shoot shot as 30 singles with 1/2 oz of shot – I don’t know if it was the targets or the half ounce but the top 4 scorers only hit 16/30 – I manages a typical 10, but when you massage the figures they hit 53% of targets and I hit 33% so I was only 20% (1 in 5 targets)  worse – for every 6 targets they hit 3 & I hit 2,  which is a reassuring way to look at the statistics – the election results and commentaries should have taught you about creative ways to spin the numbers!  Next weekend is the Helice shoot at Rugby which is always fun – I’ll use the same gun, my little 5 1/4 lb Henry Nock with a 13 1/4 inch pull  – for some non-obvious reason its a lovely gun to shoot – as long as you don’t try shooting 2 3/4 drams and 1 1/2 oz of shot, at which point it gets a bit punishing after a few shots – I was using a shutter type shot flask I don’t normally use recently after my normal Irish pattern flask had run out and thought it was dispensing 1 1/4 oz  as marked, which is just about OK with the Nock with 2 3/4 drams, but when I checked the flask after the shoot I found it was over 1 1/2 oz!   I normally shoot 2 1/2 drams and 1 oz in it.  As promised, here is the Andrews officer’s pistol finished  (as usual, click on the picture for a decent image);-

9th June – When I came to file the square holes for fitting the cocks on the Lancaster project I got to thinking about how interchangeable cocks are, and how standard the size and alignment of most English percussion guns is – for instance the original cocks off the genuine Lancaster rifle  (c1840) have pretty well exactly the same alignment and almost the same fit as the tumblers in the locks I made that came from a breech loading hammer gun with Stanton rebounding locks (C 1864?).  My Samuel Nock double with odd cocks took a pair of good John Manton cocks I happened to have without any modification at all.  I guess they must have been jigged on more or less standard jigs, or all come from the same workshop in Birmingham!  Anyway I decided that I would make a jig to mark and swage the holes in my blank cocks to the same alignment as the originals.  I turned and filed up a squared rod and hardened it and fixed an adjustable arm to align the back of the cock against – the jig has a squared section and a 5mm pin for initial alignment.  It seems to be working… time will tell…………………       I’m off to Cambridge Gun Club for our monthly shoot tomorrow – this time its our ‘recession shoot’ where we are limited to 1/2 oz of No 8 shot – its surprising how little loss in ‘kills’ there is – As I intimated before, I’ve gone down to shooting 21 gram cartridges in my 12 bore, hence buying the 20 bore yesterday.  A lot of the Anglian Muzzle loading shooters are shooting .410 and 28 bore breech loaders as its more of a challenge!

8th June – I was supposed to be off to Paris for a conference today but one of the ‘aged parents’ was admitted to hospital and that put paid to that plan!  I thought I’d finally put the Andrews pistol to bed and so cleaned up the trigger guard screws  on my wire brush – only one of them pinged off and I couldn’t find it anywhere – normally a quick sweep round the floor with a magnet on a stick will pick screws up along with a load of ferrous rubbish but no such luck so I had to make a new one  – fortunately woodscrews into guns are more like pointed  metal screws and have a thread that approximates to either UNC or Whitworth so can be cut with a die.  The technique is to leave a long head and cut a temporary screwdriver slot in the top so you can screw it in tight and mark the final position of the slot on part of the screw that will remain (slots align fore and aft) – the excess is then cut off and the final slot put in the marked position and the head filed to the correct profile to lie flat on the metalwork it is securing  – it takes a bit of trial and error.  Once right the screw is hardened using Blackley’s colour case hardening powder ( it doesn’t impart colour but does tone down the metal . I then pop it on top of the AGA hotplate for 10 minutes, then melt a bit of beeswax onto it.

 Having put the Andrews together it remains to put on a few coats of Slackum and then I’ll post a final photo and put it to bed.  My next project is finally to fix the cocks onto the Lancaster I restored years ago – its worse with a double barreled gun as both cocks must be in exactly the same alignment – I am tempted to use Bev’s technique and drop an end mill into the back of the cock and make a disk to fit the end mill hole with a square hole so that you can rotate it and silver solder it into the correct orientation – the only problem with the Lancaster cocks is that they have grooves for the safety catch in the back of the lock that restricts the space for milling a recess. I think I’ll tough it out in the traditional way!  If it goes wrong I can revert to Bev’s way.

I  watched the Southams auction on the web on and off during the day – I had left 9 bids as I thought I would be travelling – most of the things I was interested in went for a lot more than I was prepared to pay, mostly guns as projects.  I missed out on a few nice lots like a couple of very old horn flasks and a couple of patent shot flasks, but obviously I didn’t want to pay teh going rate!   I did buy a set of brass case corners on the spur of the moment  as they were cheap, and I bought a little 20 bore Beretta hammer gun as I fancy having a light gun and I’ve taken to shooting lighter loads in my 12 now.  I paid more than I intended but what the heck, I have to collect the brass corners so I thought I might as well have something worthwhile to collect!    The only things that are really cheap are the dozens of side by side 12 and 16 bore boxlock guns – you could pick up a functioning double 12 for £10 – £20 and something quite respectable for well under £100.  A fair number didn’t attract and bids.

7th June – I swapped a couple of flasks for a giant lock this morning – its a massive flintlock from an East India Company wall gun.  I have such a gun but converted to percussion and  made into a punt gun – it was converted in a very crude manner so I wanted to put a flintlock in and tidy it up a bit.  The stock has been cut down to half stock but maybe I’ll put it back to full stock if I can find a suitable piece of wood.   I know it was an IEC wall gun from comparison with a very nice one that was on the Flintlock Collection website some time ago.   I knew the I swapped lock had had a replacement cock – it probably isn’t quite the right shape, it should be profiled not flat – but a careful look convinces me that it is a back conversion from percussion.  Apart from the cock – which could be a replacement, the frizzen has no marks on it, which means it was replaced too, and looking at the lock you can see a patteren of corrosion on the lockplate that corresponds to the deposits left by  caps firing  – the most corroded areas would have been shielded by the pan had the gun got to that state as a flintlock  – but with a bit of work it will come round to being respectable.  I’m sure that these re-conversions have been around for so long that they predate the current owners.  See photo below.

I went over to Southams auctions and saw a few lots of interest and left a couple of bids, but most of the antiques were of junk status and nothing could have been made of them –  I did spot one potential bargain, but probably others did too! I’ll report fully after the auction so that I don’t encourage anyone to bid on the same lots!


6th June – Devoted the morning to clearing out the workshop so that I could move in there!   Then tackled the woodwork of the Andrews pistol using my usual sequence of operations ; wipe over with meths to get rid of any dirt or stain and take off a bit of the varnish (if its shellac), then brush in paint stripper and agitate with a toothbrush and clean off with white spirit and medium steel wool and toothbrush again. Then gently steam the whole stock over a kettle to raise dents.  Then go over all the chequering  with a tool I made with a sharp angle (about 30 degrees) with a point on one end and small saw cuts on the other – the point is good at clearing out muck and if you need to file the groove the other end comes into play.  It took a bit less than an hour to do the butt of the pistol and it is much improved.  I then repaired the edge of the fore-end – you can just see the joint – then coloured the wood to bring the new wood into line with the old and hide the joint. A final run over with 0000 steel wool  and a quick wipe over with shellac varnish (diluted for the chequering ) to leave  just a thin coat.  I’ll give it a coat of wax polish tomorrow, maybe after another of shellac.  I took off the tail pipe as it seemed loose – it  turned out to be very rusty on the hidden side so that is currently being derusted.   The trigger guard and trigger and false breech were all cleaned before, so I put them back having cleaned the pin for the trigger and applied a little KO-CHO-LINE leather dressing from an old pot that seems to do the trick!   I paint all the undersides of the furniture with a flow coat of MetalGuard to prevent corrosion.  The side nail is new – I forgot to harden/colour it so I’ll have to do that, and the ramrod and tail pipe need to go back too……  But its looking much better now!

The secret of any restoration you do is balancing the wear on all the parts to be compatible with each other so nothing ‘shouts’ at you.

The chequering look very crisp and you can see the figure of the wood – much improved.

In fact I don’t think I actually had to recut any chequering – just clean it out.

Here is what it started out like!  (I still have the original lock plate, cock and drum & nipple so it could revert)

You can see the faint line of the repair above the bolt.

Teeth cut with a bit of hacksaw blade ground to a sharp V


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Jul 222017

Here is a rather ratty New Land pattern pistol with Birmingham proof marks on the barrel and a safety catch I haven’t seen before – which is not surprising as I haven’t really got into military stuff, although I seem to have few by accident!   Obviously the breech block was made for the percussion conversion,  but were New Land patterns made with Birmingham barrels or was the barrel new with the breech block at the time of conversion?

Information would be appreciated – there are lots of experts around!  Was this a standard military conversion? is that form of safety bolt common?



The safety bolt through the breech block has a strong spring detent within the breechblock.

Jul 212017

Here is a gun I borrowed from Dick to put on the website – its a fairly early French double 16 bore  made as a dual pinfire ( the notches in the barrel for the pins have been filled)/centrefire gun  (possibly a later conversion?) by ‘Le Faucheux a Paris’ according to the engraving on the locks – I don’t know if that is the same as Lefaucheux as its written in all the books, but it certainly looks right!    It has ejectors but, as one would expect on an early gun, the locks are non-rebounding so you have to put the cocks on half cock to open and  close the barrels.   The date(?) 1853 is stamped under the barrel, along with the barrel maker’s name and two numbers and several stamps with LF in an oval (Le Faucheux?)- the action flat is stamped 1854 and  LF in an oval and there are different numbers on  the barrel( 7688 & 1103  and on the flat (225).   Taking the barrels off involves opening the underlever and unscrewing a very large-headed screw that holds the front part of the metal fore- end in place.  This then lifts off the screw boss and a loose ‘packing piece’ that forms the front face of the hinge bearing falls off – the gun can then be opened and the barrels unhooked from the hinge pin at the front of the action flat.  You wouldn’t want to do that in the field as you would almost certainly loose the loose piece in the undergrowth! ( actually if you do it with the butt down it doesn’t fall off as its on a dovetail.)  The pictures speak for themselves:

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Jul 172017

I made a small furnace for heat treating steel, although it should also be hot enough to cast aluminium and brass.  The basic design is from a YouTube video by a schoolboy, and is the neatest small design I have seen on the web, although the basic principle could easily be modified to give different configurations – in particular it would be easy to make a front access furnace, or one that would take a longer part using the more of same bricks and elements etc. with a different configuration and a modified steel cage round it.   Having used the furnaces a few times I think I skimped by only having half thickness bricks on the base as it gets pretty hot underneath – although as its standing on  legs above a piece of stone it doesn’t really matter.    The basic parts of the furnaces were sourced from Ebay and I spent around £80 or 90 making it, but I did have quite a bit of old junk lying about that got incorporated, including the metal for making the framework,  the wiring bits for the circuit and the old plastic box and aluminium panels.


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Jul 122017

Ordinary hammerless boxlock non ejector ?

Here is a gun I bought back from Dick’s today to photograph – its been in his store for donkey’s years – the owner has long since forgotten he gave it to Dick for some repair of other but Dick seems to know who each gun belongs to from memory, which is quite a feat given most have been in store for well over ten years.  Open the gun in the normal toplever way and you are in for a surprise….

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Jul 112017


Since posting this it has been identified as a Teshner/Collath of Frankfurt gun that takes a special cartridge – as I understand it these guns seem to have been manufactured up to about 1906 and the ammunition was available up to about 1911 – it is now unavailable, making this a Section 58 firearm rather than a Section 2 shotgun. (see end of post and comment)

Here is a  German breechloader without any identification.  Its a 16 bore hammerless double gun with damasus barrels with an underlever that initially moves the barrels forward away from the breech faces while leaving the extractors behind.  Once the underlever has opened 90 degrees, further motion moves the barrel further and causes  the bolt that is attached to the underside of the barrel flat to disengage from the slot beneath the breech face, allowing the barrels to fall on a small hingepin at the front of the fore-end. Dropping the barrels disengages the pin that has been holding the extractors in the backward position. The process of opening the gun also cocks it.   There is a strange safety catch in the form of a butterfly nut on the top of the breech – when it is aligned fore and aft it is in the safe position and it obstructs the sight line down the barrel – when in the fire position at right angles to the sight line you can see across the middle of it, so it is immediately obvious when you come to shoot that the safety is still on – although it would be difficult to move it from one position to the other while it was anywhere near mounted. The safety is interesting in that it disconnects the triggers rather than blocks them – I haven’t stripped it as it isn’t mine, so I don’t know the details of the action, although I am now tempted.  It has the usual continental decoration of raised design against a punched background – possibly etched before punching – rather fine when viewed under the microscope. It has a horn triggerguard and horn facing on the underlever.   The gun has sling swivels as was common on continental shotguns, and the chambers appear to be highly tapered for the first 1.5 cm, loosing at least  .5mm in diameter – I don’t have a 16 bore snap cap or cartridges to try but I’m sure it won’t fit safely. There are no marks on the gun except a London proof mark and a serial number 6525.  The various labels attached to the gun say that it was bought at auction in 1989.  There is one label that says Bolath (?) ( p.s. actually Collath) .

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Jul 072017

Here is a fine early hammerless gun  – Gibbs and Pitt of Bristol took out patent 284  in 1873, two years after the first hammerless patent by Murcott  No 1003   in 1871.   The 284 patent describes two versions, one with the action built on the triggerplate, and one with sideplate action – this is the triggerplate version.  It has an underlever that follows the outline of the triggerguard and hinges down and forward.  As it goes forward it withdraws a sprung loaded bolt that goes  into the barrel lump to secure the barrels in the closed position, allowing the barrels to fall open.  The underlever closes by a flat spring which forms part of the underside of the action bar – when the barrels are lifted the bolt snaps into the forward lump and locks the barrels in position.  The bolt acts on two lumps, the one nearest the hinge has the ramp that does the snap action, the one near the breechface is just a lock.  I guess the technical description of the gun is a double 12 bore hammerless non ejector underlever double bite snap action gun on a triggerplate action !     (triggerplate means that the works of the action – triggers, sears, tumblers and springs are mounted on the triggerplate that comes out with the triggers on it  – on guns of  earlier generations  the actions were mainly mounted on the side locks, as they are on quality guns now – modern guns mostly have boxlock actions – the bits mounted in the action box as the name says!  The barrels are a beautiful plum brown colour and I can’t see if there is any twist beneath the browning – they have obviously been struck off at some time – they could be Whitworth pressed fluid steel at that date, or twist.    The barrels appear to  have an original set of Birmingham proof marks and a set from re-proofing after the 1955 proof stamp changes and carries an NP mark for London – it also has 12 in a diamond and 2 1/2″ and 3 TONS stamped under the barrel  and .740.    The barrels forward of the flats have 13 stamped on them and the original Birmingham view and proof marks.   The maker’s name on the barrel is faintly traceable but there is no trace of any Whitworth designation as is usual on steel barrels of this date.  The bores are very clean and have plenty of wall thickness in them.

There is a mystery with this gun – the engraved oval on the broad backstrap that says Gibbs and Pitt Patent Bristol has the patent as No 204 whereas Crudington and Baker list it as 284 , and say it was his only patent – did the engraver get it wrong, its quite clear and no room for doubt.

The gun serial number is C 395 – the C indicates that it was one of Gibbs and Pitts second grade guns, made up in the Birmingham trade and finished and regulated by Gibbs, but it is a second grade from a first rate maker.  This became a popular action and sold well once hammerless guns were accepted.

Part of the triggerplate action sticks down into the triggerguard area – making these guns instantly recognisable!

I hadn’t noticed how much cast there was on the stock til I looked at this photo!

Jul 052017

This is a pretty single barreled gun in decent condition for its age  – the action is quite tight. Serial No 2772  – it would appear that Lang didn’t stick to a single serial number sequence.  The later centrefire Lang 14 bore is serial number 2012.  This gun has the Lang single bite ‘inert’ closer, which was used on the first English breech loaders to gain real popularity amonst sportsmen around 1859.  It has the problem that all the first break-open breechloaders had in that the bolt that acts on the barrel lump to hold the barrel against the action is close to the hinge pin, thus magnifying any wear in the bolt or lump, although this gun is obviously little used and is as tight as a nut.   Being a single barreled gun it has a wrap round action body that is very rigid so it  doesn’t suffer from the early defect of  the double barreled guns that had a rather skimpy action flat that could be liable to flex under heavy loads   –  the forces involved were not initially well understood.  Lang never patented this action.

The barrel has, in script “proved and finished by” either side of the lump but the name was never added.

Jun 012017

Here is an interesting and very old blunderbuss – if it is as it seems it may be as early as the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) – certainly it is of a design that was current from about 1640 to 1670 at the latest as far as I can see – there can’t be many guns about from that date, so it may be something of a rarity and of significant historical importance – enough to keep one from ANY conjectural restoration work and anything but the most sensitive repairs !       Features that signify an early date are the general shape of the stock, the dog lock with flat plate and ‘teat’ tail, the sear pivoting on a vertical shaft, the barrel tang secured by a ‘nail’ from underneath, the ramrod pipe made from sheet and opened out to fix it and probably the key early feature – the cock secured by a post passing through the tumbler and pinned on the inside.  I’m not sure about the proof marks – London was using standard marks at that period but Birmingham was still 150 years from opening its first ordinance proof house – anything made in Commonwealth controlled parts   e.g London, would have used the Parliamentarian proof marks of a shield – I suspect that this has a private Birmingham proof mark along with the barrrel stamp E I T and another mark I cannot read.

Here are some photos ( taken with my travelling camera so not quite up to normal standard!)  – I’d welcome any ideas, particularly on the initials on the barrel stamp – they look like E I I or perhaps  E I T with a sun above.   One possibility for the maker is Edmund Truelocke (working 1660 – 1680?) with a shop in London.

The lock is held  in by 3 screws – an early feature.

Note absence of cock screw holding cock to tumbler – its pinned inside – see below.

Nail secures tang from underneath.

The trigger guard looks a little flimsy although they were often  made of flat strip and screwed onto the wood at that date, not inset.  

The trigger has been curled in a later way – a mistake.

There is a plain brass side plate that covers the whole flat – possibly original ?

From W Keith Neil and Backs  ‘ Great British Gunmakers 1540 to 1740’.  Note straight trigger and flat strip trigger guard.   The three screws taht hold the lock are in the same places, but this one has a slightly later (?) cock fixing.

May 142017

I am asked about loads for muzzle loading shotguns quite often – in fact about as often as I ask other people about loads for muzzle loading rifles!

The answer is that within reasonable limits there is variation in what people use, and I’m sure whatever I say those limits are, someone will pop up and contradict me!  This is strictly my own version of what to use and how to load, modified slightly for beginners – you may cut corners when you have a bit more experience;-

  1. You need to be able to measure out powder and shot in reasonably accurate quantities ( say to within 5%), either by weight ( not very usual) or by volume – you can either pre-load phials with powder and shot in sufficient quantities for a day’s shooting, or use  traditional powder and shot flasks.  There is  one pattern of powder flask used in the UK, but a couple of types of shot flask – the English rocker type with sprung rocking shutters that cut off a measured amount of shot, and then dispense it directly down the barrel, or the Irish sugar scoop style where you take a scoop filled with shot from the flask, which closes behind the scoop, which you can the pour down the barrel.  I use both, but marginally prefer the Irish pattern as you get to see the amount of shot you are putting in the barrel and its not possible to overcharge the gun. With the English style it is possible for the run out while the shutters are in the half way position and it not be noticed.   It has to be said that most of my friends use preloaded phials.
  2. Powder;-  We normally use Czech powder for percussion guns, and Swiss No 2 for flintlock shotguns.  The best load for a gun is ideally determined by firing the gun at a test plate at 25 or 30 yards and observing the pattern but very few people do that.  Failing that you might fall back on a load of 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 drams of powder for a 16 to 14 bore  and 2 3/4  to 3 drams for a 13 to 11 bore.  The shot load is usually more closely controlled – 1 oz of No. 7 1/2 or 8 shot for clays  (28 grams in a breech loader), possibly  7/8 oz in the smaller bore sizes.   Occasionally I shoot 1 1/4 oz in a 16 or 14 bore particularly if I’m using No 6 shot for game as the patterning of old muzzle loading guns with cylinder bore is not as tight as improved cylinder breech loaders.  For my 6 1/2 bore I’d use 3 drams and 1 1/2 oz for clays.  The recoil with black powder is quite soft as the burning is slow compared to a nitro cartridge
  3. You need wads and cards – you can buy these or make your own – I do both from time to time but usually buy lubricated wads from Kranks ( see links) and make cards with a punch.   Some larger bore guns have to have home made wads and cards as none are available – that is the case with my 6 1/2 bore Gasquoine and Dyson live pigeon gun. Home made wads can be lubricated by briefly dipping in a hot mix of vegetable oil and candle wax.  Some people make up composite wads with a card glued to each side of the wad – looks very impressive – maybe I’m just too lazy..
  4. Loading rod – you can’t really use the ramrod that may be fitted to your gun as its not very easy to handle! You need a piece of plastic rod a bit smaller than the bore but not too bendy, ( on Ebay in Acetal, PET or various other materials – nylon is too flexible in smaller sizes) and you will need to fix a knob on the top to spare your hand.    When you get your rod, put it right  into the empty barrel and put a piece of tape round the rod just above the muzzle.  This will then tell you if you are loded or  have misloaded at any time.
  5. Procedure;-  first, are you sure it isn’t already loaded in either barrel?  Use your loading rod to check if there is ANY doubt.  If you are a beginner, or are sensible then DON’T reload when one barrel is still loaded – go and shoot it off and load both barrels together.Put the cocks on half cock and remove the dead caps – if any.  I always place the butt of the gun on my left foot with the triggers pointing right, holding the gun with my left hand.  I have powder flask, shot flask, wads and  cards where I can get at them without letting go of the gun.  ( If you use the Irish flask the left hand has to hold the gun and the flask while the right hand withdraws the scoop.  However you plan to go through the action of loading, ALWAYS do it in the same way so that it becomes a habit.  I always put the powder etc in the far ( left) barrel first, then the right, near barrel.  Put powder in both barrels, then a cards ( I omit these cards if I’m shooting within a few minutes but others think this is lazy and wrong), then the wads.  If you can push the wads down with your thumb you can put a card on top before ramming them down onto the powder. Now put shot in both barrels – Left first then right – and put in the overshot card and seat it fairly gently on the shot – now is a good time to observe the position of the tape on your loading rod!    DO NOT put  caps on the nipples until you are in the ‘cage’ or are otherwise in a position to shoot.
  6. Shooting;-  Percussion shotguns don’t as a rule have safety catches or other safety devices ( a few had grip safeties) – your first safety catch is NOT putting the cap on the nipple, so don’t ‘cap-up’ until you are ready to shoot, and don’t leave the cage without removing the caps.   When capping both cocks should be at half cock.  Putting the cocks to full cock is the equivalent of taking off the safety catch on a breech loader – you do it when ready to call for the clay, or when you are expecting a bird on a game shoot.   Be very careful if you have to de-cap a gun that you have put on full cock as the cock may slip as you let it down  –  point the gun down range in a safe direction – and make sure it does enter the half cock position securely – at this point you can de-cap.   On a clay shoot it may be appropriate just to fire off the loaded and capped barrels down range rather than mess about – its certainly safer.
  7. Misfires; – Standard proceedure is to assume that it is a long hangfire, and keep the gun pointing down range for a long interval – even breech loader in the military say wait 30 seconds.  Check that the nipples are clear if you have a pricker with you, then try recapping and firing again, If that doesn’t work, fire off the other barrel so that you know where you are – if that misfires wait 30 seconds again…   If you  can’t get it to fire by replacing the caps once, try unscrewing the dead nipple and putting a pinch of powder down the nipple hole and refitting the nipple and see if it will fire ( from the cage!) At this point ask yourself if you did load it properly – dis someone talk to you at the vital moment so you didn’t put any powder down the barrel? – it happens more often than you would believe. If it still doesn’t fire you will have to unload it using a worm to pull out the cards and wad.  (Gunpowder can be dropped on the ground – its good fertilizer).  All the time the gun is in a misfire state it must be kept pointing in a safe direction with the barrel up.  Make those around you aware of the situation and ask for help from more experienced muzzle loading shooters.
  8. Problems;-  It’s important to get in a routine and stick to it when loading and shooting – in groups there will be a lot of chat and comments, and that is OK for shooters who have the actions programmed firmly in their brains ( although there are still dangers) but if you don’t follow the actions automatically you need to pay attention when loading. Its all too easy to get distracted and forget which barrel you are loading, which is where your calibrated loading rod comes into its own – if you break from concentrating for a few seconds just probe each barrel and you will be safe from either a misfire or a very nasty surprise if you double loaded.  One other problem I have, and others too, is if shooting doubles on report and you get interrupted after the first shot and have to call again to restart – its very easy to cock the wrong barrel or pull the wrong trigger as your mind resets to the start position – I’m not sure how you guard against that!
  9. Cleaning;-   The black powder residues are corrosive, particularly in damp conditions, so in an ideal world clean your gun/s as soon as possible after use, or failing that put them in a dry place.  There are lots of special solvents for black powder guns but most people I know rely on water, which dissolves  the residues just fine.  Some people swear by starting with cold water – its a common myth applied in lots of areas that cold water is a better solvent, but that is contrary to the laws of chemistry.  ( The only situation where that is true is when protein is involved – in my youth we always washed the milking utensils in cold water to avoid setting the protein in milk which made it harder to wash off).  I use hot water, a little detergent, Parker .303 cleaner (mostly because I like the smell and out of nostalgia) & Napier cleaner because it has VP90 phase inhibitor in it. I have 2 rods, one with a jagg and one with a bronze wire brush.  On the jagg I use polyester wadding (mine comes from multilayer roof insulation scraps) as it is easy to fit to the barrel and makes a perfect piston when wet, and doesn’t come unwound in use.  I also use paper towel on the jagg to dry and oil and an old kitchen dish brush.
  10. First boil a kettle and take off the barrel and fix a piece of cord to the top ramrod pipe as a handle, and a piece of old towel to protect our hands.  I have a large plastic pot ( ex rat poison) to stand the barrel in, put a drop of detergent in each and fill both barrels with boiling water.  I then scour them with the bronze brush, in the process forcing water in and out through the nipples with some force to flush them – you should see that both are working well.  The brush should shift most of the residue and the water will be pretty black – drain the barrel and tip away the water.  Remove the nipples. return the barrels to the pot and put a 1 1/2 inch strip of polyester wadding ( I use about 250mm) tightly round the jagg.  Fill with the hot water, add a squirt of .303 cleaner and pump with the jagg, again forcing water in and out of the nipple holes to flush out the secondary combustion chambers.   The jagg should be moving fairly smoothly up and down the barrels, and the wadding should be pretty black, but the water will not be as dirty as before.  Use the kitchen brush to scrub the outside of the breech  thoroughly up to about 8 inches from the breech.   Put the barrels to drain and dry with the nipple holes at the lowest point – they should be pretty warm still.
  11. Put kitchen roll on the jagg – a single sheet folded in 4 should do for 14 or 16 bore guns and run it through the barrels a couple of times – it will come out pretty dark grey, and probably a bit damp.   Change it for a new sheet and spray Napier gun cleaner down both barrels and run the jagg through a few times.  If it is an old barrel it will still come out pretty grey, but that is the lead in the (hopefully small) rust pits and you are not going to get rid of that in a month of Sundays!  A prisine or re-lapped barrel will hopefully come out clean and shiny and you will probably be able to get to the stage of getting more or less clean paper through it.   Give the barrel a light spray of gun oil from the muzzle and into the nipple openings and wipe the  outside.
  12. Clean the outsides of the nipples and make sure the holes are clear. wind a 5 mm x 40 mm strip of ptfe pipe tape round the thread and replace the nipples.
  13.  Clean the flash guards and cock recesses on the stock carefully with cloth and gun cleaner and  wipe off any dirt and residue – I keep an old brass suede brush to scrub the front faces of the flash guards – lightly wipe a very light trace of gun oil on the metalwork.
  14. Stick it all back together and wipe down the woodwork with a little linseed oil or whatever takes your fancy, and make sure all the metalwork is clean, particularly the butt plate if you have been game shooting!   If it has been out in the wet, put it in a dry and warm but not hot place.
  15. Store a muzzle loader you are using in your gun cabinet with the muzzle down, but make sure it has a soft pad to rest on – that way any surplus oil won’t gather in the breech and impede you shooting next time.
 Posted by at 6:55 pm
May 112017

Dragoons were essentially cavalry of medium or heavy weight, as distinct from light cavalry.  The army had both Dragoon and Cavalry regiments in the 18/19th centuries.

This is a pretty standard Heavy Dragoon pistol of 1795 pattern with rounded lock and iron ramrod.  All parts are original – all the ironwork bits are marked with the assembly mark   X\III  – even the screws.  Proof marks are missing from the barrel, although there is a ghost mark in teh right place.  The marks that would have been impressed on the wood  are missing, although there are pits where they might have been.

This is a pretty straight pistol, all original with a poorly repaired muzzle end to the stock, and  the bents on the tumbler and the end of the sear all worn so that it can be fired on half cock but won’t hold on full cock.  There are numerous small dents in the woodwork from a hard life, and the frizzen has been refaced, also suggesting a hard life.  The barrel has been struck off at some point and lost all but a trace of its marks, but isn’t rusted on the outside and will clean up perfectly.  Here are a couple of views before starting work;-



  1. The woodwork is in need of a little attention, the repair is a bit of a dog’s breakfast…….

First job is to run all the metal through the de-rusting electrolysis, followed by the very fine wire brush

That all looks good, no need for any more work on those bits!

And so to the serious business of restoration……

I started by rasping and filing the chunk of wood to the correct profile and in doing so managed to find out how much of it was filler and how much wood – it turned out to be good enough to leave in place, it would have been tedious to put on a new piece as the ramrod pipes had been glued in and it would have needed a fair bit of destruction to free them.  The rest of the woodwork was coated in a thick dark varnish and had a lot of dents, so I used paint stripper to get back to the bare wood, and then oxalic acid to get rid of dark stains and slightly lighten the wood, after which I steamed it all to reduce the dents, and very lightly sanded it ( so as not to round off anything) with 400 grit and medium steel wool.  Having got a reasonable finish I played around with various spirit based stains to get an even colour, then a light coat of ‘shellac varnish, brushed on and wiped off, followed by 0000 grade steel wool and wax polish, with local touching in of stains and a marker pen to deal with the joins etc.  I use a very hard release wax plus brown and black hard wax to finish the wood and blend in faults.  The finish looks a lot better now!   Interspersed with the woodwork I stripped the lock and welded additions to the sear and tumbler and filed them up – I have a bit more to do on that tomorrow, and I’ll need to harden them too.

There is a small corner of old filler above the front pipe –  it will be pretty unobtrusive in that position so it will stay!

The old glue joints are not as fine as I would like, but they will suffice.

You need to be careful at this stage NOT to sand everything into a rounded shape – keep things as distinct as possible!

I need to sort out the white balance on the camera!

I decided it wasn’t necessary to take out the trigger or guard  – leaving them in helps preserve the fit, protects the edges  and also retains some of the worn look.

Here is the externally finished Heavy Dragoon…….

The tumbler and sear were badly worn and needed welding – half cock didn’t hold against the trigger and the full cock didn’t hold at all!  So a bit of TIG welding with piano wire built up the surfaces a bit.  Of course the reshaping changed the geometry, and as so often happens the sear caught in the half cock notch when fired, so there is a bit of fiddling to do before the parts can be re-hardened before final assembly…….

As the sear cooled quickly after welding it was dead hard and had to be annealed before shaping.

Filed, tested, filed… , hardened,  and tempered in the top oven of the AGA – very safe half cock bent…

Finished the Heavy Dragoon (which I mistakenly called Cavalry, although I’m not sure of the difference) this morning – I was happy with the action after a bit of gentle filing so I hardened and tempered the tumbler and sear – a file would hardly  touch them – so that is back together.  I decided the cock screw was wrong so I checked the thread -the old screw was about UNF 6 ( 40 t.P.i ) but the thread in the tumbler was more like 28 t.p.i. – since I didn’t have a 3.5 mm x 28 t.p.i die (excuse the usual mix on units!) I settled for 6 UNC (32 t.p.i.) as being the nearest I had, and it seems to hold at least as well as the one in there before, which was clearly not original.    I dulled down the colour with heat and Blackley’s case hardening compound and did a bit of reverse electrolysis to dull the surface – it looks reasonable and is a much better shape.  A bit of peening on the back of the cock to tighten it up, and its all ready to go – it sparks quite well, although if I were going to fight a war with it, I’d probably fit a stronger mainspring…… I’ll leave it, as snapping it off (only with a flint and the pan closed, please) is less violent that way.

New cock screw – slightly the wrong thread but it holds (like the previous one only the right shape) !

Apr 282017

Shou Sugi Ban is a Japanese technique of putting a burnt surface on wood.    Giles does a bit of woodturning from time to time (following in my footsteps!) and likes to experiment in techniques – here is his latest project piece.  It is turned from a chunk of spalted beech which was going spongy  in places – I had started to make a bowl of it and then abandoned it years ago so Giles used it for his bowl – he has a good eye for shapes and with a bit of guidance was able to get a reasonable finish on what was a very difficult blank to turn.   Having turned it he went at the inside with a gas blow torch and then put the fire out with water.  Once dry the inside was coated with EPOSEAL 300  – a solvent based two part epoxy sealant that has very low viscosity so it soaks in deep, and sets hard throughout – it leaves the burn surface completely sealed and inert so that it won’t brush off or shed charcoal bits.

Apr 282017

Here are a list of the guns currently for sale from my collection and from private sales from friends.  I put this Post as a link to the separate page of GUNS AND BITS FOR SALE because the website won’t lEt me highlight things on a separate page – this page contains links to the relevant page-

Photos and full description at  GUNS AND BITS  FOR SALE

New Land Pattern officer’s carbine bore  (.65″)  pistol of around 1812 with rare flat bolted lock of Paget pattern with raised (waterproof) pan, 9 inch barrel and  and captive ramrod in very nice condition with the trigger guard very neatly engraved for the 1st Hussars of the King’s German Legion (KGL) £2500

Heavy Dragoon Pistol of Carbine Bore ( .65″) with 9″ barrel  with flat lock engraved H Nock.

Griffin Officers’s Pistol of 1760

Cased pair of percussion turnoff pistols by Abbey of Long Sutton

John Blanch percussion pocket pistol

T.Perrins of Worcester percussion ladies/youths fowler

Mar 312017

Here is an ususual 4 barrelled pocket pistol in brass by Wm Walsingham of Birmingham, around 1760 ish.  It is designed to fire all 4 barrels at once with a single powder chamber communicating with all 4 barrels – the 4 barrels are made as one piece and screw off in one.   The stock was silver inlaid but now has only dark lines indicating where the silver wire went.  The underside of the action has script in a language with a  non roman script – I’m not sure what it might be – perhaps Farsi or Sanskrit or a far Eastern script, and this was obviously put on some time after manufacture – possibly much later?   Dick thinks the silver wire inlay might have been done in the country that engraved the script on the gun – I think it is actually fairly typical of decoration put on guns made in England.  The added foreign script look less worn than the original engraving, so the pistol may have been exported some time after it first entered use.



 Posted by at 11:33 pm
Mar 182017

The Andrews is a fairly typical travelling or possibly officer’s pistol of the turn of the 18th century.  Judging by pictures on the internet there were basically two common patterns of Andrews pistols of this type – the earlier with a rounded back to the lock and a semi rainproof pan and serpentine cock in the English style, and the later with a square back to the lock and a full rainproof pan and french style cock with a cutout.   This one is probably the earlier type based on the shape of the lock and so would not have had a full rainproof pan and french cock.

Stripping the pistol;-

The first rule is DON’T do any damage – if you can’t get it off without damaging something, do  you really need it apart?

The secret of not doing damage is fairly simple;-

  1. Use only well fitting turnscrews in slots that have been cleaned out with a suitable tool ( e.g. pointed bit of  hacksaw blade)
  2. Hold the gun very securely in a vice with lots of padding and a block under, so that you can use maximum force on   the turnscrew without the gun shifting – you are much more likely to damage things through parts moving than from over zealous clamping.   If the screw doesn’t undo try doing it up few degrees first.  Sometimes a drop of oil/acetone mix will help break the grip, or maybe a very hot copper rod applied to the screw, or a very fine flame if you can use it without damaging anything.  Check if the screw is a woodscrew or a ‘nail’ screwed through into another piece of the furniture –  guns differ in this respect, and although there are fairly common arrangements  in later guns and pistols, early guns and pistols may be quite different.   The nail in the tang of the false breech is usually tapped into the trigger plate, and the front trigger guard or finial nail often goes through into the bottom of the false breech.  Sometimes the threaded end of a nail has got spread, and grinding it off a bit with a fine tool on a Dremel type drill clears the tread.
  3. Older guns and pistols were held together by fine steel pins through the woodwork and through a tab on the furniture  – As with most relevant parts, English ( & Scottish etc.) guns inserted pins and bolts from the LEFT side, French guns, I believe, from the right.  If you look at a number of antique guns you will sooner or later see where a pin has been knocked out and taken a chunk of the wood with it as it was rusted in.   To remove pins you need a long and fine pin punch and a light tack hammer and a bit of sheet lead – fold the lead up so that you have a pad at least 6 mm thick and hammer it flat.  Place the pad on a flat heavy surface and put the left side of the gun on the pad so that the wood surrounding the pin is in close contact with the lead pad  and gently tap out the pin.  With luck the pin will make a neat hole in the lead and leave the wood intact You need to be careful, particularly with pins that you knock out from within the lock pocket that the pin punch stays on the end of the pin and doesn’t slide down beside it.
  4. If the gun is very rusty be extremely careful removing the furniture as it may break the edges of the wood.
  5. Barrel bolts always get abused and the escutcheons around them, in later percussion guns, get badly dented from attempts to prize the bolts out with a turnscrew.  it is better to use either a sharpened bit of polycarbonate, or a turnscrew end, to tap the bolt out from the right side until you can get hold of it to pull it.  The bolts are held in by a small pin that can usually be lifted out with the corner of a chisel.
  6. To remove the cock you can try prizing it off, but that risks damage if it is tight.  My preferred method is to take out the cock screw and place the gun across my knees so it is on a resilient surface, and sharply tap the end of the tumbler with the largest punch that will fit inside the square – this will usually pop it off – its not really obvious why!  Failing that, strip the lock completely until you are left with the lockplate, tumbler and cock and  place the lockplate across the jaws of the vice and tap the tumbler out.

The end of the trigger guard screw was a bit battered so I ground it off slightly

Knocking out the trigger pivot pin onto folded lead sheet

The barrel has been ‘struck off’ first with a 6 inch smooth hand file, then with a 6 inch No 6 cut file, tehn with a fine stone, 600 grade strip,and ultimately with 2000 grit paper and then polished with 2500 paper. After that it was washed in warm water and detergent and coated in chalk slurry which was dried and brushed off.  It is now in teh process of being browned….  The nipple drum came unscrewed easily and has a good thread.

I decided that I couldn’t bring myself to cut up teh original lock  plate to fit a pan, so I am making a completely new lockplate – it will take me a lot longer but I will feel happier, and anyway I like making locks.   So here are some photos;-

I only had  6m mm plate and it should ideally have been 1/4 inch (6.4 m m) but I can probably live with it.

It was about 4 – 5 hours work to get the plate to this stage.  The gap in front of the top of the lock will go as that whole section will be replaced.

I cut the outline with an angle grinder with 1 mm disk and then used a 50mm linisher and then filed to get the blank – I have now put the step on teh tail of the lock – Now I need to check where the touch hole comes and check that my pan will fit and everything will align, then if its all OK  I will have the  tricky job of transferring all the holes accurately from the original lock plate onto the new one – I will use all the original internal lock parts as they can be swapped back to percussion if needed.  Then I have to file a bevel round the lock plate to match the old one and do the engraving.  When teh engraving has been done I will cut the lock plate for the pan section and weld it in – I will leave that until the engraving has been done as the pan gets in the way and its easiest to weld in the pan last – I might cut the slot for it before engraving so that I can see how much space I have to fill.

Lockplate drilled and milled for the safety and engraved to match the original

The pan section has been welded in

Glue the frizzen to the pan with Araldite to hold it while drilling the pivot hole.

The pan section and frizzen have had a lot of work with fine files to get the shape right.  The pan now works

Mar 172017

Joseph Griffin opened his business in 1739 in Bond Street London, and went into partnership with Tow in 1773 to form the well known gunmakers Griffin and Tow.   That puts a bracket on the possible date for this gun, and I would guess this was made in the middle of that period – say 1755 to 1760.   Like all pistols of the period it would have been made and sold as a pair, and indeed the escutcheon has No 1 engraved on it along with a chained bear – the personal arms of the owner.  The pistol is all original and conforms to the pattern seen in other Griffin Officers Pistols  – it suffered extensive damage to the fore-end and that has been very skillfully repaired and  is  inconspicuous.






 Posted by at 11:07 pm
Feb 202017

This gun is a rare example of a Jackson design for a method of speeding up combustion in percussion guns by directing the fire from the cap straight into the centre of the breech block. I haven’t yet found a patent, nor do I know if one exists for this design.  Given that the patent breech by Henry Nock added a secondary chamber in order to speed up ignition by setting up a small primary explosion to set off the main charge, its not clear that going straight into the breech would actually achieve what Jackson intended.  One can see why he might have thought it would, because Nock’s design is counter intuitive.  i look forward to trying it out – I wonder if an ordinary video camera is fast enough to capture small differences in ignition speed – I rather doubt it.   Judging purely by the style, the wood and the engraving I would put this latish in the percussion era – very probably post 1840.

Continue reading »

Feb 192017

I have Gold plated the pans of flintlocks using the brush plating system sold by SPA Plating  ( with great success.   Steel makes a perfectly good substrate on which to plate gold directly without a barrier layer, the only caveat is that rust must be avoided by keeping surfaces very lightly protected by oil or a coating like Metalguard.   Spa plating used to have a very good handbook on plating but I couldn’t find it on the latest website, and the new instructions are less clear so I will put the .pdf at the end of this blog.  I have told them that the new website isn’t as informative!

Here are my hints for plating gold onto steel parts using the SPA plating brush method;-

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Feb 132017

This is a most unusual gun that I inherited from my father’s collection – I have no idea where he got it from, I have never seen another gun even vaguely like it, and although I  have shown it to many collectors and experts I haven’t met anyone who has a clue about it – and that includes Holt’s valuer and old gun guru Robert, who must have had most things through his hands at some time or another.    So any information or comments would be valued!

Stock shape and barrel are early features – may be a case of re-use?

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Dec 122016

I thought it was time to pull together the bits and pieces that are in various posts into a coherent story!  This post is intended as an introduction to the other posts on barrel re-engraving of specific guns and pistols.


Before we get into the details, it would be a good idea to discuss the rights and wrongs of recutting engraving!   I have no problem with recutting on guns that have almost unreadable engraving and are not unusual or of high value – if something is rare and particularly if its old – say before 1770, then I would think very carefully about the need and justification for recutting – in fact I’d almost certainly not do it.  You will sometimes see guns in (proper) auctions that mention that the engraving has been ‘refreshed’ – that’s obviously not to make the gun sound MORE attractive, so it must be intended as a warning – in other words some collectors would avoid it  – so be warned!   I have recut engraving on barrels of good guns where it is worn much more than the rest of the engraving, but it requires great care to avoid it looking like faking.  Mostly I recut things that are being built as ‘bitzers’ to shoot, or not very special guns that have almost illegible engraving, where recutting definitely enhances the gun.

Just to get you in the mood, here is an example of very bad recutting, or possibly just faking on a barrel that doesn’t belong to the gun – with engraving this bad on a Purdey who knows what happened?  It’s difficult to see how this lettering could be put on top of ‘proper’ Purdey lettering, so I’m puzzled – barrel lettering is usually fairly widely spaced so that minor variations in spacing don’t show and it looks more even because the letters aren’t so visually close to each other and period Purdey lettering usually has extremely fine serifs.  ( Update – I have since seen  several Purdey  guns with similar engraving, and come to the conclusion that in fact its just surprisingly rubbish Purdey engraving!)

Faults include ;-  uneven vertical stroke angles, very poor spacing, ‘O’s too small and, stylistically, serifs not Purdey style, spacing too close, letters poorly formed, curved cuts not deep enough or ‘fingernail shaped’  – a complete dog’s breakfast of a job – glad I didn’t do it!

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 Posted by at 10:44 pm
Dec 072016

When it comes to finishing stocks for antique guns I like to use the traditional materials – partly for authenticity and because they are pleasant to work with, although undoubtedly not as durable as a thick coat of polyurethane varnish!   Guns were finished using one of two methods, oil finishes or spirit varnishes.  Oil finishes basically use mixtures of oils (usually boiled linseed oil) and waxes ( beeswax and other hard natural waxes) and harden by the oxidation of the oils by oxygen in the air, which takes place fairly slowly – driers, typically based on manganese compounds, are used in low concentrations to speed up the oxidation. The alternative traditional finish was spirit varnish, using a solvent – typically alcohol, in which a naturally occurring material that is transparent and hard is dissolved – typically shellac (secreted by an insect) or occasionally copal varnish (from the resin of a tree), or other resinous material – alcohol and Shellac are the ingredients of traditional French Polish and were very widely used before modern synthetic materials displaced them.   Spirit varnish hardens by evaporation of the spirit  to leave a thin coating of the varnish – the alcohol evaporates rapidly so the varnish hardens quite quickly and far fewer coats are needed compared to oil finishes, but its more difficult to get an even finish. Shellac varnish itself has a brown tint, and so does darken the wood slightly – the better the quality of the shellac the lighter the colour.    It is also possible to use both materials on the same job.


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Nov 092016

I bought a Samuel Nock Heavy Rifle of about 16 bore for restoration, I think it was made as a big game rifle, although it has been used recently as a target rifle.  12 lbs is a not unusual weight for a dangerous game rifle and the bore is appropriate, but larger than was popular as a target rifle.


Here are its specifications;-

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Oct 272016

Since I was playing with my new setup for photographing long guns I thought I’d post some pictures of  my favourite gun ( my Westley Richards 12 1871 patent breechloader excepted!) , and one of my earlier restoration before I started this blog.  It was a German (?) Jeager rifle I purchased from Holts for not much money(  if I remember correctly- it now seems unlikely!)  as a drum percussion conversion minus its trigger guard, sideplate and butt plate and in a rather sad state, but I was attracted by the inlaid  brass figures and date on the stock.   I kept the percussion lock intact and made a completely new lock with a casting for the detachable pan and a flintcock, frizzen and frizzen spring  casting.    The trigger guard was fabricated from strip metal and old bits, and the butt plate was modeled in lead and a silicone mould made and then cast in brass – all the casing done by Kevin Blackley.  The side plate was filed from brass sheet, and new screws made.  I’m very fond of the finished gun – its very simple and utilitarian, except for the delightfully naive inlay work.  I’d like to imagine that this gun was one of  the forerunners of the American Longrifle!    ;-


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Oct 272016


Urbanus Sartoris ( Sartorius) patented his breechloading system in 1817 ( Patent 4107) and 1819 ( improvements Patent 4336) around the time that Durs Egg was also producing his breechloading flintlock.  Sartorius’s main contribution appears to have been the handle and  opening mechanism, which seems to be ingenious and well made, but like most of the attempts to fit a breechloading mechanism into a flintlock or percussion gun, doomed to relative obscurity by the problems of gas leaks and fouling.  Sartorius had sporting guns and rifles  (total number unknown)  made by Anthony Biven, and a number of the military carbines were made, although the total  number is not known,  Biven also made these.  Biven was in business from 1822 to 1825 at No. 16 Regent Street London.

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Oct 062016

Here is an amazing pistol Dick bought for £20 – he tells me he  will accept offers in three figures (not including the pence)!






Elegant inlaid aluminium !


Ingenious – coil spring for the sear – I somehow don’t think its a shooter!  I’ll derust it anyway.

In many ways it has to be said that this is a masterpiece of the gunmaker’s art – somehow that sear, tumbler and cock function as they should!   Its difficult to guess the age, but the spur of the cock is clearly welded on – a possible repair or original?.  And how is a flint fixed in with the cock screw going through the middle of it?   Clearly made for display – I decided that the patina of rust is actually part of the charm, and that it would be vandalism to clean it!

 Posted by at 5:24 pm
Oct 022016

Photography is an important part of this blog – without it the blog would be very dull, and I try to put up a photo as often as possible – so I need to be able to take pictures quickly without a lot of fuss, and they don’t in general need to be of fantastic quality.   Most of what I’m working on is small so I don’t often need to be able to photograph whole long guns.    To make it quick I have a camera set up permanently next to my  engraving station so that I can photograph things in a  minute or two.  I keep a board covered in green felt as a background and the camera is mounted on a good quality  full adjustable tripod ( Manfrotto) and has a remote shutter release so I can take long exposures if necessary.

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 Posted by at 12:30 am
Sep 182016

I made contact at the Fenland Country Fair with the lucky owner of this Mortimer brass barrelled blunderbuss who wanted it put to rights.  He brought it  to Sandringham Game Fair, and its a beauty!   Well worth doing – the cost of repairs will very easily be covered by the increase in value, although that isn’t the client’s priority – I’m always careful to discuss this aspect with clients because its important that  we understand the context of the repair.  By any standards this is going to be a real beauty when done!


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Sep 082016

Here is another job that I have taken on – this cased double pistol is immaculate – it looks untouched by human hand – except the barrel engraving that looks as if the barrels have been refinished with a little too much vigour.  So I have to work some magic on them….



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Sep 072016

Here are a few examples of freehand borders copied from antique locks – I was playing about at the time and don’t have any note of which guns they came from, although I can remember a few.  I did these  years ago when I was learning and didn’t have a proper microscope,   I hope I’m better now – obviously I couldn’t even rule a straight line, but I have no shame and thought there was some value in showing them – I will try to do better examples when I have time!  Having said that, if you put these as borders on a gun probably no-one would notice how bad they are (except No2!).

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Sep 062016

Here are some of the myriad of possible designs for screw heads – almost all come from historical examples, although often  with a bit of poetic licence!  Most of these examples are test pieces engraved on the heads of ordinary old fashioned countersunk woodscrews ( bought from ebay) as its a quick way of getting something to engrave.  Of course the slots are much wider than one would have in a gun screw, so they don’t look quite right

View 15 photos »

Aug 312016

I’ve been asked to recut the engraving on the barrels of a very fine pair of Westley Richards target pistols that have lost legibility on the barrel engraving.

Looking at the lettering under a microscope it is clear that the lettering is not showing clearly for two main reasons, and I’m not sure which is the most important;-

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Jul 282016

I found this old pocket pistol in my collection of miscellaneous  bits and pieces, and somehow found myself starting to spruce it up, without having ever thought it was a job worth doing – but I’ve started so I’ll (probably) finish , at least some time…. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:40 pm
Jul 152016

I thought it was time to discuss the issues around restoration and repair, and perhaps offer some simple advice to beginners who find themselves in possession of an antique gun, or more subtle questions posed by collectors who want to enhance their guns, or put right old damage or botched repairs.  It is very presumptive of me to offer this advice, but I get a steady stream of questions from people who visit this site –  occasionally after they have already made ‘unfortunate’  decisions and done potentially devastating damage to their guns….

I suppose one way to approach the subject is to offer some ‘rules of thumb’ about particular issues – so here goes…. Continue reading »

Jul 132016

I  have a .75 bore 9 inch barreled pistol by Jas. Price that looks a bit like a heavy cavalry pistol of 1796  with 2 marks on the barrel, it has the crown and GR and Price’s name on the  stepped lock and a flat swan necked cock and roller on the frizzen spring  ( I’m not an expert, or even really beginner on military stuff – its all a bit of a dark art to me, but this clearly wasn’t a standard issue pistol) ;- Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:15 pm
Jul 062016

Land Cruiser steering lock problem is here if you really want to know!

April 2017 – I still have a more or less full set of bits of the whole steering column and lock assembly that I think is pretty well perfect – minus the shear bolts – if you are interested please contact me via the comment box – Cambridge area.

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Jun 202016

Note – although I’ve referred to this pistol as an inert pistol, it is, technically still an antique as its based on an original barrel and still has the original proof marks on the underside, and indeed some of the furniture is also original, so its stricly a restoration and reconstruction project……..

I need  a decent looking (antique) flintlock that isn’t shootable – i.e. it has to be without a touchhole – to take into schools as a demonstration for historical topics.  As long as it can’t be fired I would feel OK flashing off a pinch of powder as a demonstration, but while I’m happy to take an antique into a class and let the kids handle it, I draw the line at flashing one off.  I nearly bought an Inert pistol from Kranks but then realised I had just made a lock – the Dolep lock ( see  post) –   that I didn’t intend to use seriously, and had a roughly shaped pistol stock blank that wasn’t quite right for a decent repro.  So I have gathered up a few parts to see what I can do.  I found a single old and very rusty twist barrel from a double percussion gun and removed the breech plug (called the ‘hut’).  I have always been astonished that however old and rusty a gun is, once the initial joint of the hut in the barrel is broken, the thread will turn out to be in excellent shape………

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Jun 162016

A group of us went up to Harrogate to man the MLAGB ‘have a go with a muzzle loader’ stand and I did an engraving demonstration with my new microscope suitably modified, and a new bench with space to transfer my turntable – it all worked splendidly.


Clare took this photo which shows the digital microscope quite well.


Here I am doing my stuff near the end of the show – you can see the pile of blunt gravers to my right  The large notice stuck on the Microscope is a bit unfortunate!   Very unusually I managed to stab myself with the graver – see bit of cloth wound round finger  and held with self-amalgamating tape – the only things to hand!

 Posted by at 2:47 pm
Jun 132016

I have a small  Axminster  SEIG X2 milling machine ( the same miller is widely sold under different brands) that is 5 or more years old.   It is a bit wobbly and weak for cutting steel, but I can usually manage by taking small cuts, although it does chip tools occasionally when the work jumps into the tool particularly if I forget and cut in the wrong direction.  For a long time it has had an annoying problem with the motor drive circuit – the speed control potentiometer has a switch to turn the power on, but you have to wait some variable time between switching the pot on and advancing it to run position or it doesn’t run at all.  The delay is a bit variable, between a few seconds and a couple of minutes when its first turned on.  I gather from the internet that this is a known problem.   I’m going to have a go at finding the problem – a timing issue of seconds to minutes that gets shorter as the circuits warm up suggest electrolytic or tantalum capacitors as the source of the problem, but I’ve failed so far to find a circuit diagram of the circuit on the board.   Axminster will sell me a board for £101 but don’t have facilities to repair boards, so I am challenged to find a solution… watch this space as I flounder around……

I took my testmeter into the shed and had a look at voltages – the speed control pot has -5.7 Volts across it, and when it starts properly the voltage stays at -5.7 at all speeds.  If its not starting as you turn the pot, the voltage drops to about -4 V at ‘full speed’ position.  The back of the board is a mass of surface mount stuff, so I’m not sure I can work out the control circuitry – there are a couple of multipin I/Cs that don’t have numbers on them, but I’m pretty sure the problem is in the very first stages of the speed control  – I just need some way of pinning it down a bit….


Well, I didn’t find anything wrong, but whatever I did or didn’t do, it is now much better and starts almost instanly 90% of the time – I begin to believe some of the comments on the web concerning bad joints….  A mystery, but since its functioning I will use it and worry when it goes wrong again….

May 312016

My equipment and examples of engraving are pretty well covered on the posts  on ‘my setup’, ‘graver sharpening’ and ‘engraving-technical’ and are an essential background, but I thougth it was all a bit intimidating and implied that you needed to spend a lot of money before you could do anything, so I have set out here to offer a minimalist approach!

There are several essentials to deal with before you can begin begin,  seeing, holding, and sharpening, plus you need something to engrave and an idea of what you want to put on it!   All take a bit of thinking about, so here is my a starting point ;- engraving screw heads:-

screws 3-16

more follows….. Continue reading »

May 232016

Being able to sharpen your gravers is key to engraving  because it is next to impossible to engrave on steel unless your tools are both the correct shape and sharp.  You need to sharpen gravers frequently because they wear quite quickly when cutting steel, and its very easy to break off the point, especially when you are beginning.  So learning to sharpen your tools is a necessary first step to engraving, even if you buy a ready sharpened tool.  An experienced engraver will probably be able to sharpen his gravers freehand, but that comes with years of experience, even so, many chose to use a jig.  Beginners and journeymen certainly need to use a jig in order to ensure consistency and minimise the amount taken off the tool surface with each sharpening.  For convenience I have a carousel of gravers, mostly sharpened the same, so that I can change gravers quickly to continue working, and then have a sharpening session when I’ve exhausted my supply.

to read more click….

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May 162016

I bought this in the last Holts sale.  It is a very carefully restored William Powell 12 bore hammer gun No 7748  made sometime in the 1870s (?) to Westley Richards patent single bite top lever design patented in 1871 – many features of the gun are shared with Westley Richards, including the distinctive ‘Crab Knuckle’ joint.

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May 102016

The PARR pistol from Holts Sealed Bid sale was labelled as a 25 bore duelling pistol – used in the broad sense I guess it might have been but I think the description is overworked!  Anyway, the hammer price was £320 so by the time I had paid the dreaded buyer’s premium (30%!) and  postage it was around £440, which doesn’t leave much of a margin for work, but its a useful exercise and I wanted a start-to-finish job to document as most jobs get some way along before I remember to photograph them.  Here is the original set of photos with some annotations ( I apologise for the photo quality – I didn’t use my decent camera) ;-

PARR-ORIG-OA1 - annotated

to continue click ……. Continue reading »

May 022016

I got a query from someone who had visited this site after buying a pistol because it looked beautiful – which is the best possible reason.  The pistol is missing its ramrod, and he asked for advice.   This set me thinking about ramrods in general, and made me go and poke about in my cupboards and books to see if I could find anything useful……  click to read more!

edwards rods


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Apr 252016

I thought I’d put up some photos of the single barreled flint gun that I got from Holts some time ago as a puzzle for you to see how many odd things about it you can spot, and what sort of date you would put on it –  you might find some clues from my Black Powder articles and elsewhere on this site, and W Keith Neil’s book on Great British Gunmakers has clues.    The gun was cataloged and sold as an antique Twigg shotgun – I bought it on its value to me as a shooting gun – the bore is very good, and in fact it has turned out to be a very reliable shooter – of the 30 or 40 shots I’ve fired with it, I haven’t had a hesitant ignition, and only one failed to fire, due to the wind having blown all the priming powder out of the pan, and I haven’t yet changed the flint!  It won’t be the fastest gun in the East as it doesn’t have the refinements that came into  flintlocks from about 1780 onwards such as roller on frizzen or frizzen spring, link on mainspring and Nock’s patent breech or Joe Manton’s stepped breech that speeded up the ignition process.


What do you think?  Here are some photos   I’ve put a few questions under each to help the less experienced……..

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Apr 152016


This site contains details of what I do – it does not mean that it is safe or legal for you to do the same, and I accept no responsibility if you do.  You are responsible for ensuring that what you do is within your capabilities and is safe and legal in your country.    Guns, even antiques, can be dangerous and if you don’t know what you are doing get expert help.  Many antique guns are of historic and/or financial value, and its your responsibility to find out if what you want to do will damage their value.  Remember, leaving them as they are won’t diminish their value  but inappropriate repair might well make them worth less, maybe much less!  If in doubt don’t do it.


I assume he is holding the sling out of the way with his left hand?  from  Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..

Find your way around – There is a MENU of PAGES  used for fixed items along the top of the screen.

All the regular POSTS are in the HOME page – use the menus on the right to jump to whichever POST  you want, or the MENU below the header  will show you POSTS that are relevant to the given subject  and the top menu on the right will keep you up to date with changes…

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. I am fond of obscure English sayings which are marked* – you can look them up on Google if you  need to interpret them.

(Photos on this site are copyright unless attributed)

___________________ DIARY ______________________

9th May – I’m back now, so can get back to keeping the blog up to date and doing a bit of gun play!   Sunday at the Northern Shooting Show is more of a family day out – Saturday is for the serious shooters, so I had a steady stream of  spectators but no so much involvement, although I did run out of screws to engrave and give away!  It was mighty chilly again, but I snook off to a hotel for Sunday night before going to visit the Royal Armouries at Leeds at the invitation of an Emeritus curator who had come across this blog.   I had a tour of the incredible museum with my expert guide, but the highlight was a visit to the store room where the full collection is held, where my host highlighted some incredible guns – the collection has everything, but is a bit light on the purely presentational stuff, which suits me as I prefer antiques that were made for use.  It really made me revise my ideas about the standard of workmanship  possible – some of the fine engraving and steel carving of the European gunmakers is staggering, and made me realise how crude most of the stuff I do is. Being able to handle some of them (with cotton gloves!) was awsome.  I would love to put together a book on gun engraving, which would in reality have to be a picture book with fantastic photos – its been a long term ambition of mine to do it – I had better learn to take better photographs and chat up the armouries and a few museums!  Anyway I’m inspired to try harder with my engraving – I hadn’t done much in the months before the show, and it took me all Saturday to get back into the swing of it – when I haven’t done any for a while I always end up breaking the tips off gravers – on Saturday morning I had a dump of half a dozen broken tips by half way through the morning, and it wasn’t until Sunday morning that I had the knack of sharpening the gravers to cut sweetly.   One interesting aspect of engraving I shared with a couple of engravers who visited the stand was that they too found that a freshly sharpened graver needed to wear down a little before it was cutting at its best, which explains why I don’t often use my very hard Glensteel gravers as they don’t seem to get to the sweet spot.  I think they are much more popular with the GRS and Lindsay users where the feel of the cut is masked by the powered cutting – another point that was made to me was how different  the engraving from these machines, and from chasing, look compared to that done by simple push engraving – as readers of this blog will be aware, it’s a point I feel strongly about.  I can tell at a glance which technique was used to cut a design.

Along with my visit to the Royal Armouries I got to visit the National Firearms Collection which is near the Armouries – its the formal national collection of arms, particularly military arms, including modern arms from all nations, and arms kept for forensic purposes – as at the Armouries, most of the military stuff is in quantities that would arm a platoon or two, so its a massive warehouse.  I was very privileged to  visit as its normally out of bounds through three sets of security doors – but I was able to handle the 1864 Warner Carbine, and see how the breech block was configured so I can think about making one for mine – unfortunately I had to hand over my phone at the entrance so couldn’t photograph it.  I’d thoroughly recommend a visit to the Armouries – entrance is free and its awsome – go before trendy new museum folk get rid of all the guns from the displays because its not politically correct!

6th May  – Very busy day at the Northern Shooting Show with lots of interest in gun engraving.  I gave away lots of engraved screws to children and several to adults.   I had visits from several people who have visited this website, which was very satisfying, including a couple of engravers who were also re-enactors – one who even knew what ‘narlbending’ was!  (It’s the Viking answer to knitting and is how they made their socks – don’t say this website doesn’t educate you in directions you never thought possible).  Anyway its pretty chilly here but we are looking forward to another busy day tomorrow.  The popularity of the show is put down to the reasonable entrance price compared to many (£10).   Anyway, I’m looking forward to welcoming more website visitors tomorrow.

4th May – I went with Dick to see a firearms dealer in the south of England, and saw amongst his many hundreds of old guns  one that would qualify for my collection of curious firearms inventions.  It was a percussion double shotgun with back action locks, well made and signed Firearms Manufactory (?) on the barrel, the locks unsigned. Its special feature was a framework pivoted either side on the front lower corner of the lockplates that carried a bridge that in the backward position introduced 2 pads in the way of the cocks to prevent them hitting the nipples.  The bridge was moved by a spring loaded sliding member under the fore end with a trigger shaped frame sticking down at the front of the fore end.   To fire the gun the ‘trigger’ had to be pulled back by the left hand  while it was supporting the gun, against the fairly strong spring, in order to swing the pads out of the path of the cocks.  It seemed a very difficult maneuver to operate the trigger at the same time as  shooting the gun.   It was quite a decently made gun but totally impractical – a relic of a short period when percussion guns were thought more dangerous than flintlocks and some odd safety devices were patented. I am sorry to say I didn’t get a photo, but I did express an interest and I will follow it up.  I’m more or less ready to set off for Harrogate – my contact at the Royal Armories tells me the good news that there are one or more Warner’s patent carbines to view.   If you are at the Northern Shooting show be sure to visit the Artisans and Classics pavilion opposite Hall 1 and introduce yourself to me – I’ll be behind my microscope!

3rd May – The number of attacks on this site dropped quite dramatically a few days ago – from about 100 a day to about 25 – there seem to have been a network of ‘bots’ installed on hacked computers that was actively targeting all WordPress sites (this one uses wordpress) under the control a a hacker controlled computer that stayed hidden.  It looks as if the network has more or less stopped its activities – we hope permanently but who knows? Maybe one of the security services has taken it out?  There is a whole dirty world out there!

3rd May – Still sorting out what to take of interest to display at the show this w/e.  I’ll gather all the military flint and  percussion pistols I can lay hands on as they are popular.  One of my objectives in visiting the Royal Armouries is to see the Warner’s Patent carbine I believe they have.  I have one that is missing its breech block, and if I could get a really good look at a similar one, I’d have a go at making a new one – I have a piece of brass that is about the right colour that I rough cast into a block some time ago – I think its enough for two goes…  The Warner carbine was one of many carbine designs rushed out for the American Civil war in 1864 – like many of the other designs, the military was so desperate that they ordered some of each, and about 4001 Warners were made by Warner and later by Greene Rifle Works in Worcester mass.   Most of these were never issue and were sold off in 1866 at the end of hostilities – many ending up in France.  Some appear to have ended up in England and have London proof marks – they are .50 calibre, although many were made for  56-56 Spencer cartridges.  The breech mechanism is similar to the Snider, except that it has a separate slider in front of the trigger to move the extractor claw.  Presumably the gun then had to be turned over to drop the case out as it would be too hot to handle for a minute or so. It will go to the show, and I’ll take my rough old Snider 1853 carbine conversion as a comparison.

2nd May – It being Giles’s birthday we went out for a meal instead of concentrating on this blog – disgraceful!  Today I began to sort out stuff to take up to Harrogate for the Northern Shooting Show, and making labels for the guns and pistols I’ll take.  I’m looking forward to going to the Royal Armouries after the show – somehow York seems miles away, whereas its only about 3 hours drive, so I should have gone ages ago!   I had a battle with the printer trying to get it to print a batch of business cards to take – sometimes I think technology is taking its revenge for the 40 odd years I spent pushing it around to achieve my evil ways (or something like that)!   If anyone reading this wants to see any particular guns at Harrogate, let me know!

1st May   I decided to clean out some of the workshop to celebrate the bank holiday, but didn’t get far.  I did sharpen about 20 gravers, but then blunted or chipped half a dozen engraving a barrel for Martin – engraving barrels is always difficult because you can’t rotate the workpiece to do curves – you have to do it all with the tool and as I am limited as to where I can point the barrel some cuts are quite awkward and you end up cutting curves the ‘un-natural’ way – clockwise is more difficult for a right handed person. This barrel still had a fairly crisp coating of rust/browning that made it more difficult still as the metal underneath was softer than the surface layer – anyway its got done!  I wiped it over with G96 gun blue that turned it dark and made it look as if it had always been there….

30th April – Went to North Norfolk for lunch with friends followed by a long walk so nothing much to report.  As often happens the number of visitors to this site goes down at weekends, but only by a little –  it now gets over 200 visitors a day on average, and each visitor looks at an average of  from 5 to 15 different posts. Add to that around 60 visitors a day who get stopped from visiting the site because they are up to no good, and it makes the site quite popular, given its specialist nature!  It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many  of those visits are from regulars, but it looks as if up to half of the visitors have visited the site before.   Around 20 visits to the site come from searches, almost all through Google.  Most of the visits come from the UK and the US, but the list of countries that have visited since the site went live a couple of years ago totaled 182 when I last looked – I didn’t know there were that many countries!  I suppose  that almost all the visits from obscure countries like Papua New Guinea and Ulan Bator are actually the hackers in other countries using hacked computers in those countries to attempt logins, and all of those will have been blocked by the software.  I have some difficulty in knowing which statistics include the blocked visits, and which exclude them. There is a long blacklist of visitors who have tried to hack into the site, and they are permanently blocked from any access to the site.  Keeping the site interesting and safe is quite a labour, but its gratifying when I get appreciative emails and comments, which I do quite often, usually tied to questions about guns they have recently acquired and want to know what they are and if we will repair them – I’ve made a number of interesting acquaintances that way!

29 April – Derusted Dick’s bits and pieces – I had to clean out the old washing-up bowl I use for electrolysis as it was getting a bit full of rust – the process effectively takes the rust off the objects and puts it on the piece of scrap steel that is used as the other (+ve) electrode – if course it doesn’t actually do that, its just looks like that!  In fact the electric current splits water molecules into hydrogen that is released at the object, and oxygen at the scrap electrode.  The hydrogen and oxygen are in a very reactive state (nascent) so the oxygen rusts the electrode and the hydrogen reduces the rust (iron oxide) on the object to a different form that doesn’t adhere and becomes a dark powder that is easily removed.   The caustic soda in the solution is just so that current will flow through the water,  but it has the added advantage that it attacks any oil and grease on the parts.  See the article in ARTICLES page for how to do it.  The parts of the Witton and Daw (see photo below) were done in two batches, each for about an hour, at a constant current of about 2.5 Amps with the voltage around 10 volts. Doing all the small parts is tedious, but I have a number of wires with miniature crocodile clips to hold screws etc They were then dried and fine wire brushed and lightly sprayed with Napier cleaner that contains a vapour phase inhibitor VP 90.    When I went up to look at the Sandringham  gun collection Purdey’s were there checking the guns, they didn’t oil any of the guns – just put a fresh VP 90 sachet or two in each display case – I keep a sachet in each gun cabinet or cupboard – if its good enough for Purdey and the Royal guns, its good enough for me!.

Fine scroll engraving, the finial on the triggerplate is particularly fine and in perfect condition.  There are some deep corrosion pits in the flash guards – it might be worth welding and reshaping the inner surfaces as the rest of it is perfect.

The escutcheon of the bolt is unusually good – it is a substantial steel piece with the head of the bolt recessed flush and a slot under the head for a screwdriver to get it out.

28th April  – Dick brought over the furniture of the Witton & Daw to be derusted – its not in bad shape but the caustic gets rid of all the old grease and muck and the electrolysis gets rid of the rust, leaving it much easier to see what needs doing, and means that the fit to the wood is not spoilt by rust.

Emails have started to arrive about preparations for the Northern Shooting Show at Harrogate next weekend – I started to sort out a few bits to engrave while I talk to people – its no good trying to do a ‘proper’ job as I can’t keep up enough concentration and still interact.  I have made a batch of Percussion decapping tools that I can engrave in my sleep, more or less, and also the usual supply of blank screw heads so that I can engrave flowers and  give them to the young children  – the girls in particular love small, intricate things  and take a lot of interest in  engraving,  it must be boring for them being dragged round a gun show  so I make a point of engaging with them.   I might take my electric hone this time as there is power and I ran out of gravers last time – sharpening them by hand is tedious when you are used to a motor driven hone!  If you are coming to the show be sure to introduce yourself!  I’ll bring the New Land Hussar’s pistol and the Heavy Dragoon with me in case anyone wants to have a look at them.

Parts of the Witton and Daw to derust – not in bad condition!

28th April  – I’ve put  post on Giles’s woodturning Shou Sugi Ban ……  see it on recent posts menu to the right….

27th April – I went to Dick’s and took a couple of nice military pistols he has fettled to put on this site for sale – there is a very nice New Land pattern Officer’s Pistol signed to the 1 st Hussars  and a nice Heavy Dragoon pistol by Henry Nock with the number 14 on the trigger guard – presumably one of a number issued to a privately raised unit.  I have to say both look stunning and the New Land is particularly fine because of its provenance.  See GUNS FOR SALE for photos.   We sat down and had a discussion about prices – we want to avoid the excesses of some well known dealers and offer guns that people will want to own at sensible prices so that they are a reasonable option for those beginning a collection.  They have all been expertly restored and mostly any serious work is recorded on this website  so there should be no  hidden nasties ! – we will always consider offers but be warned that we have already tried to keep them low.   I will be adding a post on a bowl that Giles turned at the weekend as its a trendy and interesting technique, if not immensly practical – not that that ever bothered Giles…….  (the technique is called Shou Sugi Ban – japanese burnt wood)

New Land Pistol of 1st Hussars ( Kings German Legion) with bolted Paget pattern lock – see for sale page…

Henry Nock private Heavy Dragoon pistol – see for sale page….

26th April – My battles with technology continued unabated!  I struggled to get my powerpoint stuff working for my talk to the children at the Bill Tutte club and as soon as I had it working the projector went so dim that none of the slides could be read anyway – so I had to do it all on a whiteboard, which I really prefer anyway, being a bit of a Luddite.  Now I just have to get the Microbit computer program running for tomorrow at 9, so I’m sorry, no gun waffle tonight…….  Except reading Lister’s book I noticed that he thought guns with a false breech or a lock fixed with one screw and a hook on the front were unusual – he must have mainly dealt with flinlocks.

25th April  Computers really bug me!  I spent an hour sorting out a  powerpoint presentation when my Windows 10 computer decided to shut down to install upgrades and lost the work – Microsoft decided to include  uncontrolled upgrades in Windows 10 and made it almost impossible to circumvent them. Grrrrr…….. By the evening I was in need of a little soothing so got out my all time favourite book  “Antique Firearms – their care repair and restoration” by Ronald Lister  which is a wonderful example of a 1960’s  ‘gun restoration for dummies’.   Among others, there is a chapter on the ideal workshop and one on tools – the workshop  chapter has a full paragraph describing his cupboard, with all the dimensions and what it was made of and what you can put in it!  Oh for the days of a simple life….  My second favourite book is called ‘Foundry Irons’ by Kirk and lists all the types of iron a 1911 American foundry might make, complete with recipes – even in the face of terrible insomnia it is guaranteed to send me to sleep within minutes – I’ve never got past the first chapter…..     Serious guns are going to have to wait until Friday as I was reminded that I said I would go into school on Thursday and help the children with some new Microbit computers – I did play with them once for half an hour, so I suppose that makes me an expert!  I hope the children are on the ball!   Children and computers is turning into a bit of a thing… taking over life….  I did manage to derust the Witton and Daw locks today (see below), and Dick and I had a further discussion about the 4 barreled pistol – We have been puzzled as to how it can hold together when fired as the single powder chamber  is large enough to hold around 5 drams of powder, but the screw threads don’t fit very securely and the barrels are just soldered in, plus the barrel alignment finishes up rather out of line.   I did think that maybe the thread and alignment were because the barrels got swapped for another similar pistol, but now we think that actually the barrels are an inferior Indian? replacement and not at all of the quality of the action body – we have doubts as to whether they would stand anything other than a minute charge, and would also explain the very poor fit of the thread, and the misalignment. If you shot the pistol as it is, the barrels would become the projectile!      Probably the original barrels would be cast brass in one piece?

The Witton and Daw locks (here derusted) are unusual in that they fit a percussion round bodied gun – the bottom edge of the locks is rounded, although it doesn’t show in this photo.  Its a good quality gun – its a shame that the barrels are not better or I would have bought it myself to shoot. The plain cock screw is wrong – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a highly engraved lock and cocks with a dead plain screw!  No doubt ithey will come under my graver at some point.

24th April – Busy sorting out my talk to the children at the Bill Tutte club on Wednesday – I was trying to scan some slides into a powerpoint but the scanner would not connect to any of my computers, even the old XP one that is contemporary with the scanner – technology marches on , mostly leaving me in its wake……   Dick came over to collect the stuff I did last night and brought the pistols to which the cock belonged – but I forgot to photograph them.  They are pretty interesting – a pair of smallish bore long barreled pistols with very tapered barrels engraved TOW and GRIFFIN LONDON with diagonal silver cross at the foresight but, apart from the barrels they look very French in the locks, cocks, highly carved stock with wavy silver wire decoration and continental style furniture  – they are percussion, which of course isn’t right for Tow and Griffin who used the joint name for a few years before Griffin gave way to Tow, who was originally Griffin’s barrel maker  ( G & T was approx 177x – 1778 ).  In fact the usual naming had the two names the other way round.   Anyway I’m not sure what was going on – I suspect that the pistols were made as percussion pistols in France using a pair of old T & G barrels, and that none of the rest of the original flintlock was incorporated.  It could I suppose be that they were made in France as flintlocks and  converted there.I have a French Long gun with almost identical cocks and similar locks made in Lyon, so I’m pretty sure that it was made in France, at least in its final incarnation.  I’ll try to get a photo before they disappear…….Dick is anxious to get his hands on the Andrews lock and finish it off as he doesn’t think much of my filing on the final shaping (in that I think he is quite justified!). Anyway its  a swap for my engraving and welding – I had better touch up a few welding faults on the lock before I hand it over.  He bought me a pair of locks from the Witton and Daw from Holts last sale that need the derusting treatment – maybe I’ll do that tomorrow, although I have STEM club in the afternoon to sort out…..   How do I come to have so many things to do?  (answers on a postcard please!)

23rd April – The weather got pleasant to be outside so the boat got all the attention until evening!   I got a call from Dick asking when I was intending to do the welding and engraving so I figured I had better do it there and then, which I did.  I put a little extra weld on the spur of the cock as it was a bit thin compared to its mate on the other gun of the pair – I will leave it to Dick to file up, I did a rough shaping just to make sure I had put on enough metal.  I also engraved the false breech – a 10 minute job.

22nd April –  Back from the Arms Fair, which was not exactly teeming with buyers!  I formed the conclusion that the volume of sales is not high and that dealers are keeping their turnover up by increasing their prices – but then I am known to be a  a cynic!   A few very nice guns were on show – including the inevitable cased pairs of Manton flintlock duelling pistols – but now they carry price tickets of £40,000 or so.  There is a lot of overpriced mediocre stuff and I was a bit surprised at the price labels on Colt percussion revolvers – but I guess the main market is set by prices in the US and the fall in the pound pushes our prices up.   I did see a few choice pieces on the Bonham’s stand that will be in the auction on 17th May – I had a look at the online catalogue and it struck me that Bonham’s estimates are about 50% less than Holt’s estimates for similar lots – but I bet that isn’t reflected in the actual hammer prices! Having said that, my rule of thumb is buy at Bonhams, sell at Holts!   Anyway I’ll be viewing the Bonhams sale in due course.  The C & T auction tomorrow has a few guns at very low estimates – I questioned this and was told that it was deliberate and they were expected to fetch at least twice or 3 times the top estimate – you have been warned.   I did find the usual rogue guns – my old unknown friend had been busy with his graver on his trademark ‘Twigg’ signature…..   One thing I noticed is that as the supply of good flintlocks at reasonable prices has dried up, the price of percussion pistols and long guns has climbed, and good cased percussion duelling and target pistols are well into 5 figures.  All good fun, but I didn’t buy anything – I do, however,  meet an increasing number of people I know as I get more into the hobby.      One last observation – the average age of those at this and similar events is going up a year for each passing year…..  that just isn’t sustainable ……………………………………………….

 21st April – I started on the Andrew’s frizzen spring today – first turning up the boss for the end and tapping it 9 B.A. then welding it to a thinned down piece if spring steel, then  bending it, then I got distracted!  I got a phone call asking if I was going to the London Antique Arms fair tomorrow as if so I could collect a case I’d left with a friend to see if it fitted his pistols.  I’d forgotten that it was this weekend, but I do need to go, if for no other reason than to try and get a handle on current prices.  My ideas of prices seem way out when compared with a lot of dealer’s ideas, so I’ll try to ‘recalibrate’ myself! Also I like to play ‘ spot the fake’ – there is usually enough to keep me amused, although there are a couple of dealers who sheepishly close the boxes on one or two cased pistols if they see me coming – can’t think why!  I went over to Dicks to have a look at the very impressive collection of pistols he has been playing with, and brought away a couple of small jobs  – a gouge in a cock to be welded over, and a bit of border engraving on a false breech from a Nock pistol where it had been rebuilt as part of a re-conversion to flintlock.  So I didn’t get far with the spring……

The turned boss in position on the spring blank – a small piece of Plasticine (modelling clay), not yet in place, held the boss in place while I tack welded  it – it really does work very well , unlikely as it may seem!

Bit more filing up required, then weld a pip on the side  for the location and possibly a ramp for the tail of the frizzen.  It really pays to leave a ‘handle’ on the part for as long as possible! 

Nock False Breech to have the border carried round the new surface.

Damaged cock – it really needs some reshaping too as it looks a bit mean!

20th April – Very chilly and uninviting today so I didn’t feel drawn to boat fiddling!  I determined to make some progress with the Andrews lock as its bugging me- I did some more welding to put the cam that contacts the ramp on the frizzen spring  into a better place and widened the bearing surfaces into a smoother shape and made a shaft for a pivot – at the moment I can’t see how the original was fixed as the bearings both have clear holes through them the same size – I guess i may be horribly non traditional and just peen an axle in place – otherwise I will have to weld up the outside bearing hole and tap it M3 – but that risks loosing the alignment, which is critical.  One problem that arises from the frizzen not really matching the pan section is that it is a bit tricky positioning the frizzen spring and the matching cam on the frizzen – the shape of the pan section limits the pan opening angle as the cam can’t go forward much because it hits the bearing arm….  Anyway I think I have just about got a compromise – it seems to open enough to clear the cock, so the next step is probably to make a frizzen spring – I have a couple of castings but neither has a short enough arm to fit the nose of the lockplate.  I feel at the end of this rather frustrating process I might have a working lock (after a fashion)  but I should have a much better understanding of the geometry of frizzens and pans!   So the next problem is to make a frizzen spring  – I will probably cut a blank from spring steel, then build up a boss to take the fixing screw with weld, and also build up the peg on the back then shape and bend the spring and finally weld on the top of the spring for the lump on the frizzen to engage with.   I’ll post some pics while I do it.  Here is today’s work;-

The outer hole for the frizzen bearing is a bit oval – it has been welded at some time in the past. Maybe I should weld and tap it M3 – the shaft is 3.3 mm diameter The pretty purple colour comes from putting it in the top oven of the Aga to weaken the Araldite.

At the moment this is as far as the frizzen will open, but I’m reluctant to take any more off until I get a frizzen spring working and can see how it functions.

19th April – Another lovely day but a bit chilly.  Sat in the sun and planned my session at the Bill Tutte club with a group of would-be scientists aged 9 to 14 next week.  I need to assemble a number of props as I have to keep their attention for 2 hours!  I did a bit more on the Andrew’s lock – I’ll put up some photos shortly but it is shaping up – I drilled the frizzen pivot and filed up the frizzen to a first approximation.  It is going to be difficult to position the frizzen spring so that it opens the frizzen fully – I think I’ll have to do a bit more welding to shift the lump into a better place to catch on the spring.   I don’t think this one will have a roller on either the frizzen or the spring.  I get a lot of visitors to this site who are looking for information on a couple of the spurious posts on the site – both ‘ putting a foot pedal on a welder’ & ‘ land cruiser steering lock problem’ get found quite often – When I was trying desperately to make a bit of room in my shed I came across a box of parts for the steering lock – since Toyota screwed up the repair I have a full set of parts to fix any problems that I no longer need.  I think my patent finder at the British Library is back from holiday so I will try to get the next couple of J R Cooper patents to try and track down the covered lock gun.

18th April – Beautiful morning – I just had to be outside playing with the boat!   I got back to the Andrews lock in the afternoon when it got decidedly chilly outside and put the lock in the Aga top oven to break down the epoxy bond, then had to clean it up before welding the bearing face to make it a bit wider.  The main reason I’m playing around with the lock in spite of the difficulty of getting the pan section and frizzen to mate is that I need the practice in TIG welding, and this job is certainly giving me plenty of that.  Anyway I made a decent fist of this bit of welding so that when I filed it flat for the bearing surface there were no voids and it all fitted.   I’ll now drill through for the frizzen pivot and file up the frizzen and see if I need any weld ‘patches’.  I’m also gearing up to engrave Martin’s barrel – I need a bit of practice as I haven’t engraved for weeks (actually months).

17th April – I was all set to share some really interesting pearls of gun wisdom on the blog last night at 10:30 when all the power failed and my computer and the internet with it…. It still hadn’t been restored by midnight, so I went to bed early for a change and now that the power is  back ( it came on around 1 in the morning) I have completely forgotten what the pearls of wisdom were, and it is as if my brain has been wiped in some sort of computer crash!   Anyway I spent much of yesterday and this morning sorting out bits of the boat so that when the weather warms up we can sail it. ( for those not in the UK, the last few days have seen winds from the North and daytime air temperatures around 13 degrees C., although some nice sunshine appeared from time to time.   The rudder was horribly chewed up as it hits the propeller of the outboard if one isn’t careful, and whoever worked on the boat during its previous life clearly didn’t know the difference between stainless steel screws and the rusting sort – which in the way of things are now so rusted in that they can’t be removed.  Some car body filler and a bit of work on the lathe turning reinforcing sleeves for the pivot and a couple of coats of white one-pot polyurethane paint will see a marked improvement.  Normal gun related service should be resumed tomorrow…..

15th April – Catching up on shopping and  rampant nature in the garden today,  but I did manage a little engraving tonight.  I have now fudged my wordpress files so I can download all the IP addresses of visitors and over time see how many regular visitors there are and which country they come from – I don’t get any identification of individuals, so your privacy isn’t compromised!    Of the 200 odd visitors a day I think about 50 seem to come back on more than one day, and often visit more than once in a day, but so far I’ve only looked at 3 days of data.  Most of the remaining visitors are casual visitors, although probably 20 or 30 are hackers trying to get into the site  – many of the hackers try almost every day although they are blocked from actually getting onto the server.  The worst countries for hackers are Ukraine and the US, with some from China and Russia, but a lot of hacking attempts use ‘bots’ on computers in many small, obscure places like Ulan Bator.

14th April  – I went over to Dicks to look at the 4 barreled pistol he is restocking – it is around 1760 ish so I took Keith Neil & Back’s book on Great British Gunmakers  1740 – 1790  to check out the butt shape.  Looking at examples in the book I suggested slight reshaping of the butt to better fit the period of the pistol –

The line is not quite right, but the outer edge needs to come in a bit and the ‘beak’ to go!

We then had a discussion about the alignment of the barrels when screwed home –  at the moment they end up at an odd angle – its neither a single barrel or a pair of barrels on top, but an intermediate angle with about 30 degrees to go before a single barrel is uppermost.  The screw thread is intact and nothing seems to have been altered (the barrels were made separate and soldered to the ring piece that screws to the action).  We thought that a pair of barrels ought to be uppermost but sighting along the pistol we realised that the barrels were slightly inclined to one side.  At this point we noticed that the ring with the barrels attached had a noticeable built-in angle – which must have added significantly to the manufacturing difficulty.  Based on the assumption that the angle must have been intended to incline the barrels either upward or downward but not sideways we concluded that the alignment must be with a single barrel uppermost and the barrel group slightly downwardly inclined – since pistols usually kick up on firing.  This means that the barrel assembly was designed to be screwed a further 30 degrees round from its current tight position.  Another one of life’s little mysteries!  Here is a picture of teh underside that shows the taper on the ring ;-

The red arrow shows the narrowest point of the ring – it should align with the middle of the bottom of the action.

The writing  at the breech end is apparently in Hindi and is thought to be 3 initials – R.K.K 

13th April – An extra days shoot at Eriswell for a small subset of AML – very informal and pleasant.   I started with my ‘Twigg’ flintlock to see if lightening the trigger pull had improved my hit rate, but unfortunately I didn’t have any very fine Swiss OB for priming the pan due to an oversight, and so it was going off very slowly – so I didn’t have much luck. I then went back to my old D Egg back action percussion standby and managed around 50% hits with that, so about par for the course for me. After lunch I used my Miruku 12 Bore O/U that I hadn’t shot for a while.  I needed more cartridges and without thinking bought 21 gram X Comps instead of the 28 gram I normally use, but I still did pretty well (for me!) .  I swapped 4 for 28 gram loads for a couple of distant clays – which I missed – and was surprised at the extra recoil.  By the end of  the afternoon and  after 50 cartridges I was glad I’d shot the lighter load – some of my companions looked a bit beaten up!     Apropos of the Andrews lock – I realised that it was stupid to try to reposition the outer bracket for the frizzen pivot to reduce the width – much better just to thicken up the hub of the frizzen to fit – so I’ll have to unglue it (heat it up) and weld the hub and file it to fit the slot and then re glue it and drill for the pivot…….

Off to Dick’s tomorrow as he is wondering what to do to the butt of the 4 barreled pistol – I vetoed the idea of a plain oval silver escutcheon as being far to modern for a 1760 pistol – it should be a cast silver or brass  one with relief decoration or none at all – or possibly a ‘grotesque’ – I’ll stick a couple of books in the car so we can look up an appropriate shape for the butt etc.  One problem is that we can’t find a suitable brass casting for a butt plate………

12 April later  – I steeled myself to tackle the Andrews lock – the frizzen is beginning to get into shape, but was offset rather a lot to the outside of the lock – the face of the lockplate was raised into a platform about 1.5 mm high in the contact area with  the frizzen bearing – on most locks it would be  flush, and so I decided to file the platform off to move the frizzen over by enough to put it in the correct alignment with the cock.  This of course means that the gap for the frizzen is too wide, and the outside bracket will have to be shifted over – i.e. cut off and rewelded.  It is all getting to be a bit of a saga. and by this stage I’m only doing it because its a good exercise in fudging!  Each time I file a new bit of the pan section or frizzen I discover that it’s been badly welded and reshaped before – so it is really just a mess – which makes me glad that I made a new lockplate to start with – I’d be feeling pretty desperate if it was the original I was messing about with!  Anyway here are some photos – I got to the stage of fitting the frizzen into the correct place and Aralditing it so that I can drill the pivot before I redo the outside bracket.    We are hoping to sail the boat we bought last year over Easter so I’ve got to sort that out over the next couple of days…. and then it looks as if I will have a kitchen and bathroom to refit for Giles over the summer….. and I still need to get on top of programming the Mindstorms…. and the engraving jobs I picked up at the last AML shoot are waiting… and I need to get a slightly bigger ball mould for the Nock……. no peace for the wicked then……….

The frizzen as it was offset

The raised platform to be filed off – much easier to work on if you screw it to a block of wood!

Glued and ready to drill – the outer bracket will need moving! 

12th April  I did a bit more on the Andrews lock, but it is going to be a bit of a fudge as the frizzen isn’t really right – I may have to do major surgery on it again!   I got a couple more J R Cooper patents from the British Library, but nothing that matches my gun – there are a couple more I could get but I’ll have to wait til next week.  It got me interested in the beginnings of the percussion/pinfire/centrefire revolution – It begins to look as if Cooper was desperate to adapt the percussion cap to the breech loader in any way possible.    The development of percussion ignition in England was severely constrained by Forsyth’s 1807 patent that was held at law to be a master patent and effectively stopped almost all development in England during its life.  France had been ahead of England in gun development in the middle and early 18th century and French gunmakers took advantage of the fact that Forsyth didn’t patent percussion ignition abroad to recover the initiative.   By the time Forsyth’s patent expired in 1823, just after he won a case against Joseph Manton over the Manton Tubelock patent, Pauly in France had effectively invented the cartridge as we know it today and the stage was set for the development of many of the features we are familiar with when we pick up a modern shotgun.  It took a few years for the new inventions to ‘shake down’ – for instance all cartridges now depend on the ability of the case to expand on firing and provide the gas seal to prevent gas escape at the breech  but the metallurgy involved took time to be developed.  Similarly the placing of a pellet of fulminate in the exposed head of the cartridge in Pauly’s design created possible dangers and escape of gas on firing, so the pinfire cartridge was an interim solution until the copper cap was used to avoid the problem.  All this time, and even as late as the 1860’s Cooper was busy patenting breech loading mechanisms using conventional percussion caps.  It all makes for an interesting study – its the most febrile period of gun development of all time, the flintlock era dragged on for several hundred years, but from Forsyth’s patent to a gun that we would feel at home with was a mere 50 years or so  – or maybe a few more if you want to include hammerless boxlocks with single triggers – most of it in  little more than the working life of a gunmaker!   It is a fascinating time to study – while there is a lot of published material on the early breechloading cartridge guns ( e.g. Cruddington & Baker ‘The British Shotgun’ Vol 1), there doesn’t seem to be much covering the ‘dinosaurs’ like JR Cooper who seem to have been struggling to keep the old ignition system going while loading from the breech, for whatever reason.  Room for more study here!

11th April  – back in the land of the living.  I followed up a reference in De Witt Baileys and Douglas Nye’s book on English gunmakers that said J R Cooper had a patent No 7610  dated 1838 for an enclosed percussion lock so I got a copy from the British Library – fantastic service, it took less than an hour!  It is a breechloader, but still has an external ‘hammer’ for cocking it and no magazine.  So the book lists a few more possible patents he took out – I’ll get those too – I’m not sure how many I can get from the British Library on my Reader’s ticket – I have put a link to the .pdf of the patent on the J R Cooper post – you can see the beginnings of the idea – so it will be interesting to follow it up and see how far he patented things……..


J R Cooper’s patent 7610 of 1838 – part of the way to my gun….he had obviously started thinking about it in 1838

There is another drawing on the 1838 patent that is a  boxlock percussion shotgun.

9th April  Last of the fixing – vents for the double glazed windows in the kitchen and bathroom to increase ventilation levels which have never been quite adequate for the Cornish weather. Then a bit of hacking in the garden – not the internet kind, so now just tidy up and load the car and off home tomorrow. Paid our visit to ‘The Gurnard’s Head’ restaurant tonight – still good but I was a bit underwhelmed by my main dish – Ray wing with a very tasty heap of lardrons, lentils and hazel nuts as the poor ray wing was tiny and overwhelmed by the heap on top of it. Anyway we always enjoy going there, and the large picture of an old couple having a meal by Kells  (?) has returned and keeps us guessing about what is going on…..

8th April  Still in Cornwall and still fixing things – a bunker to hold logs, a new curtain rail, fixed a fire guard and made a heat resistant area to protect the worktop.  Almost time to go home so I can resume playing with restoration.   I’ve had an email about a pinfire gun and was wondering what the market for shootable double pinfire  shotguns was?  I do know a couple of people who shoot them, including a 28 bore, and they make quite convincing black powder cartridges based on breech loading cartridge cases with a standard percussion cap as the detonator.  You need to swage out the rim of the case as pinfire cartridges were rimless, and insert a pin that strikes the detonating compound in the  cap.

We had a short trip out to Penzance and Lamorna Cove this afternoon and called in at Scarlets in Lelant near Hayle (one of our favourite eating places – handy while the kitchen was in chaos) – they have a display of pictures by local artists including a series of ‘collographs’ of birds.  I’m still not sure what the technique involves, but it is a form of print making – anyway we bought one of a buzzard that was rather fine.  We currently have 3 favourite eating places – Salts in Hayle, a restaurant cum pub, Scarlets in Lelant – a restaurant/cafe and delicatessen and wine shop that has the great advantage that you can buy a bottle of wine from their vast selection and have it with your meal at the wine shop price, and take the remains (if any) home.  Our third and poshest place is ‘The Gurnard’s Head’ in Zennor – special treat once per holiday meal for many years!

7th April   I put a new top on the other worksurface in the kitchen, fixed the bathroom fan and put a new security light outside – the old type with a halogen tube bulb last about 2 years and the bulb blows and they are by then so rusty and horrible that its not worth replacing the bulb – anyway I replaced it with an LED security light in the hope that it might survive – this one appears to have stainless steel screws so I’m hoping it will do for 4 or 5 years. The wire to the old light was not long enough to reach the cable gland on the new one, so the whole wire had to be removed back to the switch- I didn’t have any more 1 mm t&e cable so used a gash piece of 3 core 13A flexible power cord which is probably better of the final connection anyway, but 13A is overkill – its just what I had – perpetually going out to Screwfix or B&Q or wherever eats into work time as either involve at least an hour.

This blog is now getting around 200 visitors a day – not counting the 50 or 60 idiots per day who try to log on to the site by guessing both the user name and password – since not one of them has even found the correct login page its rather pathetic = but I assume it all done by bots running on computers  controlled by a small number of hackers.  As the site is set up at the moment you have three tries at the password before you get blocked for a day, and anyway I check and permanently block anyone who tries to log on. Most of the attacks come from the Ukraine, followed by the US.  Some of the attackers have been doing it for months and clock up hundreds of blocked attacks – all these things are logged on the site and I check them regularly so keep an eye on what is going on.

6th April  Finished installing the washing machine and rebuilding the kitchen units around it.  I realised how much the design of kitchens had changed since I did this on   e originally – then the normal sink unit took the place of the worktop, now they are all designed to be inset into the worktop.   I bought a cheap new worktop from B&Q – its OK but when cut it looks just like the ‘logs’ made of compressed woodchips that we are burning on the woodburning stove at the mohent – £3 a bag from Poundland -we are big spenders.  Come to think of it, the ‘logs’ are probably about one third of the price of the melamine coated worktop weight for weight!     I’ll post a picture of the kitchen and then settle down to read Keith Neil and Backs book on gun cases etc..

5th April.  The book on cases is fascinating – I’m surprised how late the ‘normal’ gun and pistol case arrived.   The first fitted cases – as distinct from utilitarian packing cases – seemed to have appeared around 1763 and were made of tinplate (produced from about 1723), follow by oak around 10 years later, with mahogany coming on the scene about 5 years after that.   Early cases would have had a simple ‘rectangular’ brass handle planted on the lid.  Around 1795 the inset circular handle began to appear – initially with the centre filled with a brass plate, and later with the ‘classic’ round handle showing wood in the centre.   More tomorrow – and some pictures of progress on the kitchen – I got everything sorted today – the waste fittings are a pain to sort out as there are about half a dozen different types of pipe and fitting, and they are not interchangeable.  I have a sack of fittings left over from previous jobs but couldn’t find what I wanted so had to buy more..  I started fitted the new worktop but found that the standard top I bought is half an inch narrower than the standard top bought 30 years ago, which meant a bit of bodging to fill a gap – its also a couple of mm thinner, but I can cope with that.

4th Mar.  My gun related activity today was limited to reading Keith Neal and Back’s book ‘British Gunmakers Their Trade Cards, Cases and Equipment’ which was published in 1980 and is difficult to come by – I had to fork out £130 for a mint copy – luckily it was more of a swap as I traded a set of 19th century books on insects that I had inherited but had no interest in.  I wish I had had a copy before I started casing guns and pistols!  Like every book published by the pair it is THE definitive work on the subject.  My main activity was stripping o ut the kitchen sink and re-doing a bit of plumbing to accommodate a washing machine and put in a few shut off valves – the cottage was converted in the 1950s and when mains water was installed it was done with NO stopcocks or shut off valves – not even a stopcock on the incoming main which is buried under the bath and its impossible to fit one now!  To shut off the water I have to go into the road and dig up the external stopcock from under the dirt.

Just for fun, here are a couple of photos;

As it was, minus the cupboard doors (I think cupboard is such a medieval word)!

Destruction phase: A couple of flexible tap connectors/shut offs added. I don’t know what happened but it must be the first time I’ve done half a dozen compression joints and not had a single drop of water!

3rd April.  Now in Cornwall contemplating destroying the kitchen to make space for the washing machine.  I had an email from my friend serving in Sinai who has asked an Iranian about the script on the 4 barreled pistol and established that its not Farsi, or, probably Arabic, and that its most likely Sanscrit or Hindi which aligns with my thoughts.  He thinks  that he can get a translation, which would be great, and might throw some light on whether the silver wire inlay is likely to be foreign or from Birmingham like the brassware.

1 April   Fate’s April fools joke on me was to make me miss the first 10 clays on the AML shoot in a row!   Thereafter I was back to normal – miss one, hit one.  My feeling that muzzle loading shooting is getting more popular is amply demonstrated in the number of people turning out for our monthly shoots – we now have 3 squads – around 30 shooters – we’ll soon be swamped by our own success.  I shot the Jackson Improved Central Fire 14 bore percussion double – it is a nice gun, and the breech is very neat and slim as the cocks are in about the position they are in a hammer gun, but there is nothing ‘improved’ about my shooting today.   I finished the afternoon shoot with my Beretta o/u and got about the same result – but I did hit more of the ‘driven’ clays.  I realised today at the shoot that one of the weird things about this blog is that some people know more about what I’ve been up to than I do, on account of the fact that I hardly have any memory for past events!   I picked up a couple of jobs – both fairly low key – an old lock to see if I could decipher the name and the recut it – its a fairly cheap lock so no problems.  The other job is to recut the name on a lock by Morris that is in Olde English script, and engrave the name on the barrel. (Actually, having looked at the lock, I realise that the name on it is different and I am to erase it and start over, so no need for the Olde English).   The jobs  will have to wait until I get back from Cornwall where we are going to sort out the holiday cottage for the season – this includes fitting a washing machine in place of part of a kitchen cupboard – apparently necessary in order to let it successfully on airbnb &  I will take some gun books so I can at least put some snippets of information here.  My evening activity is to do my homework on the Lego Mindstorms computers so I can keep one step ahead of my STEM club children – school and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) seem to be taking up increasing amounts of my time as I am getting roped in to help in daytime school activities – I can’t say I mind as its very rewarding – see .  I’ve also got to prepare 2 hours of talk and fun for the children of the Bill Tutte club in Newmarket – I’m not sure what the work ‘retirement’ means, but life was a lot more peaceful when I only worked about 50 hours a week!  Our treat in Cornwall will be to slope off to The Gurnard’s Head at Zennor for a meal – one of the nicest places we know in Cornwall.  At least this time we don’t have to find someone to chicken sit as Giles will still be living in the house – getting in a full time chicken sitter at the new living wage would be a bit expensive – cheaper just to eat the chickens and replace them when we got back!

31 March  Another month gone!  I went to Dick’s today to photograph a few guns that are coming up for sale soon – and the odd 4 barrelled pistol by Walsingham of about 1763 – here is a photo, the rest are in the post 4-BARRELLED PISTOL.  I took some more photos of the Griffin as Dick has tidied up the stock under the lock aperture  – its now looking fantastic.  There is also a nice flintlock pistol by Henry Nock – probably an officer’s pistol, and a military issue pistol.  They will eventually appear on the for-sale page when we have an idea of a sensible price.

See 4 BARRELLED PISTOL Post for more pictures

See Griffin Pistol Post for more…

30th Mar.  I had to finish and test a couple of electronic temperature regulator boards for a client who wanted them urgently – I wasted half an hour because I’d swapped two resistors in assembling one of them and finding the fault took time.    I came back to the Andrews lock/frizzen problem – the frizzen is not the right shape for the pan section and I’m struggling to build it up enough to reshape it so it fits – at the moment it just looks a mess but I hope with a lot of filing and another iteration of welding it will come together.  Visitors who leave this sort of mess to people like me can feel smug!

At least if I can’t get it to work I can revert to the original percussion setup and nothing of the original gun will be lost or damaged – the advantage of making a new lockplate!

29th Mar  I went to Dick’s today and had a look at a little flintlock pistol he  has for restoration.  I’ll get some photos of it later – its by Wm Walsingham of Birmingham, about 1760. A  4 brass barreled volley pistol with all the barrels opening into a single chamber that connects to the pan – the barrels unscrew as a group (they are made as a single casting) and powder is put in the chamber – it looks as if it would hold quite a lot – and the barrels screwed back on.  Its worn but nicely engraved all over the brass.  The stock is badly damaged – partly eaten away and the butt cap gone with it – the rest appears to have been filed down – it was clearly originally inlaid with silver wire in a very elaborate way – all that remains are marks where the silver was before it was all filed off.   I don’t know how unusual it is as a design, but I treat anything of that vintage as a bit special – pre 1780 stuff doesn’t grow on trees!  I think there is no option but to make a new stock and a new buttcap but I don’t think it is going to be possible to make a convincing reproduction of the  original, and I certainly don’t think it would be economical – anyway I think it would be wrong – so I would make a plain butt and cap.  The rest of the pistol only needs careful cleaning – I would resist any temptation to recut the engraving – it is perfectly readable as it is and the untouched nature of the pistol metalwork shows clearly. Once you start recutting it makes people wonder just how much is genuine!

8th Mar. A VERY frustrating morning at the range!   The sights I put on the Nock are good and I am confident that  I can aim quite well with them – certainly well enough to get a sub 4 inch group at 25 yards without too much effort – but try as I could, I failed to get a group of any reasonable size – I had a sheet of A3 paper as a target and I even had a few shots off both sides of it.  I tried several combinations of patch, and also tried both 1.7 drams and 2.25 drams of Swiss No 4, all to no avail – I just could not get any consistency in the shots – I think I could have done better with a shotgun firing ball!  The 12 groove rifled  bore is good, with lands narrower than the deep grooves, and I was using two 10 thou patches or one ten and one fifteen to give a tighter fit – I guess that it still wasn’t enough to grip the ball and maybe the ball sheds the patches and rattles around?  Anyway I need to consult the experts!  As an interim measure I’ll get the ball mould reworked to about 20 or 25 thou bigger diameter so I can go back to using 1 patch. I had a couple of misfires – but always it went on the second cap – I think I’ll have to change the nipple – its currently narrow at the top, wide at the bottom but I find the opposite is much more reliable, so I’ll make a new nipple – I hope the thread is one I have a die for!  I took the .17 HMR just to convince myself that I am not completely useless and got some reasonable groups. Frustration apart it was a nice morning with a small but friendly gathering at the ITSC range.   To my STEM club this afternoon – the children were so excited by the weather being good enough to be outside that it took a while to get them to concentrate – so I over-ran as usual…. The school has unearthed another 3 of an older generation of  Lego computers so there will be enough to move to more, smaller groups with less friction!

Clay shooting sequence – range about 25 m

the top frame probably coincides with pulling the trigger, the second the sound of the shot, the third shows the shot as it misses the clay!

The entire sequence is 0.2 of a second. In the second frame you can see a faint trail heading for the impact point – I guess that is the shot column – the shot travels at near the speed of sound and the microphone was about 8 – 10 feet from the muzzle.  Using the audio trace this frame is  when the sound arrived at the camera.

It shows how far ahead you need to aim if you are snap shooting, and shows the slight changes in direction due to bounces.

(I think this sequence was shot with a .410 with a 2 1/2 inch cartridge, which would account for the fact that the shot cloud looks a bit small?)

27th Mar.  In Cambridge running a historical reconstruction of gravity measurement with pendula – using a video recorder and lasers – not very authentic but effective.   I did have a few moments to contemplate the Andrews pistol and drill the hole and cut the slot for the mainspring – I have gone back to thinking the smaller cock is right as, with a flint in the jaws, the top will end up aligned with the middle of the pan – I had to do my STEM club programs so that was all I managed, apart from getting out a few bits for shooting the Nock rifle tomorrow with the aperture rear sight and the enclosed foresight. Last time I got to the range after everyone had left, so tomorrow I will try to hit the ground running!  I might take the .17 HML to sight it in, but I’m running out of ammo.  I tried looking at a video I had taken of shooting a ‘rabbit’ clay with a muzzle loading shotgun in frame by frame mode at 50 f.p.s.  Its quite interesting as you can see when the gun fired, then 4 frames later the shot is just visible in front of the clay and in the next frame  hits the ground immediately in front of the clay but exactly aligned.  Its amazing (to me anyway) how far the ‘rabbit’ travelled between the smoke appearing in the video and the shot hitting the ground – probably a good 6  feet, and that is without allowing for the time delay between brain and finger, and trigger and ignition.  It was a very near miss in front!  I’ll take the camera next Saturday when the AML shoots a Cambridge Gun Club, and try to get some more film………..    You would think retirement would be relaxing, but its far more hectic than working for a living – although I suppose I do get to choose – at least to some extent!

26th Mar.  I made new screws to hold the bridle etc – 4 UNF threads, and the side nail, 6 UNC and cut the slot for the tab on the sear spring with a flat graver.   The cock I was going to use is a bit too small I think, so I found a  slightly larger one – I might go and take advice from Dick as he has done a lot more of these jobs than I.  I did get the grass cut and the apple trees pruned, so it wasn’t a bad day, considering that we lost an hour due to the clocks changing to BST – we’ll have to wait ’til autumn to get it back.  Robbery!   I’ve got to write some programs for my STEM club some time before Tuesday, and I find I carelessly agree to talk to another children’s Science and Maths club in Newmarket in April, which will need quite a lot of preparation if I am to do them justice.

I’m not sure how to tackle the hole for the frizzen axle as it is bored out both ends and so won’t take a screw thread without more welding – its already been welded and moved once – the pan section is a bit of a mess, which is why its giving me more problems to get it in place than I would normally expect.- the same goes for the frizzen!  I’ll finish the back of the lock where it touches the barrel when I do the final fitting with the touchhole in place.

25th Mar. I’m still struggling to get the pan casting into the lockplate neatly!   So frustrated did I become that I resorted to cleaning the house for a couple of hours!  So I’m afraid there is little progress worth showing ( except in respect of our domestic environment!)… I will make a few nails/screws tomorrow and try to get the frizzen into shape – I don’t know where it came from, but it seems to have been welded in a number of places, as was the pan section.

24th Mar.  Went to Jason’s to get the lock welded and have spent most of the rest of the day struggling to get it filed up in a reasonable way – unfortunately it seems to need files of a shape as yet uninvented!  I was very glad its only a lock I made myself as its taking a bit of a bashing – I’d be worried if it was the original.  I found a better frizzen – the problem with the pan section is that the pivot for the frizzen is very high  compared to most others – anyway I had to weld up and reposition the pivot on the frizzen and will have to reshape the tail with weld and add the tab to catch on the roller.  The configuation of pan and frizzen pivot is odd, and it will need a very short frizzen spring – I’m not sure if it would have had a roller for that pan section or not.

23rd Mar. Progress on the Andrews – a bit slow as I had a meeting about computing in schools – I was in the middle of welding the hook when my lift rang the doorbell – miles away….!  Anyway I plucked up the courage to do the script engraving – not my best effort, and tacked the pan section in place so that tomorrow I can get Jason to weld it in – I don’t trust my welding.    I did manage to weld the hook  on the front of the lock that holds it in although I did get the front of the lock rather hot and oxidised it rather more than I wanted – I just built up the hook with filler rod – I got a good approximation to the shape with weld then filed it – I need to do the final lock fitting but I’ll wait til the pan is fully welded as  the lock plate may need flattening.

The script is not perfect, but will tone in when the plate is case hardened  with Blackley’s stuff at the end. 

The mess around the pan is modelling clay I used to hold the pan in the correct position while I tack welded it.  It works long enough to hold until the tacking is done, and doesn’t tend to run or move at all.  I use it often – its just firm enough and stays in the position you put it.   I think the heat just drives the petroleum jelly out of it and leaves the clay!

22nd Mar.  The Andrews pistol is coming along – I cut the aperture to fit the pan but haven’t welded it in place yet.  I filed the chamfer round the lock – it’s not at 45 degrees, but around 35 to the flat surface, then had the excitement of engraving lines at the top and bottom of the chamfer surface which was quite tricky, particularly round the curves – that done I then engraved a running leaf motif down the middle of the remaining surface – the whole chamfer surface is about 2 1/2 mm wide, so by the time the two lines are engraved the leaf motif is probably less than 1.5 mm  wide.  Anyway, it looks better than I expected.  I’ve done some of the decoration and foliage work – so now I only have to tackle the script name, which is a terrifying prospect – I’ll have to have a few goes on a scrap of metal.   Doing the chamfer and the pattern across the tail got through all my gravers again, so I had another sharpening session before I could tackle the foliage.

A few differences, but recognisably the same pattern!  I couldn’t decide if I wanted the ‘leaves’ round the sear spring screw.

21st Mar. – proper day playing with the Andrews pistol  – I copied the holes from the original lock plate  by fixing the old on top of the new, with suitable hardboard spacer, using superglue – one of my ‘must have’ items is a small pump of Locktite 7455 Activator that takes all the uncertainty out of using superglue, even if there are gaps.   I then used my little Seig mill  as a drill, locating each hole in the original plate with a sharpened rod of the  appropriate diameter ( make sure it runs true) and then substituting a drill and drilling right through the new plate.  I think with care I can get to about 0.1 mm.  I drilled a series of 1.5 mm holes through the middle of the safety slot and cut out the slot with a fine fretsaw and filed it with a No 6 file, and milled the 4 mm slot with a 3 mm cutter.  I’ve now tapped all the holes – I couldn’t find a taps that replicated the original threads so I used No 4 UNF for the bridle screws and No 6 UNC for the side nail – that means I’ll have to make new screws etc.  UNC & F are my favourite threads – probably because I have the best selection of taps and dies and it matches more often than not. Next job is to file the bevel on the outer edge of the lock so that it can be engraved – Putting the engraved bevel around a lock is a first for me, so I hope it works out!  I’m not sure how easy it will be to file a constant width bevel – I don’t have the filing skills of a classic gunmaker!    I’ll run round with dividers first to mark a line to file to, and just try to keep a constant angle – fingers crossed.  At some point I also have to fix on the hook that secures the front of the lock in place – in the past I have just built it up with weld, including the hook bit – so I’ll try that as its quick…………….  And I had my STEM club this afternoon, and a School Governing Body meeting in the evening and a meeting at the school at 8.00 a.m. tomorrow…………….

The hole for the mainspring peg can wait until I am ready to put the frizzen spring on.

20th Mar – The browning is coming along nicely but slow – its called Blackley’s Slow Brown, so I suppose I should expect it!  anyway I think 1 or two more goes and it will be OK.  Tomorrow I need to tackle the problem of transferring the positions of the holes from the old lockplate to the new, complicated by the fact that both have bits on the back and can’t be put close together, plus there are no straight edges to measure from.  I think I’ll have to clamp them together with spacers and mark with points of the right size to fit each hole using the miller to push the points in vertically.  I figure that the holes need to be right to within about .1 of a mm – particularly the alignment of the bridle fixing holes with the tumbler hole – I have got that slightly wrong before and the tumbler is slightly misaligned and jams, and the only solution is to make a bigger tumbler hole, which is not a good thing. The other way is to mark and drill the tumbler hole, then use the tumbler to position the bridle and mark that, but its quite tricky to do that.  Once I have the holes drilled I will cut out for the pan section so that I finish with the ‘heavy’ metalwork, and get on with engraving the lock to match the original, except that the foliage on the nose of the lockplate was put on for the conversion.  After that is a matter of welding the pan section and cleaning up and case hardening the lock and fettling the cock and frizzen – not much then?

The lighting wasn’t very even, but the browning is.    The twist stands out very well but not  artificially so.

1 9th Mar  I decided that I couldn’t bring myself to cut up the nice original lock to re-convert it to flint -its against my principles ( I do have a few!) to do that to good guns, OK for junk or if a lot of the pistol is missing.  Anyway that meant I had to make a new lock plate from scratch and put the pan in that – I will reuse all the internals of the lock because they can be put back if necessary.  It took me most of today to mill up a strip of 6 x 50 mm mild steel as a blank and then cut it out and fit it to the lock pocket – it is a bit slimmer than the original plate as I really needed 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) plate but don’t have any.  I am also browning the barrel – first go with Blackleys didn’t touch the metal, I thought I’d try immersing it in copper sulphate to etch the barrel a bit, but that just copper plated most of it and I had to clean it all off.  Blackley’s still didn’t touch most of the metal so I reverted to my used printed circuit board etchant and that got it going.   Making a new lock means I’ll have to make a new side nail as I can’t match up the thread – its halfway between 6 UNC and 8 UNC, but I’ll do a 6 UNC nail as the hole in the lock is a bit near the edge of the bolster.   I’ll probably have to make a couple of screws to hold the bridle as I don’t expect I’ll find a tap that works with the existing threads.   I lined up the barrel and lock plate to find where the touch-hole will go and it seems to go together perfectly – the pan section is just right – I don’t know where it came from, it doesn’t look like a casting, more like an original cut out.    I put the step on the back of the lock, and couldn’t resist engraving it – which meant spending over an hour sharpening 15 gravers that had piled up blunt or chipped.   I usually leave them til I run out, then do them all together as its quicker that way.

I’ll have to mill out the slot for the safety,,. which will be fiddly, and then square off the end – even more tricky.  I did it for the Lancaster (twice) so I guess I can do it again!  My milling machine is pretty crude and has backlash in the leadscrews and vibrates so it is always exciting using small cutters!

18th Mar –  The restoration of the Andrews pistol continues – I’ll make a separate post as I have a lot of photos.  I have stripped it down, so I’ll include a few notes on what you need to know to take antique flint and percussion guns  apart.  I have all the parts to do a back conversion – and I think I’ll probably do one using the original lock plate as it will make a good demonstration of what to look out for in deciding if a flintlock is a re-conversion, and the percussion conversion is not a particularly nice one.   So – see the beginnings of the ANDREWS RESTORATION post.

Selection of castings for Andews re-conversion  – the cocks and frizzen spring will need to be sorted when the rest is in place.

I am temped to make a new lockplate!

17th Mar – I had a visit this morning from a chap who had a couple of antique guns – one he thought might be a shooter, but I’m afraid I didn’t think that was a good idea as it was too far gone to be worth teh considerable work in restoring it, and anyway I suspect the barrel was not recoverable.  Anyway he is keen on taking up muzzle loading shooting and will come along to the Anglian Muzzle Loaders shoot on 1st April and join teh growing number of people shooting muzzle loaders.  i suggested that if he likes it he might find a modern reproduction a good way in as they are still affordable at auction.   I did a bit of work on the Andrews Pistol – running the bits through the de-rusting – its in pretty fair condition.  I had a look at a couple of photos on Andrews pistols on the web – Google images – Andrews pistols, and found two different flint lock designs in use – an older version with a stepped,rounded tail to the lock and a traditional English serpentine cock and a semi rainproof pan, and later design with a square tail to the lock and a French cock and a full rainproof pan.  The former matches the lock shape on my pistol.  I went to Dicks and we hunted around for bits to make a flintlock for it – I had found most of the bits but we found a frizzen spring casting that is (probably) the right size – it won’t be clear until the lockplate and pan section are in place.   I now need to decide whether to use the original lock plate or make a new one…… difficult!   The Griffin pistol I showed earlier before repair is now finished and Dick has been asked by a friend living abroad to sell it for him, and I offered to put it on this site.  You can see the photos in the Post Griffin Pistol and some in the GUNS & BITS FOR SALE page at the top – here is a preview;

This  is a Griffin Officer’s pistol from around 1760 – a number are found in America from English officers fighting in the French and Indian wars – see post Griffin Officer’s Pistol for more pics – click on the photo for more details.  It is No. 1 of a pair, no longer together.

16th Mar – It was interesting to watch, from time to time during the day, how the Holts Auction was going – there was so much stuff that it ran from 10 oclock to about 7 p.m.  Many of the lots struggled to make the reserves – but there were so many guns that were much of a muchness that you wonder who was buying it – most of the lots went to either bidders in the room or on the telephone, a few lots went to internet sales (it costs an additional 3% to bid via the internet!).  The percussion guns I picked as being worth buying – the Bond (1800 hammer price) and the Greener (3900 hammer price) shotguns – made good money and the ones I thought were a bit rough, like the Nock 7 barreled gun that I thought rather rough and the Witton and Daw just scraped over the bottom reserve (700) as did the horribly badly ‘restored’/abused  Manton  breech loading flintlock.  Mostly I thought the bottom estimates were on the high side –  Holts seldom sell below the bottom estimate .  By the time you add the buyer’s premium and VAT to the hammer price, the Greener was a shade under £5000 – I would have happily paid £4000 for it, but 5K is a bit inflationary. There will inevitably be some inflation in antique and modern gun prices because a fair number end up in the US and the dollar now buys more gun in England than before, or put another way, it means that Americans can afford to bid higher.  The Witton and Daw was a reasonable buy at the selling price as it was unusual – it was bought by a friend and will probably pass through Dick and my hands on its way to its eventual home.  I look forward to including it in the blog.   I was sorry to see that the East India Company rampart gun lock had been taken out of the sale as I have one that has been converted to percussion that I’d like to return to flintlock – I am chasing the lock via my contacts……….   I was hoping that it would form my next project as I’ve finished all the jobs on hand, but I found a pistol by Andrews buried under the junk on my bench (yes, really! – its been there for months and months…)  that definitely needs a bit of TLC –  It would make a good target for re-conversion to flint s I could make a new lock and remove the drum and nipple conversion, but I have no confidence at the moment that I can get the necessary castings, and although I do have some odd castings in stock, I don’t think I have a pan section, a frizzen and a  cock that will go together – maybe I can get something from Dick…..  Anyway I will start by cleaning it all up and see where we go from there……..  the obvious first step is to dump the whole lot in the de-rusting tank for an hour or so and then lightly brush off the soft black powder that hard brown rust gets turned into when it goes from ferrous to ferric oxide………magic!

Its all a bit sad, nothing serious but a bit of surface rust and worn woodwork – the percussion conversion is rather poor quality but the basic pistol was good – one reason to want to convert it back to flintlock.

The safety catch is broken – a fiddly part to repair and a lot of the lock plate has been filed away in the conversion and would need to be built up if it is re-converted and we didn’t make a new lock.

A reasonably good quality lock on the inside – not top quality but perfectly good, and it will clean up just fine.

The barrel is not too bad – it hasn’t had a lot of wear, only a bit of patchy rust – teh ‘London’ is clearly visible and not unduly worn.

15th Mar  – To Holts viewing today, which turned out to be a bit of a social occasion – I seem to have made a fair number of friends in the business, especially among the keen muzzle loading game and rifle shooters.  I sense that game and clay shooting with muzzle loaders is becoming more popular, which would account for the rising prices of decent percussion shotguns – there were a few in this auction that I had a look at, including a W Greener in pristine condition that will get a lot of attention tomorrow.  One or two of the other muzzle loading shotguns were worthy of attention but really they were a bit thin on the ground – I might have been interested in a couple if I wanted one to shoot, but not the Witton and Daw, a cased gun with an unusual round body that would almost qualify for my new collection criterion – guns must get the response -” I’ve never seen one like that before”, or “you don’t see guns like that often” if the viewer is very experienced!  Unusual as it was, it was a bit grubby and had moderate surface corrosion in a tired case, which would have been sortable, but the muzzles were paper thin and the bore rusted so I’m not sure that I’d want to shoot it, – a no no for me.

There was a flintlock breech loading rifle signed Manton – a bit like the Ferguson but with the screw plug in the side – it would have been a front runner for my collection except that someone had struck the barrel off ( trade term for filed ) so thoroughly that on first look it seemed that it had been replaced by new one.  All the surface had been filed to remove every trace of corrosion (plus along the way most of the proof marks etc.) including round the lug for the breech plug – a prime example of THE most horrible vandalism it is possible to imagine.  The estimate was £2000 to £3000 – a lot less than if it had been in original condition!   I didn’t look to see if I thought it really was by John Manton as I really found it so distasteful to look at!   The sale was mainly taken up with the Harold Bull collection, which was primarily of pistols, a whole lot of section 5 semi automatics and a vast collection of revolvers of all types, section 5, obsolete calibre and percussion.    Taken as a whole it represented a massive collection, of which a few percent were special and most were good examples of their types, but it left me feeling as if I’d eaten far too much of a not particularly exciting meal!   I did see one or two things in the sealed bid sale that I might be tempted by – I’ll have to go through the catalogue again and tally up the total to see if I dare bid on a few. It is becoming expensive to buy at auction, particularly imported stuff that carries 5% VAT on the hammer price. plus pay 30% buyer’s premium (25% + VAT), i.e. you pay 35% and the seller pays  10% sellers fee, so in the end the seller gets £900 and you pay £1350 on a £1000 bid, a total  markup of 50%  on what the seller gets.   Eyewatering!

I get the feeling that I need to make up another gun – I guess it might be time to see if I can get together the parts to make a flintlock for my Henry Nock single barreled shotgun – I’ve been toying with the idea a back converting it since I bought it as it has a drum conversion and I would make a complete new lock and a screw-in touch hole so I could swap back and forth……..

14th Mar – Science day at school has left me exhausted!  Off to Holts early as I have to meet a couple of friends there and return a pair of pistols to their owner and take a possible case for them.  I’m looking for a nice leather case for my William Powell hammer gun, and a couple of percussion gun cases as I enjoy working on them.  I wish it was easier to make them from scratch – I might give pistol cases a try as there is very little furniture and the woodwork is simple.  Back on line tomorrow wit report from the viewing!

13th Mar – I was busy today getting prepared for a science day at school on earthquakes and volcanos – we had a large box like table containing an animated display of an earthquake wave to take into school – although it should have been a 5 minute job, it turned out that someone had cleverly built it so that it was 1/4 of an inch wider than a standard door and one side of the french doors into the classroom was stuck…..  Not sure my Swiss army knife will ever be the same again, but it sorted the problem – I will leave the ‘how’ to your imagination.   I’m off on Wednesday to Holts to view – I had my eye on one item in the printed catalogue that has not appeared in the on-line catalogue so I suspect doesn’t exist – shame!   I have a few percussion guns to look at, including the Greener percussion that everyone seems to like, but I won’t be going for those for myself.  I’d really like some of the revolvers – but it will depend on the demand and whether the market gets saturated or if there are lots of hungry buyers – its a matter of playing it by ear and best done by being there on Thursday.  I’m tempted by the thought of a nice Brown Bess, but I am not sure about the ones in the sale. I also have to take a pair of pistols up to hand them over to their owner.   Not sure I’ll have time to touch a gun tonight – but I feel a bit of engraving coming on!  I did have another look at the pair of Beckwith pistols and I can clearly see them as having longer barrels  when they were flintlocks- they would probably have had the proportions of the PARR – see post, but maybe a bit smaller overall.

12th Mar. I’m feeling guilty because I didn’t do my blog last night – I was at a ‘Race Night’ in aid of ‘my’ school and didn’t get back until very late, by which point I just needed to sit and read Private Eye (nothing to do with the wine)!   Anyway, I finished the barrel browning yesterday and steamed them and rubbed beeswax on while still warm. In total they had 8 rustings, 6 Blackleys and 2 Tims, and one steaming at the end – they were very gently brushed with my 8 thou wire brush on the polisher/grindwheel between rustings.  I also put another coat of Slackum on the wood, which by this morning had gelled nicely.   So time to put them together and see how they look – good is the answer!  There is one bit of the pistols that is still unfixed, and I’m not sure if its worth bothering about – on one pistol there is a spring in the ramrod groove that provides some friction to stop the captive ramrod falling out, but its missing in the other pistol – the wood around where the screw holding it should be has been broken away and there isn’t much depth to replace it – its not clear that it ever had the spring there as the grooves are different widths on the two pistols ( & slightly offset?).  It would be a bit of a pain to replace it, and it doesn’t show – I had stripped the pistols and looked at them  many times before I spotted the spring was missing.   The other observation that I made is that the ramrod heads don’t go past the tube across the front of the barrel because the heads are slightly too big – they normally go further in – the stirrup for the ramrod attachment has  shaped arms that are clearly designed to accommodate the head of the ramrod, although in this case they never get that far back.    I  wonder if the pistols had had their barrels shortened at the time of conversion to percussion – evidence the rather crude rework of the muzzle end of the stocks and how close the barrel bolts are to the end of the stocks, plus general feeling that they might have been more ‘of a piece’ with barrels and stocks about 1 1/2  or 2 inches longer, and it would make more sense to rifle them then – probably we shall never know!

Notice that the ramrod head won’t pass the pivot tube – it should go another 5 or 6 mm to fit against the shaped stirrup arms.  Maybe the attached ramrods were added at the time of conversion?   But don’t they look good now!  Compare with the picture below of them before restoration – the differences are quite subtle (as it should be) but the overall effect in the flesh is significant!  

As they were before restoration – the turnscrew still jars on me!

More clues to the timing of the addition of attached ramrods – the woodwork is cut away rather crudely to accomodate them – also the ramrod pipes are positioned differently in the two pistols. As I’ve noted before, looking closely at guns always raises more questions than it solves – that is the fascination of the hobby! The ramrod groove on the RH pistol is narrower than on the left , and the ‘nail’ securing the front of the lock has been necked down to clear the barrel – the one on the right didn’t need it necked down to fit.   

10th Later – now brushed off the barrels – I did one Blackley and one Tim rusting today and I think we are just about there – I don’t have any logwood chips to try redening them, but I think they probably look better like this;-

It’s very difficult to judge things from photos because the light reflecting off surfaces obscures things – when you see objects ‘in the round’  you can move your head and discount the effect.  I think this degree of browning is almost enough – maybe one more with Blackley’s slow brown?

10th Mar.    More playing!  I have managed a couple of rustings of the Beckwith barrels – I’ll brush then and put a picture here later.  I made the new nipple key I needed for the Nock  – the nipple screws into a flat with a right angle edge and only just enough clearance for the base of the nipple – about 8.75mm diameter – all my nipple keys have a bigger outside diameter  and jam – so I needed to make one with a maximum diameter a bit less than  that.  I had a nice 40 mm square of Indian ebony I got from a woodturning supplier which turned down into a fine handle – I made two while I was about it – almost matching but I did it by eye!   I turned the nipple from 14 mm silver steel rod and drilled a 5 mm hole up the middle & filed a 5 mm slot.  Then just a matter of filing a square on the tang and hardening it ( quench in oil in this case) and temper on the AGA in a part of the hotplate showing 285 degrees C.  Finally  make a brass ferrule to fit the end of the handle with a band of knurling for aethetics and Araldited it all together.  I used the spare handle to make a traditional pattern turnscrew to fit the lock nail of the Nock – I didn’t get the blade ( made from spring steel)  quite even as I was in a hurry to finish it, having spent long enough on the job.  Again  quenched in  oil and 285 degree C temper. I ought to put a nipple pricker in the top of the nipple wrench handle as is traditional – maybe later!    The handles were finished by wiping over with shellac a couple of times and then using wax polish.  Quick and dirty!

If I’d been prepared to spend a bit longer I could have made them match!

9th March  More or less a complete day spent playing with guns -as a hobby it is quite time consuming!   I’ve been browning the Beckwith barrels – they are beginning to show some figure, see picture.  At the same time I’m keeping up the slackum on the stocks, which must now be nearing completion.  I tackled a couple of jobs I’ve had around for a while – a friend has a nice percussion gun that I covet – it needed a cap on the fore-end, it has a lot of big bold inlaid gold lettering on the barrel – Sturman of Barnsley (the lock says Bradley in equally bold gold lettering – discrete its not!). The cap should probably be of German silver but I decided that the gun was a bit of ‘Barnsley Bling’ so I made a gold one – at least I made one out of a bit of 22 mm copper water pipe and gold plated it – I think it looks rather good, although I have to admit that it isn’t quite the right shape!   Oh, and I also soldered a pipe onto the rib of a flintlock and started a new website for my STEM club……

4 rustings in – Blackley,Tims, Blackley, Blackley – figure beginning to show…..  It rather looks as if the barrels are slightly different lengths and the foresight is further back on the lower one.

Replacement fore-end cap Sturman/ Bradley;-

Copper pipe annealed and shaped round a mandrel

Gold plated using SPA brush plating stuff

Finished cap – it should really be shaped round the ramrod opening but I like the ‘Barnsley Bling’! 

Here is the lock of the ‘Barnsley Bling’

To give you some idea of what is involved in restoration, here are a couple of photos of the stuff I used in working on the Beckwith pistols – there is more not shown – like the bench wire brush, vice, sandpaper and steel wool etc etc.  I think everything in the photos got used!

8th later  Dick has a couple of pistols he restored for a friend who now wants to sell them – one is the Griffin I included a few pictures of below – a nice early pistol by a very good maker – I will go to Dicks tomorrow with my proper photography setup and take pictures to put on the FOR SALE section of this blog.

8th Mar.  Trying to get some gun jobs out of the way!   I spent some time fiddling with the frizzen springs of a pair of pistols I’m fixing – they were a bit slack so I re-hardened the first in water and tempered it in burning oil and finished on top of the AGA for good measure and its fine – I measure the opening with digital  calipers before I start and decide how open it should be and the either open it that much if its softish or anneal it and then open it if not.  The second frizzen spring was also slack but it was still soft at the end of the process and closed back to its original size when I intalled it – so repeat, only I’ll stick to the AGA and go for a measured  305 degrees annealing – now to see if it works… did!     I’ve stated browning the Beckwith barrels after the chalk degreasing treatment.  I couldn’t get the rusting to start (in the cellar), so I suspended the barrels on a large tub over a jug of warm water and they behaved!  First rusting is Blackley’s solution , second is my old p.c.b. solution much diluted – I want it to be a bit blackish as I don’t want it to look like a re-browning job.  I’m continuing the finishing of the Beckwith stocks – at the moment just putting on Alkonet stained slackum oil until it stays on the surface.  The locks now look a lot more similar after I coloured one up a bit, but the main difference in the photo is caused by the light, although one has a near perfect surface finish and the other has got slight rust pitting – there is really no way to get rid of that difference without being too violent!

The twist begins to show up as soon as I put the used p.c.b solution on – its looking promising – the copper in the ferric chloride gives a darker, geyish to blackish colour.

Beckwiths receiving red oil finish – the clip is holding a split closed while the glue sets..

7th Mar  I missed the range today as I got held up in traffic and was too late – everyone had gone!   I worked on the Beckwiths when I wasn’t going to the range or showing my STEM club how to write computer programs for robots.  I’ve done the crack repair, although when I photographed it for the blog I saw that there were a couple of depressions that need filling.  I lightly coloured the wood with red mahogany spirit dye wiped on and off as it had lost its nice reddish colour in the steaming etc.  It then got a wipe on coat of dilute shellac, and then another, and teh crack was coloured down so that it blended in using a paintbrush and spirit dyes and a Sharpie black pen quickly wiped off with a finger – it gets taken off by spirit stain or oil finish or shellac, but you can build up the colour with care.    I realised when I looked at the pair together taht the spur we had welded on teh cock of one wasn’t at the same angle as the unbroken one.  The broken bit fitted exactly, so it must have been at a different angle to start with, or it was broken bending it.  Anyway I heated it to red heat and bent it to match – which it does reasonably well;-

The cocks match reasonably well, and the crack repair is not really visible, but I might need to do a  better job matching the colour of the lock plate and cocks.

6th Mar.  Archive day at Bullard.  I’m back to working on the Beckwith No 2 this evening – there is a crack above the lock that needs fixing, so I cleaned off the old  finish as it will have to be redone.  The crack has opened and an attempt has been made to glue it, so there is no chance that it will go back down fully, so it will need to be faired in.  There is also a small crack below the lock where someone drove the pin that holds the trigger guard out through the the edge of the lock –  it has a proper hole, and should be put in from the left side, like everything else on a gun .  I drove the trigger pin out to the left using my special technique – a pad of folded and hammered  lead sheet as a support for the wood while the pin is knocked out – the pin goes into the lead easily, but the lead supports the wood and stops it breaking away – if you don’t do that a rusty pin can leave a nasty mess where it exits. You need a pin punch of the right size and length, and to make sure it is actually on the pin and not alongside it.  Anyway – there is enough dirt and old glue around that I can’t get out, and I don’t trust superglue to fix any of this so I’ll use runny epoxy on the crack, and get some walnut dust to fill the pin hole and any voids.   There are splits on the front of the stock where the wood is thin – I’ll glue those at the same time.

I’m hoping to take the Nock rifle to the range tomorrow morning to check out the sight – but I have a committee meeting at 8.30 so lets hope it doesn’t last too long!  I cast up 30 balls this morning – out of doors as last time I did it in the workshop and it was not pleasant.  I’m amazed that the little flat camping stove will melt the lead and then keep it hot outside when turned right down – I’m getting the hang of casting, but the balls still come out with several different weights…….   In the afternoon I have my STEM club at school so no hanging about…

Guns always look a bit forlorn at this stage in the repair, but I’ve learnt from Dick that it’s a necessary step!

Not sure how the pin went off line like this -its hole should be inside the lock recess – and it should go out the other side too.

5th March – I missed last night as I was at a black tie dinner and didn’t get home until too late to blog, even for me!   I was constructing a circuit to charge all my STEM club’s  Mindstorms computers at once – now done, although it gets a bit warm & I might have to boost the heatsinks.  I set to work on sorting the sights of the Nock – Dick gave me a handful of old tubular front sights to try and I found a nice old BSA one with a built in choice of dot or ring by a lever on the side.  My peep sight won’t go very low, so I had to put the sight line about 8 mm above the barrel which meant that conveniently the BSA sight would sit on the barrel and I’d just have to silver solder a suitably shaped bit of 1.5 mm steel onto the bottom.  I  filed up a bit of steel to fit the dovetail on the barrel and silver soldered it on – its not perfect as the silver solder didn’t pull the metal down properly so its not quite level fore and aft, and the wedge isn’t quite tight enough to be reliable, and as its covered by the sight body I can’t use a punch to fix it in place.  Anyway ( there are lots of ‘anyways’ on this blog!) I sighted it with the laser tube and its not too bad – it will certainly get something on an A3  sheet of paper at 25 yards next Tuesday.  I had a look at the set trigger – it doesn’t have much adjustment left, but I gave it a slight tweak and I think it is marginally better.  Now I just have to cast up 20 or so balls to a high spec and see how it shoots – I do need to do something about the nipple, but that is a less urgent problem.  Of course the downside to fixing the tube foresight is that the beautifully fitted case will need modifying and won’t be as neat as it was before – If it works I am tempted to fix a flat base to the barrel and fix the sight into it with lateral adjustment so it can also be removed.

My additional wedge fixing didn’t work as I intended – its a bit tipped up and not tight enough but it will do for ‘proof of concept’ next time I shoot it – I can fix it properly if it works for me.    The lever changes the sight from post and bead to ring.

Saturday was the Anglian Muzzle Loaders shoot at Cambridge Gun Club – extremely well attended too!  I shot the Jackson Improved Central Fire gun I mentioned before – it was much admired and handled beautifully – I was quite pleased with the way it shot – I hit almost all the clays I would have hoped to, and missed all the difficult ones – so I was happy with the Jackson, and it is likely to become my first choice for a percussion double, pushing the Egg to one side.  The only issue that I’ll sort when I get time is that one of the nipples is a fraction undersize and doesn’t hold the cap when you cap it with a capper – so you have to pinch the nipple a bit first, which isn’t idea and even less so when game shooting!”  I  thought I had paid over the odds for it but looking at the prices in the upcoming Holts auction I’m not so sure. (most of the stuff in this sale has 5% VAT as its from Alderney, so the total premium is around 35% ). I will go to the viewing, and may go to the actual sale too – I’ve never been to an actual  Holts auction although I have bought too many guns there – I go to the viewing beforehand and usually bid on the phone, but this time there are so many goodies from Harold Bull’s collection that I’d like to be there!   I have been asked by a couple of dealer friends to check out some of the percussion shotguns – obviously someone trusts my judgement!  I suspect they will go at well over the estimates – coming from a known collection always gives bidders confidence!   I’m not sure I’m in the market for anything in particular, but if something catches my eye but passes others by I might find the temptation too much!

3rd Mar  I stripped one of  the Beckwiths – its time I put up a post about how to strip antiques as it requires extreme care and a few tricks – and derusted it and gently wire brushed the bits with a very fine wire brush – its so fine you can put your fingers in it while its going, but it removes loose rust and leaves a clean surface.   You can see when I removed the mainspring that it is indeed a conversion from flint, which explains the 1790’s butt shape etc. Looking at the barrel you can also see that the bulge with the nipple has been silver soldered onto the original barrel.  So that solves that conundrum!  Dick had the cock welded and very kindly filed it up for me, so it is now indistinguishable from the other, or will be when I have recut a bit of the chequering on the spur.   I steamed most of the dents out of the wood without having to sand anything , so that should finish well.  I’ll do the other one now.  Tommorow is an Anglian Muzzle Loader’s shoot so I will take the Jackson as its now on my certificate – I used the proper form downloaded from the web and emailed it – shame whoever did the form didn’t make the date box writable!  But its a lot easier than posting.

Now that I have removed the mainspring you can just see the telltale blocked holes from its flintlock origin.

click on the picture to see it more clearly.

2nd March – getting a bit ahead! I took the Beckwiths over to Dick so that Jason could weld the tip of the cock – it looks as if someone at some time had a go at soft soldering it on, which is better than attempting to do the same with silver solder which is almost impossible to get rid of when you weld.   Dick and I had a good look at the Beckwiths and concluded that their size makes them quite unusual.  I took the locks off, and they are rather fine workmanship inside, which made me less sure that they were a contemporary conversion.  They are rather pretty, with a few unusual features like the open ramrod groove through the stock after the pipes.   The barrels seem to be nice twist, and have very clean rifling  – they have rather pock marked bluing, but given the age and style they would look perfectly authentic  browned with the twist visible – I can’t tell if they were originally blued. With the metalwork cleaned up and the woodwork with the dings reduced by steaming gently and the barrels browned they would look in a whole different class to match the lockwork and the case!   Dick has a steel barreled and brass mounted pistol by Griffin to restore – its early – Griffin became Griffin and Tow in 1773 so its before then, he was apprenticed in 1741 so would have finished as a journeyman around  10 or 12 years later, so that brackets the date between 1753 and 1773  – maybe I’d put this one around 1760 ish?   I brought the barrel back to derust and get rid of the varnish on it – I’ve done that and its is now clean – its quite pitted but looks OK – it would not have been browned originally, and it would not be sensible to strike it up as too much would be lost, so it will stay.   He also had a pair of brass barreled flintlock pistols by Brander and Potts of 70 The Minories  that he is renovating  – correcting a couple of bodges, like extra screw holes in the trigger guard that needed blocking – Brander joined Potts in 1825 (?) so they are quite late, although they don’t look fully up to date for that time- right at the very end of the flintlock era.  They do have silver mounts which I believe were dated for 1763, which is a mystery as, apart from the name, the frizzen has a roller (introduced in 1775) and its a semi-rainproof pan.   They are rather well made and appear to have originally had the barrels gold plated.  I brought the trigger guard back to touch up the engraving where the screw holes were blocked.  I have offered to renew the gold plating on the barrels – The client is being consulted on the price!   I guess they are basically what we call a ‘bitsa’  – made from bits of this and bits of that, although in this case definitely contemporary and genuine- a rather classy bitsa, and therefore adding interest to the pistols.

‘I came across a nice quote from a law report in Keith Neil and Backs ‘Great British Gunmakers of 1540 to 1740’ that I thought was worth bearing in mind when you look at some utilitarian pocket pistol with ‘H Nock’ on the side….  It was a case in 1747 of someone making guns without having served an approved apprenticeship or being a member of the Guild ;-

“It appears that the gunmakers business in and about London is divided into twenty one different branches: viz barrel forger, brick forger (?), barrel filer, barrel polisher, barrel loop maker, lock forger, lock filer, lock polisher, lock hardener, trigger and nail maker, trigger and nail filer, stock maker, furniture forger or founder, furniture filer and cutter, tip and pipe maker, side piece and thumb piece repairer (?), polisher, engraver, bluer, stick maker, flint maker, and mounter or screwer together, and all that the master gunmaker do in London, after they receive the several parts, is only to screw those parts together in which very little skill or art is required.”    He got off on the grounds that he had made a very fine gun – entirely by himself.  Of course in time almost all those subsidiary activities migrated to Birmingham where the cost of labour was less.

That was in 1747 – by the time the double barreled gun arrived you can add a few more trades, and given my belief that by the mid 19th century  the engraving on sporting guns was farmed out within the engraver’s shop so maybe three engravers worked on the bits of one gun I reckon upwards of 30 people had a direct hand in making a gun!

The Griffin pistol barrel:-  Classic mid 18th century shape and engraving.

The trigger guard of the Griffin needs the tip re-engraving – as you can see the lines are a bit wavy so not too difficult to copy!

1 March -Busy day trying to sort out some electronics – banging head against wall!  This evening I decided it was time to do a bit of engraving of lettering on a test plate so that I didn’t loose the skill altogether  – I don’t understand how the brain (or at least mine) disconnects from the words when you are engraving, particularly through the microscope – I happily engraved ‘DUULLINGHAM’ and didn’t see anything wrong until I looked at it without the microscope – and I had marked it out carefully too , although I did notice that my spacing seemed to have slipped!  As a punishment I made myself redo it in letters 0.8 mm high and get it right!  I’ll try to make time for some gun work tomorrow – de-rust the Beckwiths and maybe start on the fore-end tip for the Bradley gun – I was thinking to try making it from a bit of 1 inch copper pipe and then silver plate it……

28th Feb  I took the Nock rifle to the range this morning and found a number of muzzle loading pistols being shot, which was handy.  My sighting laser worked well – it shows up at 25 m on a reflective strip – luckily there were a couple in the butts to check the sighting on.  I decided to try 1.7 dr of Swiss No 4 as compromise between the 1.5 mentioned in old books, and the 2 or 2.5 that had been mentioned.  The balls from my .632 mould were a steady lightish  push fit with 15 thou lubricated (WD 40) wads, but perhaps not quite as tight as I would have liked.  My first shot was a couple of inches at 3 oclock to the  mark, and my first 5 shots were about within a tea plate, but I’m afraid it was downhill from there!   I did the first 5 without setting the set trigger,  but was worse with it set as it was so sensitive that I couldn’t even feel the trigger on my finger before the gun went off !  Anyway itgot worse – I’m not quite sure why – except that the gun was getting a bit fouled, and I was having some difficulty in seeing the sights and lining them up.  The rear sight has hardly any v in it, only a gold inlay on the back face as a mark that you can’t see under the roof of the hut, and the foresight is not very visible.   At one point I was distracted and put the patched ball down the barrel without any powder – at that point I found out that all my nipple keys were too big on their outside diameter to fit in the space around the nipple ( not sure how I got the nipple out and back when working on it, but I know I did!).  Luckily someone had a little revolver nipple key that worked fine and a bit of fine powder in the nipple hole blew the ball out and it landed a couple of meters from the muzzle.   I also had a couple of misfires – another cap got it going in both cases.    What did I learn?   1) the .632 + 15 thou  balls are a tiny bit small and might not be gripping the rifling – I don’t think they would stand a chance at 2 or 2 1/2 drams of powder.  I might have to get another ball mould or try two 10 thou patches together.   2)  I need to adjust the set trigger a bit so I can actually feel it before it goes off.  3) My eyesight is not really  good enough for open sights, and certainly not with an invisible rear notch.  I need to use the peep sight, perhaps with a smaller hole, which will mean raising the foresight as  the peepsight won’t go low enough on its mount – since it won’t be traditional I might put it in a short tube, or modify a modern one.  4) misfires should not happen, certainly not twice in 20 shots or so – the nipple is the original one and flares out from the top to about 2 to 3 mm.  – our experience with M/L shotguns is that the hole at the bottom needs to be quite small – around 1.3 mm diameter, to fire reliably.  So I’ll have to bite the bullet and make a new one – I hope its 26 t.p.i.  5) I need to think about a ball puller or a gas ejector!  6) I ended up using some balls I had marked as rejects because of surface flaws or weight discrepances – they  did (not surprisingly)  shoot more erratically than the better ones. Anyway, it was an enjoyable shoot with several M/L enthusiasts, so I’ve established a good place to go on a Tuesday morning if I have time!   I had my first of the new STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths) clubs at Kettlefields school in teh afternoon – everyone was very excited because the letters the children had written to local businesses had elicited a cheque for £1000 from one kind sponsor, which paid for the 3 sets of Lego Mindstorms I had already ordered on a gamble. Anyway they all dived in undoing the boxes and were soon busy thinking of projects – their theme is Pets.

27th Feb  Clare of Anglian Muzzle Loaders sent me the link to the notice for the Northern Shooting Show  – you can see what I got up to with my engraving and display of photos of work I have done. .   It is approaching fast, at least in comparison to the rate I’m getting things done!  I’ll have to find a good project to take…..     I am off to the club 25m range tomorrow  to sight in the Samuel Nock 16 bore rifle, having now learnt how to get the right size of ball, and got the right powder – I’ll try my laser tube.  I ought to make an unloading rod in case I have to get a ball out – I did try a vicious modern 5 mm screw that seemed to work just fine, so I’ll just have to mount it in a suitable rod with a cover – I did buy a tap and die of the size most commonly used on old cleaning rods – 9/32 BSF so that I could do the job properly but haven’t got round to it – like so many things.   I’m just wondering if I might take my Colt Army to shoot on the range – it is on my FAC and I have  shot it and it is quite a beast – with slugs the chamber is full of powder and the slug is flush with the end, or just looses its tip. I did manage to get a few shots in the target last time I shot it!   The flask is a cheap repro, I think the case is also late.  I do prefer the Navy, but I don’t have a shootable one, although years ago my father used to shoot mine without problems.

This is in very fine mechanical order- its only problem is slightly messed up barrel lettering where someone has tried to ‘improve’ it.

26th Feb.  I do seem to find myself doing strange things – today making a new drumstick used to strike the gong to announce formal dinners at  Homerton College as the steward had been a little too vigorous with the old one – fortunately it wasn’t a very ancient item of historic importance.  I  copied the old one but had to spend some time finding a suitable covering for the head of the stick – too hard and it excited too many high frequency resonances in the  copper dish I was using as I didn’t have the gong itself, too soft and it sounded dead!  I used two layers of scraps of felt left over from lining a gun case wrapped round the ball shaped head and sewn on!   I am incidentally  invited to a formal dinner on Tuesday so I’ll hear how it sounds!  I got a fierce letter from the VAT man yesterday because I’d forgotten to put in my return – slap over the wrist for me!  So unfortunately no guns this evening!     Thinking about the Beckwith pistols, they do look quite early in the percussion era – They have two side nails but no side plates, and the back tip of the lockplate is a bit dated, and the flats on the butt are typical late flintlock features – also no escutcheons round the barrel bolt.  The locks and breech plug were clearly made as percussion, but I have a feeling that the rest of the pistols might be from a flintlock – the percussion bits don’t quite fit in style or quality with the rest?    I’ll do a bit more careful examination when I strip them down to clean – but its a nice speculation to work on, and would certainly make them more interesting.

My good deed for the day!

25TH Feb.  I handed back the 1777 French Cavalry pistols today and got a cased pair of Beckwith percussion pocket or, more properly, overcoat pistols in return  to clean up and restore and weld the tip of the cock of one.   Looking at them they are a workman like pair of  fairly utilitarian pistols in a case – just the thing for a gentleman to have about his person if venturing into the less salubrious suberbs of a mid 19th century English city – retailed or possibly made  by  William Beckwith’s widow  Elizabeth  Beckwith from 58 Skinner Street, London or just possibly by her son Henry Beckwith, same address.  There is some evidence that they were Birmingham gunmakers with a shop in London  (Merwyn Casey’s book – English Irish and Scottish Firearms Makers) .   They are in need of a non invasive electrolytic clean and a welding job, plus  tidying up an old crack round the lock – The barrels have some active rust underneath and are a bit pitted through the old black  bluing .

I’ll take them to Dick some time and get his opinion about it, particularly what he thinks about the finish on the barrels.I’ll  start by derusting the locks to clean them – it will leave a good natural finish, then either weld the cock myself or get Jason to do it – he does a neater job that results in less filing up afterwards, but sometimes one finds that it was too neat and there is a bit that needs going over – the same happens if I do it sometimes but at least it only takes 2 minutes to flash up the welder.

Not too sure about that turnscrew!    And where is the nipple key?

I might put them fairly early in the percussion era – the tip on the back of the lock, and the lock held on by 2 side nails

24th Feb  I spent a lot of today wearing my school governor hat, or rather badge.  Governors are supposed to have an oversight of what goes on in the school so that we can hold the head to account, but probably more importantly, so that we can impress the school inspectors that we are doing our job (unpaid of course) so that they will give the school a good rating.  Anyway as the governor with special  responsibility for children with special educational needs I need to know what is done in the school to help them, and how effective any interventions are.  It is interesting to see the way schools are changing – having gone down the route of extreme risk reduction and more or less wrapping the children in cotton wool, the buzzword is now ‘resilience’, which means make them think for themselves and take some responsibility for their lives as they go through the school.  About time too!  I’m quite excited about the way things are going in education at primary level – and particularly the way that schools are opening up to the outside world and encouraging industrial contacts.  All good stuff.  All that waffle is just by way of an excuse for not having touched a gun all day – apart from realising that keeping my (FAC) Percussion Nock Rifle in its case wouldn’t really cut the mustard* with the firearms department, so the barrel has been taken out and put in the cabinet.

23rd Feb.  I went out to the Cambridge Gun Club for a few clays with Bev and Viking but it was blowing a gale and I couldn’t see any prospect of my hitting anything – if I was a better shot it might have been fun but clays with a 50 to 60 mph gusting wind behind them are not something I really expect to do very well at.  The others stayed and braved it, but I headed home clutching my kilogram of Swiss No 4.  Its unfortunate that the black powder we buy – all from the continent – comes in 1 Kg bottles, whereas for legal storage we have to keep it in containers of a maximum of 500 gm.  I’m sure someone had a good reason for changing it, but that is one area where a bit of European joined up thinking would have been useful to the poor punter!   On the way back home I found the road blocked by a fallen tree, so I had fun towing it out of the way with my Land Cruiser- luckily I can tie knots in rope that I can undo afterwards.  I had meant to throw the chainsaw in the back before I set off but didn’t.      This evening I was reading a copy of Howard L Blackmore’s book ‘Guns and Rifles of the World’ as I bought a copy at the re-enactment fair – its a deceptive book because it looks as if it is a casual coffee table book – the title suggests it, but Blackmore is an authority on almost every aspect of the history of firearms  and the book is an excellent introduction to the history of firearms and the enormous variety of guns that have been made – even if the average collector only sees a few percent of that. If you only have one book on antique guns this would be a good choice.  When I got it home I found I already had a copy, so if anyone wants one I’ll sell it for the £20 I paid plus postage.

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Apr 012016

Here is a new project;-  I need a very low profile engraving vice for my portable kit, and it would probably make life more comfortable in the workshop – the height of my engraver’s block/ball, plus the working distance of the microscope plus the height from objective to eyepiece is uncomfortably close to the distance between my lap and my eye when sitting.  So I have a project to build a thin vice using only 8mm x 50 mm bright steel bar, an angle grinder, a pedestal drill  and some M6 screws and an M6 tap plus an M10 tap and an old M10 bolt for the fundamentals, plus a very small amount of TIG welding on the jaws (could be screwed).  I have cheated in that I put the half finished vice platform in the lathe to get it shaped – cosmetic only – I could have done it with the angle grinder given more time and patience than I had – plus I ran out of cutting disks for the grinder!


To read more click here…… Continue reading »

Mar 222016

As I’ve spent so long playing with designs and looking at original breeches and standing breeches I though they deserved their own post. My immediate problem is finding a design for Fred’s gun that isn’t a dead copy but is in the spirit of the times – the times being early C19.


To read more click here…… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 5:37 pm
Feb 272016

The lock lock I’m making up here is a from a set of castings from Jim Kibler in the US, I think he charged $125 for the kit which has all the cast parts but no screws – good value for a nice kit.  I built up the lock without any particular destination in mind, but later I made a pistol in the style of a sea service pistol and fitted the  lock to that – see INERT PISTOL post .

dolep lock cleaned up

Here is the kit – I have cleaned up most parts and turned the tumbler down – only the top jaw is untouched.

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Feb 032016

A bit of casual research into the common 18th and early 19th century image often used as a motif for engraving on guns, mostly on pistols as long guns tended to have sporting images, but it was used on butt tangs, Trigger bows and lock tails of ‘bullet guns’ and sporting guns occasionally – it comes in various guises, including ‘Stand of Music’ with the weapons missing and sheet music featuring prominently.  The origin appears to be Hogarth’s engraving of around 1746, although whether he used an already common theme I don’t know.  This is the start of a collection of related gun engravings, that I’ll add to as more examples cross my path.


 Here is the original engraving from Hogarth, reproduced from Wikimedia Commons

Click to see more………………..

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Jan 282016

Robin asked me to rescue this lock that had been converted to percussion and also savagely worked on at some later point – it isn’t clear what the objective was, but its a bit of a mess and I don’t feel that I’m violating my principles of not destroying historical material by recutting it – I’ll make sure I leave my initials on the inside of the lock….

robins lock orig1

Robin’s Lock in a sorry state – the engraving on the nose obviously dates from the conversion at least 30 years after the lock was made.

The tail has a ‘stand of music’?  engraving somewhat similar to the  ‘?stand of arms’ I just recut on Fred’s butt tang – I can’t identify most of the elements on this one either, but it must be a standard design of the period  (update – see separate post ‘ Stand of Arms’ for history of this pattern) .  

To read more …. Continue reading »

Jan 222016

I was surprised at how easy it was to get perfect results on some aluminium parts for my microscope headrest that I wanted to match the rest of my WILD microscope.  There are lots of videos and info on the web, but I have put down the essentials so that I know where to look when I come to do it next time!

Click to see more…….

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Jan 062016


I’ve now done four guns for Fred, one single barreled gun, two based on sets of McKnight casings from Kevin Blackley and one conversion of a double percussion gun by Clough of Bath.  I have put pictures from all four jobs here ;-


Fred’s single barreled gun – the first I engraved for him;-


to read more, click on the message;-

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Sep 272015

I did a practice Scottish Lock pattern  earlier this year (see Celtic Engraving below) and now Archie Owens has acquired the gun and made a new lock and has asked me to engrave it.  His grandfather fought with the Cameronian Highlanders in the First World War, and he wants to celebrate his Scottish ancestry by tying the gun to the memory of his grandfather.  He has the Glengarry (cap) and cap badge belonging to his Grandfather and would like elements of the badge incorporated into the lock design.  It is not too far from what I did before, so I now have to do some sketches and get them approved by Archie.  I will keep this blog updated as I go along…..   Now completed and delivered, but stupidly I forgot to get a pull of it!

blank lock


The Cameronian Highlander’s glengarry badge


The completed lock – click on the picture – you’ll get a better resolution!   (browser back to exit)

Here is the final work, click below to see the steps along the way……..

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 Posted by at 12:18 am
Aug 232015

Update; Saturday and Sunday were busy but it rained on Monday so that was a bit quiet!

I’ve had lots of interest in the engraving – it gets interest from people who are accompanying gun nuts but are not interested in guns themselves!  I’ve reverted to screwheads as it doesn’t require too much concentration, and shows up well on the screen, which is very successful.  It is difficult to do anything much larger because I don’t have my proper turntable and its difficult to rotate things and keep them in the field of view.  Here are some pictures of the setup –  today I took a few percussion revolvers – a rather worn Colt Navy, a restored Deane, Adams and Dean 56 bore, A Beaumont Adams and a Tranter double trigger – all from the 1851 to 1870 period.  I also took my much restored Lancaster Oval Bore double rifle – see separate entry  in in this blog.



Screwhead shown on the tablet screen


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Aug 172015

I have been playing with this for a while, but posting it has had to wait until I got back from sailing in the Hebrides, so here it is;-


I bought this from Holts way back as I thought it would be a bit different – I thought that it was probably a conversion from flint, but it is possible that it was made like that originally – it had had some later work done anyway – I’m not that familiar with French guns that I can be certain.   On examination the ‘barrel’ holding the left nipple didn’t match the one holding the right nipple, and was not fit to be fired – you can see above that I  have made and  fitted a replacement – fortunately a 3/8th Whitworth thread fitted the existing hole.   Also the left lock didn’t work as the bents on the tumbler  were badly rounded and didn’t hold the sear, and the cock was not correctly aligned with them so that it tried to cock and half cock in the wrong positions – plus the hexagonal hole in the left cock was pretty loose on the tumbler.   Maybe a replacement tumbler?

Here is what I did…   Continue reading »

 Posted by at 6:44 pm
Jul 202015

Out pigeon shooting, Derek propped his Ardesa 20 bore o/u against the hedge and turned his Land Rover to park it out of the way- you can guess the rest – a stock at 30 degrees to the barrel!  An amazing repair later by Chris Hobbs – the fibres of the wood had stretched 3mm & it was only possible to repair it because it was cheap wood – someone thought it would be a good idea to mark the event by engraving the escutcheon and it came to me for a little creative work before it got back to Derek………..



Not a very good photo, but you get the idea!

 Posted by at 9:27 am
Jul 192015

Dick had a pretty little Martini action rifle that had had 4 holes drilled and tapped in the top rib to take a sight, that his client wanted obliterated, so Dick made screwed inserts and peened them in, and filed them down and I re-engraved parts of the name, and the pattern on the rib.  An alternative would have been to weld the holes up, but this way was less invasive – and it was only intended to be a quick and straighforward job.  You can still see the marks, but only if you look for them.


falling block rifle


 Posted by at 9:30 pm
Jul 062015

We’re off to Rugby for our muzzle loading Helice shoot on the 18th of July, which should be great fun.  I’m trying to decide what gun I will shoot.  Last Sunday I did much better than usual with my (possibly spuriously signed)  D. Egg double 15 bore with back action locks and rather nice Stubb Twist barrels stamped TW with Birmingham proof marks .  It’s a typical late percussion gun, probably mostly of Birmingham manufacture despite the D EGG LONDON barrel engraving – to me it has the feel of a Birmingham gun rather than a London gun.  By the time this gun was (probably) made Durs Egg had died ( in 1831) and his son Joseph was running the business but still trading as Durs Egg so he may have simply retailed this gun or quite possibly it was made after 1834 when that trading name ceased to be used, in which case it is one of many spuriously named guns.  It is of a decent standard – what I would call a good gentleman’s gun – in good condition with a reasonable bore – a very good bet for shooting.  I picked it up at Holts in the sealed bid sale earlier this year – I hadn’t intended to look at it as at the time I disregarded anything with back action locks, but it seemed to fit well so I bought it after a slight haggle and I now quite like back action locks – less mess to clean after shooting!  Being quite late in the evolution of muzzle loaders many good back action lock percussion shotguns had a relatively short working life. All I’ve had to do is replace the nipples with the ‘correct’ shape to avoid misfires. Here are some pictures of it;



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Jun 142015

Last week my friend Dick passed a heap of rust to me to see if my derusting technique ( see below) would reveal anything.  He was a little concerned that it might turn out to be a Section 5 heap of rust, but I figured that anyone who described it as a firearm would be sectioned under the mental health act themselves!

Anyway after two or three days in the derusting tank, here it is;-

tranter rust 2

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Jun 042015

Back from a lovely weekend in St Andrews with Tom shooting at the rather grandly titled Scottish National Muzzle Loading Championships – actually mostly our crowd from the  Anglian Muzzle Loaders – we even have to take our own Scotsman – Tosh – to make sure they are represented!  Anyway a grand time was had by all, in beautiful weather.  Only slightly marred by my Land Cruiser diff lock mysteriously getting engaged and refusing to disengage, but a very helpful garage fixed it for the princely sum of 30 Scottish pounds.  Anyway here are a couple of photos – unfortunately I was too busy during the muzzle loading part before lunch to take any photos so these are all black powder breech loaders.   (I didn’t bring the results back – but the mostly prizes went to the usual suspects!)

Martin hammer flashcrop-small

Martin Crix shooting his Black Powder hammer gun

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 Posted by at 12:32 am