Jul 212019



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

  from  Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..

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.  Many of the guns illustrated belong to friends or clients who have given permission for them to be included.


Most of the photos on this website are mine, a few are from other sources or are photographed from books. The guns photographed mostly belong to other people who are happy for them to be on the web – I always ask.   My photos are copyright – you are welcome to use them for your own purposes, but not for gain – please always attribute them to cablesfarm.co.uk.   All my photos have been reduced in resolution using photoscape (excellent & free) to save space on the website, they are normally 1200 pixels wide, occasionally 1600 for more interesting things.   The image you will normally see on your screen is at a lower resolution still, as wordpress fits it to the page and decreases the resolution very considerably to speed up loading.  Clicking on any photo will show you the full  1200 or 1600 width version if your screen resolution allows it – they are very much clearer.   All the photos were originally taken at much higher resolution – up to 6000 pixels wide –  if you want a higher resolution version of any of the photos e.g. for publication, please contact me with details and we can if necessary discuss copyright and I can forward  full resolution copies.   For serious research publications I am happy to take new photos of guns I have access to.  If you right click & ‘save image’ from the normal web page you will get an image of (for the J LANG 14 bore for example) 94 KBytes, if you left click on the image and download from the larger image that comes up on a blank screen you’ll get about 573 KBytes, which is what I uploaded to the website  –  if I send you the original cropped image it is 8.257 MBytes  with a horizontal count of 5885 pixels !

 So now you know why the photos in the normal view look a bit murky!  Just click on them for a better photo.



26th February – My Land Cruiser had run out of MOT and is due for a re-licence on Monday so I was a bit concerned, but fortunately it passed with just a couple of bushes on the stabiliser bar.  I’ve been busy on the Wogdon No 1.  The ramrod hole is now drilled – I didn’t have a tapered drill as the old gunmakers used so did it with an 8 mm D bit I’d previously made.  This took the breech end of the hole very near the bottom of the barrel groove – close enough to just break through, so I let in a bit of wood to repair the weak patch.  It isn’t deep enough to impede the ramrod.  I milled out the dovetails in the underside of the barrel to take the loops for the barrel bolts – I milled flats with an end mill and then very gingerly cut the dovetails with a rather fragile looking 60 degree dovetail cutter – but it worked brilliantly.  I cut the dovetails with a slight wedge shape by moving the barrel in the vice when I cut the second side, then filed the loops to fit – then I  locked them in place with a centre punch.  I think they are secure, as they fitted very well and had to be tapped into place – I guess if there is a problem later I can solder them as well.  I cut the holes for the loops in the floor of the barrel groove, and I’ve marked where the barrel bolt holes need to be.  I’m pondering  how to make the slots as the bolts are less than 1 mm thick – I can just get my finest flat needle file   ( 1 mm thick)  through the slots on the Hutchinson dueller. I guess it will have to be a series of 1 mm holes drilled, although the holes will be through around 10 mm of wood and 1 mm drills do have a habit of wandering – and should I do it while the stock is in the square, or when its rounded and there will be less wood to traverse?  The false breech wasn’t a good fit against the stock – this is an important area as it transfers the recoil of the pistol barrel to the stock, so I cast some epoxy/walnut dust into the gap – its more or less worked but I used clingfilm to stop the false breech sticking, and its left marks – but its very firm and will work – its hidden by the false breech anyway!   I am now making a mainspring,  I made a blank but got the shape wrong so I made another that I’m filing up after bending it.- I am running out of 3 mm spring steel so for No 2 I might try cutting up an old circular saw blade, its supposed to work…..I think I ordered some from Blackleys several years ago but haven’t had it ( I think I may even have paid for it!

The loop does fit flat on the barrel, its just not quite as wide as the flat!

24th February – I’ve been quite busy fettling the Wogdon – I decided to concentrate on the first pistol, so I could make al my mistakes on that one and move on to No 2 when I’m a bit further on.  If I have to fabricate any parts for No 1, I’ll make the parts for No 2 as well.  I inletted the lock plate, snd then mounted the bridle and inletted those, then the tumbler and sear and sear spring, so now the lock is complete inside except for the mainspring, which I fear I’ll have to fabricate – I have made several so I know it my method works!  Having got the lock in ( its perfectly lined up with the touchhole, fortunately!)  I could then position the set trigger and mill a slot for it with a 10 mm cutter so that the blade lined up with the sear arm.  I thought I was going to have to sink the set trigger into the stock by a couple of mm to get the right engagement, and I knew the stock was a bit too low there so I ran the underside on the belt sander and took off around 1 mm ro 1 1/2 mm and set the trigger plate flush.  It works, but the trigger blade is too high when fired to let the sear back into the bents on the tumbler – that can easily be cured by slightly cranking the sear arm upwards.  I put the ramrod groove in the stock, not quite perfect in that it is a bit close to the barrel at the breech end, but I think I can cope with that!  I now have to drill the rest of the way with a 7mm drill I’ll have to make, or use a ‘D’ drill that is very slow at cuting.   I machined blanks for the barrel loops that take the barrel bolts to hold the barrel to the stock, and I will let them into dovetails in the bottom of the barrel.  I did buy a small dovetail cutter bit but it looks awfully frail!  The fun part will be cutting 1.5 mm slots in the loops – I can put 1.5 mm holes and perhaps fretsaw the slots?  My 1.5 mm milling cutter only has about 4mm of cutter and then gets to around 6mm diameter, so I can’t use that.  Keeps me out of trouble all this…………………………………………………………………


Here are 4 blanks – the base is a bit thick, it has been filed thinner

Beginning to look like a pistol – the temptation to start rounding is strong, but it must wait a bit longer.

21st February – Saturday was spent catching up on domestic jobs that I’d been putting off – one or two still to do.  The new power supply for the spindle motor on the router seems OK – I did a couple of test runs.  I’m jut tweaking the code for the barrel inletting and will, I hope, test that tomorrow – its in several parts – cutting the raw rectangular shapes, and then trimming them for the swamped shape of the barrel.  Each time it needs the zero point carefully set up, so I’m in the process of putting them all together into one run so I know all the zeros are exactly the same.   I got fed up with juggling with bits of packing while trying to hold tapered or slightly irregular bits in the vice for working on the stocks, so came up with a simple clamp that works very well on the stocks in the square – it consists of a block of wood that sits on the bottom of the vice slide and has a bit of 1/2 inch rod behind it so it can swivel – the face of the wood is slightly dished on the sander so it can bend a bit to give a grip at the ends – works briliantly…..

I finished the third Wogdon Project video and am in the process of uploading it to YouTube, which takes forever – so far 24 hours and still got 1% to go! thats about an hour to uplioad each minute of video!  the link is;-


19th February – Its really nice working in my re-vamped den!  I have now routed out the profile of the third stock, so that is ready for its barrel to be inlet when I can pluck up the courage to have another go.  I started the lock inletting of No 1, and cut out the pocket for the ‘bolster on the lock and the hook on the front, so now the lock plate (without the ‘works’ on the back) sits down flush on the wood ready for the next stage of inletting.  I can now see how far the lock has to be let into the stock for the bolster to rest against the barrel (about 3 mm) – the width of the stock in the lock area is fixed by the barrel width plus the lock, and any taper in the stock there is defined by the swamping of the barrel, the stock on the other side of the gun opposite the lock being shaped to match.  When you come to make a gun you realise how interdependent everything is, and you actually have very few degrees of freedom. Its why you have to do things in the right order of dependency or you come unstuck…. I am keeping my fingers crossed on that one!   I got the new power supply for the cnc spindle motor, which is a rather good quality surplus supply from ebay.  It is rated at 48 volts at 5 Amps, making a total of 24o watts, which is a bit mean for the 400 watt motor but it is a massive improvement on what was there before, and I can’t slow the motor appreciably by hand, so I’m happy – it is, after all, around 1/3 of a horsepower for a 4 mm cutter running at 12000 r.p.m.! – plus it is independent of the stepper motor drivers.  I have rewritten the G Code for cutting the barrel inletting to avoid high loads on the spindle, although it will now take ages to run!  I had a go at writing some simple code for clearing a pocket for inletting the lock, just leaving a little round the edges to be nibbled away by the neat mouse, and it seemed alright on the test piece, but I decided that by putting in a few more points (24 in total)  for the cutter to follow I could give the mouse less work to do = so that is another thing to test.  I did it by photographing the lock plate on a piece of millimeter grid graph paper and picking off the cooordinates for the ends of the cutter paths – its quite quick and will give a uniform depth of cut with perhaps 1 or 1 1/2 mm to trim off.  I put the coordinates into a spreadsheet (Libra Office) and use that to compose the program using formulae and copy and paste for multiple passes,  I then export it as a .csv text file and check it in G Wizard, which shows the cutter paths in 3 D and highlights errors and lets me edit out any stray points etc. Its then saved as a G Code file (.nc) ready to run in bCNC, which sends the G Code over a usb connection to the cnc controller.  bCNC itself lets you look at the tool paths and edit the code, but its not as clever about it as G Wizard.  I’m really getting into this cnc business – wish I had one capable of working in steel!

You can see the false breech needs to close up on the barrel  – this will bring the tang down a shade.

The contact between the lock and the barrel in this area defines the width and taper of the pistol here.


18th February – Pretty dramatic change in the weather = the kitchen jumped from struggling to reach 18C with the underfloor heating working hard to touching 23C  without the underfloor.   I made a few bits for the next video, which I’ll edit over the weekend when I can get into my office! I profiled the replacement stock and started to inlet the lock of pistol No 1 – I’m not very confident about doing it – in the past I have managed, but there is a tendency for my inletting to look as if it was very neatly gnawed out by a small mouse. Although the wood I’ve used for the stocks is good  straight grained walnut of a reasonable density it is difficult to get it to cut sharply in spite of all my tool sharpening efforts.  I think I probably need some thin bladed tools with a very gradual taper!  I’ve ordered a couple of  Japanese wood files which are supposed to be very good – they are certainly expensive – to do the shaping of the stocks  – it is coming on apace!  My new workshop layout is much better, especially since I’ve put away or thrown away a lot of clutter – I did a quick video tour for the next video.  The new power supply for the cnc spindle is due to arrive tomorrow, so I can fix that up and test it on the offcuts from the stock blanks, of which I now have several!

17th February – Disaster – when I had finally got all the cnc runs completed for the barrel inletting of No 2 after many stops and starts  it turned out that some of the attempts had displaced their axes and cut the basic groove too wide, so that stock is a write-off unless at some point I can find a very heavy barrel!  Anyway I wasn’t happy with the way the cnc router was working, so I did a bit of investigating as the cutter seemed to lack power despite the fact that the one I put in had a 400Watt power rating.  Checking the voltage and current to the motor revealed that kills the supply at a power input of around 60 watts = the supply is not capable of more than about 1.6 Amps!  I kept the original power arrangements but never thought that they could be that feeble!  I suspect that the spindle motor may also causing the power supply to the stepper motor drivers to drop and miss steps when the load on the spindle motor reached a high.  At least there is an easy solution to the problem – I found a  cnc spindle drive module  that claims to give up tp 48 volts at up to 10 amps – I’m waiting for a power supply that is capable of providing the raw D.C it needs.  As a break from fussing about the router I decided to take advantage of the warmer weather and rearrange my ‘indoor’ workshop while I could work outside to cut up the workbenches etc.  My original arrangement had lots of useless spaces, and a beautiful Edwardian specimen cabinet  with 27 drawers that was more or less inaccessible.  A bit of reorganisation and I now have three decent working areas – a design/computer space, a  heavy workbench with vice and TIG welder etc, plus a decent general ‘clean’ working area, as well as the top of the specimen cabinet that is ideal for the cnc router.  The room was the old dairy, and the windows were originally unglazed with screens and shutters – one is still shuttered, so I’ll buy a big sheet of Perspex or Polycarbonate and glaze it while leaving the screen in place.  I’v got the benches etc sorted and am going through all the junk that has built up over the last 8 years since I moved my workshop in there.  I found another stock blank that will do for the replacement stock for pistol No 2, and I’ve set it up for routing, so I’ll do that tomorrow – I won’t try cutting the barrel groove til I’ve fitted the new motor drive and tested it very thoroughly on scrap timber!  

14th February – Happy Valentines Day ( I forgot, my excuse is that its not essential and therefore not allowed under lockdown!)  I’m still struggling with the cnc machining of the grooves – the cutter is barely powerful enough for the job and stalls easily – I must have had about half a dozen attempts to cut the rough pockets for the barrel without getting more than half way through!  Aside from that I have been inletting the false breech of the No 1 pistol – I had to put in a patch as I inadvertently cut out too much, but I’m hoping it won’t show. As I mentioned, the tang of both false breeches was bent to the wrong curves for the top of the stock, so I had a couple of goes on the ‘original’ one and got it pretty well on the right curve – it will be blended in when I’ve finished by filing both the wood and metal together.   I wondered about the false breech tang screw/pin as usually its a pin ( i.e a machine screw ) that goes right through the wrist of the stock into the trigger plate in front of the triggers, but the set triggers don’t have a boss for a thread and I couldn’t see from the book how it worked. Fortunately my Hutchinson duelling pistol is very similar to the Wogdons and has a similar set trigger, so I unscrewed its fales breech tang screw, which turned out to be a woodscrew about 16 mm long – problem solved.  I am wondering if it would be worth getting a ‘proper’ cnc machine for metal – you can get a secondhand small mill  of the sort sold to educational establishments for around 2.5K but as they stand they are not great, for a start the software to run them is proprietory and isnt sold with the second hand machines – also its supposed not to be great at machine control as it drives the axes via the old style printer port of a PC.   But assuming the basic mechanics is OK, I can probably use the same controller thats runs my little cnc machine ( I upgraded it to a more modern board) –  just add beefier stepper motor drivers and a spindle drive, and then I could run the same software, and much less of a learning curve…. possible.  I’ve got lots of videos queued up to be edited – hope to get one out in the next few days…….

11th February – Just put in my night’s input and lost it as the editor played up!   Yesterday I finished playing around with my programs for cutting the barrel groove on my cnc machine and decided the time had come to bite the bullet and set it running – slight problem as the whole job takes 5 separate programs of cutting and it required very careful setting up to zero the cutter between each one – but I got there in the end,  except there was a raised ridge down the middle of the bottom.  No problem , I’ll just input a few coordinates and run the cutter down the middle – only muggins got the X and Y coordinates mixed up and sent the cutter sideways into the wall of the barrel groove, almost through it….   Much gnashing of teeth and calling down of demons!  Then I realised that I had forgotten to cut off the 12 mm extra I’d left on top of the barrel due to the shaping of the jig, so, thank goodness, after cutting this off on the badsaw I’d removed most of the damage – just a trace left that will either be sanded off or can be filled with a sliver of wood.  But of course I’ve now got to run all 5 programs on the cut down area…………………..   I had better luck with the false breech.  I fitted the pot in my pedal control so my welder was working again, and welded up the parts (see 4th Feb) that I’d clamped to a piece of aluminium angle.  I had chamfered the joint so that I got good penetration to make a strong joint as it is subject to a lot of stress if the pistol is ever fired.  I tacked and then deep welded the joint and over filled it to ensure no signs of the weld would show when the surface was filed off.  That all went well, and I’ve now filed the shape to match the barrel profile and trimmed the hole for the hook on the ‘hut’ of the breech.  Much to my surprise (I shouldn’t confess this!) the barrel and false breech fitted perfectly after a little tweak with a minute (1.5 mm) dental burr in a (fake) Dremel.  I shaped the tang on the mill with a 12mm cutter to get the corners right and put on a little draft to aid inletting.  I bent the tang at red heat, and its better than the original one in terms of fit, but both will need tweaking when they are inletted.   So tomorrow’s job is to recut the barrel groove in the second stock – then probably clean up the profile of the top of both stocks on the big disk sander to inlet the false breeches along with final inletting of the barrels.   Then think about shaping the  sides of the lock in the square to provide the platform to inlet the lock into.  I will have to inlet the edge of the lock by hand as I can’t at the moment get its shape into my cnc software, but most of the area of the lock can be milled out by feeding in segments of straight lines, and the deeper parts can similarly be inlet using an appropriatelu sized end mill.  The lock position depends on the eventual position of the touch hole, and once the lock is in place I can locate the set trigger mechanism and decide if I need to crank the sear arm. Once that is settled the underside profile of the pistol can be fixed, and at that point the ramrod groove and hole can be put in.  At this point I will have to make the ramrod pipes and the trigger guard – annoyingly the price of silver has gone up from  £1.07/gm to £1.20/gm in the last few days – serve me right for not buying it when I’d worked out how much I needed!.

The sight blade on mine is a bit thick, and the tang could be a bit thinner although that won’t show.

9th February  AT last I got a result from my ‘programming’ labours – I managed to get my cnc machine to cut a near perfect groove for the swamped octagonal barrels in a test piece of hard walnut – I had one or two small problems as I’d specified too big a cut in one or two places and it tripped the spindle motor, and I put the wrong sized bevel cutter in to begin with, but the end result is not bad – needs a bit of  trimming – maybe up to .3 mm around the breech, but I think I’m now ready to run it on the real stock. It may seem odd to spend so long just avoiding a bit of hand work, but its an investment in learning how to use the machine – I think I could now  program the cnc for a lot of other jobs – probably even for inletting the locks, which is a job I hate as I can never approach the sharp result that the old craftsmen achieved.  The other though that occured to me is that I can get a reasonable sized benchtop cnc milling machine that will handle mild steel at a fairly sensiblle price second hand, although the software to run it is not free!   Next weekend I’ll pass 21 days since I had my jab, so I will at least be able to do the shopping, which I’ve avoided recently – but online shopping is not the same as far as food is concerned so it will be good to browse and only buy fruit and veg that looks good!

The dots are the points for measuring to check dimensions.

8th February  Busy on various peripheral tasks to the Wogdon pistols!   I have spent a couple of days getting to grips with my small cnc machine as I think it will do well for cutting the barrel bed for the second pistol – it is coming on well – I have written  3 G Code programs for different aspects of the barrel inletting, and am in the process of doing a dummy run on a piece of walnut worktop – it looks good and was going well, but my program for shaping the groove for the barrel swamping had a bit of a hicough just now – I’ll leave it till the morning to tackle that problem,,,,,  I got a new potentiometer for my welder pedal, so I can get on with welding up the second false breech,  And I still have a lot of video recordings for the next Wogdon video to be editted….   I suppose I’m lucky to have so many things to do in lockdown, but I am feeling a bit housebound – I get this feeling that if it goes on much longer I’ll become a recluse!   I hope to have a couple of photos to show for my work tomorrow!   One good thing about this blog is that it does constitute communication with the outside world!

5th February  -I decides it was time to sort out my wood milling – I have a small Chinese cnc router/mill/engraver that I have tried to use in the past but have never really mastered, and milling the barrel grooves in the stocks seemed like a good  reason to persevere.  The main problem I found was that for even simple jobs I had to produce a CAD model in software, then convert that to tool paths, and then convert that to G=Code, which is the simple language that the machine used to move etc.  Anyway I found a piece of software  (G=Wizard Editor) that lets me make simple  G-Code programs without the model = once I get the hang of it I can machine simple shapes or write G=Code for more complex shapes, so I am planning to use it to profile the barrel groove,  Anyway that is the plan!  Another big problem I had was establishing where the machine thought its home position was – I would think I knew were it would start cutting, but it would have other ideas and go wizzing off to somewhere else and start there = sometimes dragging the tool through the wood – I bent one motor shaft that way….. First I need to get some kind of dust extraction working on the machine. then I’ll do a dummy run on a scrap of wood and then probably try the ramrod groove in the first stock – I need an 8 mm ball ended cutter.  I’ve got the fabricated false breech set up for welding, but I am waiting for delivery of a replacement potentiometer from RS Components to get the welder foot pedal working.  The second of the Wogdon recreation videos is now online see VIDEOS  in the header or search for Wogdon or Cablesfarm on Youtube.  I will try to do the next one during this week, but its a bit tricky to do and film at the same time – there is a tendency to be aware of the camera and loose concentration!

4th February – I set up to mill out the barrel groove in one of the stocks yesterday but was thwarted by the digital readouts on my miller which were jumping about for some reason, probably damp in the workshop.  I did get it partly done and I’ve now finished it off by hand, getting down to smoking the barrel so I could see where it was touching – at one point I noticed that the barrel was slightly canted over so that had to be corrected – anyway that one is now done, leaving the blank stock and my hands very black!  I inlet the barrel without the false breech ( also known as the standing breech) as I only have one for the two pistols, and that one isn’t quite the right shape to match the curve of the butt.  So I started to make a second false breech – Given a suitable piece of angle iron it is possible to shape and bend it in one piece, but I don’t have a suitable sample, nor do I have a big enough block of metal to make one from solid, so I will weld one up out of two pieces of plate – that has the advantage that I can make the recess for the barrel hook ( also called the ‘hut’) in the flat top piece, without having to do it through the opening where the hook goes, if you follow me.  Anyway I machined up a piece of metal for the top, complete with a rib for the backsight, and a bit for the front – now I have to weld them – I still haven’t got a new potentiometer for my welder control pedal  so it won’t be as easy as it should be – my welder has a broken current indicator so its a matter of trial and error to get the right current.  I decided  that I’d make the first pistol, or at least finish the stock shaping and inletting before starting on the second – that way if I screw up, I’ll know better when I do the second one, and I can always  make another stock – I still have a few stock blanks.  I went to Dicks yesterday – he is moving so has to clear his workshop so I brought back a box of ”junk’ including 4  flintlock pistol barrels of around early to mid 18th century that would make a fun project if I could get  suitable locks and furniture! 


2nd February – More Wogdon..  I checked the photos in the book to see if he cranked the sear arm to provide for the set trigger –  in fact there are four or five photos of the insides of locks, and only one is cranked – so he did do it, but not often?  I started to think about machining the barrel groove – its quite a challenge to do an octagonal groove by hand – round ones are easier as you can use gouges and sandpaper round a rod and they are not as shaped (swamped) as octagonal barrels often are.  So I decided that it should be possible to machine it on my little milling machine, although it won’t be straightforward as the barrel is quite heavily swamped with quite a significant ‘waist’ in the middle, probably amounting to a deviation from a straight line of almost 2 mm.  Cutting a simple parallel groove won’t avoid a lot of hand work.  I think that it should be possible to machine an approximation to the swamping by measuring the shape of the barrel and converting it to a table of offsets.  I tried with my dummy barrel and it sort of worked, but for it to work properly one needs three hands, one for each axis of the milling machine. I do have simple digital readouts on all the axes, so I suppose I can do it all slowly – shame about the lockdown or I could get someone else to be the ‘y’ axis!  My trial with my scrap stock was not altogether a failure, and did reveal a few weaknesses in the system,  If the worst comes to the worst I can always cut the shape in a series of steps and smooth them by hand…  At the moment I’m uploading the second Wogdon video to Youtube – should be there by morning…  

1 February  – Another month… I ventured into the woodwork shop today to rout out the stock blanks using a guide bush and a 1/2 inch cutter 50 mm long using a template – plenty of opportunities to get things wrong!  Anyway I did a dummy run on a bit of the block walnut from the kitchen worksurfaces which ironed out a few potential problems, and the two blanks came out OK.  I checked them against my template from the Wogdon book and they looked OK – perhaps a bit deep in the body, but that can be adjusted later (maybe needed, see later..).  I started to mark out the blanks for the various cuts – the barrel groove, ramrod pipe fixings, barrel bolt loops etc. and had a look at the lock and the set trigger mechanism.  I was concerned that the position of the sear arm in my locks meant that the set trigger mechanism came a bit lower than could be accommodated in the woodwork  from the book photo – I wasn’t unduly concerned as my blank is a bit deeper than intended there.  However I was puzzled as the Wogdon I’m copying also had a set trigger, so I got out my Hutchinson that is almost a dead spit of the Wogdon and had a look at that.  It has an identical set trigger mechanism to the ones I have for my pistols, and I assume to the ones in the Wogdon – When I took the lock out of the Hutchinson I could see how that got round the problem – the sear arm is cranked upwards at the end where it contacts the set trigger blade by a couple of mm.  If I do the same with my locks, I think I can get the same profile as the Wogdon in the book, but I’m left wondering if that also has a cranked sear arm…..  And the other Wogdons illustrated?   I wonder if Geoff Walker has a pair of Wogdons that he could look at for me!  Onward and upward…Or can anyone viewing this post offer any insight?.  Hope to have a video ready tomorrow, just got to tidy it up a bit…. and the next one is in the pipeline too.

Still have to cut wood off the top of the barrel position.

Sorry, not very sharp photo this time, my camera is overhead and I can’t see the focus!

31st January  Gently working away on the pistols and the next video.  I’m keeping several strands going at once –  routing out the bassc stock shapes, working out how to do the furniture in silver and getting up to speed on engraving.  I have a couple of old stock blanks from Holts in 2016 that will do fine – I’ll put them through the thicknesser to a couple of mm over the maximum thickness, then run round them with a big router using a cut out jig and a guide bush.  I figure that once they are profiled a couple of mm oversize and square I can inlet the barrel and cut the slots for the ramrod pipe tabs and barrel loops, and possibly for the set trigger.  I have been working on my script engraving, which is going well, and I’ve started on the false breech tang to find possible designs – the false breech engraving is all relief engraving, while the rest of gun engraving is normally intaglio.  I think of the two types in terms of early word processor terminology wisywig ( What You See Is What You Get ) – intaglio is  wycywig ( What You Cut Is What You Get ) and relief is wiliwig (What You Leave Is What You Get) – well its a thought anyway!  I did a couple of examples of wiliwig tang engraving and re-discovered broken tips to gravers!  Its easy to do when trying to dig out the background bits….

28th Jan.  Busy with bits for the Wogdon pistols – I realised that if I put it all in my blog it would detract from the videos, so I will keep most of it for the weekend when I’ll post the next one.  It was much warmer today so I did manage a foray to the woodwork shed so I could run my stock blanks through the planer to expose the grain properly and let me choose the right ones and the place to put the stocks. The blanks look promising – nice straight grain.   I did a bit more engraving and decided that the 5% cobalt gravers were a good thing, so I thought I’d buy a few more blanks so I can offer them on this website, and have half a dozen to work with.  I use MCS for ‘proper’ tool stuff, but I only have an old catalogue and their website isn’t particularly user friendly – on the other hand they are very helpful on the phone so I rang and ordered 10 bits of 1//8 square x 2 1/2 long – just right for gravers.  They only had 9 in stock but they were on offer at £1.38 instead of £4 odd this month, so I back ordered  to make 20 – they come from India. I noticed today that if I’m not careful the cobalt gravers can loose their tips, but the seem to loose only the very small tips, not a big chunk like HSS does –  it can be more difficult to see that something is wrong, but the fingernail test shows it up ( run the point up your thumb nail under its own weight – if its OK it will catch immediately, if it only catches occasionally its no use……)  My first Wogdon video has already sold one copy of the Wogdon book -I understand  Bonhams still have a few in stock so hurry if you want one – if you speak to David Williams tell him it was me that pumped it!  Anyway, I am getting some of my engraving fluency back – it takes a lot of practice – borders and repetitive pattern are good for re-training the hand and brain to work together.

27th Jan.  Thinking about the different materials for gravers I realised I had never done a comparison experiment, so I set up a line of border engraving – what I might call barleycorn, lots of cuts  – and got an HSS, a cobalt steel and a Glensteel graver and did a comparable length of border with each – the cobalt steel won hands down – after an inch of border it was still capable of fine lines and was only slightly worn and cutting well. I didn’t get to an inch out of the HSS before it was  worn to almost unusable and was incapable of anything but rounded cuts, although along the way it had for a while been cutting very smoothly as it hit its sweet spot.  The Glensteel was not quite as good as the Cobalt steel in terms of wear and was quite difficult to use at the end.  All this was in the soft mild steel, not even cold rolled steel.  Verdict;- for the soft steel, the cobalt (5% cobalt, M35?) was by far the best!  I did try to pre-wear a cobalt graver by touching the keel on my 3M fibre wheel for a second but it wore the keel down to a gentle curve and I had to put in a lot of work to get it back to a usable shape, which made me realise how much longer it takes on the diamond hone to shape the cobalt steel compared to HSS.  I’m not sure why I haven’t been using cobalt before – I did have one in circulation but it wasn’t easy to distinguish from the HSS.  I guess with the more difficult steels there is an increased tendency for the points to break off and here I doubt the cobalt has  much advantage.  Anyway, as well as playing with gravers I did a bit more practice on Wogdon engraving in soft steel, including a very small version of the ‘swags’ signature – it turned out smaller than I intended, I calculated that it should be 18 mm across, and did the lettering first, with block letters 1 mm high and carried on from there, but when I had finished it turned out to be 15 mm wide – a bit small!  But it looks rather good at that size.  I did a very careful copy of a Wogdon barrel signature that was beautifully executed in the original (some are less so) and I was quite pleased with the result.  I need to have a go at some false breech tangs some time – they are mostly different from the other gun engraving because they tend to involve cut away backgrounds within a border.   I have had a lot of positive feedback for my start to the Wogdon project so no option but to keep up the videos – its a bit of a problem as my office with my video editing computer is used as an office by Penny during the day so putting them together will have to wait for the weekend.  I have been following a series of videos ( 90 in all ) on the reconstruction of a 1910 sailing vessel Tally Ho, which are so well produced that subscribers are now funding the restoration. When Leo, whose project it is, was talking about the videos he said that it took him about 10 hours each video just to edit it once he had all the footage!  I’m afraid mine won’t get that much attention ( & it will show) !   


26th  Jan.  Still beastly cold (for England!) so I didn’t go into the main workshop, just my engraving and fettling workshop where I have a small woodburning stove  – it gets pretty snug.  I did a bit more engraving of Wogdon related things.  I remembered that I’d had a batch of black mild steel strip surface ground by a friend, so didn’t need to use the cold rolled stuff – the process of cold rolling work hardens the outer skin and leaves a surface that is not only harder but also is patchy – as you cut with a  graver the resistance varies awkwardly .  I had a revision of different metals for gravers – most of my gravers are simple High Speed Steel (M2?) from China at £1 a pop but some are GRS fancy Glensteel or Carbide ( up to £25 a pop).  I also found a couple of blanks of cobalt steel (M35? ) I had bought some time ago.  I made one up into a graver to see if it was different from the HSS ( it was more like the GRS materials) .  Historically the High Speed steels were developed because old fashioned carbon steel is useless above 200 degrees C, but HSS can go to around 500 and M35 to even higher before they soften, thus revolutionising commercial machining speeds.  This is,of course, completely irrelevant to hand engraving unless global warming gets completely out of control, but as a byproduct they are also more wear resistant, M35 being even more wear resistant and harder than HSS.  Carbide tools are even harder and more wear ( and heat) resistant but tend to be more brittle.  I have tried all of these over the years, many times, including special steels for gravers from GRS (Glensteel and C-Max).  The HSS gravers wear quite quickly, but I like them because they quickly wear to a ‘sweet spot’ and if you change them as soon as they get too worn ( BEFORE they start to skid) they are pleasant to work with.  The other materials wear less in use, some quite noticably so, and are better for fine line engraving as they continue to cut a narrow V for much longer whereas the HSS quickly rounds over.  I wish I could get these other materials to have a sweet spot like the HSS, but keep it for much longer – it may be possible to artificially wear them to start with, enough to get to the sweet spot?   I wonder if my liking for the HSS tools is that when worn in they cut a wider line – maybe one of the harder tools sharpened to 105 degrees as is quite common, would suit me better – its just that all my sharpening is predicated around square gravers…  Depending on the material I’m engraving I can generally cope with any gravers, but I do need to change the HSS gravers very often on harder surfaces like cold rolled steel.  Anyway I engraved a few examples of the signatures from Wogdon locks – starting off  about twice as big as they would be on locks as its easier to see errors.  I did a very quick copy of a fancy signature in an oval with swags around it – I don’t intend to use it on my locks but I need the practice – one of the skills of the old engravers was achieving a particular appearance with simple cutting.  Anyway here is my first try, very quick and freehand and about twice full size, plus a photo of the Wogdon version – he used this design with variations including making the oval a gold inlay with the name on it – it was used on his fancier pistols.



The original is about 18mm from side to side.


The third line is about the right size for a lock – the W tail may be too high.  London has poor spacing!

Typical breech patterns from Wogden pistols – he used many different patterns.

25th Jan.  I’ve started the Wogdon Project – to make a pair of duelling pistols in the Wogdon style from a set of very old  gunsmith made parts.  Its made possible by the splendid book ‘Robert Wogdon Gunmaker 1734 to 1804 by John O’Sullivan and de Witt Bailey.  The book has such a lot of technical details plus details of around 20 to 30 existing dueling pistols and pairs that I can find enough information for a pretty complete reconstruction.  I’ve made the first of a series of videos that I hope to make as the project goes on – I imagine it will take some time!  I’ve done the necessary stock drawings – I would start work on the stocks as I have some perfect old walnutstock blanks, but to be honest its too cold in my woodworking shop for me to spend any time in there so I have been doing other parts of the project  – The barrels are good but need striking up a bit finer, and then working through a few grades of paper – I started on the worst barrel today.  I checked all the different script signatures that Wogdon used on his duellers over the years, and copied the ones I could find into my drawing book – I had a few goes at engraving them – I started off much too big and on the third try got down to about the right size – I am engraving on some annealed cold rolled steel strip, but its tough old stuff – I had the surface ground off but it needs more taken off to get through the ‘skin’.  Anyway the first of my videos is now on the VIDEO page of this site and on You Tube – probably a search for Wogdon will bring it up.

Video link

23rd Jan.  Just had a delivery of logs, so I’ll be OK in the workshop for a while!   Here is the method of checking the strike angle of flints on frizzens, taken from an old copy of Muzzle Blasts.  It clearly assumes that the cock is right for your lock so that the flint hits the frizzen somewhere near the top – usually between about 3/4 of the way up although the  article doesn’t cover that aspect.  You can either do the drawing on a  good photo of your flintlock, or on a blank piece of paper  – to do a paper drawing you need a school compass – draw a line and mark point A, measure of the distance between the cock screw and the frizzen pivot using the compass and mark on your line as point B. Use your compass to measure from the top of the frizzen face to the frizzen pivot and draw a bit of a circle on your diagram.  repeat from the centre of the cock screw. where the circles cross is the position of the top of the frizzen – label that point C.  Do the same for the base of the frizzen face – label the crossing point D.  You now have all the information relating to your gun that you need.  You will need a protractor or a 60 degree and 30 degree template, which you can make easily by cutting the corner off a square piece of card such that one side is 60 mm long and the other is 104 mm long.  ( Tan-1 of 104/60 being 60 degrees). Now you can do the rest of the construction following the instructions on the photo.  If you have lost your school compasses (careless, you’ll get a detention!)) then first draw in the 60 degree line, then mark along it a distance equal to the distance AD using a scrap of paper – that’s E.  Job done…. ( detention: copy out one of the posts on this website in longhand, hand it in by Wednesday)

22nd Jan  Got a phone call from my surgery offering a jab this afternoon so I got Phizored !     I have to say that for all the kind and helpful staff and volunteers  around the centre, there was a certain lack of  systematic organisation that almost certainly reduced throughput significantly.   Having finished the Nock flint conversion I’m gearing up to start on the Wogdon project – to build a pair of ‘Wogdon’ duelling pistols from an old set of gunsmith made parts I bought years ago from someone who had had them in his workshop for donkey’s years, who had acquired them from an old boy.  They were obviously made by a very skilled gunsmith – the handmade lockwork is not castings and is up to Purdey standards – just needs polishing up.  Before I get going I’m making full scale drawings of the stock taken from photos in the Wogdon book by de Witt Baily and John O’Sullivan (Robert Wogden, published by Bonhams) and my own Hutchinson duelling pistol.  I thought I should tidy up a few bits and pieces before I get too far into it, and discovered Viking’s little pistol waiting patiently on my bench for attention.  It has to be said that its not a thing of great beauty, or much of a credit to the gunmakers of the mid 19th century.  As is usual with these primitive little pistols the sear, which is part of the trigger, had worn away and would no longer hold the tumbler, which is part of the cock – all parts are made of junk metal and none are hardened.  This example must be the most basic I have come across – just look at the parts laid out below – the pin that is the pivot for the cock also holds the top strap in place and is a plain rod, with a slot cut across one end to look as if it is a screw.  The trigger pivot is another rod – its had a bash with a hammer to flatten it a bit and make it stay in place – any way I put a few blobs of weld on the trigger/sear and filed it up and forgot to photograph it. The bents on the hammer are pretty poor, but just good enough to function, and as no-one in their right mind would expect to use the pistol  so I left them.  It now cocks and fires, but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to try it very often as I’m not sure it will survive much more abuse.  Since I can’t imagine that it has been fired very many times, I guess the sear gets eaten away pretty quickly.  Aside from that, during my evening read of old gun magazines I came across a 1960 issue of Muzzle Blasts, the US equivalent of Black Powder, the MLAGB magazine with an article on flintlock geometry with a construction involving making a diagram of a flintlock using a school compass to  check whether the flint will strile the frizzen at the correct angle – the argument being that if this angle isn’t right the lock won’t spark well.  The author also recommends  using a piece of a wood saw blade to reface recalcitrant frizzens – he says harden it in water and DON’T temper it.  I may try this for the Nock, I used his diagram for it and got the correct cock/frizzen angle… so it should work!   I’ll put up the method and a diagram later.


19th Jan   Had a few days of going through the last year’s papers and trying to make sense of my tax return!  Each day I reward myself if I make it to 16oo hrs with a cup of tea and an hour or so in the workshop.  My project was to make a tool for unscrewing the Nock touch-hole – basically two tungsten pins in an EN 8 steel tool, mounted in a wooden ( Indian Ebony) handle with a brass ferrule.  I made the first attempt, but the cheap digital readout on my little milling machine played up and I got the spacing of the pins wrong, so I had to make it again.  I did find one other problem with the first one – I wanted to put the pins in with epoxy glue, but there was no way for the air in the holes to escape, so the pins kept coming out until I put it in a vice.  So on the second try I was very careful to set the spacing of the holes right, and I drilled a small hole through the side joining the bottoms of the holes to let the air out.  The shaft, brass ferrule and handle were of a classic 19th century design, but held together with a modern epoxy glue.  Job done – I’ll put a few coats of Osma Top Oil on the finished wood – its a rather good oil finish that I used for all the worktops in the kitchen – it goes on as 3 or 4 very thin coats and dries as hard as iron ( well, nearly). 

14th Jan  Almost done all I can to the Nock until I can get out and shoot it – I hardened the steel, as the upright part of the frizzen is, or was, called but I still can’t get a spark – I will have to dig out a better flint.  I may yet have to put a face on the steel.  I made a touch hole today – I really only meant to do a trial run as I’m not very confident about screwcutting on my lathe and the thread isn’t anything you can buy a die for, being 9 mm diameter and 22 t.p.i – both pretty precisely.  Anyway I fiddled about with the gearbox and gears and sorted out directions of travel etc. and chucked a piece of 10 mm titanium rod and did a test pass of a 55 degree tool – OK – it is 22 t.p.i, which is a good start!   I started off  putting a taper on the internal face with a centre drill, and drilling a 4 mm hole about 6 mm deep followed by a 1.7 mm drill in excess of the required length of the touch hole.   Fortunately the thread I have to cut doesn’t have a shoulder so I didn’t have to start the thread abruptly, making it much easier  as I could keep the leadscrew engaged all the time.  I did a few passes cutting a bit deeper each time until it looked about right.  If I had a collet set I could take the rod out of the lathe to test the fit and be sure to get it back exactly, but my chuck is not fantastic, so I took a chance and stopped the cutting.  The thread was a tight fit in the barrel, but as the breech block was dead hard I didn’t mind using a bit of force to screw it in, and it seemed to go as far as the drum it was replacing had gone.  Once I’d got it well in, I filed it off flush with the breech block and drilled a couple of 1.7 mm holes for pins to screw and unscrew it.  I hope it works – the good news is that the touchhole finished up with the 4 mm drill ending about 1 1/5 mm back from the face – pretty well ideal.  It fits the gun well, perhaps 1/2 a mm high in relation to the pan, but I hope nothing serious….  I guess a titanium touch hole is good?  I’ve never had problems with titanium nipples so it should be OK, and I do love working with titanium!   I now have to make a tool for unscrewing and screwing the touchhole – at the moment I’m using 2 TIG welding electrodes of tungsten – 1.6 mm diameter held in a pair of pliers!

It looks as if the peaks of the thread were the tight bit – old threads were much more rounded in thread profile.

11 th Jan – One of those days when things don’t go to plan!    I found I had to move the hole for the sear pivot in the lockplate by about .75 mm as I couldn’t get things to work. moving a tapped  hole by a small amount is tricky, so I dropped a 5 mm end mill onto the new position and made a tight fitting plug with a slight taper and tapped it in from the outside and filed it flush on the inside so I could run a weld round the joint.  My welder has a home made pedal controller on the current and it chose that moment for the potentiometer to go open circit and deliver 130 Amps when I touched the pedal with pretty dramatic consequences to both sides of the lock tail!  I swapped back to the internal control and recovered the mess with a judicious bit of welding and a file!   The I managed to break off a No 4 UNF tap in a hole – luckily I was able to extract the end of it!  Then I drilled the hole for the peg on the mainspring and got it in the wrong place so had to plug it, weld over the back and drill a new hole.   Last job of the day was to file the square in the cock – its a tricky job because there is not much tolerance on the angle of the square, or you get the cock positions in the wrong place, or the mainspring hangs below the edge of the lockplate when the cock is on its stop – there are fudges to put things right ( see other posts) but its nice to get it right first  time.  Its also tricky to get a good fit on the tumbler square and takes a lot of careful work with a square file. Anyway for once the square in the cock is dead right!   If its a straightforward fitting of a cock onto a tumbler then I usually get it near and press fit them in a vice to form a tight fit, but in this case I want the tumbler to be usable with the percussion lock parts, so don’t want to deform it.  I did have one other annoying problem in putting it together – I had very carefully marked the positions of the bridle, tumbler, sear pivot and sear spring using a steel jig but when I came to fit the sear spring I found that the lower spring blade was too long and hit the radius part round the pivot – I did grind a bit off on the grounds that it would still work with the percussion parts!    I still have a little tidying up to do as the tail of the lockplate doesn’t fit snugly into the wood – the lockplate is a bit bent in the wrong way – not sure how I’ll tackle that as any bending of the lockplate will throw all the alignments off, but we’ll see..  I also have to make the touch hole – I’ll turn it out of titanium with a 22 t.p.i thread  – I don’t think I can put any sort of head on it as I can’t/don’t want to touch the breech block (Its dead hard, and fits the nipple barrel for the percussion use).  Anyway the lock fires well, the cock hits the frizzen and the frizzen flies open – I don’t get any sparks as the frizzen doesn’t have a hard enough surface and the flint is no good, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t spark well – there is lots of snap in the mainspring, and the frizzen flip point is just right…. we shall see…  Altogether it has been an interesting project – given that I was just copying an existing percussion lock and using the internals you would think that it would all go together easily if you just copied the positions of the holes exactly – but for some reason, perhaps due to minor discrepancies or slight curvature of the plate, it was a real pig to get things to work! ( Of course the pan and frizzen and frizzen spring were items from the ‘spares ‘ box)

Half cock.

Full cock.

9th Jan  – Started on the ‘works’ for the lock – I decided to begin by trasferring the parts from the original lock to my lockplate – I can replace them with new later.   I made a spring steel jig from the original lock by making bits of steel rod into punches that exactly fitted the screw holes in the lock and marking and drilling the holes, then transferring the plate to the new lock and marking and drilling the holes in the lock plate.  Unfortunately there is not a handy thread size to match the original screws – they are 3.05 diameter and 40 t.p.i. – between UNF 4 and 5, so I settled on 4 (2.85 OD) as it has to pass through 3.05 mm. holes – bit of a fiddle as the shanks are now slightly bigger than the threads so another diameter to turn…  Anyway I made the 4 screws necessary and it all fits together – I probably need to remake the sear pivot screw as the shank is a bit slack, but that can wait. One of the things I find really tricky is getting the slots in the heads of screws exactly in the centre – I put the slots in by hand using a bit of hacksaw blade ground down to a tapered edge – I have a number of different degrees of grinding for different slot widths.   Now I have to make the hole in the lockplate for the tumbler.  Despite my very careful jig making I am not absolutely certain that the pilot hole in the lockplate aligns perfectly with the back bearing in the bridle – I realise I should not have put in a pilot hole, but left it til the bridle was in place and then drilled the lockplate through the bridle, but I’ll sort it – I may have to do a bit of adjustment of the hole position as I enlarge it to 7 mm for the tumbler ( I think it can only be 1/4 of a mm out.).  Still its getting there!  I will need to find my knife gravers to make the slot for the tab on the sear spring – everything got spread around when I vacated my workshop to be the kitchen!

Jig is clamped and held by running instant glue round the edge.

I was quite pleased with the slots in the heads, I don’t usually get them that central! They are a bit too fine.


8th Jan – I retraced my screw making steps of yesterday!  I managed to remove the bit of screw from the outboard frizzen pivot support by heating it with a tiny flame and cutting a minute slot and unscrewing it. I made the new frizzen spring fixing screw bigger, UNF 5 as the boss was big enough to accomodate it and it does take a lot of strain.  Frizzen springs are attached at the lock plate face, but the force on them is where the frizzen heel touches the roller – i.e. outboard, so there is a force rotating the frizzen spring away from the lock – you often see it on flintlocks, not usually bad enough to worry.  Anyway its all working nicely now.  The spring closes almost completely when the pan opens – if I were making the lock again with the bebefit of hindsight I would have tilted the pan casting up  at the front of the lock so as to leave a bit more room, but it seems to work.  I’m still puzzled as to how the screws got to be so hard!  I tempered the bit of the frizzen pivot up to 300C for a good 15 minutes but it still snapped when I tried to bend it. at a rather low level of force.  I didn’t harden or temper the new screws!  I ordered a selection of EN8 round bar so I have a stock of known material in future.  I tried silver steel but its a pig to get a good finish when turning so I used the previous material.  I reckon I can just get away with the cock in the same place as in the original lock – that will mean that I can copy all the internals ( or I suppose, use them interchangably between the two locks if I’m feeling lazy).  Looking at the photos I’d say the cock was a bit big for the lock, but its not so obvious when looking at the real thing – I often see things when I come to put photos on the website that I miss in the flesh.  Its good to have the photos on the blog – so often one (I) takes dozens of photos and never looks at them.  Reminds me of the joke about some foreigh visitors – husband says “look at this fantastic view'”, wife says “just take a photo and I’ll look when we are back home”.

The frizzen spring doesn’t have a lot of room, but is just OK!


Initial contact may be a little high, we’ll see how it works when finished.

7th Jan. – Its getting near to the time when I have to do my Tax for the year – but for the moment I can afford to play!  Todays jobs went OK .  I drilled and tapped the frizzen pivot hole and turned a pin with a UNF4 thread tapped into the outboard support. The inside hole was very close to the edge of the ‘bolster’ so it has a minimal head.  I fettled up the frizzen spring and centered and drilled the hole through the boss and turned up a UNF4 pin with a countersink head to fit the outside of the frizzen spring boss ( an unusual arrangement) and turned up a small roller to bear on the toe of the frizzen pivot.  The Frizzen pivot is quite low down on the lock plate and by the time the spring has a roller mounted there is not a lot of room for the spring to open and close.  I closed the spring up in the vice so that its natural opening was a bit bigger than it would be with the frizzen open, but not excessively so – a bit of a guess!  I  heated the spring up to red heat with my oxy-gas torch (the one that supplied my Covid oxygen!) as my regular butane torch wasn’t hot enough when I brought it in from the freezing shed to properly vaporise the gas and dumped it in water, then polished it on the buffing wheel and found a spot on the AGA hotplate that was about 305 degrees (using a radiation thermometer) and put the spring down, covered with 3 layers of aluminium foil and closed the lid for 10 minutes to temper it.  The screws and the roller were hardened using Blackleys colour case hardening powder  – I stupidly tried the frizzen pivot screw without tempering it and broke off a bit of the threaded end in the hole – fortunately leaving enough to work, although it may give trouble in use.  I just didn’t appreciate how hard/brittle EN8 could be!  The tricky part was getting the holes to mount the frizzen spring in the right place so the bump on teh frizzen pivot goes through the null point at about 30 degrees opening and thereafter throws the frizzen back covincingly – I did manage to get that right although the spring might benefit from opening a bit to give a bit more snap – we’ll see when it sll together and we have the cock and mainspring etc working.  Bother – I was sitting there opening and closing the frizzen when the frizen fixing screw  sheared off – even after I had tempered it to 280 degrees, not sure what is going on – will sort out tomorrow and get some photos!


6th Jan  Since we are now in lockdown I couldn’t go and get Jason our expert welder to weld in the pan, so I did it myself – it made a bit of a mess of the lockplate but it has cleaned up reasonably well given that the pan section didn’t have much of a margin and was thinner than the lockplate.  It will work…  Next job was to sort the frizzen – the nearest casting I had didn’t quite fit – it was either right for the pivot hole and wrong for the pan, or vice versa.  I araldited the frizzen into the correct place for the pivot and drilled a 2.4 mm hole for a pin – just as I started to drill I saw that it wasn’t quite right, so had to pop the lock in the AGA to soften the araldite and start again. Having got a good pivot hole in the lock and frizzen, I cut the frizzen halfway between the pivot and the pan and filed the joint so that I could glue the pivot and the pan in place and tack weld the frizzen back together – that worked rather well, and even cleaned up reasonably – my only doubt is whether it will be strong enough in use.  I filed up a rather large top jaw casting to fit – although why I didn’t just start from a bit of 6 mm plate as I usually do, is a mystery… Anyway that is done so I set up the cock and ran an end mill down the back of the top to clear the cock screw and tapped it No 12 UNC – I’d have preferred UNF but I don’t have a die for that size. I turned a matching top jawscrew from a scrap of EN8 16 mm round bar.   With a bit of judicious filing on the back of the frizzen it now fits perfectly and holds a flint nicely, although I need to raise a few spikes on the gripping surfaces.   Now I can see how the flint hits the frizzen and decide where to put the tumbler hole.  I had a look at the lock of my John Manton double flint gun which has a similar shaped pan but a cock with a ‘spur’ – semi French ? –  I have a very similar cock that I was thinking of using, but the spur cock would need the tumbler nearer the flash shield so it could act as a stop.  I did some measuring – the arm on tumblers that carries the link to the mainspring defines the leverage and tends to be more or less the same length on all similar sized locks.  This arm has to clear the ‘bolster, whose rearward extent is fixed by the poition of the side nail – this means that the distance between the side nail and the tumbler axis  needs to be more or less constant.  In my Manton the side nail is quite a lot closer to the touch hole than on my Nock lock, so the tumbler axis can be nearer the pan, hence the spur cock will fit.  If you didn’t follow that, never mind, its another example of the inter-relationship between all the different bits of the lock – its no wonder that the designs stayed the same for long periods.  With the frizzen in place if I put the cock on the original tumbler position the flint strikes the frizzen a little near the top, although I think it would work OK ( I seem too remember about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up is usual – however, I’ve just had a look at the Manton and it strikes at exactly the same place on the frizzen as mine, so I won’t worry and will keep the same tumbler centre.   Next job is to make the proper frizzen screw  –  The screw obviously passes through the frizzen as a plain shaft but can either be tapped into the outboard end of the frizzen support, or into the lockplate end.  The Manton has the screw head on the outside and the thread in the lock plate, but I think its more usual to have the screwhead on the inside of the lock and the tapped thread on the support arm.  I think I’ve also seen the scewhead on the inside of the lock, and a tapped larger thread in the lockplate so the end in the support arm is plain. I will probably copy the Manton.  The screw that holds the frizzen spring  can similarly either be tapped into the spring itself with the screwhead on the inside ( the more common arrangement ) or screwed in from the outside with the head visible.  I have little choice as the spring casting I’ve got is intended to have the screwhead outside and I’m not sure there is enough metal to file it into the other pattern..  After that its the inside ‘works’.

I did a bit more filing before welding  but you get the idea….!

Cock is in the position is in the original Nock lock  – I think it is OK…

I rather wanted to use this spurred cock as on the John Manton but it won’t fit!

4th Jan   I bit the bullet and engraved the name on the lock – more or less OK!  I made the hook on the toe of the lock to go under the screwhead that retains the front of the lock – the lock plate is slightly curved so that the lock can be fed under the screw – I hadn’t noticed that before.  My technique for the hook is to build up a pile of weld, then file it to shape  – it ended up with a curved back as that is what the weld did – it works perfectly!   I tacked the pan into the lock plate – it was a bit of a mess as I made a few mistakes that I had to weld over, but it turned out OK in the end – I have just left the critical joint under the pan on the front of the lock – I’ll need to be feeling confident to do that – my TIG welding is not very expert and I’m a bit out of practice.  It all looks as if it is coming together – I need to make a top jaw and top jaw screw so that I can see exactly how the cock falls on the frizzen before I drill the tumbler hole, and put in the pivot for the frizzen.  I’m not sure if there is enough metal in the frizzen in the right place for the pivot.  I’ll araldite the frizzen to the pan and drill a small hole through the support bracket, frizzen and lockplate to see how they align.  I’ll need to do a bit of sorting on the tail of the frizzen to get the lump that engages the frizzen spring to go through the slot cut in the pan support – another complication……  Makes you realise how complex and inter related all  these bits are!  And that still leaves all the internals and the frizzen spring……….


Photos not up to my usual standard, not sure what happened – sorry!

3rd Jan  Still quite a lot of messing around finding all the bits of my old workshop that got moved out when it was a temporary kitchen, and putting them back.  I had tmy engraving microscope, but not the hone that I need by it for sharpening gravers.  I put the TIG welder and Argon back but then had to find the rinder to sharpen electrodes, and so it goes on!  I filed the bevel/chamfer on the lock plate – more or less Ok, and did a bit of practice engraving on EN 8 to make sure I could cut the border lines well enough – I decided I could, so they are on the lockplate too.  I cleaned up the cock so I could see how it fitted – I want to keep the same tumbler position as in the original Nock lock as it enables me to copy the shapes of all the internal components.  I can’t, for instance, move the tumbler towards the pan as that would not leave room for the arm on the tumbler that carries the link to the mainspring, and shortening the arm would call for a stronger spring…. Its all interconnected!  if I were just making a flint lock for display or a an ‘antique’ it probably wouldn’t matter too much, but my aim is to make a gun that shoots, and that has implications for the internal mechanism etc.  The main issue for me is that some flintlocks fire really fast and are good to shoot, while others don’t seem t obe amenable to tuning for fast ignition – and it would seem that this is more art than science – indeed a black art!

2nd Jan – Dry fitted the pan into the lock plate, which took a lot of filing and trying – Its important to get the pan positioned correctly in relation to the touch hole – which is a little tricky as the touch hole itself hasn’t been made yet and the hole for it is 9 mm diameter.  Its important that the touch hole is slightly above the pan because for fast ignition its the flash from the burning powder that ignites the main charge via the touch hole – the flash travels much faster than the burn rate through powder, so if you pile up powder over the touch hole you may get more reliable ignition but it will be slower than flashed ignition.  my double Manton has little ‘shutters’ on the frizzens that cover the touch holes and push any priming powder  away from the touch hole.  The shutters have a small hole to allow air to escape but will (probably) keep any powder from the main charge from entering the pan.  It was a Manton patent but never caught on.  Anyway the pan is now ready to weld, but I think before I do that I’ll file the chamfers on the lock.  I did try a cut with a graver on the lock material, but the EN8 seems harder than I remember, or else its so long since I engraved anything that I’ve forgotten what it feels like! (I probably need to anneal it! what a pain)  I’ll probably put my name on the lock if I can cut it as I am not trying to pass it off as the work of Henry Nock!



1st Jan. 2021 – HAppy New Year – lets hope it improves rapidly, although the signs are not particularly good at the moment.  Just hoping we don’t all go the way of Essex!   I spent a few more hours filing and fettling on the Nock Lock – first core was to take a blank of 8 mm x 50 mm EN 8 steel ( this is moderately hardenable – ? about 1/2% carbon)  and mill out the lock plate 3.5 mm thick leaving the bolster, then cut it out with an angle grinder and 1 mm disk.  I clamped it on the bed of the milling machine and nibbled away some of the edges, then filed it to fit – have to be careful to work slowly and avoid damaging the edges of the lock pocket with burrs thrown up on the metal.  Once profiled I put it back on the miller and thinned the tail down to about 1.6 mm and filed a concave step to match the original (its a common feature).  So we now have a fitting lock plate with stepped tail and bolster in the correct place to receive the pan.  At this stage its worth marking a centre punch for the side nail, as that will fix the plate relative to the gun – an easy way to do this accurately is to grind the blank end of a drill that just fits the hole in the stock and use it as a centre punch – it will not make a particularly good mark as its probably too soft, but you can see it clearly.  At this point I could see that the bolster plus plate is the correct thickness and is  touching the breech block – the breech block is slightly domed around the tapped hole for the barrel  so I may need to recess the bolster to match as I can’t touch the breech block its – too hard.  I eventually selected a pan casting that had already been cut down, and I’ve go a couple of frizzens that will probably fit, plus a couple of cocks.  The net step will be to cut the lock plate to receive the pan casting – I may need to juggle the bolster and casting in the region of the  frizzen pivot to make sure the pin is secure and works properly – the casting has been cut a bit close to the hole..   Having cut the plate for the casting I’ll clean up the plate properly and put a chamfer round the edge and do any engraving that is needed – its easier to do that before the pan is fixed in – I hate trying to engrave/re-engrave complete flintlocks as the pans always get in the way.  Once the pan is welded in, or at least tack welded, I can finally sort out the frizzen, and then I’ll be in a position to select a cock – I have two possible ones, I think one is a little on the small size and the other may be a smidgin too big, but once the pan and frizzen are installed it will be easier to choose.  It may be possible to open up the small one.  Then I’ll be able to see where to put the tumbler hole – I have marked the original location from my card template but it can be altered slightly, although it can’t be pushed too far towards the tail of the lock or there isn’t room for the sear spring.  There are so many variables to be sorted, and with a limited range of parts  at my disposal, and  only having made a couple of flint locks before it is a challenge – still that is why one does these things!

Possible parts – when the pan is in it should be easier to choose to best fit.

30th December – OK, its the new flint lock for my little Henry Nock – the pistols can wait!  I got out my drawers of bits and pieces and had a rummage – I have 4 or 5 pan castings that Blackleys make for reconverting percussion back to flint from full lock sets, and several frizzens and cocks.  Its a matter of sorting out which are most suitable period wise, and which are near enough in dimensions to fit – The original lock on the Nock looks as if it had a semi rainproof pan, not one of the very tiny pans that went with French cocks – I do have a set of castings for a late Mc Knight double with tiny pans and French cocks ( I don’t want to break up the set) – the cocks are tiny compared to earlier ones. I also have a pan section taken from the same lock and a somewhat larger flintcock with a spur that might do with the Mc Knight pan, and a frizzen that can be made to fit.  Since I want the gun to be interchangeable between the new flintlock and the percussion lock, I dont want to modify the lock pocket or any of the woodwork, certainly not the opening.  This means that the main defining dimension of a pan section is the overall thickness, as the pan needs to touch the breech accurately to avoid sparks getting iside the lock, while the outside of the pan casting lock face needs to be flush with the level of the existing lock face.  I also have a pan casting that has been cut down ready to weld into a lock, but I’m not sure about it as the cut is quite close to the pan etc and I’m not sure if I can weld it neatly enough – I suppose I could get Jason in Haverhill to do it, but I’m trying to stay away form people while the pandemic rages!  I guess that as I want the flintlock to shoot and am not trying to fake it back to flint, function is more important than looks!


Strightforward drum and nipple conversion so not too difficult to make it into a flintlock that I can shoot.

These are the parts I picked out that might work for the Nock.


26th December – The Kitchen was finally properly  finished ( bar a ittle bit of snagging) at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve when I finally got the gas hob conneced and working, so just made it to finish Penny’s Christmas present with 8 hours to spare!  Pretty pleased, so now I can relax for a couple of days. After that it will be time to reclaim my workshop from its temporary use as a kitchen and think about a project – I have some bits ‘in the white’ to make a pair of duelling pistols in the Wogdon style, and a couple of walnut stock blanks, so maybe that will get my attention, or I might just warm up by making a flint lock for my little Nock single barrel 16 bore so I can interchange between flint and percussion……. Or I might just have fun and start my disinformation campaign on social media – the revelation that the latest mutation of the covid 19 virus can be spread by email, Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp……………………………… some people will believe anything!

22nd December – Oh dear, I’ve been absent for too long in the rush to finish the Kitchen.  Well, after a major move back that involved a complete turnout of the larder ( including replacing the lights that I had cut off when I removed the old kitchen wiring).  Anyway I just about made my deadline of 21st and we are now using the new kitchen – we had our first meal there at dinner tonight.  I’ve started a separate post on the Kitchen, with a description of what we did if you are, by any chance, interested!  Anyway here are a couple of photos of the finished kitchen before we moved in and cluttered it all up!

‘Sideboard’ made by Matthew with my design of handles.

December 9th.  At last the grouting of the floor tiles is complete and we can get the units in to work on the tops and fix the main unit.  It took around 4 man days to grout the floor – about 1 1/2 hours per square meter!  Anyway it now looks good – I’m in the process of sealing the tiles – the sealer is special in that it is permeable – like everything else in this floor – the instructions say keep applying sealer every hour until the floor is not absorbing it – I’m not sure how long that will take, but I have put on 3 coats and its still soaking it up – perhaps I’d better go and put on another coat!  We had been working on the kitchen for 3 months  as of yesterday  (excluding my construction of the main unit )- I’m hoping that we will finish by 21st December so we can be in by Christmas – not that there will be much of Christmas.   Anyway the pressure is on!  When we have finished I’ll gather up the bits of this post and make a dedicated post and maybe put up the costings if I can bear to add it all up.

December  6th.   Had what is probably my last shoot of the season near Beccles on Saturday – luckily a fine day after the rain and snow of Friday.  Shoots are a bit out of practice at the moment because lackdown put a stop to them, so things were perhaps not as slick as usual and there was rather a lot of hanging around, but at least it wasn’t too cold.  We were doubled up on pegs so Pete and I shared a peg.  We had a pretty barren first three drives as we were well out of the action, but the fourth drive was fine and I had a few good shots – overall I got 4 hits for 8 shots, which was pretty good going for me.  Anyway it made a nice break from the kitchen!  Things in the kitchen department are moving to a close, but slowly….  We got the extractor fan installed, and a lot of cleaning up done, and today I sealed about an eigth of the floor and grouted it, and painted all the woodwork in a nice dirty white colour.  I designed a grouting funnel – a 12 inch long by 6 mm wide funnel for putting the grout into the gaps between the tiles as it really needs to be quite runny to get to the bottom of the gaps – about 25 mm deep, and it seems to work pretty well.  I need to get Matthew to make a variation with one vertical side for grouting the gaps round the edges of the floor.  Based on the time it took me to do about 24 tiles today, sealing and grouting will take around 20 hours more, so we’ll both have to go at it…  One good thing is that with the cold weather the relative humidity in the kitchen is  below 40 %  and the temperature is raised to about 20 C, so things are drying out nicely.

December 3rd  – The pressure hots up to finish the kitchen – at the moment the key holdup is getting the floor dry enough to put the sealer on the pamments so we can grout them – if you try to grout without sealing the very porous pamments, you stain them badly, or so I’m told.  It’s interesting watching the colours change with time – when the tiles arrive they are very pale whitish pink , when wetted they go pinker, then as they dry out they get paler and then after a day or two go yellow – quite a bright yellow.  I think that fades slightly as the floor dries out, but most are still quite yellow.  While waiting for the floor we have fixed the rest of the wiring, cleaned and very lightly polished the wooden doors and put in some of the plumbing.  I had fun bending a pipe to carry the propane to the gas hob – obviously as its a gas pipe I was keen to avoid joints as far as possible but a few are necessary as the pipe run is too long for one length of tube – any way I managed to put 8 bends into the pipe and still had it coming out where I wanted it!  I got the lights fixed yesterday – I’ve now ordered some G10 bulbs with 120 degree beams instead of the 35 degrees of the IKEA ones.  I am tempted to fire up the underfloor heating to try and dry out the floor – the makers of the heater say 6 to 8 weeks for the screeds to cure and dry out and the top screed only went on a month ago, so I guess I had better wait a while!   I’ve had several emails from viewers of this blog asking about guns they have, and possible repairs.  I am often asked how much a gun is worth, usually on the basis of a simple description and no photo – obviously its more or less impossible to give a meaningful estimate.  Even with a couple of not so good photos (why is it so difficult to take a decent phot given how good modern phone cameras are?) it is usually almost impossible to see the condition in sufficient detail to be accurate.  I can usually guess a minimum price assuming its in poor to fairish condition – usually a few hundred pounds if it’s reasonably original.  After that the price doubles for each step in condition –  x2 for reasonable condition and fully functioning with mostly original parts, x2 again if in good original condition, and x2 again if it’s in near original condition and cased, or if its rare or otherwise interesting.  The name on the gun can make a big difference to the starting minimum price.  So you can see the difficulty in estimating effectively blind.  The best advice is to look through current antique firearms auctions and see if you can find anything similar as a starting point.

November 29th  – more laying of pamments on Friday – tried to tweak the mortar mix and pre-wet everything, and added a bit of lime putty to increase the plasticity – it did work a bit better, and we got another half of the floor done – that leaves about a quarter to do, but it will involve a lot of cut tiles so it will take the best part of a day.  Unfortunately some of the tiles didn’t bed properly – I hadn’t noticed but several of the tiles were very bowed down in the middle and didn’t seat properly as the overall mortar thickness wasn’t enough to accommodate the bowing ( up to 5 mm) and they didn’t bond round the edges so when I walked on them 24 hours later they rocked.  Interestingly the tiles turned bright yellow around a day after they were laid, except where they were not properly bonded where they stayed white/pink  – tapping them reveals any bits that don’t have a proper bed under them, so I’ll go over them and see what needs to be done – poorly bedded ones can be lifted and relaid, or if there is a poorly bedded edge I might be able to run in water followed by thin grout.  It will be sorted in time!  I put in the lighting fixtures today – I had to modify them as they were intended to be fixed to a plate screwed onto the ceiling but the fixing needed to go into the side of the light base and the beams get in the way.  Fortunately I’d glued disks of wood to the laths for each fitting, so could screw up into them.  The lighting is a bit overkill, at least I suspect it will be when its turned on, as I was overcome by how cheap the IKEA TROSS triple G10 fittings were ( £7 each)  and I’ve put in 8 fittings  – with 3 LED bulbs of 5 watts each that is a massive amount of light.  I will put in the IKEA smart bulbs so I can control at least some of the fittings.  Even the cheapest unsmart bulbs cost more than the fittings, which incidentally are very well made – smart bulbs cost up to 5 times the fitting cost!.

November 26th – Got the limewash on the walls eventually, so now into floor laying.  This turns out not to be as straighforward as I hoped.  Conventional commercial tile cement is a complicated mix that is formulated to hold its water and remain plastic while you move and level the floor tiles, and works well – the only problem is that its pretty impermeable and so won’t do if you want the floor to breath, which I do as it prevents the moisture being forced outwards to the walls, which have no damp proof course, nor any possibility of fitting one, being flint, clunch and lime mortar.  So I was advised to use a lime mortar to bed the tiles.  I made up a fine mortar with NHL 5 lime and kiln dried block sand as being fine and so not stopping the tiles bedding down fully if necessary.  The only trouble is that the tiles (pamments) are dry and super absorbant, as is the floor, so any mortar has its water immediately absorbed and doesn’t give any scope for positioning.  In the end we managed to lay the tiles by flooding the floor where we wanted to lay mortar and spraying the pamments till they were wet and using the mortar almost in the consistency of soup.  Its still necessary to get the tile in almost the correct position and its not really possible to do any fine levelling – if the tile goes down unlevel it has to be prized off ( they stick within a minute) and the whole process of laying started over again.  We managed about 20 pamments an hour once we got it organised, probably a quarter of the rate with ‘normal’ tile cement.  Still we did get almost 40 laid in the afternoon after messing about a fair bit working out a method. – we have a total of 204 to lay, about 20 sq meters.  I’m wondering if we have the best mix of mortar – I might put in some lime putty which might hold the water a bit longer…..  To add to the fun of laying them, the size varies somewhat so its impossible to get completely uniform joint gaps – we are aiming for 7 mm minimum, but the variation in tile size appears to be 2 to 3 mm at times – I’m glad we didn’t go for a smaller joint gap, I wish we had gone for a slightly wider gap – 8 m.m. would look more even, but when grouted it will all look fine – if we had wanted a perfect, regular floor we wouldn’t have spent a fortune on hand made pamments!

November 20th – Now down to all the niggly jobs that come with prep for decorating – we decided to get as much as possible done before laying the floor tiles so they don’t get messed up with splashes of limewash and its a slow series of annoying jobs cleaning and filling etc.  The walls will be limewashed in colours that I’ll mix myself – acrylic pigment intended for art can be bought in half litres and that is enough to colour many litres of lime.  The lime putty is mixed with water to the consistency of milk, preferably a few weeks before its needed to let some of the lime disolve in the water.  The pigment needs to be mixed with plain water  so that it is thorougly mixed and no lumps exist – stirring it in a jam jar with a 1/2 inch paint brush works well – it can then be poured into the lime mix.  The acrylic in the paint doesn’t disolve properly if you put it directly in the lime, it forms small lumps and the finished limewash paints streaky.   Limewash is a lovely finish although it needs a lot of coats to cover well – we have 5 coats of white on the ceiling to cover the plaster.  One technique I used before is to finish off the limewash with a straight coat of clear  limewater which then basically turns to limestone on the wall.  The stuff I put on the walls 25 years ago is hard and smooth and can’t be washed off – any attempt to remove it brings off the plaster with the paint, but as it makes a firm base coat there is no point in removing it.  We moved some of the new units through the kitchen to get them out of the way and they look fantastic – can’t wait to get the floor down and the units installed. The units are all built on carcasses of 16 mm ply that a friend has as scrap from his business which he kindly biscuit joins for us – the unit below weighs in at around 35 to 40 Kg without the 38 mm black walnust top, so moving them around is quite a sweat!

Matthew’s side unit

November 15th – a bt of a pause while we worked away on the kitchen…  Its getting round to all the small details while we wait for the floor to dry out sufficiently to lay the pamments – probably another week.  Each evening I lay a newspaper somewhere on the floor with flat plastic hawk on top of it, and in the morning the degree of dampness in the paper is easy to judge  – its gradually getting dryer day by day, but still there is obviously water rising through the floor – not sure if it will decline to zero any time soon!   I levelled off the section of wall to be tiled behind the hob and set the worktop level with a batten and tiled  – I couldn’t decide whether to tile up to the beams or stop one course down, but when I’d got it tiled to the beams it looked wrong, so off they came.  There was an oak frome round a set of shelves next to the tiling, I stuck masking tape over the oak to keep plaster splashes off it, which made us realise how much better everything looked if it was a paler colour – so it will be painted in due course.   Things are beginning to edge towards the decorating stage in the sink unit half of the room – I’m contemplating tiling the floor in two halves so that I can still work in half of the room while the other half dries.  Anyway things progress – Matthew dug a French drain on the outside of the North wall, which had been very damp – we thought we should do it before we finally leave the EU on 1st Jan as presumably French drains will be banned thereafter………  I suspect we shall be in for a period of chaos then – Felixstowe docks is already delaying unloading container ships by up to 10 days so who knows where it will all end – probably in tears!  I’m still mystified about the ructions in No 10 – none of the ‘explanations’ in the press make any sense to me.  The photos show another ‘good buy’ from Screwfix – mains powered 20 Watt Led worklights are great, specially since they fit neatly onto clamps on the beams.  We have 2 in constant use. 

One way and another there will be enough wood around without the frame!

November 8th  The top screed went in just fine on Tuesday – added about another 2 tons of sand to the floor, but it came out pretty flat and was quicker than the first screed – it was not so thick so less waiting for the mixing in the small mixer we hired – 25 mixes exactly for this screed.  We have so far used 6 tons  in total.  By Thursday it was OK to walk on and Matthew returned to his cabinet making and I tidied up the edges of the floor.  First and second fix of wiring for the services has now started, and there is a lot of it!  It is amazing how many electrical bits and pieces a kitchen has – a fair number can’t easily be accomodated by sockets above the worktops – so extra circuits are needed for  oven, hob, extractor fan, water softener and underfloor heating,  plus dishwasher and fridge.  Add in a generous 9 or 10 double sockets spread around and that is quite a lot of wire and boxes to be let in and wires burried or preferably put in trunking!  We can’t leave the wiring any longer as I am at a stage where I need to do the tiling on the wall behind the units, and the sockets sit in the tiling……. So we have another lockdown – this time it doesn’t seem to have stopped things like the first one did – there is still plenty of traffic about and most work is still going on. Not everything about the lockdown is clear – there seems to confusion about what is or is not allowed.  Organised game shoots are off, but rough shooting is allowed, Angling is off, but fishing is allowed (work that one out if you can!).  Matthew can still come and work because I am paying him and it is therefore work, whereas if I wasn’t paying him it would not  be allowed  ( we are working in different places – he has the workshops, I am working in the old kitchen).  Our salvation is that  Screwfix is still functioning for pre-orders online.  I now have most of the appliances lined up, although I’m waiting for the sink and tap, and the worktops are not due to arrive for a week or so.  Anyway its all going well, and the floor is drying out nicely so we are on schedule to lay the pamments in around 2 weeks, which gives us time to finish off most of the other jobs that can be done before the floor is laid.

There is a handy space for the services in the recess where an old outside door was.

November 2nd –  I laid the heater cable on the floor in the rather poorly attached plastic strips, not easy as I couldn’t put any tension on the cable to straighten it, and my plastic strips were rather widely spaced as I didn’t order enough!  Anyway with Matthew’s help unwinding the cable it all went down.  I was pleased that the length worked out almost exactly right for the layout I had planned – we laid the 105 meters and I only had to shorten one loop by about 600 mm to get it all to fit perfectly.  I nipped over to Anglia Lime to get more NHL 5 – Natural Hydraulic Lime – used in place of cement (OPC) for greater permeability. as the first screed was a bit sand rich.  Anyway tomorrow is THE screeding day – about 2 inches to be laid, and it must be level enough to lay the pamments on with between 6 and 9 mm of mortar and get a completely flat surface – quite demanding!   The first of the appliances arrived today – the oven. 

 1 November – Seven weeks to finish the kitchen!   We finished off the first screed last week, but everything was setting and drying out so slowly that I put on the Aga and a 1 kW fan heater and the dehumidifier 24 hours a day – it has been drying out much better, the first coat lime plaster has now gone hard and the floor is giving up its excess moisture – the dehumidifier is pulling around 10 to 12 litres per day from the air and just about managing to keep the RH around 70 percent or a little lower and the temperature at 24 Celsius – in a day or so we will lay the 2 inch top screed on top of the in-screed electric heating wires.  I marked out the heating cable layout – its a loose cable not a mat – and stuck plastic guide strips to the floor with Fix-All .  The floor has a very loose top surface so the bond is not good, but probably enough to hold the wires in place while the screed is laid. The heating cable I was supplied with is a ‘single core’ cable, which means that power is connected across the cable from end to end so it has to make a complete loop – I have spent some time tring to work out a path that is the exact length of the cable, with a part that can be adjusted.  The only thing concerning me is that we have to be able to barrow the limecrete to the working part of the floor – we’ll put down boards which will rest on the plastic strips but might displace them – I’ll think about using some wooden packing pieces to support the boards.  I plan to put wooden battens to level the screed to so that it is a reasonably flat surface to lay the 12 x `12 pamments on to without having to use excessive amounts of mortar to lay them.  I’m hoping we can carry on the work during the lockdown – I ordered all the materials, appliances and worktops last week so they should be delivered shortly.  We will finish the screed on Tuesday, which is the only 2 man job apart from lifting the worktops at the end.  I think Matthew will continue working – it is construction, which is a permitted trade and we don’t need to work in the same space – half the house is a building site!  He says last lockdown he got stopped by the police and asked where he was going!  Anyway he can always claim that he is going to assist his frail old father!

Strips for locating heating cable – I didn’t buy quite enough, hence the gaps!

26th October – Went to the AML clay shoot at CGC on Sunday – I wasn’t shooting very well and found the targets monotonous and a bit repetitive, and a bit too much hanging around waiting for University gun club members taking their time with some indifferent ‘coaching’.   I was shooting in a squad with friends so that bit was enjoyable, but I don’t think I’ll be going to the AML monthly shoots very often – I prefer shooting with a couple of friends  without the competition structure.   The Kitchen progresses – on Friday we got most of the first layer of the floor screed down but at 5:30 with about a square meter more to do, we ran out of sand.  My screeding  wasn’t perfect, but its only the first layer so it doesn’t have to be perfectly flat – I did manage to get it smooth within  about +- 4 mm over the main floor by laser – I’ll have to do a little better on the top screed so the pamments lay flat.  We have to wait til Wednesday for more sand so we are getting on with sorting out bits and pieces – replastering bits of the walls, tidying the wiring and sorting out  the main window cill and surround.  I realised we have been seven weeks on the job and only have another 6 to go before we are supposed to finish for Christmas, although what sort of Christmas we will have in the present Pandemic remains to be seen.

9 hours on my knees screeding! 

21st October -Floor materials arrived yesterday and we barrowed in 4 big bags of Geocell glass foam  (at least Matthew did) – quite a job to spread it evenly, and in the end we didn’t have as much depth as we anticipated.  Today I hired a wacker plate to consolidate the floor material but it was not a straighforward job – the wacker works fine going in a straight line, but turing corners it skids round and throws up a ridge on the outsside.  The Geocel doesn’t really compact like a normal fill as its not graded very well – its made up of bits that would pass a 30 mm seive but without much fine stuff .  I spent the morning chasing ridges round the floor and didn’t get where I hoped to be, and ended up with a surface some 20 to 40 mm below what I was aiming at and certainly not fit to lay electrical underfloor heting on.  I did a small experiment running the wacker on top of a bit of the geotextile barrier sheet and that certainly helps to get rid of the ploughed bits, so we’ll do that tomorrow.  Given how difficult it is to compact the fill, I won’t order any more, but instead will make up the shortfall with a thicker slab which we’ll lay in two goes with the heater wires between – I think the geocel will still give adequate insulation.- most of the floor will still have around 150 mm of fill, and some will have the wine bottles as well.  Yesterday we put in all the electrical conduits that go under the fill – we had to lay them with the wires threaded as they are long runs with lots of bends.

19th October – I was expecting a large load of materials for insulating and laying the new kitchen floor today, but it didn’t materialise.  I  had a bit of a shock – trimming round the walls to get the earth from the foundations – large stones and flints in old lime mortar going down at least a foot and a half , I realised that the old chimney bricks were resting directly on the ground at floor level  without any foundation and I’d cut the ground away flush with the brickwork – since it was likely to dry out a bit when I put in the foam glass  ‘gravel’ insulating  infill, I was a bit concerned that it might crumble away and destabilise the chimney.  As the ground at the bottom of our excavation was as hard as iron I decided that I could just underpin it to that level, which I did with 4 courses of brick – I did wonder if I should dig out for a proper, deep, wide  footing, but the chimney is about 3 bricks thick and I only really needed to underpin the outer skin to stop the earth crumbing away.  Anyway it all went well and not a single brick of the chimney came loose apart from one bit of mortar facing.   I’ve learnt over the years of messing around with old houses that it pays to avoid trying to make radical changes to structures as its easy to get carried away and end up with an impossible amount of work and doing more damage in the process – in this case I think the chimney probably dates from around 1700 or earlier and hasn’t moved in the last 100 years!  I am not easily frightened by building problems!  Matthew put in my wine bottle insulation in part of the floor – it will be covered by about 150mm of the glass foam chips.  The whole floor is designed to be breathable on the principle that if the floor is a vapour barrier the ground moisture is diverted to the walls.  Doing it this way makes life a little more complicated (& expensive) but it is a known technique for old houses – so there is around 150 mm of the glass foam chips followed by 80 mm of ‘limecrete’ – basically concrete made with hydraulic lime instead of Ordinary Portland Cement.  That will be followed by the unglazed pamments which will have a permeable coating – I have yet to decide what that will be. I am putting electric heating under the 80 mm limecrete so it will function as a storage heater  and can be run off off-peak electricity – it will have to heat about 4 tonnes of limecrete so its not going to respond very quickly!  Matthew put my ‘patent’ floor insulation in a depression in the centre of the floor, to go under the glass foam chips;-

My patent additional insulation – should amuse anyone who digs up the floor in years to come!

Starting to dig out under the chimney wall – will it bring the whole massive chimney down ?

17th October – Frantic activity!  Managed another shoot on Monday near Bures – very good day, and the weather held.   We managed to dig out the kitchen floor to a depth of  about a foot in 3 days – got rid of 4 trailer loads of soil etc.  The local farmer kindly takes it for his landscaping so we keep it well sorted from rubbish.   I now have to put in the conduits for electrical wiring, and trim round the edges and get a few bits sorted before putting in the insulating wine bottles and the glass foam insulation to a depth of around 6 inches.  The material is scheduled to arrive on Monday along with 27 bags of natural hydraulic lime for the screed, and 3 tons of sharp sand, so altogether it will be a rather busy day.  I hope we will get most of the floor laid by next weekend, then it will be a case of letting it harden for a couple of weeks – I hope no longer!  As soon as its part gone off I’ll put boards down and get on with the walls etc. and take them up when I’m not working.  Fun weekend threading conduit under the living room floor is in store!

The last shovel full of kitchen floor!

Last of 4 trailer loads of earth!

9th October – Finished the plastering of the ceiling  – a few of the panels at the end cracked a bit but I managed to rework the lime plaster to get rid of most of them, and put a skim of lime and chalk over the second coat plaster.  Matthew has put together the carcass of the cabinet, and is now working on the front frame, so it will be mostly completed shortly.  I’ve been levelling up some of the walls round the window with hydraulic lime mortar – its lovely stuff to work with as it sticks to vertical surfaces – you can either flick it on or smear it, and it stays on and doesn’t slump, at least up to about 2 cm thickness.  We have now run out of excuses for putting off the digging up of the floor, so next week should see that started.  It is a major job as we have to excavate  300 mm deep over 20 sq meters of very compacted earth –  given that when you break solid ground you end up with 2 or 3 times the volume it could yield at least 12 cubic meters – probably 6 – 8 tons! All to be sifted by wheelbarrow.  I have no clear idea how long it will take the two of us!  I’m off shooting on Monday so we will probably start that job on Wednesday or Thursday – I’m guessing it will take about 8 to 10 days to complete then we’ll put a layer of wine bottles as insulation, followed by some foamed glass, an 8 cm slab of limecrete, and then some electric underfloor heating and the pamments – Oh and put in the electric and gas somewhere under the slab!


Someone suggested that it would be ‘better’ to use plasterboard between the beams – he hadn’t seen them!


7th October  – got  most of the plastering done, thank goodness – with luck tomorrow should see it finished – its tricky plastering between the beams, I’ve used several rolls of masking tape in an attempt to keep the beams themselves free of lime plaster – might put a photo of the job tomorrow if its done!   Matthew has been making the drawers and doors for the next cabinet – he was pretty amazed at how quick it is to make dovetail joints with the Trend jig and router.  They have the advantage that the joints are rigid and aligned when knocked together, so  don’t really require any other fixing or clamping, just a check that the drawer is square – i.e. drop in the bottom, and a squirt of glue.  I was given a nice little gun related gadget by a friend – a brass and boxwood shot gauge by Robinson.  I’m not really sure of the date, I don’t think its very old – my guess would be 1920 to 1940 (ish) but I’d be interested to hear from anyone who can shed any light on the date or on Robinson.  I checked it with modern shot and it reads very accurately.  Reminds me of old school rulers.  And what was the ‘Patent Shot’ referred to on the second scale ?  I re-stocked on 1.2 mm and 2.2 mm HSS drills for making nipples – from my favourite supplier Tracy Tools –  they are only 50p each so I bought 15 of the 1.2mm and don’t mind if I have to use a new one for each nipple I make.

The shot in the gauge is, as it shows, No. 7 1/2 shot.

4th October – Apart from getting myself covered in plaster from head to toe, I’ve had a couple of other little problems to attend to – my radial arm saw, the basic tool for all the work Matthew is now doing on the second cabinet, blew up  – fortunately only a short in the wiring where it flexes when you  cut, but it took a fair while to strip it down to get at the wire to repair – done now.  Also my hone packed up and had to be stripped and modified to cut out the variable transformer speed control as it had expired – so now its on full speed, which is more or less how I always use it anyway.  I’ve had to buy a dehumidifier as the plaster is taking weeks to dry out and I need to get on with the final coat.   I had an interesting gun job – make a pair of nipples for a John Manton shotgun.  I took the old nipples which were a bit oversize for No 11 nipples and made new ones to the same dimensions, as I thought.  When I came to fit them in the barrel I discovered that the flanges above the thread need to fit inside a recess – so the flange diameter is critical – mine were slightly too big.  I haven’t seen breech blocks like that before, they usually have a raised rim at the top of the thread so the flange diameter isn’t critical. – it also had the side nail through the breech block (I have seen that) and a vertical sear.  Anyway I was able to turn down the flanges, but I decided anyway to make another pair of nipples that fitted the hexagonal driver that came with the gun.  I got carried away and decided that a video on making nipples was overdue, so I hope that will surface soon… Oh, and I had a request for a personalised decapping tool – I’m nearly out of blanks….

1 October – Lots more work on the kitchen – the new stapler arrived and just about worked – next time I’ll get an air driven one- so the laths are up and I’ve put on the 1st coat and started on the finishing coats – I have a shortcut techniqe for lime plastering that seems to work although its not an approved method – after the first coat of sharp sand and lime putty 3:1 with goat hair (really!) and scratched up with a pointed lath has hardened ( almost a week at the moment) I put on a second coat of lime putty and plasterer’s sand with a bit of calcinated clay to form a more or less smooth surface over the dampened 1st coat – after an hour or three when that is hardening  up a bit ( its lime so doesn’t set like gypsum plaster) I skim very lightly over it with a lime putty and chalk mix to smooth off any depressions, then after that has hardened up a bit I go over it with a damp sponge to get rid of any obvious marks.  The effect is to leave a surface that isn’t clinically flat, but  is very slightly undulating.  Well, I like the effect although I’m sure it would give a professional plasterer the heeby jeebies. Matthew started work on another kitchen cabinet – to match the other one the doors needed a central panel of elm, while the rest was oak.  It is not easy to buy elm as Dutch Elm Disease got rid of most of the timber years ago and timber merchants laugh if you ask them, but I managed to get a very nice plank from ebay that has enough timber for three cupboard door panels – it turned out to have a very good grain, and should give two matching outer doors and a fine central door – a win and not unduly expensive.  I actually did a bit of gun work – a client reminded me that I was supposed to be doing a bit of engraving for him and I couldn’t face using the microscope in my rather ramshackle metalwork shop so I moved it back into a corner of the temporary kitchen and did a bit of engraving – a trigger guard tang and a couple of screws – as usual I forgot to take photos….  I also had a couple of pairs of nipples that were a bit too big for modern caps to try to slim down to get them to take 1035 caps – they were superficially hard so I ran them against the linisher belt in the chuck of a battery drill – unfortunately I took a bit much off a couple and they were a little loose, so I made a new pair of titanium nipples.  The bit that always makes me nervous about the operation is putting the 1.2 mm hole about 3 mm deep into the threaded end – I put a pip in with a small centre drill and then drill with the 1.2 mm drill, but if you get it wrong or the drill is not sharp it just work hardened/polishes the bottom of the hole – you have very little feel from the tailstock wheel and you can sometimes see the drill bow under the pressure – it usually means using a new drill bit – I reckon I average about 1 drill bit per two or three nipples.  If you are unlucky the tip of the drill breaks off in the metal so its best to drill the hole before any other operations so that you can just face off the rod ( 10 mm dia. offcuts of titanium T5 from ebay) and start over.

22nd Sept – bit of a hold-up on the kitchen – the replacement staple gun won’t be here til Friday so Matthew has a lie-in and then built a roof over part of the yard to house the working area when the weather is no longer so perfect.  I did a bit more of the first coat plastering- about 20% now done – its slow as much of it is detailed edge stuff.   Got to find another two or three day’s work to occupy Matthew until the stapler arrives!   Mystery on the Covid 19 front – Penny went to have an antibody test today ( she had not had any symptoms when I got it and she was in the house looking after me) – the pharmacist initially said she hadn’t had it, then saw a faint response and  said he had only seen that response once before ( me, but he didn’t know we were related), so we are not greatly enlightened!  My friend and fellow gun restorer is moving and giving up the game, so I’ll go and see if I can buy any goodies from him – there are a few breech loaders I have borrowed that interested me, including the Collarth and the Gibbs and  Pitt.  I might rescue some of his stock of castings for flintlocks.   I’m still unsure whether I’ll bother to look at Bonhams tomorrow – I should be working but I might put my tablet on in the old kitchen and see if anything cathces my eye!

The  work shelter Matthew built in 2 1/2 hours.

21 Sept – Slightly chastened by a follower of this blog lamenting the absence of gun related stuff, I had a quick look through Bonhams catalogue for this Wednesday – quite a lot of interesting stuff, and if I dared to go and have a proper look I might be tempted to overspend.  There is a very nice cased Forsyth scent bottle gun with all the bits if you have a cool £8000 plus premium minimum.  Several pistols caught my eye – and mostly at almost affordable prices if you forget about the premium!   I have this idea, probably completely wrong, that cased pistols are better vale than uncased – The little cased  Egg is neat and so on……….  It is interesting to see what has happened to antique firearms prices  – the very low interest rates in general have attracted people to what are euphemistically called ‘investment grade’ pieces, particularly buyers from the US, and there is interest across the wider market, although auction prices haven’t shifted much over the years, and if you take into account the high premium charges that are now the norm, you would be very lucky to get your money back unless you are a very canny buyer, or just lucky.  Better go and have another look at the on-line catalogue – I have already registered for on-line bidding so that is a danger sign!

21st Sept – Fantastic shoot on Saturday, good strong breeze and sunny and lots of birds – perfect conditions and very well run.  My trusty little 16 bore Nock single rose to the challenge of the fast targets so I was well pleased.  I weighed my powder flask when I got home, then after I’d filled it to the top to check how many shots I’d fired in the day – worked out at 21 excluding the final unloading shot, so a hit to  shots ration of 1:3 which for me is a good result.  I quite like using a single for game – takes away the tension of whether to reload a double after the first shot or wait til the gun is empty.  Problem with reloading a single fired  barrel of a double is that you have to remember to remove the cap from the loaded barrrel or you risk loosing a hand if it fires.   A lot of experienced shooters can recall an occasion when they reloaded without removing the cap, including occasions when the gun was still at full cock. Makes the blood run cold!  I made my little decapping tool to make it simple to remove the cap, but it is still possible to forget.     We were pressing on with the kitchen and had about a quarter of the ceiling lathed up ready for plastering when the stapler we use for fixing the lathes stopped working upwards – it was still happily firing staples downwards but elevated above the horizontal it stopped firing.  I stripped it several times and did briefly get it going with a squirt of WD 40, but it soon failed again.  I tried several tricks to try to give the solenoid more umph, but none worked and we had to abandon fixing laths – a new one won’t be delivered until Friday so that is almost a week lost…  I have started to plaster the laths that are in place with 3 coat lime putty plaster – its quite tricky as the beams have only about 13 or 14 inches between them, which precudes the proper plastering technique of laying on the first coat at 45 degrees to the laths, so it is a bit of a hit and miss affair and quite slow, especially around the bosses I have put in for the spotlights.  It took me a while to get my hand in and find the right consistency for the plaster and the right amount of goat hair to add, and of course you can’t really see if the plaster that is squeezed between the laths has folded over to hold on to the laths.  One has a nghtmare that in the morning the whole lot will have detached and be lying on the floor!    ( it has to be said the the patch I’d  put in some years ago was all very firmly attached when we took that bit of ceiling down)

Old laths cleaned and fixed between joists – boss for spotlight.


17th Sept – Penny’s birthday – fortunately I did remember!  Busy on the kitchen – and for the next two months at least, I guess.  Matthew finished the tricky job of fixing up battens along the beams and joists to carry the laths for the plaster. We had intended to replace two beams as they didn’t quite match although they were old, but when we came to investigate it turned out that they extended almost all the way through the flint wall, leaving only a single layer of flint on the outside – to remove the beams would have meant a lot of rebuilding of the wall as the outside would have fallen out if disturbed, so we left them – two green oak beams will now go in stock!  We did have one short beam to replace as it was itself a replacement and not very sound – we made a beam by laminating a couple of bits of seasoned oak and put the date and our initials on it as a memento.  I rebuilt the wall around the hole for the fan – a bit of flintwork on the outside – I’ve done quite a bit of repairing and rebuilding flint walls in the local vernacular so it comes quite easily – the secret is to go back after a couple of hours with a small tool and cut back the mortar to leave the flint proud by 6 to 10 mm, and then brush it all with a stiff brush to clean off the flint and expose the sharp grit on the surface of the mortar.   I’ve put in all the wiring for the lights, so the next job is fixing the laths – I have a neat electric stapler – Tacwise – that fires staples about 6 mm wide  which are perfect for fixing the old split laths, two staples each end, so that job should be quite quick – although most of the laths will have to be individually cut to length.  There are just a couple of really dirty jobs to do – chasing in another light switch and a water pipe, plus a bit of mortaring around the top of the walls where it was previously above the ceiling  but now is below the new ceiling level.  Two pallets of floor tiles have arrived, so its  all looking very exciting – I should be able to start plastering on Monday and maybe finish the ceiling next week?  There is  a certain amount of discussion about how to finish the exposed joists and beams – painting them in with the ceiling would expose all the imperfections in them, and the broken off lath fixings would soon rust through.  Options are then to leave them as they are, wax them, oil them or stain them – all except the first are non reversible! I guess that decisiion can be left til we see how the ceiling looks……..

Matthew fixing the last of the battens on the new beam.

16th Sept.  OOps – missed a few days while I was in Wales helping to clear out Penny’s family house to put it on the market.   Managed to get over 30 dustbin bags of rubbish out!  Had a litttle scare as my car has a feature that if you unlock the car with the remote and then don’t open the driver’s door, it relocks after a minute of so – you can guess the rest – I went to a side door, put my keys on the floor and after getting what I wanted stood back and the door shut.  Penny didn’t have her keys with her.  Didn’t fancy doing any damage that would be costly to put right, but walking round found a way in that just required a 10 mm drill, and could be put right with a small replacement part, or one made in ten minutes in my workshop.  If I hadn’t had to get a lift to Screwfix to buy a drill bit it would have been a 3 minute job to recover the keys – I’m not advertising how to do it!   The kitchen continues apace – having decided  that we are going to leave the beams & joists exposed, thus raising the ceiling by about 3 inches, Matthew has been cleaning them off and attaching battens along them close to the floor boards above so we have something to fix the laths to – this turns out to be a long and involved job as most of the beams and joists are from the edges of the trees and are rounded on top.  A couple of the joists don’t look right so I collected a couple of green oak replacements 100 x 150 mm in section today.  The floor tiles arrived in the yard next door, they won’t be needed for a month or so. I have put in the wiring for the  (now 9) ceiling spotlights.  Matthew and I are getting qite excited aboutthe job! My shoot on Saturday is set to go ahead- some people are a bit unhappy that people can gather for shooting but not in the park – but it has to be said that we re mostly spaced about 40 yards apart!  Its interesting that the law specifically exempts any activity that requires a firearms or shotgun certificate from the rule of 6 – I guess that means that the arm of the law will have no excuse to bother us!.

9th Sept. Matthew arrived late this morning, his car loosing water from a broken plastic fitting that he hadn’t quite managed to repair with superglue.  It was a hose nipple screwed into the water pump carrying water to preheat the fuel/air ?  Much to his amazement I found a bit of suitable white plastic rod and turned up a replacement with an M8 stud – it fitted perfectly after I’d run an M8 second tap into the hole to clear the plastic residue.  Not often you can make a car part in 30 minutes!  The rest of Matthew’s day passed in washing down the beams while I got rid of the old wiring and planned where the new was going to go –  Turns out I reckon on 8 sets of spotlights each with 3 LED bulbs – at 5W per bulb that is a total of 120 W, which is probably what it was before, but now groups will be able to be turned off, leaving a central group of 30 W, a bit more reasonable.  I also put in another order to Screwfix- its so easy and each one costs around £30 – £50 so it is a significant part of the cost of the work.   Cost control is quite lax as I’m not paying stupid prices for the bulk of the work, and materials for the floor will be at  around 1/3 to 1/2 of the final cost.  I’m hoping that the end of next week will see the ceiling ready for plastering, so I had better visit AngliaLime to get a few more tubs of Lime Putty and a few bundles of  hair to put in the first coat to strengthen the ‘nibs that get pushed up in the gaps between the laths and stop the plaster falling down – I suspect that the ceiling we have just taken out failed because it had rather little hair in the base coat so the nibs broke off and the plaster sagged away from the laths.  There was one patch we took down that I had carefully repaired some years ago –  the plaster brought the laths down with it, the laths were tied with galvanised wire to a cross lath so the whole thing was a rigid sheet – and quite difficult to get down.

8th Sept.  Decided to take down all the laths and leave the joists exposed below the ceiling, which we did today.  Next job is to put battens around the edges of all beams and joists to take short laths for plastering.  We need to replace a couple of beams that don’t look right, so I’ve ordered a couple of lengths of 4 x5 inch sawn oak to do the job – I found a firm in North Walsham that offered to supply them for a reasonable price.  Before we can put the laths up I have to run in wires for all the lighting.  At least having got all the ceiling down the dirtiest job is finished so we can clean up a bit!   One of the joys of restoring old houses is the occasional puzzle – you know something must have been done for a purpose but can’t see what it is.  In this case there is a trimmer between two joists with a central joist in two parts supported by the trimmer.  The puzzle is that all those beams look original and have chamfers that run out at the crossings, and all had the same finish so look as if they were made like that.  Trimmers are usually associated with openings for stairs etc, but that isn’t the case here.  Matthew suggests that maybe the central joist was found to be too weak / cracked so they put in the trimmer as they didn’t have another joist.  Possible, some of the other joists are more or less branches with the bottom surface flattened off, but still originally shown below the plaster level.

The spine beam on the left is cantilevered out and supports the other beam – both probably reused timbers from an earlier house.

The thin joist is a much later addition when new floor boards were put in and firring pieces put on the beams and joists to level the floor.

7th Sept  Demolition of the kitchen began in earnest today as Matthew came to help. We stripped almost all the old plaster off the laths and Matthew cleaned off the backs of them with a reshaped washing up brush – we took out  a couple of laths every foot or so to create the space to get at the backs.  Having got a glimpse of what was above them we reckon that we can remove all the laths and leave the ceiling beams exposed, setting the plaster back a couple of inches.  The ceiling is very low, so this will generate the impression of a higher ceiling and be a return to how it was originally – you can actually see the original plaster finish on the underneath of the upstairs floorboards in one place.  It will be a bit more work but worth it.  It looks as if half the room originally had unpainted oak beams, and the other half somewhat narrower beams painted in with the ceiling.  A couple of the beams in one bit of the ceiling have been replaced with wood that doesn’t match, so I may have to take them out and replace them with new oak beams.  I’m not sure where to get sawn green oak now as my favourite source no longer exists – I did have a supply of old  5 x 5 oak posts, but that got used up for the new kitchen door frame.   I started to unpick the old wiring, a mix of twin and earth grafted on to old rubber covered wire without earths – I guess it will all have to be replaced – I plan to use wireless bulbs to simplify wiring – I think the IKEA system looks OK, we used it in Giles’s flat and it works and is cheap – the only thing that I didn’t like is that if there is a power cut all the lights come on when the power is restored regardless of the state they were in when the power was cut.  I got some amazingly neat spotlights – 3 on a bar- from IKEA, for the princely sum of £7 – less than the cost of 3 normal LED bulbs for them.

Old riven laths make an interesting surface to plaster on to – I have done it successfully by wiring in intermediate laths across the gaps.

The original plaster ( date unknown but possibly 18th ) is just visible between the laths, which would have been 19th or early 20th century.

6th Sept.  Splendid day’s shoot in beautiful weather on the Essex coast yesterday – flat as a pancake and a nice breeze and loads of birds – we had a modest shoot, just 6 of us AML bods – I felt I had done myself justice!   I’ve fished out a little double barrelled percussion gun by Probin that has had its barrels cut down to a just legal 24 1/4 inches, and weighs 5 1/4 lbs, the same as my Nock single.  I really liked having the Nock yesterday – I’ve not completely recovered my stamina as I discovered, and as there was a fair bit of walking I was glad of the light gun, so it would be handy to have a matching double.  With barrels that short I will probably opt to use Swiss No 2 powder as the faster burn rate compared to Czech I normally use should compensate a bit for the short barrel.  I am now using semolina for all shooting and find it perfectly satisfactory and much handier to load for clays and game – I have no intention to revert to wads….  I re-plumbed the main house incomer to accommodate the new water softener and get rid of some of the visible pipework- by the time it was all installed with stop cocks to allow the water softener to be removed when we do the floor it added up to around 35 compression joins in 22 and 15 mm pipework, mostly 22 mm.   When I turned the mains on (slightly) one joint blew out as I’d forgotten to tighten it at all, and another 10 weeped  (wept?) very slightly and took several iterations to get it all leak free – at least I hope its now leak free – I left tissues on the floor to see of I got drips, but if there are any leaks they are probably not much faster than the evaporation.

We look more like a bunch of bank robbers than anything else!

Not really sure why I don’t use soldered joints – or pushfit copper!

3rd September  – Yesterday was my birthday – 21 again!  Cracking on with the kitchen, although I did spend this morning up at school doing my safeguarding training.  I always find when I come back to building type work that things have moved on a bit, and there are new ‘inventions’ that I haven’t come across before.  Two very simple but clever things I picked up at Screwfix – the first was a simple sheet of black plastic that rolls up and slips inside a rubble sack to turn it into a bin that you can throw, drop or shovel rubble into – you just lift the sheet out when the bag is full, and use it in the next bag!  Its called a rubble mate – and is brilliantly simple and effective.  The second is a roll of coated fabric that you tape over a door- it has a zip panel in the middle so you can go in and out while its properly dust sealed when its zipped shut – again, simple and effective – it’s called a Dustguard Dust Barrier.  I’ve been sorting out how I’ll fit various bits – particularly an extractor fan and the water softener.  I ordered a cheap cooker hood/extractor fan (£80 would you believe) and it arrived in a very large box that rattled ominously as if full of gravel – which is what the glass hood had become!  Anyway they sent me a new one and I got to keep the damaged one for spares.  They look perfectly good – I’m prepared to bet it is identical internally to units costing 3 or 4 times as much – looking at appliances and reading reviews it seems that what used to be premium brands are now just premium prices with more or less the same old tat inside as the cheap ones – or am I just becoming an old cynic as I age?  Got my first proper shoot of the season on Saturday, so an early start – it will be the single barreled gun for me this time – I’d better put a seat back in the Land Cruiser in case I have to use it as transport given the virus issue……  I went on the firearms website and filled in the form to put the Nock back on my certificate – but haven’t had any feedback.  I notice that Cambs and Peterborough are demanding medical certificates for shotgun, firearms and explosives licenses – why can’t they make the explosives licenses coterminous to save us an extra expense and them the bother?   I sold the microscope for £360 – I’m well pleased as it cost me £420 new.

Full marks to whoever invented this!

28thAugust – A lot of time spent on the new kitchen ‘walking around the job’ !  One of the real benefits of doing it all yourself is that you can let the job evolve as you turn it over in your mind – I had a layout for the units that I’d carefully drawn up and was expecting to make, but marking things up on the floor I came up with a much better arrangement that still fitted with the unit I had already built – in fact it fits much better as the lpg gas hob will now fit centrally over the built in electric oven.  Because the walls are potentially damp, or could be without adequate ventilation, it is advisable to have a permeable floor so the moisture isn’t forced by a concrete floor  slab into the base of the walls – this is achieved by using a foamed glass ‘gravel’ that is strong enough to replace hardcore and also a good, permeable insulator, and a slab made of lime cement which is much more permeable than Ordinary Portland Cement.  All that of course adds to the expense and complications of the job – but should give a warmer floor – I’ll put electric underfloor heating under the pamments.  Here is a picture of what I hope is the worst bit of the wall.  I’ve had to remove the old window cill and the plaster above the window as they were level with the glass and it looked wrong.  I replaced all the windows in the house with leaded lights in iron casements some 20 years ago – actually in truth there is still one to do – I’ve made the frame and got the blacksmith to make the iron casement etc when I did the others but for some reason that one has escaped, I think because its only in the boot room and isn’t actually rotten (yet).  I think I still have to lead up the actual windows – its a bit of a fiddle, the worst bit is finding suitable glass – modern float glass just doesn’t look right.  I have a collection of old, mostly Victorian, glass which is about right – when I started I used to buy modern handmade window glass but it was very expensive and mostly too distorted – the distortions are called ‘ream’ and the little bubbles ‘seeds’. The cheapest, and least reamy handmade glass was made in Poland, the most expensive was French or German.   Tom (son) and I once re-leaded a whole Elizabethan manor house that had retained a fair amount of very old, probably original, glass – taking each window apart, marking where every pane of glass came from, finding matching glass ( mostly very slightly coloured) for broken panes, and putting the whole lot back together with new lead ‘cames’.  Tom got very good at it – he is more patient than I am, and spent a whole summer doing every window in the place beautifully.

I’ll have to re-plumb the pipe running across the wall before I can do more – it is the mains water feed for the whole house.

27th August – how time flies when you are having fun – in this case demolishing the old kitchen and fixing up the new temporary one.   It turns out that most of the walls of the old kitchen are in a poor state – its old lime plaster onto the chalk rubble inner face ofthe wall, and some patches are hardly adhering at all – plus some clever clogs had the brilliant idea of combatting dampness in the walls by sticking on some bitumen backed material and although most of it has been removed there are still patches of bituminous residue that require the surface of the wall to be removed in order to get rid of them.  All good fun.  I went shooting clays again this morning at Cambridge Gun Club with Pete and Bev – most enjoyable, not least because it was a nice day, and I managed to hit more clays than I thought likely!  I’ll post some kitchen pictures some time just to make you realise how much sounder your dwellings are!

20th August – I seem to be getting back into blogging!  Pete and I went to Eriswell to get ourselves in gear for an upcoming partridge day – I literally hadn’t touched a gun for 6 months and Pete had only shot a flintlock (very well!) and wanted to get back to his percussion.  I started with my normal Samuel Nock double 16 bore but it didn’t feel as if I was going to hit much, so swapped to my little Henry Nock single – this is a ridiculous gun for an adult – single barrel 16 bore with a 13 1/4 inch pull ( a full 1 inch too short for me by the book) and weighing 5 1/4 lbs and a 28 inch barrel. Suffice to say that it came good, and I just about kept up with Pete overall, so I guess I’ll use that on the shoot.  I’m happy to use a single barrel as it removes the dilemma of whether to reload when you’ve fired one of your two barrels!  All in all a good day – but I’ve just remembered that both guns are still in the wagon uncleaned  – oops, and its nearly bed time……… Done them – just time to finish with a thought – Pete and I were speculating that the standard of clay shooting must have gone up over the years, because both Eriswell and CGC include more difficult clays than we remember – some, like the incomer from about 70 yards that hit the ground about 35 or 40 yards out are almost beyond the reach of most percussion guns (they have cylinder bore, more or less)  and there were a several really sneaky fast clays that we could hardly get our eyes on, let alone get the gun onto.  Even the driven, that I used to knock down, now seem much higher – or are we just getting older……..

19th August – If you are interested in the AmScope x7 – x45 microscope for engraving its now on ebay – an auction starting at £220.  A bargain! 

18th August – Managed to get the workshop temporarily wired for the cooker, so its all ready to move into.  I got an email saying the pamments for the kitchen floor will be ready at the end of next week, so I’m running out of excuses for starting the job.  Lot of interest among the muzzle loading fraternity at the idea of doing high speed photos of a number of different guns – problem will be to keep it organised and make sure all possible variables are accounted for and documented for it to have any value.  I’ll talk to Elenor about it, and draw up a list of parameters we need to standardise and those that we can leave as variables.  We do have a number of crack shots with flintlocks, and they spend a lot of time tweaking to get fast ignition, so we can probably get a good range of speeds. 

17th August – Ah well, now wet here too!  I’m busy converting my workshop into a kitchen for a few months use – very disruptive of my gun activities.  A friend came round yeserday with a high speed camera so we took a film of a little pocket pistol priming being fired (without a projectile) – it looks rather beautiful, so I put it on you tube with the link below.  I had to move my spare microscope to make room for the kitchen so I think its time I passed it on – its a new AM_SCOPE chinese trinocular 7 to 45 zoom magnification microscope on a very good stand for engraving – more or less unused, except that I turned up a support for a headrest for it.  New they cost around £420 – I’d like to get £350 including carriage for it if anyone is interested.  Its a good engraving microscope – I do prefer my WILD  with my mods, but the AM_ACOPE does have a bigger eye relief, and a new WILD will probably set you back several thousand pounds!  email me via contacts if you are interested.

12th August –  I never thought I’d come back from Scotland and miss the cold and damp, but the heat down here saps energy like you have a puncture!  I’m busy as the heat allows turning my engraving and gun workshop into a temporary kitchen.  I did take time off for a swim  but I managed to set up a new engraving station in my main workshop – I just got it set up when a packet of bits to engrave  arrived.  I ventured out yesterday and had a haircut (first since Christmas?) and an antibody test at the pharmacy. The initial impression from the test was that I hadn’t had Covid, but then both Ig M and Ig G showed up but rather weakly.  The pharmacist said I’d definitely had it but he had never seen a result like it!  Oh well, let’s hope I never find out if I can catch it again.  Why is nothing to do with Covid clear cut?

8th August – No sooner back to work than the restoration work starts to come in – a gun barrel to recut, and a bunch of parts to engrave/re-engrave – I’ll put pics up when I receive the parts. Plus emails with questions about guns that need identifying or my opinion on what they are or what to do to them – all good and interesting stuff.  It does present a bit of a problem as I have to vacate my gun workshop to turn it into a temporary kitchen and I’m not quite sure where to relocate my engraving to – probably best to avoid rooms with carpets as engraving generates lots of little bits of sharp metal as you might expect. Probably have to be my general workshop, although it will be pretty cold in there soon, and engraving doesn’t involve enough movement to keep warm!  Also that will block any more furniture building for the time being…..

7th August – Sorry for the silence – apart from some hectic work here we have been up in Scotland sailing around the Hebrides in a 13m yacht in pretty varied conditions – but usually pretty cold, wet and windy compared to home territory.  Once you get out to the Outer Hebrides its pretty much still shut down – we did visit a couple of marinas that were nominally closed, but that just seemed to be no loos or showers, and no charge – not a problem as the boat had a super shower and we could still get water.  We visited 6 islands in total and only had to miss three or four days due to strong wind forecasts from the wrong direction.  Really nice boat from Alba Sailing – the only charter company left on the North West.  So back to work – getting ready to move the kitchen temporarily while I demolish the old one!  I also have to pick up a gun and get some practice as I have several shoots at the beginning of the season. More details of the sailing on separate post.

Tucked up in Loch Maddy while the wind blew 30 knots ( not while I took the photo!)  The cockpit tent came in for a lot of use.

Loch Dhroma na Buidhe, at top of the sound of Mull.

19th July – the month rushes on and I am up to my neck in other work……  I spent a couple of days mucking out the workshop – I’m afraid that is literally true as the rats had been active some time ago – I hope no longer around.  Son Tom is back in Cambridge and he and Giles brewed up a plot to build a woodfired pottery kiln in our back garden since neither has the room.  Not only does this involve taking over a chunk of the garden but also using up my store of several hundred  frostproof bricks – the up side of that is that I gain some more space in my woodwork shop – or at least I would have if Giles hadn’t turned up with an electric potter’s wheel he had bought – a bargain he tells me!  The clay shooting is well underway, but sad to say I haven’t taken part yet.  Saturday was the Helice shoot at Rugby Clay club, one of my favourite events, although I have never come far from bottom – but work kept me here, so I didn’t make it this year for the first time in ages.   ‘My’ school has broken up for the holidays, and I wasn’t able to go into school and say goodbye in person – no visitors allowed – so I made a video to say goodbye.  I guess I will have to spend the next couple of weeks preparing to move the kitchen into the gun workshop, so we can destroy the existing kitchen.  Not sure where I’m going to put all the junk!  May be a week or so before I get back to this computer!

12 July – Better weather today – if only the last week’s low temperatures hadn’t taken all the heat out of the pool, I’d have had a swim!  I just finished the small table for the new kitchen that will have a marble top.  I seem to be busy all the time and can only steal moments to go into the gun workshop.  There will be a problem in the Autumn when as it will have to be turned into a temporary kitchen while the main one is destroyed and rebuilt!  Not sure how I will manage – I may take my gun activities out to my shed where my metalworking machinery resides, but that has no heating so will not be very comfortable for sitting still for hours.  Another problem to tackle!  I’m tempted to put in a woodburner but that means making a hole in the roof and quite a lot of fuss( and expense) for a temporary arrangement…… 

6th July – blustery weather continues and the swimming pool is feeling neglected….  I’ve moved on to  making a small table with a marble top to go in the new kitchen as  part of the work surface.  Trying to cut mortices with my cheap 1/4 inch router drove me mad – it keeps momentarily dropping out and then continuing with a shower of sparks from the comutator.  I think I have now learnt to buy middle range power tools – I used to swear that it was better to buy cheap ones and throw them away, but it is tedious when you come to do a job and the tool isn’t up to it – I had to replace my 1/2 inch router recently as it burnt out the motor!  The cheap ones come with less facilities, and soft start on a router is almost essential in my books.  Anyway thanks to Amazon a new 1/4 inch router and 10 mm cutter should arrive tomorrow.   I got round to doing some engraving this evening – I’ve been going into the workshop and ‘playing’ on and off – mostly breaking the tips off gravers but I have a job to do so forced myself to concentrate!  Here are a couple of early test pieces for a simple flintlock engraving;-

Both lock tails are based on classic designs – the bird got rather a long beak ( a slip!) so not sure what species it is – wookcock?

28 June – Lovely weather last week – bit blustery today.  I have now done all I can to the kitchen unit, so it will sit there til the rest of the work is completed in September, and I’ll get on with some more kitchen furniture.  I  am trying to swim every day (in our plastic bag of water) if the weather is at all decent as my daily exercise – my attempts to build up weight have slowed somewhat – I’ve been trying to work out how much one needs to eat to gain weight, although I do realise that most people have the opposite problem ( see My Covid post for more on that).  Here isa photo of the cabinet – its made of oak with elm panels in the door and handles made of bog oak;-

Sorry about the perspective, there isn’t room in the workshop to stand back!

21st June – just about got as far as I can with the first kitchen unit – just got to fit the drawer slides and door hinges.  I’m now making the handles out of bog oak – part carbonised oak that has spent hundreds (or thousands (?) of years submerged in a fen bog.  It is black but still shows the grain, and cuts and polishes well.  I’ll put up a photo later.  I made a couple of new sharpening jigs for a  client, I’ll put the revised design on the sales web page.  Here are a couple of photos ;-

45 degree sharpening jig – from 3/4 inch stainless hex bar

15 degree sharpening jig – from 1/2 inch stainless hex bar

16th June -The gun world is catching up on me – a client reminded me that I had a lock of his to engrave from early March.  He had seen on the website that I had Corvid-19 and very kindly didn’t pester me until yesterday.  I also got a request for gravers and sharpeners so I had better get myself in gear.  Yesterday I made a panelled cabinet door for the kitchen units – lots of messing about with the home made router table – height of cutter is set by an old car jack!  Anyway I put an Osma Polyx finish on at lunchtime so had to vacate that workshop to avoid dust.  So I retreated to the gun workshop  for the first time in 3 months, and made some more gravers.  It takes a good half hour to grind and handle one, so I managed 4 and still had time for a swim!  Now I have to get myself back into engraving – there is quite a lot of muscle memory involved, ad it has to be refreshed if I don’t do any for a week of two,  after 3 months I am bound to be pretty rusty – the main problem being the frequency with which I break off the points of gravers – I soon end up with a pile to sharpen, and there is a lot of metal to grind off after a bad break.

12th June –  I haven’t been idle these last few days!  My carpenter/joiner friend who made the new back door was making a pergola for a client and asked me to turn up a finial for the top of the rather fancy roof. I hadn’t done any serious turning for years, so had to do a practise run on a gash bit of pine, but he was pleased with the final iroko version.  Ive been putting up some trellis in the back garden – why is all the stuff you can buy a horrible ginger colour?  I couldn’t find anything to take the colour down, I suppose time will do that, and a good covering of plants.  I have now finished a set of drawers for the kitchen unit, and am starting on the framed cupboard door – as I’m not a bona fide joiner there is a lot of slow learning involved – it tend to be a case of making it up as I go along, sometimes it corresponds to conventional practice!  I’m still eating for England to get back my weight baack after Covid-19  – tonight I had some very fine Maldon oysters –  must do that more often!  I’m currently averaging about a Kg a week, I hope its mostly muscle!


8th June – Now have a pile of 4 drawers ready to have their finish applied – I am using OSMA penetrating oil, followed by OSMA Polyx microcrystaline wax as it seems to give a pretty durable finish – I probably ought to go for a simple polyurethane varnish, but hey, let’s be different!   I actually had a bit of a break from the units and installed 4 lengths of trellis on top of the garden wall sawing up the 4 x 4 posts was good exercise for the arms.  I am working hard to make up for the ravages of Covid-19  – I think I lost more than 10 Kg. including most of my muscles!   Normally I don’t take any notice of my diet or exercise on the principle that they must be OK for me to stay fit, but I am having to make a bit of an effort to get back what I have lost!  So far I have got back 5 Kg in 6 weeks and am getting my muscles in trim slowly – I’m active and on my feet most of the day, and fit in a walk of at least a mile each evening, plus I bought a set of resistance bands to strengthen my upper body muscles – most unlike me!  I am told that I no longer look like a walking skeleton!

6th June –  Now got the shed a bit sorted, and started on the kitchen units – I decided to start with the drawers – as I have all the material for them.  I struggled a bit to get my head round the dovetail router jig – its fine when you are used to it, but I made a few mistakes when I started and had to remake a few bits.  The fronts are Oak, but the rest is made from Cherry from old library shelves from a Cambridge College – I got a load when a big library was gutted and did our library shelves  and paneling, but I still have 40 or 50 shelves left – perfect for internal joinery and about  30 years old so very stable! 

2nd June – The year rushes on – almost half gone and still the news is all about Corvid 19.  We are desparately hoping that our yacht charter in Scotland can go ahead in mid July – probably touch and go, in the lap of the gods, or Nicola Sturgeon at any rate.  I am busy clearing out my shed so I can gt on with my kitchen units – so far I have come across the mumified remains os 2 rats and assorted other evidence of their existence!  Anyway a skip is called for to dispose of the rubbish that is accumulating in the yard.  The weather makes me glad we got the swimming pool up before they ration water!  My daily swims show up just how unfit Covid 19 left me – I get breathless after a couple of lengths, I think last year I could do 10 straight off and 60 in a session.  It is getting better every day so there is hope.

Here is the new back door! 

29th May  This lovely weather keeps me busy outside, so I have nothing gunwise to report.  It looks like we are able to shoot clays again – with the proviso that we book  slot – I guess we still only get one companion to button for us!  I might think it worth the hastle, or again, I might not – summer is not my favourite season for clays, I’d rather be out roost shooting pigeons…..  I have been busy lately – more or less back to full activity.  Richard and I installed the beautiful solid oak back door and frame – I swear in a hundred years the door frame will be holding the house up!    Today I made combined finger plate and escutcheon etc from some 1/8 inch thick brass sheet I had.  It is amazing how much stuff one keeps just in case!  Giles and I put our 10m long swimming pool up last Monday and it is now filled with 30 tonnes of water.  It is just a very big plastic bag, and is now 12 or 13 years old – each year we erect it with trepidation in case it has sprung an invisible leak.  This year it lost 1 inch in level overnight, but it turned out to be a leak underneath the pump due to a perished rubber elbow.  No chance of getting a replacement, so a bit of attention with rubber adhesive and self amalgamating tape might just work – will fit it tomorrow and see. Part of the leak anguish is that you can no longer buy such a long bag pool, and 10m is only just long enough to swim to and fro in.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a first swim, although the water will still be cold.

20th May  I apologise for my absence from this blog, but my habits have changed and by the end of the evening when I used to add to the blog I’m pretty much wiped out as I am trying to get back to my usual activity levels during the day. Apart from trying to keep the garden under control I have restarted the Kitchen renovation project –  The main phase of taking down the ceiling and digging up the floor is scheduled for later in the year, but I am currently designing the custom units and making up some trial bits to check my construction techniques. So far I have made one drawer with dovetail joints- and run off a few trial frame sections.  Before Covid 19  (hereinafter referred to as BC) I ordered up a load of oak and my joiner friend Richard started to make a new back door to my deisgn.  He has now finished it so I’m making ready to help him fit it.  I had a few years ago lowered the outside ground level by about 6 inches so  the threshold will also be lowered in the new door.  I had slightly arbitrarily decided by how much to lower the cill, very fortunately when I took out the old cill and the wall below it, I found that the very solid flint foundation were about 2cm below the bottom of the new cill.  Not sure what I would have done if the foundations had been any higher, as I dont expect Richard would have relished shortening the door frame and door at this stage.  Anyway it goes in on Tuesday next.  I found a splendid company in Norfolk who make hand made pamments (unglazed clay tiles) -at least the daughter seems to make the pammets (either spelling is OK) and the mother runs the office – a nice family business and they are made in Norfolk, not Spain or Eastern Europe.  As you might guess they are not free!  Fortunately its not a very big Kitchen – about 14 ft square – they should be made by early September.  The Coronavirus rumbles on – we seem to lag behind most of Europe in getting ourselves sorted out  – while the WHO and every other country recognised a suite of symptoms we stuck to 2, then rather grudgingly and only after being shown up by an academic on the radio,  added  two more – still well behind the rest of the developed world – well done Boris!! I do think we haven’t had our eye on the ball with this whole affair, although the NHS staff on the shop floor have done a brilliant job in circumstances that were more difficult than the needed to be.

9th May.  Giles and I discussed back and forth how to do the camera zoom, and I settled on a model servo linked to a short arm fixed to the camera lens, and did a few sketches. Giles 3D printed them for me and I had a go at fixing them up.  It should have worked but the torque required is really high and would probably need a high torque servo that draws a lot of current which is not really compatible with a system that is supposed to run off 4 AA cells!  Anyway I think the project is now on hold awaiting inspiration!  See photo below.  I’m certainly feeling a bit livelier and yesterday I got out the big petrol strimmer to attack stuff growing in the yard – it hadn’t run for 10 months and was bit of a job to start – I managed to bang my elbow on the recycling bin, which slowed me down a bit but I did manage to get a good bit of work done – a first since I got the virus, so a red letter day!  What a fantastic day – just like the middle of summer, it felt like a sin to go indoors, especially as the forecast for the next few days is cold and cloudy!  P.S.  I picked up a graver yesterday and doodled on a bit of steel – pleased to discover that I hadn’t completely lost the knack!  Of course I broke the tips of a couple of gravers, but that is par for the couse if I haven’t practised for a few weeks – so hopefully more or less back to normal…………..

Torque required to turn zoom is too much for my little servo, but a bigger one would consume too much power – stalemate!

6th May.  Finally getting my mojo back!  Finished the next post Covid youtube – it was something I could do without getting too flaked out!  Not sure how many more will happen.  I started a little project –  my camera for all my stuff is a Canon M50 and I thought it would be good if I could zoom it without touching it.  All it needs is a small, geared electric motor coupled to the zoom barrel.  I have got a suitable geared micro motor but the drive is the challenge. I tried with an O ring on a small pulley on the motor rubbing on the barrel, and with a longer O ring round the barrel of the camera and the motor pulley but the friction in the zoom is greater than the drive friction.  I am now thinking about a 3D printed gear round the barrel and a pinion on the motor –  I think Giles has resurrected Tom’s old printer so I have emailed him!  He has an M50 too so should be able to see the problem.  I guess as soon as I have the motor working I’ll want it wireless!!!

3rd May.  Uploaded my Post Office Pistol video – I got a couple of dates out by 100 years, I’ll have to sort it out some time but it can survive for a while as it is!  Still thinking about the next one –  quite a lot of work to find all the examples I need!

2 May.  Had a few messages from regular viewers of this blog wishing me well. It’s  really good to see how far round the world my little blog extends!   I did a couple of takes for the next one on my Post Office pistols – just need to check them out and do the edits and add some stills and it will be ready to upload.   I’m using  the free version of VSDC to edit them – it  is a bit overkill for what I need and driving it is complex, but it does the job nicely.  I am now trying to sort out in my mind what to do for the third Covid-19 video- possible the history of the devopment of the flintlock in England 1750 to 1825 or something like that – cover all the little tweaks that made the English gun makers the best in the World.  We shall see – I’ll have to go through aĺl of my collection to sort out examples.  I am a bit weak on the early stuff but I do have a wheellock  without the gun.   Still making progress- nice walk today and my appetite is getting better.  Just read that it takes 12 to 28 days to build immunity to a second infection – I hope that is from when you get it, not from the end of it!

       Anyway, a big thank you to everyone who  has sent me good wishes  –  It does make a difference.

1 May.  My first post Covid-19 video is now complete – I sound a bit breathless, which is, I guess, a leftover from the virus –  it seems to come and go a bit.  Anyway its in Videos on this site and on you tube. I took my car out to the local shop for a bottle of milk this morning ( first time in 7 weeks) and boy did I feel daring!  I kept expecting to be stopped by the Police and interrogated, but it didn’t happen.

 30th April.  Did two sections of my pistol video – just got to sort out a bit of editing and it will be done. Then I’ll do the little Post  Office pistols  I restored as they have a nice bit of associated  history.   Feeling a lot better and went for walk – not in the garden.  Might see if the car will go tomorrow.  Daring stuff!!

26th April.  Must be feeling better to post two days running!  Still sorting the pistol video – I am still a bit breathless so tried a draft. Probably  Ok.  They are lovely little pistols and get me wondering about their early history. There must be more information on them somewhere – as far I can tell there are not many around – at a guess somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen, unless there is a hoard in the National Firearms Archive or some other similar collection.

25th April.  And still here,  Getting to feel like  doing things at last, which is a big change – still not up to speed yet as I lost a lot of weight, but definite progress.  I thought I would make a couple of youtube videos as we are all living our lives through the internet now. My first targets are  the two Public Office pistols from Bow Street.   They fit somewhere in the story in Wilkinson’s book Those Entrusted With Arms, but I can’t really get chronology from there.  He mentioned that the Bow Street run Horse Patrol started in1805, but illustrated a pistol engraved for the Dismounted Horse Patrol and dated 1794. (One  assumes that the Mounted Horse Patrol was founded about the same time as the Dismounted?).  Anyway I hope to have a convincing story soon.   I was shocked to see how much  his book on the History of Guns was  – I got stung £90 for a second hand copy -as bad as buying the Manton book!

18th April.  l am still here!    Slowly, Slowly  making progress.  I am now spending time downstairs, rather than spend all day in bed, which makes a  nice change.   And the nice weather helps too.  It will be some weeks before I am out and about though.  Covid 19 is a lot nastier than is generally acknowledged  if you are oldish or vulnerable  or male, so redouble your efforts to avoid it.

 10th April ST=tll not ckear of the woods properly,   made an Oxygen  dispenserfrom my oxy-gas torch yesterday to give me a shot of o2 after exersions.  Today I got my hands on a REAL oxygen extender to help me sleep. Thats my biggest problem – a coupe of hours a day is all I can get…..

Thanks for all the good wishes from my regulars – didn’t know I had so many friends out there!

9th April…… Onwards and upwards!  even if it doesn’t hospitalise you it can be a real black dog…….

6th April, still battling – see My Corvid-19.

2nd April, Well, maybe you guessed that I had a nice(!) attack of Covid-19 that has pretty much laid me out for the last couple of weeks.   I don’t want to turn this blog into medical account, but I am pretty cross at the misleading and partial infomation put out by NHS and BBC news, so I thought Id open a separate sub post – MY COVID-19   for a) the very few people who might be intersted im my suffering and the very many more who might be interested in their own.


13rd March  – I have had a nasty fever for the last 6 days that has laid me low – back as soonas I can.

17th March – I suppose this beasly virus is an excuse, at least for a delay in getting on with things.  Actually it will be a bit more than a delay as I am confined to barracks as being too old & damaged to venture forth.  The nett result is that I am having to do a bit of urgent remodelling of the house – sticking a new staircase in my workshop for one thing and  turning the workshop into another kitchen — fortunately nothing major, but no serious work for a  week or so!  I have also said that I’ll  run a STEM/Computer class online when our local primary closes – as it will inevitably before the beginning of next term and possibly sooner.  I was contemplating escaping to our little cottage in Cornwall when it seemed that it might only be for three months, but the reality is that there is really no clear endpoint.  The virus stops either because around 60%  – 80% of people have had it and got immunity, at which point it becomes a manageable background endemic problem, or someone comes up with a vaccine and makes enough of it to stop the pandemic.  Either way the best guess is that we are in it for at least a year or 18 months…………….that’s an awful lot of toilet rolls to squirrel away – Penny’s college allows one per student room per week, so you had better  have around 75 to 100 each – thats a lot to store…..And the food too……or maybe just believe the supermarkets when they say it will all pan out in the end…………  Oh and we got our new head teacher – we were delighted to appoint the deputy who had been acting head for a while.  Onward & upward, and don’t weaken…..

12th March – more excuses – I have a two day interviewing session for a new head teacher for our Primary school that is currently occupying my time.  I’m also gearing up for the work on our kitchen which is taking up a fair bit of time.  I hope to get a moment to do some gun stuff but the pressures build…  Plus some of the old film cameras I put on ebay are selling.  busy busy busy….

7th March – At school all day helping the class make electric or wind powered cars, so no guns.  Sorry!

5th march.  Busy few days – I’ve been sorting out bits of the planned Kitchen renovaation and putting in time at school too.  I got involved in coding a project for the year 5/6 class using the BBC microbit computers to run a voting system based on radio links – I was quite pleased because the whole thing worked with only one iteration of minor debugging. It will be interesting to see how the kids get on with it. No-one has come up with any suggestions for the photos below – I have no ideas!

1st March – Another month gone!  I made a couple of bits for the lathe so that it kicked out the traverse if it was about to run into the end of its travel – I have had damage a couple of times when the saddle had hit the buffer, resulting in a bent gear shaft and a sheared pin – I think it will now work, although I did run a tipped tool into the chuck while setting it up – bang went the tip.  Anyway I nearly froze to death in the shed so it was a bit of a rush job.   I went to look at a pile of oak planks that a friend has – they are warped like mad but I may be able to find enough straight pieces for drawer fronts.  They have been air dried for many years, but in a barn so I’ll have to see what the moisture content is, and possibly build a drying chamber.  Looks like the kitchen is going to be an all consuming project for the summer!  I got an email today asking if an item was gun related – I couldn’t identify it, although it looks as if it might have something to do with rifle cartridges – here are the photos;–  Any ideas ?   I can’t find .293 listed as a known calibre.

28th February.  Went in search of old style flooring tiles (pamments) for the kitchen floor.  One place was a large industrial barn on what had once been a farm with one person surrounded by massive piles of drying tiles and fired tiles and kilns and clay – turned out she did the whole thing herself – nice tiles too – think I might use them – a lot cheaper than sourcing antique pamments which cost an arm and a leg, and are difficult to get in large enough batches to cover 20 square meters.  Driving to Norfolk was a nightmare in the heavy rain – worse coming back because the wind was blowing from the east and sending the spray from lorries across the fast lane.  Geoff collected the last of the Smiths that I had converted to conventional nipples – he is threatening to go on a shoot with all three guns and two loaders for an experiment in 19th century shooting – he will have to hurry before lead is banned!

27th February.  I sold the pair of Belgian percussion pistols today, which was nice, although I can see all my spare cash being channeled into the kitchen renovation!   I’ve been sketching kitchen units and looking at sink tops – all too domestic really. Still after 26 years it does need an overhaul…. I do occasionally creep off into the workshop, put the woodburning stove on, wait half an hour while the temeperature gets bearable, and do a bit of engraving – I’m practicing script signatures at the moment – its very difficult to get them right – I am not sure that I have a naturally good eye for it, so it requires a bit of concentration on my part – I can see what is wrong when I’ve done it, but not while I’m doing it!

25th February.  I went to see a possible shoot yesterday as two of our best muzzle loading game shoots have closed.  I had a very good discussion with the keeper, but it turned out that they really cater for bigger bags than we normally expect, and he didn’t think he could make it work for less than 170 to 200 bird days, with the cost working out at twice what we are used to paying for our 80 to 12o bags,  I think his costings are much more in line with the normal shoots, and we are lucky to have access to the small bag days.  In any event, I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to go on shooting muzzle loaders as a lead ban seems to be increasingly likely.  One good thing came out of my meeting with the keeper – I’m going back for a deer stalking session with him in April, something I’ve been meaning to do for some time.  I haven’t started any work on my own guns, although I do keep toying with the idea of making a pair of duelling pistols – I have most of the parts, mainly  because I am getting round to sorting out doing the kitchen up.  I got the oak for a new back door today – my joiner friend had advised I got laminated engineered oak, but to my surprise one of the uprights arrived seriously bowed so will have to be changed.  It is a major project as the old and fragile lath and plaster ceiling will have to come down and be repaired or replaced with similar, and the floor will have to be dug out to a depth of  200 m.m. and insulated and a slab laid and underfloor heating wires installed, then tiled in reclaimed pamments if I can find a source – then I have to build a whole lot of units from scratch as I don’t want chipboard units…….  I’ll try to get people in to do most of the work, but will probably end up doing a whole lot myself as, infuriatingly, I know exactly what I want!   I’d better steer clear of gun auctions for the forseeable future to fund the kitchen………. Anyone want to buy an 11 bore Westley Richards double percussion – nice….

23rd February.  I collected my Dremel cutting disks from Screwfix this morning – really useful service, I ordered them on Saturday and they were ready to pickup locally by noon Sunday.  Not sure what I’m going to do with a kit of  over 50 cutting disks of 25 m.m. diameter, but at £16 it doesn’t really matter! So this afternoon was spent getting the two nipples out of the last of the Smith’s Imperial cap guns.   The first was moderately OK – I cut a nice slot across the nipple around 2 m.m. deep and put a screwdriver in the slot, but couldn’t turn it, found a brace and screwdriver bit that was a perfect fit, but still couldn’t shift it so applied a bit of heat and eventually shifted it.  The other one I cut the slot, heated it several times, shocked it with cold water, but still couldn’t shift it – eventually broke the screwdriver bit rather spectacularly (see photo) – I tried using a punch and hammer to drive it round, but no luck.  In the end I cut the slot a bit deeper and broke off half the nipple top with the punch and hammer and whacked the rest  with the punch until it started to turn – by the time I got it out the nipple was a complete mess, but most importantly the gun was completely untouched by all the messing about.  It’s my No 1 rule with old guns – do no damage, unless you mean to, and then only the minimum.  This means ALWAYS paying attention to the holding and fixing of the part you are working on – damage usually results from careless handling or inadequate holding.  In getting the nipples out I held the hooks on the breech in my lead lined vice jaws with the barrel supported on a padded surface, with a bit of cord to stop the barrel turning and pulling the hooks out of the vice, and with a pad under the barrel near the jaws in case it dropped out.  That meant I had both hands free to work on the nipple, and could use any necessary force without risking  the barrel coming free.  There was a lot of muck in the nipple holes – one wouldn’t blow through, so I stuck my steam cleaner down each barrel and then did the water pumping thing with tight fitting polyester wadding on a jag until it cleared.  It now seems clear so I fitted the new titanium nipples and its ready to go.  I nearly got to the point of drilling out the nipple, but that is a very last resort as it is likely to damage the threads, and that would make the gun less safe to shoot.   I must check the other two guns for blocked flame passages.  (Of course I had the owner’s consent to destroy the original nipples if necessary – I got the first 4 out intact)

Slot for screwdriver cut with a Dremel disk.

Oops!  a bit hard!


At this point it had just started to turn, having broken the rust joint. Note the fracture surface – the nipple was pretty hard too.

21st February.  Geoff bought the other two Saml and C Smith guns over for me to fit the new conventional nipples and modified cock noses that I’d made and checked out on the gun I had.  Unfortunately the gun I had seems to have been made later than the other two, which were made as a pair, so we had a bit of a problem stripping out the Smth’s parts.  We eventually got the nipples out of one of them, wrecking my tool on the way, and got all 4 noses out with some difficulty using a Mole wrench and lead sheet to protect the old nose – one needed a burst of flame to get it hot then a drop of water to cool it suddenly.  But we completely failed to shift the nipples from one of the guns, even with heat.  Geoff is quite happy to destroy the nipples in the process, so I’ll get a minature cutting disk and put a screwdriver slot across it so I can get a big driver on it.  If that doesn’t work I’ll have to think again!  I’m pretty sure the thread is not rusted up, it is just the two surfaces that mate…..  For some reason my new noses that had been a snug fir in the gun I had, didn’t fit fully in the other cocks and had to be tweaked – a pain but no harm done……  Had some disappointing news today – the Valley Shoot at Royston is closing – I shot there for the first time this spring and it was one of the best shoots of the season.  My other favourite shoot in Hertfordshire is also stopping, so we’ll have to hunt around for new areas……

20th February  Had a look inside the saddle of my lathe today and found the source of the drive problem – a 5 m.m. rollpin had sheared but was still providing enough drive for most, but not all, of the revolution of the gear.  Anyway, a bit of fiddling and I was able to knock out the broken bits and put in a new one.. All working now.  I put together Nicks little double barrelled pistol – the one I had trouble browning.  I think it is now OK but we’ll see in the cold light of day!   Its now quite a pretty pistol and the cocks line up and work!  I ordered oak for a new back door – my friendly joiner (who is going to make it for me as my machines are a bit puny) recommended ‘engineered’ timber, i.e. laminated from several layers, as its much more stable.  I don’t want to paint the outside and it faces South, so it will have its work cut out to stay flat! – and that’s the prevailing wind direction too.  Then I have to tackle the new kitchen units (I’ll make them) and a new floor as the current floor is two layers of plastic flooring laid on old uneven quarry tiles skimmed with self levelling compound but no longer level, set on ash and sand – that is going to be some job! In the mean time I’m playing around practising engraving lettering………….  The other two Smiths are coming over tomorrow, so I can see if all the bits fit.  Not sure how much to charge, always difficult…….

19th February – Offers for shoots next season are starting to come in – I’m off on Monday to see a keeper nearby who wants to put on a muzzle loading shoot – lots of interest everywhere in getting away from the breech loaders!   I set up a mini production line to make the new nose pieces for Geoff’s Smiths guns to replace the noses designed for Imperial caps.  I’d ground up a tool to do the profiled bit, and the special UNES No12 x 32 die cuts the right thread, so it was straightforward.  The only problem, if problem it is, is that my knurling tool ran properly in 2 of the noses, and in the other 2 it doubled up the indentations so made an even finer knurl. I always wondered how the knurl managed to synchronise to impress evenly – now I know – it doesn’t always!  Anyway one of the trio of Smiths will have a finer knurl on its noses.  I do not intend to remake them!

They have had a dose of Blackley’s colour case hardening, a wire brush and a tempering on the AGA plate at 270C approx.

18th February  I had an appointment in Cambridge at 9:30 this morning, so anticipated having to leave early because of the disruption caused by Extinction Rebelion, but actually I got into Cambridge in about 25 minutes instead of the anticipated hour or more!  Amazing.  When  got there I found that they had changed my appointment without telling me, so it was all in vain!  Gile’s girlfriend Elenor is a keen archer and wanted the tips of her arrows to weigh 120 grains insted of 110 grains, so I had a go on Sunday at welding a piece of 4 mm rod on the end – but it has to be a good fit in the shaft and I couldn’t line the extension up well enough so I made a jig today and did a batch, which I hope will be OK – I didn’t mind making the jig as it will serve for those occasions when I want to weld a new head on a side nail.   I did a bit of practice engraving of lettering – I’ve been making a microscopic survey of the lettering on my guns to see how the cuts are done. I got frustrated with the photographs I was getting – not sure if it was vibration from manually pressing the button, or limits of the 18-135 Canon lens, so I reverted to my very expensive fixed focus Canon Macro lens and got bluetooth firing, and got much sharper pictures.   I also wanted to see how long it took to engrave lettering.  The bottom one – ‘PUBLIC OFFICE’ has the stressed strokes made with 3 cuts with a ‘square’ graver – i.e. the normal one for most work, and then gone over with a flat graver to take out the  ridges.   The whole bottom line from marking the lines and setting out the lettering to going over it and tweaking any mistakes took 15 minutes – about 12 minutes for the main cutting and tweaking.  The steel for this one was very nice to cut and I didn’t chip or blunt any gravers.  I’d expect a nineteenth century engraver to do it in half that time.  Tomorrow’s job is to make another 4 noses for the Smiths cocks ( I know that they were normally called hammers in the percussion era, but I prefer calling all of them cocks!)


Arrow head ( and Side nail) jig


Letters are 2 m.m. high, the normal size for lock engraving 1780 onwards, except for very long names.

14th February  One of the aspects of gun engraving that interests me is it’s importance  to the overall desirability of the gun to its early users.  How did the gunmaker and the client see the importance of the engraving – does it add much to the value of the gun, and what is its cost as a proportion of the gun’s selling price.  Over time these factors changed enormously, although its somewhat difficult to look back and judge early antiques.  In the early days – around the mid 17 century  the engraving was simple, and didn’t differ much between makers – it can’t have been a significant part of the cost then.  There was a period in the 18th century where the attention was in the silver mounts and there was often very little in the way of engraving – elaborate silver mounts must have been an important differentiator to mark out better quality weapons and clearly added value.   In the third quarter of the 18th century the engraving was typically common across all better guns – many good makers used William Palmer as their engraver so it didn’t serve to differentiate makers – although in the 1820s Joseph Manton started to use a better class of engraver ( probably  Leykauss and Gumbrell ) than his contemporaries.  In 1794 John Manton had a double gun engraved by Palmer for 8s 6d  but was charged 12s for a ‘silver mounted gun done well with with a border round bottom of heelplate’.   I am not sure how much he would have charged for the finished gun – probably of the order of £30 or so – so the engraving was something like 1/50 th of the cost.  For the most part engraving hadn’t become a ‘key feature’ of gun sales at that time.  It wasn’t until the side by side breech loader designs stabilised and several manulacturers were turning out equally good mechanical designs that the engraving began to be used to differentiate weapons of comaparable quality as Purdey, Boss and etc developed characteristic engraving designs.  Even then my guess is that the cost of engraving was not too far out of the traditional fraction of cost.  In Christopher Aubyn’s book he quotes several instances of the gunmaker paying 24s for engraving a best gun – rising to 28s if the customer was likely to be fussy! This was coupled with a 24 hour turnround time!  Not sure what a best gun from a less well known maker would cost around 1910 – I guess  again the proportion isn’t so far different.  Modern gun engraving can be a more significant part of the price once the customer steps away form the ‘standard’ designs.  A top engraver might work on  gun for 3 months, so the cost probably accounts for a bigger fraction of the overall cost.    I got into this when I was thinking about lettering of guns and how long it took to do – I think all those 18th and 19th century guns were engraved very rapidly without a great deal of finesse – when you look under a microscope at almost any engraving of the period, you see great economy of effort!  Lettering is usually cut with 2 or 3 strokes for stressed verticals and one cut for unstressed, and all letters are cut in one cut direction before the work is rotated to cut any other cut directions.  There is almost never any going over of cuts, or ‘messing about’  – every cut is rapid and instinctive.   I tried cutting the name ‘PARKER’ to see how long it took me – I’m slow, because I only do lettering occasionally, but I reckon it took me 4 minutes in quite hard steel, and I would be surprised if an old time engraver had taken more than 2 minutes.  Add 100% for setting out, fixing and sharpening, and a journeyman earning 30s a week for a 60 hour week  is well inside 1d ( 12d = 1s) for the name.  My Bow Steet pistols have 40 letters each, so that’s still only about 10p with overheads!  Mind you, it needs to be cheap as the pistols sold for £3.0.0 per pair. ( 1£ = 20s).  And I got time to make another nipple for the Charles and Samuel Smith gun – I didn’t break the 1 mm drill, but I did bend it – 9 to go………


13th February – Continuing my discussion on engraving, will try to put my ideas on a post soon… Hunting around in my box of caps for a cap for Dicks pistol, I came across half a dozen Smith’s Imperial patent caps so had a look at them in relation to the nipple of  the gun I am working on – picture below.. One interesting thing is that I have a fired cap, and the central pimple is blown  through – I wonder if that is designed to happen.  Now here is a puzzle for visitors to this blog – what are these caps for?  they don’t look deep enough to hold themselves onto any nipple I’ve ever seen, and don’t have an anvil so don’t look like primers.  They seem to have a healthy load of priming ?  Are they caps at all – I don’t know of any caps except the usual range, plus the Smiths, and the Jones (which I have never seen despite having a gun for them.)…. Help…..

What are these???



12th February – I had an email from a visitor to this blog concerning the Public Office (Bow Street) pistols I bought at Bonhams – his friend had been the underbidder.  He raised the issue that many of those pistols had been (rather badly) re-engraved with the Public Office and Bow Street attribution and had just been  plainParker overcoat pistols – he also thought it unlikely that a genuine one would remain unissued – both good points.   Anyway it made me get the pistols out and look very carefully at all the engraving under my microscope at x30 magnification – this convinced me that all the engraving on both pistols is completely original and all by the same hand.  The slight corrosion and rust build-up in the letters, and the slight rounding of the edges is exactly what I see on old guns where there is no question of faking. The pistols may have been issued and had very light use – there is some wear on the steel, but other than a few scratches from slips of the turnscrew and a little wear to the corners of the barrel they are  matching and only lightly used – a fine pair of rare pistols.  Even the insides of the locks are pristine.  I cannot find any figures for how many pairs Parker supplied, but he was the sole (?) supplier to the police and also supplied their other arms – truncheons and swords.  I’d be interested to know if there were a lot of these pistols around that are not marked for public office etc.  Thinking about engraving lettering and re-cutting or re-engraving on antique firearms, I came to the conclusion that every gun engraver of the day must have done the same things over and over again, and very quickly too, so that he (or she?) did it by muscle memory not conscious thought – which makes it difficult to ape their stokes.  Its still true that one develops particular hand movements and tend to produce lettering and scrolls that have a particular look.  You can adopt different styles, but it tends to require more fiddling to get it right and that shows.  Its a bit like trying to copy someone’s signature, particularly if its like mine – an indecipherable squiggle.   I did a bit of simple engraving on a few parts for Dick – touching up a brass lock, and putting scrolls down a cock, and a line round a pair of small cocks and engraving a couple of cock screws.   Here is the splendid old yacht I bought back too……

Bow Street Pistol

11th February – Its been a long time!  I went down to Wales to clear out the first installment of ‘stuff’ from my father-in-law’s house before it’s photographed for the sales brocure.  4 days that filled an 8 yd. skip to the brim (I hope they will take it!) –  Tom came with me and oversaw a massive bonfire that burned nicely for 4 days – he rather enjoyed wielding the axe on junk furniture.  Anyway I drove back through the storm on Sunday – OK because most of the traffic skulked along in the slow lane and my heavy old Land Cruiser doesn’t mind a bit of spray and water on the road.  Collapsed for 24 hrs when I got back though -bug but not the coronovirus.  Now ‘in circulation’ again.  I bought back an old sailing yacht that needa a bit of TLC – its old enough to be an interesting display piece so I’ll try to get round to fixing it.  Also a load of old cameras – Pentax- and lenses – they do have some marginal value so I suppose they will have to go on ebay.   A number of gun jobs have appeared – mostly small engraving jobs for Dick.   I couldn’t remember where I left off when I went to Wales, but the  packet of 1 mm drills in the post reminded me that I have the Smiths nipples and cock noses to finish.  I must pay attention to the undercutting of the thread at the shoulder of nipples etc as I end up having to ‘adjust’ them by hand to get them to go down fully.  I’ve been reading  ‘English Guns and Rifles’ by J N George (1942). He also wrote ‘English Pistols and Revolvers’ in 1938.  George was killed in the second World War in 1942. Its a very comprehensive book and probably the best I’ve read at explaining the general history of antique firearms and the chronology of development and invention – well worth owning if you are beginning a collection and want to be able to date guns fairly accurately.  He was quite young by the standards of most experts – he died at the age of 39 – so I suppose its not surprising that its not perfect in every detail but overall its very well worth a read and fairly cheap second hand as there was at least one reprint.  I was a bit confused to read that true damascus was first made by Rigby of Dublin – I’m sure  he is wrong there although Rigby did use it in a unique way. I’m sure Liege would contest his view! Since a copy will set you back £10 – £20 it’s a bargain………I haven’t read the pistol book of his properly yet.

2nd February – Went to see my brother today – had a look at the pair of Griffin and Tow pistols he acquired from my father’s estate – absolutely beautiful silver mounted horse pistols in fantastic condition – boy am I envious!  Not  much time for anything else, although we did pick up a sheet of 3/16th brass that he didn’t want, which will no doubt be made into something by Tom. I was talked into going into the yr 1/2 class in school (5/6 yrs old) as a character from a book, Bob the Astronaut – I did checkout the book to see what was expected of me, and I have to admit that I was a bit shocked at how unscientific it was!  Get up at 6 a.m., have breakfast (2 eggs) take off and arrive on moon to start work at 9 a.m. – gosh, you are hard pushed to get to work in Cambridge, 15 miles away by that time!  Its about 17 thousand times as far to the moon (minimum 240,000 miles) which usually takes 3 days……. And Bob was expected to return to earth at 5 p.m. each day.  Elon Musk eat your heart out!

1 Feb – the year rolls on!   Frustrating afternoon in the workshop – I decided to make a video on the Smiths nipples, and try to include some machining, so I fixed my camera up on my lathe and started to make the titanium nipples – fairly early on in the process I like to drill the 1 mm hole which is at the bottom of the threaded part – it is logical to do it early as there is a chance the drill will break off in the hole and I’ll need to start again as its impossible to get the broken bit out.  Anyway I hadn’t broken a drill in around a dozen titanium nipples so far, but I broke off 3 in a row today!  Not sure why – probably I let up in pressure on the drill and the titanium work hardened and the drill snatched when it restarted?  I did manage to make 2 in the end – you have to put just enough pressure on the drill to keep it cutting and not stop the feed, which is tricky with the tailstock. Another order to Tracy Tolls for ten 40 thou drills at £1 each.  I haven’t checked out the video yet – I’ll have to edit out the language when the drills broke!

31st January – I was looking through my library to see where there were holes in the literature that I could usefully fill in my hypothetical book on collecting and restoring – there is a lot of very good information from people who know a lot more than I do, so no point in repeating it, but I couldn’t find  much about sporting guns, particularly shotguns.  There is plenty about very early antique firearms, and fancy persentation stuff, a fair amount about pistols, loads about military stuff and a lot written about American firearms history, but the sort of guns that most antique collectors, particularly beginners in the UK might get hold of are quite poorly represented.  Most of the coverage is in books specific to makers, who by definition, are at the top end of the market and beyond the reach of many collectors.   Having said all that, maybe I am missing some good books? Let me know if so, thanks.  Looking round for the next little job, I came back to the cock of the Barton musket that has the stupid flower engraved on it – looking under the microscope the cock could be original, but not from this musket – the engraving doesn’t look right for anything but is hand cut and not the impression from a casting.  I do have a blank casting that would fit, but the existing one would be fine if it wasn’t for the engraving!  I had a look through the Wogdon book to see what Wogdon and Wogdon and Barton and Barton mostly put on their pistols (the book is short on long guns and has no muskets) and I found a few cocks with bits of engraving on them – some fairly extensive in the 1790s style of flowers in a cutout background and fully engraved locks, but most had entrirely plain cocks except for the normal border lines – this cock would look much better if it didn’t have the engraving.  Its not really thick enough to file off the engrving as its quite deep, so I might have to have the face welded over – might take it to our speciality welder as I don’t want to end up with hollows that would require the face to loose thickness. Trouble is the alien metal will show up when I colour down the cock – one of the problems with it at the moment is that it doesn’t match the finish of the lock – it needs a bit of rust!  One of the Wogdon cocks had a few scrolls around a somewhat similar flower – it would disguise the flower but I think plain might be better – can’t make up my mind….. I’ve been slowly trying to brown the little d/b pistol barrel – about 4 rustings  with both  my copper rich browning and Blackley’s it isn’t much different from last time – I am having difficulty in making any impression on the steel bits of the twist  in spite of having etched it a bit in copper sulphate.  I think they had accidentally invented stainless steel!

Just horrible – or is it?

30th January – A bit of engraving but not much other work – a contact bought me some percussion double guns with loose nipples to see if I could make them secure to shoot, but I’m afraid I didn’t think any of them were in a safe condition to be used even with the nipples fixed – a couple seemed to be ‘bittsers’ – one had repro locks and one had an old but non-twist barrel – I havent seen one of those on a percussion sporting gun for a while – they were only ever used at the very bottom end of the market.  In my view they were only fit as wallhangers so the nipples might as well be Araldited into the barrels with some glue run into the connecting chamber to stop any bright spark setting them off!  So that is one job I didn’t take on – I was quite open with my assesment!  I’ll probably end up doing a bit of timber conversion tomorrow as  Tom   is set on making a cabinet like one found in Tutenkhamun’s tomb – don’t ask me why – and I have a big slab of cedar up in the workshop which is apparently the correct wood.

29th January – Excellent days shooting near Maldon today – 5 muzzle loaders and some breech loaders walking and as back guns.  The season ends on 31st so its the last shoot over that ground and was intended to thin out the remaining cocks before the breeding season.  A small shoot and a small bag, but most enjoyable although the wind was quite fresh – my new Merino wool inner layer kept me nice and warm, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day and more or less got my share of birds.  As there is no ‘gun bus’ on the shoot I took my Land Cruiser round – It was fatal to wash it a last Sunday as its now filthy!   Viking showed me a photo of a splendid PWLV medal that was sold at auction – beautiful engraved feathers etc on the back. He also said that it was not unusual for some well heeled (junior ?)  officers to have muskets – I expect it added to the fun during practice. Information on the Volunteer Company continues to come in!  I gave Bev back his engraved cocks and etc – another satisfied customer and it paid for my shoot – thanks Bev!

27th January – more information on the volunteer musket trickles in.  There is a fine painting of the PWLV in 1803 in front of a splendid building, all in fine uniforms – it was sold at auction in 2009 in America and the photo on the web is unfortunately too faint to show the inscription properly ( wish I owned it!).  I also found that Bonhams sold documents including 10 musters for PWLV in 2014.  I found the name Mr Jones of Cecil Court associated with the PWLV in an entry for a donation to the Patriotic Fund of  £278  odd – a lot of money in 1803.  Around 1803 there was a lot of interest in Volunteer units because of the perceived invasion threat from France ( they did actually invade in 1797 – the Fishguard Invasion)  – initially the government looked as if it was going to arm Volunteers, but very quickly their enthusiasm declined ( they were always a bit sniffy about ‘troops’ not under their control) and they left it to the volunteers to arm themselves.  Most Volunteer Regiments were composed of Gentlemen officers and troopers of the ‘middling sort’, so at least the officers could afford their splendid uniforms and weapons.  Given the probably location of the PWLV  (St Martins area ) they were only a short walk  from the Haymarket premises of John Barton, gunmaker, who had taken over sole ownership of the firm of Wogdon and Barton on 14th June 1803 so that fits quite nicely.  I would  like to see the musters that Bonhams sold to see if Charles Mackintosh is named – I understand that the Grenadiers were the elite of the regiments, but if Charles carried a musket that might indicate a rank below officer level, as officers would probably only have been armed with a sword?  Well heeled commanders often purchased arms for their troops.  I saw somewhere that PWLV had a number of companies – can’t recall where.  Thank you to my respondents for all that information – keep it coming……..

26th later … I had a reply to my request for information on what PWLV might mean on my Musket – Prince of Wales’s Loyal Volunteers was suggested, which sounds reasonable.  I had got as far a Prince of Wales – hence the engraving I did below yesterday, but the only POW volunteers I could trace were the Lanacasters formed in 1958 so not them… tonight I found a reference to  PW Loyal Volunteers (St Martin’s branch) in 1803,  in documents sold at Bonhams, which is closer to the right dates – I’ll keep on following up these clues…..

26th January – I stripped the saddle of my lather this afternoon but couldn’t see anything wrong, and it seemed OK so I put it together again and it still missed some leadscrew motion.  I have now don a bit more diagnsostics and know a bit better where the problem must lie, but I guess I’ll have to strip it again – its not a very terrible job if you use a bit of brute force to separate the slide assembly from the gearbox.  Another job still to do – but I did manage to wash 2 cars today – almost unprecidented, but they were so horribly muddy that it was impossible tobrush past them without getting filthy, and if you take them to a car wash with a thick coat of dirt it just damages the paint surface.  More practice on the Barton signature – it annoys me when I can’t get it right so I have to keep at it until I get my eye in!  Actually the more I try the worse the original I’m copying looks!  original engraving usually has plenty of faults when you look closely, although there were a very few engravers who did perfect work.  I might recut the engraving on the musket barrel, but its difficult as I have to keep rotating the barrel and there isn’t room on my bench.  I’m still browning the little d/b pistol barrel but don’t see any sign of the steel rusting yet!  bother!.


Prince of Wales feathers from a gun in Sandringham.

25th January – I had a look at photos of Barton’s signature (in the Wogdon book by John O’Sullivan and de Witt Bailly)  and they are very similar to the traces of signature on my musket – I can’t decide if I will recut the engraving on the barrel and lock, but anyway I know it takes me a few iterations to get it right so I had a few practice goes – starting oversize and getting down to the correct size  not too bad in the end – I’ll try a few more, and the London too.   I’ve put the stuff about titanium nipples on a separate post ;- ‘ Making titanium Percussion Nipples’

The bottom one is the last – converging! Its about he same size as the one in the photo, I think.

24th January – At last – something for visitors to this site to get their teeth into!  I bought a musket today ( I must remember to pay for it!) that is quite interesting, so it would be good to hear from anyone who can offer any additional information.  It’s a volunteer i.e. privately purchased musket that is based on the 1777 short land pattern Brown Bess (?) with a different lock and different shaped butt.  It has a 42 inch barrel, 4 pipes (2 tapered) and a foresight doubling as a bayonet stud.  I think it is pretty genuine, in that it hasn’t recently been cobbled together out of bits.   The only markings on the gun are  the London proof marks on the barrel, the side plate with inscription  ‘ Charles Macintosh Grenadier Company  BWLV  or PWLV’, and a faint signature ‘Barton’ on the lock and an identical faint signature and London on the barrel and a stand of arms on the lock tail.  The script signatures are definitely those of John Barton, and are exactly as they appear on other firearms by him – they are genuine and completely original as far as I can judge. the stand of arms also appears on pistols by him.  The lock is somewhat rusty and the cock looks like a replacement with a rubbish engraving, but the inside of the lock is in very good condition and quality with quite a lot of original blueing.  The barrel is fixed by 4 bolts, rather than pins as in the Brown Bess style – the loops on the barrel have been properly fitted by a gunsmith but look to be more recent then other parts of the gun.  The slots in the fore-end for the bolts are cut quite roughly and not well finished off, as if someone stopped in the middle of the job.  I haven’t been able to find a likely Charles Macintosh – it isn’t Charles Rennie Macintosh, or the inventor of the raincoat.    John Barton was apprenticed to Robert Wogden, the very famous duelling pistol maker, and was a partner of his when Wogdon retired in 1803, at which point the firm’s name changed from ‘Wogdon and Barton’ to ‘Barton’.  While that would put this gun post 1803, I seem to remember reading that it is thought that some guns with just Barton on them predated the 1803 change – its possible that Wogdon didn’t want to get involved!  Or Barton might have been running a side show.  The brass butt plate, trigger guard and pipes seem right for the 1777 pattern as does the barrel length – but if the gun was made after 1803 then the current service issue would have been the India Pattern of 1796 , although after the Peninsular war when the pressure came off the trade, some short Land Patterns may have been made.  The lock has a rainproof pan, which puts it well after 1777  – probably into the Barton name period.   John Barton sold his business in 1819.   In any event, John Barton was amongst the top London makers, which, with the side plate inscription make this musket interesting.  Military stuff is a bit beyond me, although I have the books!  I’m hoping someone will identify  ‘Grenadier Company BWLV or PWLV’  for me.  I’ll see what tidying up I can do without spoiling its originality, and possibly change the cock for one that is a bit less like a sporting gun – I do have a better one in stock with bigger jaws for the flint.  The lock has a lovely feel, and I’m sure it would shoot really well…..








24th Jan  – the little barrel is possibly ‘working’ more time needed..  I found another job waiting to be done for a client – a replacement pricker for a combination tool – not sure what its from.  Anyway I fiddled around trying to match the thread and eventually settled on 2 B.A. which it obviously wasn’t, but 3/16th seemed too big.  2 B.A. is 31.35 t.p.i which is pretty much the same as UNF No. 10 32 t.p.i. over a shortish thread length but on a slightly smaller diameter. The job is anyway pretty forgiving as I’m putting a brass screw in to a steel thread.  It worked.  The pricker I made out of an old steel knitting needle I had lying around – I try to keep a collection of such things, and big needles etc to make pins for holding older guns together.  I just need to blue the spike and  then that’s crossed another job off the list!


23rd January – Not much to report as I was out of actin yesterday, I have started to rebrown the little pistol barrel – I gave it 30 seconds in copper sulphate to ‘wake it up’ and its on its first browning now.  I always have a bit of a problem with copper sulphate as there are usually one or two bits of the barrel that get resolutely copper plated, but I think we’ll be OK. Tidying up my papers after doing my tax I came across an exploded view of the saddle of my big lathe that I downloaded when it went wrong last time ( I ran it into the end and bent a gear shaft – Axminster told me it was the last spare they had) Anyway it has developed another fault – on longitudinal travers the saddle stops and waits and then restarts – I don’t think its a bent gear, probably a pin holding a gear onto its shaft has got displaced – I can still use the lathe but it tends to leave a mark where it stops, so I ought to strip it again.  I’m reminded that next Wednesday is my last shoot of the season!  I’ve had some really enjoyable days – 6 or 7 I think, of course all muzzle loading.   My offer on the musket Dick has was accepted so I’ll go and pick it up tomorrow. It is a private arm, not a tower musket, so I’ll see what I can find about it.

22nd January – I saw a You tube video of sharpening carbide tips for lathe tools the other day, so I thought I’d try – it involves making a holder so you can present them to a hone – I have an old tool grinder with a fine diamond wheel so I just tapped an M2 hole in the end of a rod to fix the tip on.  I used my x25 microscope to see what was going on and realised why you can’t make very fine cuts with a tipped tool if you are cutting titanium – the tips are sintered carbide made presumably in a press tool and have cutting edges with a noticeable radius – so below a certain cut thickness the radius just burnishes the surface – and the minimum cut thickness is significant if you are trying, for instance, to get a perfect fit of a percussion cap on a nipple.  It is possible to make finer cuts with a freshly honed HSS tool, or for very fine cuts I believe its necessary to use a carbon steel tool.  Most of my lathe work has been fairly crude, so its taken me this long to learn what others probably knew from to start!  In truth I probably don’t often take deep cuts that merit carbide tipped tools

21st January – I went to Dick’s to get the cocks of Bev’s gun chequered, so he lent me a No 1 chequering file, which did the job pretty well – amazingly efficient tool.  I then finished the spurs off with the Gravermax, putting a line round as a border and tidying up any bits where the file had missed.  I then ‘took the edge’ off the cut surfaces as they were very sharp. Job now completed.  Dick had an interesting old musket with a presentation plate – I need to check it out as it seemed like a reasonable price for what it was – I’m not very good on the Military stuff as the value/price seems to depend on precise details and rarity, and that needs specialist knowledge to judge.  Anyway I made an offer, which will be passed on to the owener in due course, so we shall see.


20th January – A most frustrating day!  I bit the bullet and finished my tax calculations, only to find that I calculated that I needed to pay within a few pence of last year’s tax – given that its made up of lots of different items it was a bit disconcerting. Anyway I tweaked it so the coincidence wasn’t so obvious in case anyone thought I just copied last year’s figures again!  Logging in was a pain – I had what I thought was the right Gateway code so I negotiated the many checks of NI number, passport, inside leg measurement etc and got logged into something that looked OK, but when I clicked on the bit to enter my tax it said that I was using a different (wrong) Gateway for that, so I let it tell me what the ‘right’ Gateway was and the same thing happened, so I went round and round in ever decreasing circles until it popped up and said “ring this telephone number” – more automated questions and then, believe it or not, a helpful chap who said , in effect, that the web system was crazy and he’d give me yet another Gateway, which he did and it worked!  It took me 2 1/2 hours to do what should have taken 25 minutes.  Zero marks to the Tax system, full marks to the chap on the end of the phone.  Anyway then off to school to play – I will get into trouble tomorrow as the children made a bit of a mess with the hot glue guns!  Some have started to play with the radio communication built into the BBC Microbits, so I had to spend the evening getting up to speed so I can stay one step ahead!

19th January – Had a break from struggling with my tax – I had an email from Bev that reminded me I was going to engrave the cock screws of the locks I had engraved the cocks for.  The screws didn’t look right – and anyway the threads were pretty much non existent – so I decided to make a couple of new screws.  Screwing a matchstick into the hole in the tumbler  gave a pretty good match to 48 t.p.i. which is the pitch of No 4 UNF, and the diameter was about right too, judging from the almost stripped threads of the old screws.  The usual pattern for cock screws of that era (around 1850 +/- 10) is a domed head with a small flange – I made the flange O.D.  9 mm. and the rest I judged by eye.  I engraved them with a few radial slashes – the domed head limits what one can do as its not really possible to engrave too far round the curved surface.  When making screws that don’t have long shanks or threads and therefore can’t be held in a 3 jaw chuck I have a set of chunks of steel bar with threaded holes tapped into the ends.  I turn a rod down the the final O.D. of the screw head, then turn the diameter for the required screw thread and cut the thread – I either put the die in a normal holder and steady it with the tailstock chuck rim, or use a tailstock die holder with the Morse taper of the chuck just disengaged so it is located but can rotate by hand to cut.  I then indent the flange and clear most of the  spare material around the head before parting it off, then screwing it into my holder and shaping the head in the lathe by eye, using a file to finish it off.  I then cut the slot while its still in the tapped holder, and engrave it.  I then heat it up to dull red, dip it in Blackley’s colour case hardening powder and reheat it and repeat and  then plunge it into water.  The screws are made of low carbon steel so I’m not bothered about them becoming too brittle, but I did give them and the cocks a bit of a blast with the calor torch, taking them a bit above blue so they end up greyish brown rather than shiny steel.  I still ought to borrow Dick’s chequering file!

17th January – After ‘walking round the job’, and attending to every possible distraction, including going into school to put up a notice board, I finally got down to sorting out my tax return.  The tax return is much more difficult now that I have de-registered from VAT as I used to have to make up my accounts every quarter, so I still mostly remembered what was what. Now I am dealing with things from 2017 and early 2018 that are well out of memory on account of my tax year being misaligned with the ‘normal’ 5th April one.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a break and get back to the little d/b pistol that needs browning after the my failure to get an effective finsish last time I tried.

15th Jan – Not really sure where today went, but I did manage to get an hour or so to make a new nipple key – I didn’t harden this one as silver steel is pretty durable, but I did pop it under the lid on the second AGA plate and forget about it – its now a lovely deep blue that changes colour with the light – making tools is one of the best bits of gun restoring!

14th Jan -I decided that I needed to make a well fitting nipple key for the Smiths nipples so I made one out of silver steel rod, hardened it and thought I’d tempered it at 260C on the AGA hotplate for a good while, but when I came to undo a very tight nipple from my turning and filing jig I got a classic fracture – that will teach me to be more thorough with the tempering!  260C  should be OK for screwdrivers, so I thought it would do for a nipple key, but I think I didn’t temper it for long enough, anyway I’ll have to remake the shaft, although the handle with built-in nipple pricker can be reused.  Not pleased with today’s work!  Never mind, next time I can get the detailing right on the body and maybe not bother to harden it.

14th Jan – No time today (13th)  for gun stuff unfortunately – I’m sorry if that is what you visit the site for, which it probably is – you’ll just have to settle for revisiting some of the quarter million other words on the blog!  My morning was spent at the lab archive in Cambridge and my afternoon was spent with Dave running our Stem Club at the local primary school – it was the first session of the new term and I had told the office that we would take 14 children as they had been well behaved (we usually limit it to 12) – anyway somehow we ended up with 12  children registered plus 5  from the previous term who hadn’t bothered to register – so 17 in all.  But they are so good – Dave and I were amazed – we have a range of materials including the BBC Microbit computers and everyone including the new 7 year olds settled in 5 minutes and spent the hour working away at making things with almost no involvement from us – I’d like to take some credit, but that would be unfair!    I got involved in house buying this evening – it’s turning into an impromptu auction that we intend to win – Penny gets a bit stressed by situations like that, but I view it all as an expensive game so can think strategically !   And I had a loaf to make………………….  Oh, and I started to think about chapter headings for the book on gun repair and restoration that I might one day write…………..  And I was thinking it might be time to take up Pilates – I might get a bit buff (whatever that means)………………

13th Jan – I finished the nipples and cock noses for the Smiths Imperial replacements – Although I had got basically the correct screw pitch and diameter, I still had a job to fully seat the parts, and I couldn’t work out where in the thread the problem lay.  It’s always a problem to sort out the shoulder for things that screw up against a surface as the top of the hole is rarely adequately relieved to take the runout of the thread cut with a  normal die.  I have two fudges for the problem, one is to undercut the male thread blank against the shoulder before cutting the thread – I have a parting tool ground up to do that – and the other is to grind off some of the lead-in from the face of the die, in which case it pays to have two dies, one to start the thread and the other to finish cut up to the shoulder.  On the nipples I couldn’t see where the problem was, even under the microscope I couldn’t see any signs of excessive contact.  Since it is vital to keep as much engagement in the thread of nipples as possible I don’t like taking any more than essential from the thread diameter.  I managed to get them sorted eventually by slightly shortening the thread and filing the last turn under the shoulder – I did wonder in the end if the female thread in the ‘hut’ was slightly tapered?  I also noticed that the two sides of  the gun were not identical in terms of thread fit. Anyway I got a very secure fit on both nipples in the end, and wrapped them in ptfe pipe tape as we normally do.  I had similar problems fitting the cock noses, only in this case the threads play a minor role, and provided they don’t fall out under gravity they are performing their function – having said that, the eventual fit is a good as for the nipples !

12th Jan – finished the main engraving on Bev’s percussion cocks… Have another batch of marmalade to make tonight – last night’s was only 12 jars and that is not enough to keep me going until the next Seville orange season!

11th Jan – I started on the engraving of a pair of percussion cocks for Bev.  They are castings of indifferent metal, which makes it difficult to get smooth curves as there are some hard patches, so I resorted to the Gravermax – I’ve finished one and started the next.  I’ll have to visit Dick to borrow his chequering file for the spurs – I can sometimes recut it with the Gravermax, but only if I can see enough of the original to follow – in this case there is almost none visible so I’ll do it with the proper tool – I’ll put photos up tomorrow – I was a bit short of time tonight as I had to make a batch of marmalade – Seville oranges being in season now – I have my own recipe as I haven’t ever found a commercial marmalade I like as much – perhaps I ought to put the recipe on this blog!

10th Jan  – made another nose for the Smiths cock, and another titanium nipple.  I have a problem with turning the nipples themselves in titanium as the depth of cut gets quite unpredicatable when you try to take very shallow cuts as you converge on the correct fit for the cap.  Sometimes even a sharp tool takes nothing off just pushes metal out of the way, and then another pass will take off more than you wanted – I think my lathe is pretty rigid, its a big heavy machine and will make accurate cuts in steel.  Some gun restorers do the final fit with a file, but that doesn’t work particularly well in titanium. Net result it that the nipple I made today has a very slightly loose fit for the cap – OK for the right hand barrel but it would probably jump off the left barrel when the right was fired.   I was sorting out my growing collection of taps and dies, so I revised my table of drill sizes etc and put a new pdf download on the USEFUL DATA page. No need for more photos of the nose and nipple – they look remarkably similar to the ones I put on yesterday – I ground up a profile tool for the nose.  Both noses were coloured on the second hotplate of the AGA to a sand colour – just placed on the middle of the hotplate (it’s around 300C) and covered with a scrap of aluminium foil and taken off when the right colour and cooled on a block of beeswax.  I probably need to replace the loose nipple, but I will move on to a bit of engraving for Bev.  I must do my income tax some time – at the moment I’m looking for any excuse to avoid doing it!

9thJanuary – A bit of real work – I got a tap to make a jig to hold the nipple threads for the Smiths Imperial conversion nipples and shaped the top of the titanium nipple I’d started to make before I went to Wales.  I also got a  tap to make a jig for the replacement cock nose so I could bore that out, and finished both of those parts.  They fit ( the cock noses after a bit of judicious filing of my thread) so I have a prototype made.  The nipple is about 1 mm shorter than a conventional nipple, and I could probably cut it down by another half mm, at the same time boring the nose out another half mm  – that will bring the nose down perpendicular to the nipple, which would be better – but anyway I’m reasonably happy with the look of it all, and I know I can fit to the threads pretty well.  I have ordered another 1/4 UNF x 28 die so I have a spare if I open the one I’m using too far, or it gets blunt. I seem to have had a string of orders to Tracy Tools for taps and dies recently and I’m building up a stock of odd sizes along with my sets of B.A., Metric and UN-F & UN-C, plus many old B.S.F and Whitworth (all in smaller sizes – up to 9/32 etc).  I just bought half a dozen No 60 drills for the fine holes in nipples – they are about 1 m.m. and 1/3 the price of the metric equivalent!  Drilling into the titanium nipples with such a small drill is dodgy – I have a collection of almost finished nipples with a bit of drill sheared off in the end.  Having got my prototype nipple and cock nose made, I now have to refine the design slightly and then produce two for Geoff to shoot shortly, and another 4 for the other guns in the trio.  I have a bar if 12 m.m titanium on order – an offcut from making bolts, bought on Ebay.  I find that lathe tools with carbide tips are not very good for cutting titanium, so I use HSS tools ground with a bit of top rake and kept sharp on a very fine diamond hone – the finish you get on titanium is almost always very good – its much easier to get a smooth finish than on steel.  I also got a knurling tool from  China – a holder plus 6 wheels for about £8 including postage – the holder was too big to fit my 250-210 tooling so I had to machine the top down, but otherwise it looks OK – I needed one with a fine straight knurl as that is what is used on old gun parts  and tools. I do feel slightly guilty about buying cheap tools from China, but it would cost about £50 for a ‘proper’ one, and I couldn’t justify the expense for a few small jobs.                               

The cap should probably be a bit looser on the nipple, it is not quite down.

The cock nose is almost perpendicular to the nipple –  if I loose another 1/2 mm somewhere it should be perfect.

8th January – I’ve been down in Wales helping Penny sort out moving her 90 year old father from the family home to something more suitable – we managed to sort out a suitable house for him (subject to agreeing a price) and got an agent lined up to sell the family house, plus took two loads of stuff to the dump  ( a gesture in view of the amount of junk there!) and brought back a load of books and nick-nacs to sort out for charity shops. Among the stuff in the loft were a couple of boxes of ‘O’ gauge clockwork railway ‘stuff’ – I bought it back to see if it could find a good home.  I have put it on a POST on this site – ‘Model Trains’ so I can link it  to a forum to get information – the locos are not Hornby, and I can’t identify them – if you can, please let me know.  The locos were originally  standard tinplate models ( maker unidentified) but have been ‘customised’ and have parts missing or broken.  There are a lot of goods wagons that mostly appear scratch built or from kits, and similarly a lot of coaches, some of which are clearly from kits as they have printed sheets on the sides.  Any information would be gratefully received, and if you want an additional hobby, there is great potential repairing and sorting this lot – oh, and there is an oval of Hornby track and a RH point – and a pile of bits, wheel, bogies etc…. 

2nd January 2020 –  Clearing up from our New Year’s Party yesterday – around 70 guests!  I did get a trip to the shed to make a prototype nipple for the Smith’s Imperial gun.  The thread is a bit larger diameter than 1/4 inch and the thread is 28 t.p.i , but its not as big as   9/32nd – around 6.46mm diameter over threads with quite a shallow, rounded profile.  I turned up a die holder to fit the tailstock chuck with a bigger internal diameter than normal to allow me to spread the 1/4 inch UNF die – I made a test nipple out of silver steel but the thread didn’t cut well and I made the nipple just too small to grip the cap.  I wanted to make it similar to the Imperial nipples, so I made the base 8.6 mm diameter and 4 mm thick and put a 2.6mm hole in the side.  I fixed my nipple extraction tool by replacing the 2.5 mm peg.  Playing around with the fit of the new nipple and the Imperial ones with both the original Smith’s tool and mine I found there was a problem with clearance around the base of the nipple – the flash guards are so close to the base of the nipple that you can only reliably fit the peg on either tool into the hole in the nipple if the hole is aligned with the outside of the barrel where there isn’t a fixed flash guard.  A quick check showed that the nipples are not made with the thread aligned with the hole in the nipple base – depending which original nipple I put in which side, I could end up with the hole effectively blanked by the flash guard so that the Smith’s tool couldn’t open enough to get the peg in the hole, and mine had the same problem….   I don’t know if the gun I’m dealing with had a different tool, or what the solution was. It is a problem even when the barrels are out of the gun – in fact I did most of the trials with the barrels out. The solution for my requirements is straightforward as I don’t need a flat top to the base as the cap doesn’t sit on it – I can either drill a couple of holes for a vertical tool, or better still, just file a couple of flats onto the top of the base for a normal nipple key.   As I commented a few days ago, nothing connected with old guns is ever straightforward…………………….  

Loose fit die holder – if I need to open it a bit more I’ll probably have to soften the die opposite the screw by running the welder quickly over it or grind it a bit thinner?  The grinding on the surface is to let the die cut nearer the shoulder of the nipple.

Looking for patterns to engrave the other day I came across a couple of illustrations that show the basics of a Stand of Arms and are older than the Hogarth illustration I used in the Post on Stand of Arms – I’m interested in the origins of the classic engraving – I don’t think it appeared on guns until the last quarter of the 18th century but I’m sure it goes back a long way;-

This as an illustration from about 1714

This is a memorial of about 1704

31st December – I took out the other Imperial nipple – I had to grind down the end of the tool a bit to get it to fit right down round the base of the nipple, but it shifted it without any problems, except that when I removed the tool, the peg appeared to be still in the hole in the nipple – it hadn’t come out of the tool, it had neatly sheared off.  I guess that the steel rod I’d used for the peg was actually a fairy high carbon steel, and when I cooled the tool in water after silver soldering it, I must have left the peg dead hard – certainly the tool itself wasn’t hard. It was a clean fracture straight across the undistorted rod.  Anyway the tool basically works well, and the silver solder seemed to be strong enough, so I’ll silver solder in a new peg and make sure that I temper it (to straw colour?) after any possible hardening…… I am now convinced that the tool is superior to  Smith’s original tool for removing recalcitrant nipples without damaging the gun or nipples.  I now have to make some substitute nipples for ordinary No 1075 caps on a fat .25 inch diameter and 28 t.p.i. thread.

30th December – Yesterday broke the record for the greatest number of visitors to the site – over 400.   Gave myself a treat today and just pottered around engraving for fun – I went through a few books looking for something different to copy – I’m gradually regressing to earlier and earlier stuff, so I hit on some Griffin pistols around 1760 that had the name on the lock in a fancy banner – each one was different.  Anyway a couple of hours was frittered away playing t engraving, along with tidying up the workshop a bit for our New Year’s Party – there are always some guests who want to penetrate to the core of the house!  Anyway here are a couple of the Griffin banners – I only had not very good photos to copy so I had to improvise most of the shading – I wish I could get hold of some originals  to photograph – perhaps I ought to try Holts or Bonhams archives……  I’d need to do a few more before I’d dare to put one on a lock!

A few runouts – I get lazy about changing tools when I’m just playing, so end up using tools that I should have discarded!

28th December – Family party for 17 for lunch today so not much gun play!  The browning of the d/b pistol barrel has not been a success!  Some time ago I  sent a shotgun barrel to Paul Stevens – who is reputed to be the best barrel browner in the UK  – after several months I rang him to check progress and he explained that the first attempt had not worked and he had started again.  At the time I couldn’t really understand what could go wrong except possibly the end colour.  However I couldn’t get the bright parts of the twist pattern of the pistol to ‘bite’ – even after 14 brownings, and when I used my browning solution for several goes I just about got the colour right, but at the expense of a lot of roughness on the surface which shouldn’t be the result – The last barrel I did also had the same problem of getting the bright parts of the twist to ‘bite’ even after 10 rustings, although that barrel had started out with considerable surface structure and I judged it OK to have some surface texture at the end.  I am not really sure why these barrels are being difficult – I never had those problems before – I usually got an acceptable finish in 8 to 10 rustings.  It may be that I’m finishing the barrel too well pre-browning and effectively burnishing the surface, making it difficult for the solution to attack the steel.  Or maybe rubbing the rust off with 0000 grade steel wool is a bad idea?  I’m going to have to refinish the d/b barrel with 1200 grade paper and possibly 2500, but I think I will give it a couple of minutes in copper sulphate solution to etch the surface slightly and give the browning a chance.  What a monumental bore…………………………………………  


  27th December – lest you should think I have devoted all of Christmas to eating, drinking and making merry, here is the tool for Imperial caps I made yesterday;-   The ‘original Smiths tool (see a couple of dys ago) didn’t grip the cap well enough as the side hole in the nipples was a little worn, and I didn’t want to damage the rather weak joint between the metal and wood of the tool.  I designed a ‘foolproof’ tool that I reckoned would allow me to put much more force on the recalcitrant caps and was ‘more or less’ guaranteed not to disengage in the process.  The principle is that the cup for the base of the cap is a good fit over the cap, but the shaft and end is split so that it can be opened and closed to allow a fixed peg on the inside of the cup  to slip into the hole in the cap, after which the cup is closed to grip the cap by sliding a tapered collar down the tapered shaft of  the tool.   I drilled a 2.5 mm hole through the cup and used a piece of hardened steel rod to engage the hole in the nipple – one nipple had the hole facing outward so I could leave the rod sticking out for a trial – it worked, although the thread was pretty stiff even after it had started to turn – too stiff for the original tool to work without holding the sprung loaded catch.  I have now silver soldered the peg into the cup and quenched it to harden it all up, and I’ll try the finished tool on the other nipple.  The thread on the nipple I have removed seems  to be   .253 O.D. and as near as I can judge 28 t.p.i. with a very shallow rounded thread as is common on old guns.  As far as I can see the best fit would be an oversize  1/4 inch U.N.F thread (28t.p.i.) rather than the 1/4 inch B.S.F thread (26 t.p.i.)  I was expecting.  I will cut some test threds – I have a UNF die, and if its opened up to the maximum it will probably cut a big enough thread.  If not I’ll open out a die holder and run a flame down one side of the die to soften it and open it some more………………………………………………………… nothing to do with old guns is straightforward!

I ought to have put a nipple pricker in one of the arms – …….. next time?

I cut the slot with a hacksaw, hence the wobble – I don’t have a suitable slitting saw.  It works!

There is still a bit of silver solder round the pin, it has now been removed.

 24th December – a certain amount of feverish activity in the house!  I got the Imperial cap tool in the post this morning , so immediately went and tried to remove the caps – I was keen to see what thread they had.  I tried as hard as I dared with the tool, but as its like the old nipple keys, the handle is ebony and the ‘blade’ is presumably squared and just pushed into the wooden handle so there is a limit to how much force it will stand before being damaged.  Neither nipple would budge at what I deemed to be safe force, so at the moment I’m soaking the nipples in Napier cleaner for a bit.  I will see it I can make a tool that will work with the barrels out of the gun, and if that doesn’t work I may try a bit of heat on the nipple.  The tool is, as I thought, quite complex – the turned end of the tool has a slot cut in it about 2.5mm wide, into which fits a lever with the peg to engage the hole in the nipple at the bottom, and a push button at the top, with a spring underneath.  The nipple pricker is unusual – its handle is bifurcated and sprung so it grips in the unlined hole in the wood of the handle.


23rd – still browning the d/b pistol barrel, which is going very slowly – as on the last one I did, there are areas of steel that are not touched after 10 rustings – in desperation I used my copper rich ferric chloride mix (ex pcb etching solution) and put it on wet, rather than almost wiped dry, which did seem to rust over all the surface – see below;-   We’ll see how it rubs off with 0000 grade steel wool…….. It looked ok, there was some colour on what had been bright steel pattern areas – mostly grey – I’ve  now put on a slightly more generous coat of Blackley’s than usual to see where that takes us………….  I think next time before I start the browning I’ll try putting the barrel in copper sulphate for a minute or two to etch the steel areas…..



21st December – I did the flame test on couscous today and added it to the video and got rid of some glitches, so its now uploading….


20th December – Getting more difficult to steal time from the growing domestic panic occasioned by the rapidly approaching festivities – I’m sure you are all aware of the phenomenon. I can see that the number of visitors to this site, both directly and via Google, has reached record levels, so lots of people are busy seeking dispacement activities!  All I could manage today was a few visits to the cellar for further rounds of browning of the little d/b pistol.  I got to three without much impact so I did a couple of my ex pcb solution and that got it going so I went back to Blackley’s Slow Brown and its going fine – probably three or four more and it will be ready for the boiling water treatment and a light coat of beeswax.  I got the taps and die from Tracy Tools today – life is so easy with the internet now – I guess there are still some big tool shops around – I can think of one about 20 miles away but I bet they don’t have the odd sized taps and dies I needed.  Oh and I did manage to collect together all the stuff on Imperial caps and put it in a separate post.

19th December – I finished the Couscous video and its uploaded.  It looks as if the couscous is working fine, but I do have slight misgivings about the ability of the flame to penetrate the grains.  Tomorrow I’ll try a pile of couscous with the blowtorch as I did for the semolina.  I got a straight 1mm knurling tool from Amazon today, but I really need a 0.5 mm wheel and they come from ebay/China so I’ll order one and wait patiently for it to come!  I spent today throwing out piles of old papers – I came across about  20 unopened letters that hadn’t looked very interesting at the time they arrived – sometimes I get lucky and find a cheque that is still in date………………..but not this time.

17th December – I did another video of using wheat in various forms instead of wads – this time couscous, which one of the AML shooters swears by.  Its certainly easier to handle and from the way the shot dropped into it, I guess its just as good – in fact I think you don’t need quite as much volume in order to keep the shot away from the powder – my only concern would be that the flame can find a way through the grains on firing – I’ll edit the video and upload it later.   My client has been offered an original key for unscrewing the Imperial nipples of the S & C Smiths, so that is one thing I don’t need to make- it was promising to be tricky to get the spring loaded peg to function properly.  When we get it I’ll take out the nipples and see what the best way to use modern caps is.  I am pretty sure I wouldn’t fire the gun using the original Imperial cock noses with ‘ordinary’  nipples as  I don’t like being spattered with shards of red hot percussion cap, so I intend to make new ones in the style of the originals, but bored out to accommodate the caps.  Anyway I got a special 12 UNEF x 32 die from my friends at Tracy Tools and had a go at making a new nose blank –  I finished the outside but will chuck it and bore out the bottom when I have a better idea about nipples.  It looks pretty good – I will need to grind up a tool to shape the outsides when I make a batch, and my knurling tool is a lot coarser than the original, and cuts slanting knurls, but that helps to distinguish my noses, so I’m happy with that. Anyway the 12UNEF x32 fitted perfectly ( 12 UN is 7/32th).   I now have an original multitool that has lost its pricker to find a thread for that ( 3/16 x 26?) – back to Tracy Tools ( no, I don’t get a commission!  they are just good and cheap and quick and have almost any thread in stock) – while I’m about it I will get a 12UNEF x 32 tap so I can mount the blank noses in the lathe without Araldite!  I did a bit of editing and split this post in two to get the load time down – so 2/3 is in a separate post now.

Original nose for Imperial caps.


New nose for ‘normal’ caps ( – right cock only, to be bored out when I make the nipples)

16th December – bit of trouble uploading stuff so I lost the bit I’d put in this morning!   I did a bit on the d/b pistol – silver soldered the inserts and filed up the square holes – the l/h one was  a pain as the square on the tumbler wasn’t square and the sides were rounded – and there wasn’t enough metal to file it up properly – anyway I made the best job I could – it wouldn’t do if the gun was intended to shoot, but it isn’t!  The cocks didn’t quite line up so I melted the silver solder and adjusted the l/h insert slightly – probably 3 or 4 degrees.  I welded up the nick in the l/h cock and tidied up the engraving and bent the l/h cock into line with the nipple and finally coloured up both cocks with the gas torch and case hardened the cock screws and its all together – in fact it looks so nice I decided it needed the barrel re-browning, so that is ongoing – its showing a nice twist on the first application of Blackley’s Slow Brown, so things are looking good………

Not sure what happened to the colour balance here!

14th December – Good shoot at the Valley Shoot in Heydon – very professional beating, which for muzzle loaders is a tricky job as there are gaps while we reload that need to be reflected in the progress of the beaters.  Anyway a really good shoot and lots of sporting shooting.   Chasing information about the Imperial caps I’m trying to change, I emailed a friend for photos of the tool for removing them and he has a spare he is willing to sell, so that may save a job – it is a fiddly tool to make as it has a spring loaded peg going into the side of the Imperial nipple that takes the torque of unscrewing – so it needs to be accurately made.   He says that all the ones he has changed  use standard nipples and don’t have modified noses on the cocks – but I still think I might make special ones for fun!  ( basically I enjoy the engineering!)  … now I guess its time to file up the squares on the cocks of the d/b pistol………….  

12th December – Silver soldered the inserts into the cocks of the d/b pistol and filed off the surplus so now ready to put in the squares – although it is possible to rotate the inserts later, it is much better to get it right in the first place.  Here is my technique;-  cut a square hole in a piece of thin card to fit over the square on the lock with the lock on half cock. Mark a cross on the card centered on the square aligned with the sides of the square and glue or tape it to the lock in the correct alignment.  Black the centre of the cock and position it over the square and transfer the  marks to the cock.  With luck the hole you made in the insert will be smaller than the across flats dimension of the square, but larger than the size of your smallest square needle file. Now file the square out aligned with your marks, trying it as you go – Its easiest to get one flat surface almost done and use that to align with the square.  Obviously getting the second cock to align with the first one is tricky as it needs to be quite precise – that is where the ability to rotate the insert is useful…  Good luck – I won’t be fitting it for a day or two as I’m shooting tomorrow again – last one of the season!  An alternative way to mark the square is to tin the back of the cock with solder and press the lock into it in a vice (gently) to leave a mark – I guess some thick soft varnish might do instead…   That method is easiest to implement if the hole in the cock insert will just admit a screw that will go into the tumbler to keep it all in alignment – you can then drill it out to accomodate your file……….  I’m sure there are lots of other ways too…………………………..

The insert hardly shows on the face of the cock and will be covered by the cock screw.  The lines shown are on the diagonals of the square but I realised that it would be much easier to align them with the flats instead so I’ll change it………..

12th December – Another question re the Imperial caps – is it possible. using the proper supplied tool, to remove the caps with the barrel in the gun or do the cocks and flash guard get in the way?

11 December – bit of a lull as I got a nasty bug that laid me out in the evenings, now thankfully gone.   Having got my miller working I got on with the cocks of the little pistol – if you remember they needed the square holes remade as the alignment was wrong.  I think the miller runs much better now with the good old-fashioned Variac instead of its original electronic controller!   I Araldited them onto bits of wood and ran a 6 mm end mill through and then dropped a 9 mm endmill down 2.5 mm into the back and turned up a couple of inserts with 4.2 mm holes and made to fit the milled holes – they will be silver soldered in later and the square hole then put in – if I don’t get the alignment right I can reheat to melt the solder and rotate the insert.  Pretty foolproof and better than trying to exactly match a pair of cocks by filing the squares in rewelded metal.  This method does leave an indication if you take the cocks off that things are not original, but in this case it is acceptable as both cocks are replacements.   I picked up an interesting job today – a friend has a very nice S & C Smith percussion gun with Smith’s patent Imperial caps – these differ from the normal percussion caps in that they are flatish disks of around 10 mm diameter ( I don’t have one to check!) that fit on special nipples and with special noses on the cocks so they won’t in that configuration take normal caps.  I’m not sure what the supposed advantage of the Imperial caps was but the Smiths seemed to put them on most/all their guns and pistols so they must have seen something ‘better’ in their design – or perhaps they just liked to be different – they patented the design in 1830 No 7978. One special ( awkward) feature of the nipples is that the body of them is disk shaped and about  4 mm thick with a hole into the side for a peg on a special tool.  I don’t have access to a tool so will try to make on, but the mechanism for getting the peg into the side of the disk with very little space around the nipple is a bit challenging – I have emailed another friend to send me a photo of his original disk ‘spanner’. The recess in the nose of the cock is made very shallow – about 1.5 mm, which is OK for the very flat nipples/caps but will not provide any protection from flying bits of normal caps.  Fortunately the noses of the cocks are detachable, so I just have to make new noses and new nipples and all will be well – plus the tool for getting the Imperial nipples out.   The cock noses are screwed in with 3/16 x 32 threads, and I managed to locate a Unified extra fine die of that size – at a cost of £30 – and the noses should just accommodate a somewhat deeper recess – maybe not as  deep as a conventional percussion cock, but I plan to make rather flatter nipples than the normal ones – old percussion caps were always much deeper than our current ones, so conventional nipples are unnecessarily tall.  I do realise, before any kind soul tells me, that the thread form of Unified threads is quite different from the old thread forms, the UN is much steeper and sharper at the crest and valley, but the thread doesn’t take any force, just holds the nose on. I’ll screw the thread into the hardened cock before hardening the nose to swage the thread into a better shape.  One question I would be grateful for information on;-  were the Smith guns supplied with alternative  ‘conventional’ nipples and cock noses, and if so what were they like?

Secured for milling the holes.

Milled stepped holes and disks – the holes are concentric even if it doesn’t look likeit!.

Imperial Nipple on S & C Smith gun – the nipple body is round and has a hole, just visible on the right side, where the peg fits to uncrew it – tricky to make the removal tool!

8th December – The Anglian Muzzle Loaders single barreled shoot and Christmas Lunch today.  I had a bit of a revelation last night when getting out my guns for the shoot – as I mounted my usual little Henry Nock single ( as I usually do when I get a gun out) I noticed that my dominant eye seemed to be swapping from my normal right eye to my left eye on occasions – Without shutting my left eye I couldn’t guarantee that the gun would point where I was looking.  That might hopefully explain why I was having trouble hitting birds coming straight at me on previous shoots – anyway I took the time honoured solution and stuck a piece of sellotape on the top third of the left lens of my spare glasses, which is just enough to stop the left eye seizing control as you mount!   It must have worked because I did my usual score at clays.  I still haven’t worked out how my mind or body works when shooting clays – my norm, over many shoots, if I’m using a gun I can shoot with, goes something like this:  First stand- 6 clays – miss one, second stand  -6 clays – miss 2, third stand  – 6 clays – miss 3 or 4  and erratic thereafter!  It doesn’t seem to depend on which stands we start on either!  Strange.    Pete and I had discussed him firing his flintlock upside down as an experiment, but we completely forgot when we got to the shoot.  Cambridge Gun Club,  with whom we have a close relationship, put on a splendid Christmas Lunch especially for us – we all bring prizes and they are put into a raffle for which we all get a ticket – claiming prizes from what’s left when our number comes up – Pete picked a wrapped bottle, which when he unwrapped it turned out to be a bottle of Cherry Kirch that had been opened and a glass drank!  What can one say ? – so we decided that it will become a permanent feature of the raffle – being returned,  wrapped each year – possibly minus another glass……..in perpetual memory of whoever put it in….!   We now have a new supplier of Czech powder, thank goodness as it was getting tricky to get in the quantities that the club uses – 28 members were shooting today, 30 shots each, so 840 shots in total, at an average powder load of about  2.6 drams amounts to about 4Kg of powder, or if we were shooting 40 shots with  doubles, more like 5 Kg.  I don’t shoot as much as some of the members, but I probably shoot 3 or 4 Kg a year at least.  I managed to get my milling machine running yesterday using a Variac ( variable voltage transformer) and a bridge rectifier – seems to work OK, which indicates that in fact its a DC motor, no AC as on the motor label – anyway its all properly wired up with a switch and fuse etc.

6th December – Oh, I just remembered its my brother’s birthday!!   I finished off the trigger guard and butt plate by ‘colouring them down’  – it’s a sticky decision – how to finish work that you have taken down to bare metal.  The usual method is to form an oxide layer on the metal by heating it – the colour you get depends critically on the top temperature you reach so it can be difficult to get a uniform colour if you don’t have a big enough furnace/oven and the object has an uneven distribution of metal so some bits heat quicker than others –  It is possible with patience to do it with a gas torch.  An alternative is to heat to dull red and use a case hardening powder and then quench it in water – that generally gives a slightly mottled grey colour – its what I’d normally do for lock plates and screws which benefit from the case too.  Anyway for the trigger guard and butt plate  I used a calor gas torch and took them up to just about deep strew colour – around 275 C.   You need to keep the torch moving and go slowly so there isn’t a lot of metal that is above the required temperature that will leak out and over colour the smaller bits.  I  stop the heating by swabbing with an oily tissue and then dunking in water.  A brisk brushing on the very fine wire mop tones the colour down nicely and leaves an even greyish finish, ending with a light wipe with gun oil.  It is always important to realise that any heating of steel is liable to leave it the surface clean and ready for rusting to start.

Here is the toned down part – its difficult to see the colour, but its a lot more appropriate than bare steel.

5th December – I got to thinking about firing off a flintlock upside down –  but I don’t have any measurements  to check things against – I might borrow a crude high speed camera that will do 700 f.p.s. but that isn’t great and the resolution is dire.  My calculations suggest that the powder will drop around 1/2 a mm in the first 10 mSecs and 50 mm in the first 100 mSecs   – I am not sure how far the flash will spread and still fire the charge through the touch-hole, but I guess up to about 10 m.m.  which  takes  44 mSec. Since I can well imagine that the pan will open and a spark will be generated in that sort of time window – therefore one concludes that firing upside down is not so improbable – more experiments to follow.

4th December – Back from a trip to St Andrews for Tom’s second graduation – after 9 years up there he now has his PhD done and dusted and needs a job!  I now have to sort out all the jobs that are waiting for me – A set of electronic Incubator regulator boards to test and deliver, a gun to collect from Geoff, some invitations to do,  The Dolep pistol to finish – that involves doing something about the finish on the barrel, ditto the trigger guard below that needs toning down – plus I would like to uresolder the barrels of the Venables.  I now have the parts I need to check the speed control of my milling machine, which I need to finish Nick’s pistol cocks………………..  If it sounds like an impossibly long list of jobs to complete in the run-up to Christmas, I fear you might be right!  I’ve been chasing the Russian Internet Service provider that is hosting the IP addresses that keeps bombing this website – I’ve tried them 3 times but it achieves nothing except somehow the sender managed to change the indicated country from Russia to Brazil – but from the same IP addresses – I haven’t completely given up hope but it is beginning to look as if the ISP is part of the problem….

30th November – Decided to start the last job  first as I felt like a quite few hours engraving – the trigger guard and its tang were nice to cut, the butt plate and its tang a bit less so, but both are now done – the worst bit was putting a pattern round the top screw of the butt plate – the curvature is vicious so I used the GRS pneumaic graver as it lets you hold and move the work by hand since the forces are small.  I was trying to get the engraving to be clear and complete but not looking as if it was new – because the underlying material does not look new and I’d have had to refinish it drastically to get it to ‘new’ status – plus I don’t really like that approach! Anyway its now done and I’m reasonably pleased with the outcome.  I’m not sure what the client has in mind for the finish – I would probably run a torch over it to give it a bit of an oxide layer, maybe give it a coat or two of browning first to help.

29th November – I was trying to get my milling machine to run – the motor controller had  packed up last week, so I decided I ought to be able to put something together to replace the controller – the motor says quite clearly 240V A.C. 400W, and has 2 wires coming from it – but putting an AC motor controller just produced a lot of buzzing and a bit of heat.  So I tried it with a Variac – a variable transformer producing good smooth AC from 0V to 240V, but that was the same.   Unfortunately I can’t find a suitable bridge rectifier to test it on DC, but I did try it on my 30V D.C  3 Amp power supply and it ran smoothly but fairly slowly.  It is a brushed motor, which means it could well be a DC motor in spite of the label, so I’ll now get a bridge rectifier and see if I can get it to run .  I got a parcel from a client with a trigger guard and butt plate to be recut/engraved.  The trigger guard will be easy to recut exactly as its clearly visible, the butt plate is at the awkward stage – there is enough of the engraving left that you can’t ignore it, but not enough to use as a pattern.  My usual method is to recut the bits that I can still see, and then carry on in the same spirit – it usually works fine as you gradually make out more of the original pattern.  I guess the alternative is to file off the remaining engraving and start over – but that’s not an approach I usually take.

Quite a decent standard of engraving  – a bit of work in the borders on the bow – not sure who the maker was.

Need to have agood look at this under the microscope to ‘see’ the complete design.


Rather unusual cased pair of pocket pistols by Salmond of Perth in pigskin lined case.

28th November – At the Bonhams Auction yesterday – prices mostly in line with estimates – not many real bargains so I guess the market is  not as bad as I thought.  The only real surprise was an Ormolu tinderlighter and inkwell that made £15000 against an estimate of £3 – 4K.  I think only a couple of lots didn’t make the reserve.  The trio of Smith 12 bore muzzle loading sporting guns made £7500, well above the £3-4K estimate, and the silver mounted pair of Clarkson pistols lot 517 made £11000 against an estimate of £5 – 7.5K – bought by a collector from Essex who was very pleased with his purchase, as well he might be.  I got the lot I was aiming for – the pair of Public Service Overcoat pistols for the early Police force at Bow Street, at one bid over the bottom estimate, so that was OK.  I also got a pair of cased pocket pistols by Salmond of Perth in a pigskin lined case.

Not only are they very rare – possibly among the 50 pairs that were ordered from Parker in 1829 for the police – See Frederick Wilkinson’s book ‘Those Entrusted with Arms’

–  but they are also almost unused – they are numbered 3 and 16 on the brass trigger guard, but I guess they were not issued.

26th November – first an apology – the buyer’s premium on Bonhams is, unfortunately not 20% but 25 or 27 1/2  we couldn’t decide – the figure in the current catalogue is wrong!  – but don’t let that stop you buying the Egg for my Chrismas present!  Just back from another excellent shoot a Woodhall – possibly the last as its not clear they are continuing next year.  Jobs come in thick and fast and another couple of email queries today….   I used my little single barrelled Nock today – a bit frustrating not having a second barrel although not having to make the decision as to whether to reload immediately after the first shot, or wait and discharge the second barrel before reloading is a compensation.  My great ‘discovery’ of the day concerns the disposable hand warming heater pads – I bought a packet of toe warmers to see what they were, and opened them on the shoot to put in my pocket, where of course they get lovely and warm but don’t do anything useful.  Standing in the light rain my hand began to get a bit cold holding the gun at the wrist, so I got out the ‘toe warmer’ and had a look at it – it turned out to have a self adhesive back, presumably to stick to the sole of your boot – anyway I decided to stick it on the wrist of my gun so that I was holding it by the heating pad – I have to say that the pads don’t give out much heat when exposed and in contact with the gun, but it was  definitely better than holding a cold gun!

25th November – a day of disasters – just found my MOT had expired yesterday and my garage hadn’t reminded me although 6 weeks ago the said they would…. bother.  And then discovered that the last yacht charter company on the NW coast of Scotland is closing – it is the one we used last year  – the one we used this year also closed – so now nothing on the west coast North of Oban – it’s enough to drive one to drink!   Now what do we do to escape? I think we had a bit of a reputation for going to some pretty obscure anchorages – your average charterer sticks to the well beaten tracks.  I was showing a friend the Dolep pistol of about 1710 that I just finished restoring (see below)  and he wondered about firing it – the client had wanted me to ensure that it worked/flashed properly so I put a bit of fine priming in the pan and fired it off – went well. Then I remembered that a well set up flintlock was supposed to be able to fire upside down – i.e the powder ignites before falling out of reach of the touch hole.  Given that it’s an established fact that the flash travels faster than the flame front through powder, you don’t need a solid powder trail between pan and touch hole, so it should work. Anyway we flashed off the pistol upside down a couple of times and the flash seemed to originate from the immediate vicinity of the pan, so I think we would have been able to fire it.  I will try with my John Manton double flintlock some time for real!  In trying the Dolep I found that the full cock notch was only just engaging – a quick check showed there was no play in the trigger, so the sear arm is too low – a quick adjustment in the vice with a pair of pliers added maybe 1/2 or 3/4 mm clearance that was enough to put it right.    I’m shooting tomorrow – since my 14 bore Venables is out of commission I’m using the 16 bore single Henry Nock – that unfortunately means changing over my wads and overshot cards!  I still like to have wads, although I’m trying to wean myself onto a diet of semolina –  I remember semolina puddings from my childhood, without, it has to be said, any great joy, although the splodge of jam was good!  We don’t add jam when shooting.

The Dolep – a fine early pistol now working beautifully, and sparking up a treat.

24 th November – Just back from London and the viewing for the Bonhams sale on Wednesday.  There was a fair bit of interesting stuff, but it was catalogued all over the place as it was from named collections and I got confused finding stuff – plus there was a vast collection of swords and military bits and pieces that will take up half the sale day – guns don’t begin until 2 p.m. and they will have to motor on to get finished in a reasonable time!   I’m not going to splash the few things I might be after, but there were lots of things I covet that I can tell you about!   Lot 331 was a nice turnover 18 bore flintlock by Bunney from around 1775 in nice condition if you have a spare 8 – 10K kicking about.  I don’t think I’d get interested in lot 389 – a cased pair of pistols that are catalogued as ‘inscribed D.Egg ‘  Auctioneers are very careful of their language and if it doesn’t say ‘by D Egg’ then they are not sure.  This pair have had the barrels rebrowned and as the catalogue says ‘inscribed D.Egg London’  – with my eyeglass I can clearly see that the barrel inscription is recut as part of the rebrowning, and the (competent script) engraving on the lock is clearly done after most of the corrosion occurred.  None of that proves the pistols were NOT made by Egg, indeed the butts are properly chequered in his style with 4 dots within each large diamond and the rest COULD be his – its just that the restorer has removed any chance of establishing their true maker.  One pair I’d like to own were I ridiculously rich were Lot 392 – 15 bore ‘queen Anne’ style superimposed load pistols with turn off barrels – they were exceedingly clever in that the rear powder chamber had a post sticking up so that when the front charge fired, the back ball was forced onto the post, which expanded the ball to a tight fit in the bore and prevented the combustion creeping past into the first powder charge.  This effectively trumped Thouverin’s patent by 150 years!  And only 12 – 15 K – a snip….  I’m always a bit surprised at the price put on Queen Anne pistols, but I suppose they are early and not as common as the later big hefty full stocked pistols.  They did represent a major advance at the time, as it was possible to have a ball that was forced into the barrel by the charge, which had the dual advantage that it would take rifling and let the charge build up pressure before it started moving, thus effectively giving a longer burn time, so emulating a longer barrel – plus the tight fit meant that they could be carried around without fear of loosing the load through shaking – altogether a ‘good idea’ –  maybe I should get a pair – Lot 515 is a pair of double turnoff pistols in the Queen Anne style with single triggers by Barbar circa 1740 at 4 – 5K, or Lot 516 – a brass barrelled pair by Harvey est 4.5-5.5K.   There were a lot of guns and pistols by the  Smiths using their ‘imperial’  caps including 3 guns in a single case.   About the worst sin I saw was lot 332, an Adams 5 shot revolving rifle that had been horribly over refinished – I would have been interested but what a disaster – I suppose its possible to unrefinish a gun but I’d prefer not to own it in the first place – will be interesting to see just how the room copes with it – I’m usually more squeamish about these things than most people!  A beautiful & unusual  pair of 1710 Clarkson silver mounted horse pistols caught my eye – Lot 517 est. 5 – 7.5K, as did a splendid 25 bore double flintlock Covet gun by Egg, probably built for the Prince Regent (Lot 496 est 5 – 7 K..) Top lot was of course the last lot as always – just to keep people in the room – a pair of elaborately inlaid d/b pistols by John Manton for an Indian potentate – estimate a trifling 35 – 45K – well who can resist?    I checked over all the Adams revolvers and derivatives, but one or two were possible, I’d only be interested if they didn’t make the reserve.  As always if you subtract the price of all the accessories and the case, you get to the real value of the gun itself, Sometimes this turns out to be a bargain, sometimes not.  What of the stuff at the cheap end of the market?  There are a number of pistols at around 250 bottom estimate, but most I couldn’t get very excited about – I might pick up one for the blog, but I’ll have to be careful to remember which ones are passable!   I’ll regret not having made better notes in my catalogue.  If I had a fairy godmother offering me a Christmas wish and I wasn’t concerned about the value, I’d settle for the Egg covert gun – lot 517  so if you feel like buying me a Christmas present………. but don’t forget to allow for the buyer’s premium of  20% plus VAT at 20% of that.







2ch3rd November – Out to lunch and then a concert so no gun play!  Tomorrow I’m off to London for the Bonhams sale viewing – nothing really grabs me but there are a few possibilities, and I like to keep an eye on the market and what is on offer and meet a few friends.  There are several large collections around and most of the owners are getting on a bit – I don’t see the younger collectors in great numbers, and I’m not sure what will happen to the market longer term – I think America will mop up a fair bit, but our own political uncertainty casts a bit of a shadow – could be good or bad for antique firearms, who knows?  I’d probably rather have gold bars under the bed than antiques of any sort –  sad to say I don’t have much of value either way.  On Tuesday I have another shoot at Woodhall – since the barrel of my Venables is adrift I’ll use my little single barreled Henry Nock – I’ll have to put a bit more packing in the Irish shot belt scoop as it currently throws 1.1 oz which might be considered a bit much for a 16 bore weighing just 5 1/4 lbs – I’ll try to get it neared  15/16ths oz and use 2 1/2 drams of Czech powder.  I’ll use semolina again as I can’t fault it.  I found that my super card dispenser will work equally well for 13,14 and 16 bore cards so that will be in use.  My hope that the Russian abuse would stop as unfounded, so I have emailed the abuse address with a printout of the screen showing multiple attacks.  we shall see what transpires.

22nd November (2) – Shouldn’t get too excited but my Russian pest seems to have been stopped – fingers crossed – I must go after the rest!   Thought I’d nip into the workshop for a bit of recreation – in this case recreating the cock screws for the little d/b pistol – one of my favourite jobs.  I managed to get away with No 4 UNF for both the one I tapped out and the original one, which saved a  bit of time.  I haven’t coloured them down yet, but will do when I sort out the finish on the cocks etc….

I like the ‘bowler hat’ shaped screws!  this is about the most basic engraving – but right for the pistols. They have been polished off on the fibre wheel after engraving to make them look less new. 

22nd November – This website attracts a number of nutters who set up requests for a particular page that then keep repeating and clogging up the internet – I have one such attack that comes from several different IP addresses in Russia but always tries to download a particular page – after there had been about 26000 requests for that slightly obscure page I blocked the IP addresses, which means they just get back a message saying they are blocked, but attempts continued at a rate of about 200 a day – obviously automated!  It just wastes the internet and the resources that it uses – loads of electricity – plus is just a nuisance to everyone.  Anyway I have now complained to their IP service provider and they have told the user to desist – we will see if the abuse stops in the next 24 hours. Should have done it ages ago cbut it takes time to monitor what is going on behind the scenes with this blog!  For a bit while it is in my mind I’ll go after a few of the other abusers!  I’m now going to attempt to reshape the cock of the little pistol…. watch this space!………………..  Its a tense game cutting and re-welding a cock – if you do make a success of the tricky job it just looks as it should have looked all along and no-one notices, if you screw up then it is obvious!  Anyway I took a hacksaw to the nose of the cock, wedged it into position with Plasticine and tacked it with the TIG welder – then took it apart and did it again as it wasn’t right – but on the third attempt it was aligned as well as it could be, so I filed out the joint between the two bits, leaving the tack, and welded it as deeply as I could, then filed out the tack and re-welded that – not too bad.  The cock was curved inwards a bit at the top, so got the top of the main part red hot and gently bent it outwards by maybe 3 degrees.  That was better, but now the spur on the welded cock didn’t line up with the other cock, so another hot bend and its pretty good.  It doesn’t go as far down on the nipple as the other side as this cock has a shallower hollow – if my miller was working I might take a bit out, but as you’ll see from the photos it’s a decent improvement. Next job is to get the cock squares sorted, but I need the miller for that……

Cock mouth edge rests on nipple.

The cock is right down on the nipple – it just has a shallow depression.  Both cocks are in place so they obviously match reasonably!

21st November – Went to Dicks to show him the pistol I’d been working on – a nice 1760s pistol by Dolep – its almost finished and looking very nice – wish it was mine.  We had a look at the two cocks of the little double barreled pistol so see where I could cut the one that doesn’t fit so it could be welded – we discussed for a long time but I couldn’t really see the best place – nothing really works exactly without at least 2 cuts and I don’t want to end up with three bits to weld together.  I remembered a friend who is involved in robotic orthopedic surgery and thought I ought to make models of the bits and try them – well at least cut out bits of paper and shuffle them around – think I got something that might work!  We’ll see.

Current panic is that I’ve just sold a Spitfire Gun Camera on ebay and now I can’t find it! Oh bother – I know it was on my bench a few months ago as I was trying to see if the motor would still run!  Its one of those things that you know will come to you in a revelation after you’ve spent hours and hours searching in totally unlikely places!  Apart from that, nothing else, as some child put at the end of an essay.

21st   Not sure where yesterday went!  I had another go with the semolina yesterday using equal volumes of powder,shot and semolina as that is the recipe that several of my friends use.  I used the contents of the handwarmer as a substitute for powder to save having to dispose of a mix of powder and semolina – I got rid of the last lot by throwing it all in a csmall container of water, which I then left on the bench – I have never seen such a splendid crop of mould growing on the top of the liquid  – I remember asking someone how to dispose of some unwanted gunpowder and they said ‘put it on the garden, its an ideal fertiliser’, so I now believe them. Anyway I did the same experiment as in the video but with No 6 shot and got more or less exactly the same result as with 7 1/2 shot –  most of the shot buried itself in the semlina, around 1/4 was left on top, the furthest shot penetration came within about 6 mm of the powder.   I did another video, but its so similar I won’t put it on Youtube to clutter up the planet further.  I had a call from Nick the other day and we discussed his little double barreled pistol that I was going to sort out – problems were;- cock screw sheared, cocks not indexed on squares properly (obviously modern replacements straight out of the box) and left cock doesn’t register on the nipple properly.  So I thought it was time to do something about the pistol…..   I had tried to drill the  broken cock screw from the tumbler but the bit of the screw seemed to be dead hard and I couldn’t drill it – so stripped the lock and heated the tumbler to dull red and cooled it slowly to anneal it, then drilled out the screw – fortunately it drilled fairly centrally and I  put a UNF No 4 tap into the hole – the taper tap didn’t do anything, but I was able to make a good thread (all 5 turns of it) with the plug.  So just need to turn up a new cock screw – it probably needs a matching one on the left too.  I have ‘walked around’ the job of the ill fitting cock and  the misaligned squares, but now I probably ought to do something  – the nose of one cock is too long and almost missed the nipple, the other is OK.  Both need ‘re-squaring.  My preferred technique for resquaring when I’m not dealing with original  cocks is to drop an end  mill through the square to just take it out, then cut from the back of the cock with an end mill that is a bit bigger than the across flat dimension of the square leaving a 1mm skin on the outside, then turn up a disc to fit the cavity  with a hole through the middle a bit less than the AF dimension of the square as a start for the new square.  The disc is then silver soldered into the cock and the square cut as usual  The advantage of this method is that you can reheat and adjust until the cock position is perfect.  I’ll post progress on that as I do it, but it will have to wait till I manage to get a new speed controller for my little miller – I ordered one from ebay but it blew the house electrics wtith a dead short and I haven’t had any satisfaction from the seller, so I’ve ordered another different one…….   The job of reshaping the cock is more of a mess – I’ll have to take the angle grinder to cut off the nose, and either re-weld it myself or take it to Jason…………………………. Oh, and as a quiet relaxation I copied some 17th century gun engraving – not perfect as I got it out of rather poor photos in books.


Mismatched cocks!

Quick and dirty copies out of Keith Neil and Back Great British Gunmakers  Dafte is 1690.  Unsigned is from a musket.

19th November – On the shoot on Saturday Pete gave me a disposable handwarmer – a small bag of powder that you took out of a sealed plastic bag to activate, after which it heated up most effectively, so standing in a field waiting for action I tried to work out what was in the bag and how it heated for the whole day.  It had to be oxygen activated, i.e an oxidation reaction and the only one I could think of that worked that slowly and controllably was rusting of iron, so the next day I cut open the now cold bag and applied a magnet – voila it picked up bits.  I later checked on Wikipedia  to find if I was right – the ingredients turn out to be finely divided iron, something to hold water, like vermiculite, salt to start the reaction, and sometimes a platinum catalyst – so we spend our time trying to stop rust, but use rusting to warm our hands!  I must say that they were a lot more effective than the lighter fuel powered ones, and much much better than the charcoal ones that it is almost impossible to keep alight.  I have ordered up a batch – around 70p each – you can even get ones to put in your boots. A small miracle….   I had a small engraving job for Dick  – he is restoring a French pistol with silver mounts and a brass lock that was in derelict condition- interesting because apart from a lot more carving on the woodwork it was almost identical  to a Dolep pistol made in England – you could almost have swapped the locks over with very little adjuctment, and the touchholes lined up perfectly.  Anyway he had replaced the buttcap with a casting from Blackleys and wanted it engraved to match the standard English pattern, which I did.;-

It still needs the casting sprue cut off and possibly a cover plate made?

18th November – I’m still trying to emulate the small scale scrollwork on the Purdey lock – I don’t get cuts that look the same, and also there is a perception problem – I normally do scrollwork and other engraving where the cuts are the thing you focus on, and which define the pattern, but with the Purdey scrolls its the remaining metal that makes the pattern, not the cuts – it may sound like splitting hairs but it is a real difference – in its extreme form I don’t get confused – say a rose left standing  in a cutout background, but as the two styles converge its not so clear.  Looking as a spectator at the finished engraving you just see the intended pattern and are not aware  of  the mechanics – but when you try to engrave it, its difficult to force yourself to see the pattern in the metal that is left rather than the cuts you make.  Anyway, I’ll struggle on! 

17th  I was showing someone the little Post Office pistol by Harding and Son and they noticed that the lock wasnt fitting completely – a bit of investigation showed that the spring needed a bit ground off to clear the barrel.  In removing the spring I sheared off the peg that goes in the lockplate, I had had to weld on a new peg as it was originally in the wrong place due to an error in manufacture. Anyway from the fracture surface it was clear that the weld hadn’t fused onto the spring properly – in fact hardly at all.  Anyway I remembered I’d actually made a spare spring – no sure why – so was able to put it in and off we go.  One disaster down.  The big disaster came with my Venables when I came to clean it after yesterdays shoot near Beccles – a fine shoot with lots of pheasants and partridges – we were ‘double pegging’ so things go a bit quicker as there is less need to hold up the beating line to allow reloading.   I took off the barrel and did the usual wet clean with boiling water  and put it on the bench to take out the nipples etc and noticed that it was missing the block under the barrel that takes the through bolt to hold the barrel in place on the stock – I found the missing bit in the water!  Its all part of the sad saga of trying to resolder the ribs- I resoldered it all from a stripped state, but the top rib didn’t go down well – I hadn’t filed off enough metal to make it fit – someone had previously filed it a series of waves.  anyway I tried to resolder the top rib without doing the whole job again – the top rib went down perfectly, but in the process managed to partially unsolder the bottom rib, which I hadn’t wedged on securely.  So there is now no option but to strip the barrels down and redo the whole job – I WILL get the hang of resoldering barrels!  Talking to Bev about that particular job we both said that the first one we did (mine was the Perrins) was OK but thereafter we only manage to get it right in about 1 in 4 tries!   The Venables is a good quality gun and fits me well –  I got it cheap at Holts because the top rib was a mess, but I really want it to be perfect so I can make a case for it with my splendid card dispenser – someone at the shoot suggested I sell them to Purdeys to include with the new muzzle loaders they are threatening to build.  I had one hiccough with it on the shoot – when the cards are used,  the spring tension reduces and the bayonett cap is no longer as secure as it should be, since it relies on the spring to hold.  Since it holds over 100 cards I reckon it doesn’t need to be opened in the field so I’ve put in a small and inconspicuaous  grub screw to lock the top on. Anyway it dispensed cards perfectly – thin cards 2 at a time, and thicker ones singly – I might make the next one adjustable for card thickness.

16th  November – I didn’t really get going today! So no great thought to share – or even scrappy ones I’m afraid.  I did decide that the stove in the living room had to change from wood to coal so it would actually heat the house 24 hours – immediately noticeable improvement in comfort.   I was trying to imitate the Purdey engraving of yesterday but I couldn’t get the hand movements right – I think my mild steel is a little too soft for such fine work and the graver seems to plough deep – I might try on a bit of EN 8 with a bit of carbon and see if it is any better.  I tried to resharpen my fine graver to make the heels very short to reduce the ploughing round corners, and it did improve it a bit, but not enough – its annoying, because although I don’t particularly like that style of engraving I’d like to be able to reproduce it better.  Anyway I think I had better creep off to bed rather than do my usual 12:30 bed time as I have to be up at about 5 to get to the shoot breakfast tomorrow.  

15th November – I get a steady correspondence from this blog – several emails a week – often asking for information about guns people own.  One of the requests for information that comes up from time to time is about guns that the writer has inherited but they don’t know anything about guns – there is usually a photo attached, often blurred and difficult to make out.  They are usually not guns that were on certificate, they are mostly repro pistols that someone has had without a certificate, and are usually functioning firearms – and  if made after 1919 (?) should be on a Firearms Certificate as a Section 1 firearm –  that, coupled with the fact that they are worth a lot less than the optimistic new owner was expecting it makes for disappointing news I have to deliver!   What to do with them?  I can’t advise that they are kept without a certificate, or sold without passing through a Registered Firearms Dealer – it is in fact illegal to have them in your possession without a certificate – strictly an offense carrying a mandatory prison sentence for possession of an unlicensed  firearm.  They can be surrendered to the Police as a last resort, or to a Registered Firearms Dealer, and one or two auctioneers who are registered to deal in firearms may take them and put them in their auction. (e.g. Holts, or Southams who do sell repros.) What you can’t do is put them up for sale on ebay!   All of which got me thinking of what happens when a gun owner/collector dies and his descendents are left with a pile of guns that may or may not be legal inert reproductions,  antiques,  on certificates -section 1 or section 2, or worse, section 7 or strictly illegally owned repros that are functioning firearms.  Its obvious from the emails that I get that people are searching for information and not finding anything useful apart from my blog.  So I’m contemplating putting up a post with advice, and possibly a draft letter/form to be given to next of kin by gun owners that sets out what they have and what to do with everything.  We shall see if thought gives way to action on my part!   On the engraving side, here is a photo of the Purdey lock I touched up the tail of – if you click on teh photo you can just see a line of brazing across the tail where all the engraving had been filed off to level the two sides.  In the blow-up of a different part you can see how crude the basic cuts are – its all done very quickly and almost automatically!


14th November – Now finished 3 of the jobs on my client list – a couple to go, both jobs that I’m waiting for inspiration for! One is a little double pistol that has one cock that is a bit of a misfit and I can’t decide if I’ll go at it with a grinder and welder or wait for inspiration, the other is a gun that has had a plain and very pedestrian lock fitted that needs it to be engraved, but again I can’t think what is the right thing to do – fortunately both clients are prepared to wait til inspiration comes!  The yr 3/4 ( 7/8/9)  teacher  came into my STEM club on Monday and asked what she needed for the children to make those ‘games’ that require you to move a loop along a twisty wire without setting off the buzzer – she needed 12 sets for her class of 36.  It soon became obvious that it would be easier for me to get/make all the parts and set it all up, – oh and which day would it be best for me to come in and ‘help’?  So I have been buying 3.2 mm aluminium welding rod as it should make the perfect shapes – you will be surprised how long it took me to find a supply in 1m lengths – most are 330mm.  Plus all the other bits (there are lots when you work it out) so that totally unskilled small children can produce a working puzzle in less than 2 hours.   And today I got a text asking if I had a breastplate (as in armour) that I could lend for something or other!  I didn’t realise when I volunteered to be a school governor just what was involved, particularly in the ‘props’ department. Next term the yr 5/6 s are doing the book ‘The Highwayman’ so that will mean taking in a couple of flintlocks and staging a highway robbery while wearing a tricorn hat and a cloak – no horse though.  I carelessly suggested that it would be fun if the yr 3/4s did a Dragon’s Den activity around some project – I did one at another school that went down very well – so I think muggins here has talked himself into  helping/setting another one up … – plus I still end up having to do the ‘serious’ governor stuff like checking up on all the catagories of children that need special attention in class (my particular responsibility) and the science teaching and attending boring meetings………   I’ve been doing a bit of engraving practice recently – I have a pile of perfect mild steel test plates waiting to be engraved, so I think I’ll try to capture a range of 19th century patterns.  I had a lock with a bit of missing engraving in the Purdy small scroll style, and I did manage to fill in the gap but the range of patterns I can do freehand and without thinking too hard is limited, and if I’m not careful things tend to drift back to a familiar pattern, so I need to do some serious practice.  I can see why there were a relatively limited range of patterns, and why it appears that each engraver had a distinct style.  I was quite shocked recently to find a copper bangle that I engraved about 60 years ago (when copper bangels were a thing) that had scroll engraving of the basic pattern I revert to now, despite the fact that I didn’t touch a graver for 50 of the intervening years! 


 Diary 13th November – Finished the horn fore-end tip today.  I is quite a complex shape as it has to fit round the end of the ramrod pipe and also accommodate the back end of the rib, but it wasn’t as bad a job as I expected and its now finished – I discovered a couple of small defects in the horn that show up as pale marks, they were not obvious when I started, but until you polish the horn it all looks grey anyway.  I don’t think the marks will affect the strength and they only show if you look for them, so I’m happy to leave them – especially as the alternative is to start again!  I managed to fair in the horn with just a little removal of the surface finish of the wood next to the joint, but a touch of colour and some slakum and it is back to where it was.  Job done.    I got an email with another job today – re-cutting a bit of engraving.  I failed to notice that the Birmingham Arms fair is next Sunday – I would normally go but I am shooting on Saturday – leaving home at 5:45 to get there for breakfast, so I don’t fancy spending most of Sunday driving to and from Birmingham – anyway I keep telling myself that I’m trying to get rid of guns, not acquire more!  I have had a look at the Bonhams catalogue and will probably view on Sunday 27th and go up for the sale – I just like the atmosphere, and there are one or two lots I might be interested in.  There is a whole collection’s worth of cased Adams pattern 1854 revolvers and derivatives, but not the one I’m looking for – I nearly bought a ‘mint’ one at Birmingham but was put off by a perfect finish but rounded arises to the engraving – I always carry a hand lens and use it!  Of course the vendor swore it was the original finish, and maybe he was right, but its my money!  I keep looking at the field articles but its mostly a bit breech loader specific – did see one interesting article on cartridges, showing that both the wads, top cards and cases and primers affect both the velocity and the patterning even if the powder and shot loads are identical – the differences are quite marked – sometimes half as many shot in the 30 inch circle at 40 yds with the ‘worst’ combination.

I haven’t taken out the dings in the wood – its a working gun and will only get more!

12th November – Went over to see Dick and look at some guns a client wanted sold – he buys stuff unseen at auction and passes it to Dick to restore and sell, but frankly he usually gets some pretty junky stuff and I’m sure he looses money on most of it!  Which is a good opportunity to think about what is happening to the prices of antique firearms – although it is not a very encouraging situation for people sitting on a fair sized collection – it seems to me that over the last few years the market for and price of  anything that isn’t of good quality in decent condition has dropped quite dramatically – and anything in the ‘junk’ or ‘in need of restoration’catagory even more so.  One possible exception is guns fit for sporting shooting or rifle competitions.  I’d like to think that cased revolvers of the 1850s are OK but when you add in the value of cases and accessories they are probably not commanding as high a price as a few years ago unless in very fine condition.  Anyway I had a look at the guns Dick has on offer, and didn’t feel even slightly tempted at any price.  I finished my 14 bore card dispenser today – I made the top for it and put a bayonnet fitting for removing it, and then made a leather sleeve to smarten it all up.  If I was doing it again I would make the end pieces out of a larger brass rod so that it  overlapped the leather – anyway it looks smart and complements my red leather covered shampoo bottle shot flask.  Dick suggested I should sell them, but when I pointed out that I’d have to charge around £150 – 200 each he could see that this wasn’t going to make my fortune!   I’m afraid nothing today on the ‘Field’ articles…………….

11th November – In school this afternoon with my STEM club – its lovely watching a dozen children aged 7 to 10 just making things.  The consumption of glue sticks for the cool glue gun is impressive, I think they got through 12 today, and the bench tops I made to protect the classroom tables get heavy use.  I must make another saw out of a 12 inch hacksaw blade cut down with a dowel handle and a bit of big heat shrink tube.  I sorted out the electrical supplies so they can make simple circuits – 9V batteries, buzzers, LEDs and switches.  My ‘job’ seems to be to supply a steady stream of interesting materials and offer a bit of help and encouragement where needed.    A bit more work in odd moments on the horn foreend tip – all filed by hand at the moment using a couple of those old fashioned files that are tapered half round with included flat handles – if it were a bit warmer in the woodwork shed I’d go and use the disk sander for the outside shape – a bit more and I’ll have to Araldite it onto the stock as its getting too small and fragile to hold reliably.    My ‘Field’ contribution today is the proof rules from 1806 for guns of the fourth class (d/b muzzle loaders without chokes).  For a 14 bore  the provisional proof (V)  the load was 11 1/4 drams of  black powder and a ball that was an easy fit in the barrel (hence no choke!) – probably a little over 1 oz and the definitive proof (CP)  was 6 drams of powder and 1 1/2 oz of shot, with the service load defined as 3 drams and 1 1/8 oz.  There was also a supplementary proof that was optional (?) using T.S.2 powder of  4 1/8 drams and 1 1/2 oz. – each proof cost 6d. except the supplementary T.S.2 proof that was 1s. 0d.  Other gauge loads on a sliding scale – e.g. 8 bore provisional was  17 1/2 drams and the ball, definitive 9 7/8 drams and  2  5/12 oz. for a service load of  4  15/16 drams and 1  13/16 oz.   Interesting that the powder loads were quite hefty but the ball/shot loads were very little more than the service load. – they were obviously all calculated according to some formula based on the bore size and then reduced to spuriously precise fractions!  I’m not sure of the significance of the supplementary proof, unless T.S. 2 was more powerful than the ‘normal’ proof powder. – I seem to remember from my visit to the proof house in London that they now use T.S.2 for all proofs of black powder guns.

Its beginning to get a bit fragile and difficult to hold, so soon need to be worked on in situ.

10th November – Bit of gun work today as a relaxation! I bought back a friend’s  Jo Manton single barrelled sporting gun from my shoot on Thursday that had the horn fore-end cap missing – – but a broken half was salvaged.  So my first action is to place the gun in context – so; its a conversion from flint, the number under the barrel is 1589, which the Manton book gives as a double gun that may not be by Manton as the signing is odd.  That number belongs to about 1801, which looks right for the lock engraving on this gun, the engraving  probably dates from about 1795 to 1805 .  There are no numbers on the inside of the locks – that is also right for that period.  The barrel is unsigned, which is a bit unusual for Jo Manton but has it been struck off?  And there is no poincon so not a classy gun!   The stock is OK for 1801, except it has probably been chequered since then.  Anyway it looks like a genuine Manton.  When faced with a broken part – in this case the horn fore-end, the first question is why did it break off after sitting there for 218 years and a bit of shooting?  Clue, the fore-end pipe is a bit loose.  On taking off the barrel its clear that there is a split down the middle of the fore-end through the hole for the pipe lug, about 2 1/2 inches long – obviously the split was too much for the horn and it broke and as it was only held on by animal glue it flew off.   So first job is to glue the split up with runny epoxy – work the joint to get it in, then a quick binding with self amalgamating tape.  Replacing bits like the horn on old guns is tricky – more so than when it was made, as then a part finished horn would be glued on and shaped along with the finish shaping of the stock.  I’ll make the new fore end cap from water buffalo horn ( buy on ebay for dog chews!) and glue it in place with epoxy leaving a bit of finishing to do.  A tough layer of tape round the wood will give some protection while its rough shaped, then I’ll have to remove the tape and finally shape it and probably have to refinish the wood locally afterwards.   I got a bar of 1 inch brass to make my 14 Bore overshot card dispenser, and found that I could use a piece of 22 mm copper water pipe for the body.  Anyway I turned up the brass dispenser end and filed the necessary slots etc.  and it now looks as if it will work – still to come are the spring and top cap.  One of the ‘gang’ suggested it would be very cold to use on a chilly shoot, so I might make a nice leather sleeve for it!   On the ‘Field’ puzzles, looking at the tables I put up on 4th Nov, one might expect a difference in flight time to 40 yards between 5 & 6 shot to be  4.2 mSec    and between 6 and 7 to be 6.6 mSec.  – this equates to a separation of  approximately  3.6 ft and 5.5 ft respective  – the difference is due to the greater falloff in speed of the smaller shot sizes.  Both effects would be significant compared to the normal shot string length of around 7 ft.   so using mixed shot might be noticeable, particularly if shooting in front!  Is this Bev’s secret weapon?


This will work for 14 and 13 bore cards, I hope, not sure about 16 bore. ( not yet finished)

Lock border is right for very late C18 or very early C19 so OK for 1801.

This split broke the horn tip. Still it is over 200 years old!

Never be without self amalgamating / self vulcanising tape!

9th November – Very pleasant shoot today – some good drives after a few barren ones, but that is how the cookie crumbles.    My browsing of the ‘Field’ articles and discussions led me to think about the consequences of swinging the gun.  A common misconception concerns the idea that swinging while shooting is like playing a hose or firing a machine gun – i’e’ that there will be some sort of sweep of shot.  In fact this doesn’t happen as the shot all exits the barrel still in a tight column in a small fraction of a millisecond.  There is a Youtube video of a shot fired into  water while swinging madly that shows that the pattern is broadly similar to a normal stationary gun pattern.  I tried to do some calculations of how much the end of the barrel moves during the time the shot is traversing the barrel – which I take to be around 5 mSec  (based on ‘Field’ data – but I need to check that again) .   Assuming the pivot for the gun is the shooter’s shoulder and it is 4.5 ft to the muzzle and you are swinging at a bird crossing at 30 yds (90 ft) that is doing 50 mph (75 fps) as a fairly fast crosser with the wind behind it, then the muzzle is moving at (4.5/90 x 75 ) fps  = 3.5 fps., so in 5 msec. the muzzle swings just less than 1/4 of an inch.  Most of that movement will occur during the initial phase of acceleration of the shot down the barrel, but nevertheless the shot against the ‘upwind’ side of the barrel HAS to follow a curved path, and will be deflected within the barrel, the question is how this affects the shot, not just that in contact with the upwind side of barrel – The Youtube evidence is  that it all leaves the barrel as a single column going in the same  direction but I don’t know what effect this might have on distortion of the shot or patterning – I would be surprised if the gun patterned the same for a fast swing as for a static shot, in particular it might affect the tail of the shot string more than the main forward part, but I would expect the difference to be small, possibly no more than variations between normal shots?. On another tack,  Bev, who is a crack shot, makes his own shot and it is not particularly well sorted in size ( I’m being charitable here!) but it shoots perfectly and he seldom misses.  This got me to wondering, based on the tables of fall off in velocity for different shot sizes ( smaller shot sizes fall off in velocity faster than larger sizes) if using mixed shot would increase the length of the shot string at range, and if this could be useful.    I’ll try to do some calculations next time……..

8th November – Had my shoot yesterday at Woodhall – a very good day with some super drives and no rain!  I was a bit worried as my gun lost its under rib – all but a small length at the muzzle.  It’s been on the cards since I resoldered the barrels and didn’t hold the bottom rib in place well enough while I did the top rib – I relaid it, but in a less than perfect way this morning as I need to use the gun for my next shoots and I didn’t want to take the barrels apart and start over.   As a point of interest you can just about get away with resoldering the bottom rib if you have it free and start at one end – but once its fixed in two places you can’t heat the bit between them without creating a bulge in the rib as it expands on heating.    I had an email from a regular, Robin, who pointed out, re semolina,that the early Eley patent wired shot packets made to Jenour’s 1823 patent (Eley bought the patent) were packed in bone dust to avoid ‘balling’.  I was aware that it had been used in that way, and in fact I do have a wired shot packet (probably not an Eley one as there is no maker’s name on it), presumably filled with bone dust under its paper wrapper – see photo.  I do know several inveterate shooters who want their ashes disposed of’ in this way – Penny points out that cremation ashes have a higher density than bone dust (some people know some pretty obscure facts, don’t they?).  The subject of balling is interesting in itself – Some experiment reported in the Field articles suggested that it was a common phenomenon, even for more or less normal loads although its not something I’ve heard  happen nowadays – there was also much discussion of the merits of ‘soft’ or ‘chilled’ shot as a possible issue in ‘balling’ – one of the many such discussions.  An afterthought re the bonedust – I did try with a friend  making packets of shot to ease loading but it is almost impossible to force a packet of loose shot down a barrel without it locking up – maybe the bone dust actually made loading easier/possible?  On the other hand my wired shot is quite distinctly tapered and is meant to be loaded small end down, and the small end is a loose fit in a 14 Gauge barrel – it gets tight about 10mm before it’s right into the barrel……..The excitement of keeping this blog up is that whatever I say, someone will have something interesting to add or correct- Bev said yesterday that my speed for pheasants of about 30 mph was too low, and it should be up to 43 mph, citing a Youtube video as evidence.  That raises an interesting further discussion – the measurements made by the Victorians were done very carefully and with considerable precision and accuracy, particularly to indoors tunnel flights, and with a very high degree of consistency – likewise I’m sure that the modern measurements are as good and of greater accuracy.  There are two realistic possibilities – either the Victorian birds were flying in such unnatural conditions or under such stress that they flew about 10 mph slower than free ranging birds, or that selective breeding for better sport has pushed up their flying speed by 10 mph.  You pays your money and you takes your choice! Just don’t expect me to adjudicate. ………..   Oh and I’d like to excuse the birds I missed yesterday on the grounds that I was given incorrect information as to their speed………………………..

The package is tapered – the small end is labelled ‘bottom’ – presumably you use the tape to open the pack.  But do you take the paper right off?

14 Gauge wired shot package – presumably packed in bone dust – overall weight is 1.48 oz.

6th November – In school fixing a guard on a classroom door to stop children’s fingers being trapped this morning (I am now the honorary unpaid caretaker it seems), Sam from year 3 kindly helped me – give the lad a house point, especially if he’s in Churchill House.  Whenever I walk round school now I either get accused by small children of being a knight or told of something that is broken – today a leak in the classroom ceiling ( that is firmly above my paygrade)!  To return to the Field articles and the crossing bird, I realised that the angle between the sight line and the bird necessary to get a hit in maintained lead is the same for all ranges, and it brought to mind something I vaguely remember seeing somewhere – a device on the end of the barrel with a sight on either side that gave you a scale to judge lead with – in our 30 mph bird the additional sights would need to be about 1 1/2 inches either side of the central sight – I have no idea if the whole thing is a figment of my imagination or has some basis!  Combining the data on the length of  a typical shot string at 30 yds (somewhere around 7 ft according to Field  articles) with the crossing bird speed shows that the bird will  travel about  1 foot forward during the passage of the shot string.  This means that if the front part of the string just misses behind the bird hit will escape, whereas if the front part just misses in front it will likely be caught by the remainder of the shot string  – effectively the shot pattern is effectively 12 inches wider if in front of the bird – given a typical shot pattern of say 3 ft at 30 yds from a cylinder bore you get an extra 30% lateral coverage in front! –  seems illogical but that’s what the science says.   That leaves one issue to be sorted in another blog – does swinging the gun ‘ spray the shot around’ ?  Here the Victorians don’t have anything to offer so I will be on my own!  Off tomorrow on a shoot I’ve organised down in Hertfordshire – should be fun now I have established that I can still (occasionally) hit things.  It will be my first Semolina game shoot and I’ll be interested to see how it pans out if it rains, which it might.  I have a tube  for my loading rod that sticks in the ground – it has a container at the top for my powder flask and I’ve now added another for the Semolina flask.  My next project is to make a card dispenser for my main shooting gun, the 14 Bore Venables – now pretending to be a live pigeon gun due to having lost its ramrod pipes on account of my poor soldering!  Brass bar and tube are ordered……..Maybe a good subject for a video

5th November – I am continuing my reading of the Field articles from before 1900.  There is an interesting letter concerning the convergence given to barrels in a double gun or rifle. We all know that they are ‘regulated’ to hit the same spot at the selected distance by being joined converging to the muzzle – but there was a active correspondence about why parallel barrels don’t hit the same spot at all ranges.  You can’t invoke the resistance of the shooter’s shoulder because a cross stocked gun still shoots more or less on the mid line.  One ingenious suggestion in the Field correspondence was that on firing the active barrel expands in diameter, and correspondingly shortens in length, thus bending the pair in the correct direction. The correspondent claimed to have done experiments to prove his contention. I have to say I’m not convinced by that argument – especially for rifles.  I’ve always assumed it was to do with the centre of gravity of the gun itself,  the recoil being some distance off the vertical position of the  CG so creating a local turning moment that is small and is not much affected by the person holding the gun. I assume the matter has been settled beyond doubt now – so if you know the answer, let me know!    Another interesting correspondence was related to shooting flying birds – they had pigeons, partridges and pheasants flying in a tunnel and in the wild and measured their speed, which turned out to be pretty much 30 m.p.h. in still air – which corresponds to 45 ft per second   A muzzle loader probably shoots with a velocity averaging about 900 f.p.s.  over a 30 yard (90 ft) distance, so takes one tenth of a second from the shot to leave the muzzle until it reaches the bird.  A crossing bird  will therefore have traveled  4.5 ft while the shot is in the air.  The delay between deciding to pull the trigger and ignition could be another 1/10 second ( but very variable between shooters) so if you poke at a crossing bird without swinging  you probably need to be 9 ft in front in calm air. If you are swinging with the bird – maintained lead – then you need to be shooting 4 1/2 ft in front.  Of course if the bird has a fresh breeze up its tail – say 20 m.ph, then your lead needs to be more like 7 1/2 ft.  If you are shooting ‘Churchill’ – coming through the bird and pulling the trigger as you pass it, I’m afraid you are on your own as far as calculations go as I don’t know your personal delay time!  Of course its not practical to do the calculations when about to pull the trigger, and my numbers are not precise, and the bird is seldom flying exactly at right angles to the shot direction……….but you get the message.


4th November – At our shoot on Sunday Bev and I were discussing shot strings and what effect swing might have – both having some familiarity with the physics it made for an interesting discussion and got me thinking.  I remembered I had two fine volumes from 1900 that consisted mostly of articles and letters from The Field magazine from around 1880 to 1890 ish covering many aspects of shooting – there was a lot of scientific interest – breech loaders were by now well established as was smokeless powder, but past percussion guns were still more or less within memory.  The two volumes, beautifully leather bound, are a delight and cover every form of measurement that was within the technology of the time – chronographs and barrel pressure gauges existed, and ingenious mechanical systems were devised to measure the length and shape of shot strings, and the penetrating power of shot.  Everything was tabulated very precisely and efforts were made to avoid errors and get meaningful results, and it all stimulated a lively correspondence that yielded more data.  Looking through the first volume I came across accounts of what it took to burst steel and damascus 12 bore barrels ( around 12 drams of powder and 12 oz of shot! ) with pictures of the results on 4 barrels.  There is a lot on shot strings and patterns, and one experiment looked at the velocities of shot for each of a number of concentric rings in the pattern  showing that the shot flies progressively slower the further from the centre of the pattern it is.   A further experiment collected shot according to its penetrating power and found that the slow shot was more deformed –  This implies that the outer part of the pattern travels slower because it is deformed, presumably through contact with the barrel – which might suggest that the the worse the barrel condition the more deformed shot giving rise to a bigger difference in shot velocity and hence a longer shot string and a wider pattern.  This leads to the idea that the shot pattern might be a cone – the nose of the cone undeformed shot and the conical tail the slower, deformed shot.  At longer ranges the slower shot will fall further under gravity, thus the cone will droop, maybe by as much as a foot.    A further interesting finding was that the guns patterned tighter with a thin card overshot card than with a thicker one – this was for cartridges so how relevant that is I don’t know.   But one possibility that it raises is that the slightly tighter patterns reported for semolina might be related to less deformation of the shot?   Another relevant finding was in the measurement of a number of flint and percussion bores – almost none of which were cylindrical for more than a short part of the barrel – most converged from the breach, had a foot or so of cylinder and then opened out by at least a few thou.

times for shot of different sizes – not sure if they are the same as modern shot sizes.


3rd November  – here at last is the semolina video – don’t know why it took 2 days to get there ;-

Shooting day with Anglian Muzzle Loaders at Cambridge Gun Club – ostensibly a hammer gun/black powder day but I had more important fish to fry so stuck to my percussion muzzle loaders.  I took the Westley Richards to see if I could shoot it, and used it for the mornings competition with very little success, although it has to be said in my defense that the birds were pretty challenging and I wasn’t (quite) the worst!  Anyway in the afternoon we had an informal shoot and a bit of freedom to choose which of the available targets on the stand we wanted to shoot – as Bev said, a good confidence building exercise…. Anyway I reverted to my  good old Venables and got a much more respectable score, which neatly solves the problem of which gun to use for my game shoots this week.  I was, of course, using fine semolina throughout ( except for the last few shots when I ran out) and was perfectly happy with the way the gun was shooting, so that settles that argument for me.  There is a lot of interest in changing to semolina – either coarse or fine, and discussion of whats and ifs. One big advantage I can see is if you need to pull a charge for any reason – all you have to do is remove the overshot card and shake out the mess.  We did realise that it would probably be wise in those circumstances to fire off a cap to clear any semolina from the flame path – particularly essential if you are unloading because you forgot to put any powder in the gun!  My card dispenser was excellent, but I now have to find a tube of the right size to hold cards for the 14 bore Venables – always something else to do, which reminds me I bought back a fine Purdy back action lock from a hammer gun that had the tail repaired and needs to be re-engraved on the last inch. Incidentally the Anglian Muzzle Loaders continues to gather members – not all of whom are geriatrics like me, to the point where it is on the verge of becoming unwieldy.  We must have made up half of the shooters today, possibly more.  I was interested to hear that the Cambridge Gun Club now has a number of muzzle loading pistol shooters and a range for them – must take my Colt Army along……

2nd  November – Had an email from Chris who has been patterning the 11 bore Wilkes I restored for him,  with the same load ( 3 dr, 1 1/4 Oz, 1 1/4 oz measure of semolina) a I was using for  patterning my Westley Richards 11 bore using semolina.  He got beautiful patterns at 30 yards – a lucky sparrow might escape through the pattern but nothing bigger.  I am shooting tomorrow at Cambridge Gun Club – its the Hammer Gun Competition but I haven’t loaded any Black Powder cartridges for my William Powell and anyway I want to do some more practice with the WR  (with semolina as I don’t have any wads for it), or maybe revert to my old  gun if I don’t hit anything – I have 3 muzzle loading game shoots in the next two weeks, so need to be on form!   I have been cleaning up a big Sykes flask for use for the semolina – its a tin body under leather, and the tin is eaten away in places but the top is in excellent condition – I may try to make a new body for it.  I took a Bartram flask top to pieces, but I can’t quite work out how the spring works – its within the top and is a curved piece of round wire, not a flat strip.  The top and bottom plates of the flask top are separated by a strip of flat spring bent round and fitted in grooves in the top and bottom with a gap where the ‘handle’ comes out.   must look out for a copy of his patent, and check Riling’s book ( it has virtually nothing on him).  The flask itself  is somewhat unusual in that it has an angled top.

1st  November – More semolina stuff – boring –  After posting last night I remembered to clean my gun – there is some discussion about whether it leaves the guns cleaner than wads or not – one might expect it to be dirtier as the sweeping action of a lubricated wad isn’t happening – but I didn’t see that – here is my experience;-

I hadn’t shot those barrels before and I’m not sure of their history – I had cleaned them a few times with a steel wire brush in a drill and got out a fair bit of red rust before oiling them.

After shooting 20 ish shots in each barrel with semolina I did get some deposit in the first wash water with bronze brush & detergent – probably charred semolina – not seen when using wads – the water was dark grey as usual – (I just fill the barrels once each to the muzzle with boiling water and a couple of drops of detergent and pump with the bronze brush)

Second scrub with nipples out using wadding as a pump and 303 cleaner didn’t get much dirt on the wad or in the  water – water is usually clean but wadding is dirtier with wads

Third scrub with kitchen roll and Napier gun cleaner that usually keeps coming out black with wads was pretty clean – but given that the barrels were probably not leaded before this shoot it may not be indicative.

Pete says that, if anything, his patterns were slightly tighter with semolina – I think he was shooting a 14 bore with 2 1/2 dr. and 1 oz and an equal volume of semolina ( he works on the principle that all volumes should be the same – keeps it simple!  He thinks his barrels were a bit dirtier, so no conclusive evidence either way!

31st October – Viking Pete and I had our semolina day at Eriswell!  It got off to a bad start when I fired the right barrel with about 4 dr.semolina (powder volume) at the pattern target and shot a great big donut shaped pattern with a hole in the middle.  At 15 m there was not a single shot in the centre 4 inches which means a pheasant sized hole at 30 m, and the bulk of the pellets  were in a ring extending out to about 24 inches – what I take to be a classic case of  too much powder although I wouldn’t have expected that using 3 dr of Czech powder and 1 1/4 oz of shot in an 11 bore.  The left barrel shot much better at around 18 – 20 inches . and an even pattern – the same load but the left barrel has around 10 thou of choke (barrel made post 1917 ish.) .   I repeated the same loads using  tight fitting wads  and the right barrel got rid of the hole in the middle and gave a more even pattern  a little tighter.  The left barrel was pretty much the same as with semolina maybe a smidgen less tight .  Pete was firing his 14 bore and there was not much difference between semolina and wad – I’ll check back with him to see if that  is true on closer inspection.  Anyway I dropped my loads to 2 3/4 dr and 1 oz and as we’d run out of pattern targets went on to shoot clays – I didn’t have any wads for the gun so it was all shot with semolina using about 4 dr. by  powder volume – I shot almost 50 shots with the gun and hit every other clay with no particular bias towards one barrel or the other – most of the ones I missed were because I was not on target so I’m happy that it was shooting reasonably well – I probably ought to get in another day’s clays before the next game shoot, but I fear there may not be time.  Anyway I  think the 11 bore will do nicely for game but I will have another go at patterning some time with the revised load.  Might go over to Dick’s and do it in his field with a sheet of polystyrene and brown paper or even newspaper.    In the back of my mind is the thought that I may have been overloading my gun at the last few shoots? What do I conclude about semolina vs wads ?  Basically not enough evidence to be sure, but it seems to work in practice.  I might wonder if semolina is a bit more susceptible to the charge blowing a hole in the middle of the pattern but apart from that, which might just be an anomaly, it might have tightened the left barrel pattern slightly – certainly didn’t open it out.  The good news is that my prototype card dispenser worked flawlessly dispensing two cards at a time – I could push down on the card and get only one if I needed to but it didn’t fail once – although it was only loaded with about 40 cards so I ran out at the end.  I don’t suppose I’ll get round to going beyond the prototype stage unless I want a different size of card. 




30th October – I did a few measurements around the observations about semolina in the video (still processing!) to see how the volumes might work out.  I reckon 1 oz of shot has internal spaces of  about 4.6 ml, which is the same volume as 4.2 drams of powder  (for this volume the semolina weighs about 2.4 drams).   So my guess would be that if you use a powder flask to dispense your semolina you need at least a 3 dram flask for 1 oz. of shot.   I guess that 1 oz in a 16 bore needs less semolina than the same shot load in a 12 bore since the depth of the semolina layer is what slows the shot.  I’d never want to go for a smaller volume  of semolina than powder, and to be on the safe side 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 times the powder volume.  I can’t see any down side to using slightly more semolina than the above calculations.  I might have reservations if my loaded gun was going to be subjected to prolonged shaking as the shot might fall through to the powder – in that case I would feel the need for a  card over the powder.  As the video shows I think the semolina is probably a good thermal buffer provided the shot doesn’t penetrate to the powder layer. I might try my video experiments with coarse semolina some time.

30th October –  I am going to the clay ground tomorrow to try out semolina and see if I can actually hit anything –  I need to get my eye in again.  I have been meaning to have a look at what happens when you load semolina so I decided it was an ideal opportunity to make a youtube video.  I wanted to see if the semolina and powder stayed separate, and if the shot sat on top of the semolina or got buried in it.  I also wanted to see what happens to semolina when you apply heat, and I was wondering if the grains more or less locked up into a solid when under breech pressures.  I managed the first two experiments and given the results I’m not sure the last objective is particularly relevant.  My video explains it all, so I have put it in the VIDEO tab, and there is a link below.  I’ll try and see how it goes on a pattern plate tomorrow if I get time, and maybe make another video.  Now to see if I can remember how to link youtubes in to the blog – I think it may take some time for youtube to process – I seem to have read somewhere that it takes a while to put them on line ( its now been many hours!).  Another little project that, like the semolina experiments, has been hanging around at the back of my mind came to the fore – I’d had in mind to make a card dispenser but hadn’t got round to it (familiar story?) until I saw someone had one at the last shoot, so having an odd half hour and a pile of 11 bore cards I happened across a piece of  1 inch PVC  conduit that was the right internal diameter for the cards, so I turned up an end from a scrap of plastic and found a couple of springs and put one together as a prototype.  Its a bit Heath Robinson but it (mostly) works and will hold and dispense around 50 cards –   The design is pretty basic and could be tidied up and made more attractive, but first it needs field trials – and I need to know what bore of gun I  end up shooting most often. Oh and I realised that the tip of the sear of the early 18th century pistol I made the tumbler for was not properly hard so I must do that before I forget.

In theory the gap at the end between the white tube and the black end can be adjusted for dispensing one or two cards for greater economy of effort shooting doubles!  It needs some form of suspension loop and it could be prettier!


This was a trial run – I used more semolina than powder by volume – probably twice as much, and it went in with quite a slope on top.  My flask got stuck and dispensed far too much shot – but even when it only dispensed 1 1/4 oz it mostly buried itself in the semolina.  I didn’t have a problem with the black powder forming a level surface, and the semolina didn’t mix in with it.  But the semolina usually formed a sloping top surface.  For  what I thought were reasonable loads most of the shot was buried in the semolina and it almost reached as far as the powder.  Shaking and banging the ‘barrel’ caused the semolina to float up through the shot, but left the interface between powder and semolina pretty much undisturbed – although I guess the shot would eventually reach the powder.





29th October – Still no body in the ditch….  I finished off the tumbler and hardened it and made a new cock screw as the old one didn’t fit the new thread I’d cut – I put the trigger back in the stock and the lock all works as sweet as a nut.  Someone had painted the whole pistol in some kind of varnish that turned all the brass into copper colour – most of the furniture had been stripped and cleaned but the ramrod pipes were still ‘orange’  – I had hoped to remove them but looking at the pins holding them in, I decided to try to strip off the varnish in situ using paint stripper and various tools and 0000 steel wool and a small polishing mop in my ‘psuedo Dremel’ – it all worked a treat and saved any damage to the stock from knocking out the very rusty pins.  Dick now has the wood to patch up a couple of chips.  I was intending to try the Westley Richards some time but don’t have a wad punch for it, although I am expecting to be using semolina instead of wads now – still I need a punch for overshot cards, so a chunk of the 1 inch bar was made into a punch, starting off by putting a 3/4 inch drill up the middle for 35 mm (I like mixed units – so soothing)  I turned the inside with a slight taper (2 degrees) out from the mouth so that cards free up.  I was going to mill the opening in the side but alas the controller on my Axminster milling machine packed up, so I cut the slot with an angle grinder and files – just as good and in truth probably quicker.  The cutting mouth got hardened along with the tumbler and cock screw and works fine, although I may have made it a trifle large – the cards will be a tight fit.  

Its designed to be run in a drill press or hit with a club hammer.

28th October – Expecting to find Boris dead in a ditch shortly!  Hope its not the one in my garden….  Went into school today to see how many children had taken up my challenge – 3 so far out of 20 ish – more to come.  I’ve been making prizes – little wooden boxes (£1 each from the cheap shop) with engraved brass plates.  Must be mad…    I had some time to attend to the tumbler of the early-mid 18th century pistol.  Having made it, I then had to tune up everything to get it so that everything was just right – that means making sure it lets the cock stop on the edge of the lock as it should, making sure the end of the spring rides smoothly on the tumbler arm, working on the bents to put the half cock and full cock positions where they should be, and the sear bar is in the right place in relation to the edge of the lock etc. and the half cock bent is secure but isn’t caught by the sear on firing and everything runs freely without binding…   All this has to be done in small steps as the only way to put things right if you take too much off is to apply weld and file it all up – nasty!  I think I must have put on and taken off the tumbler, bridle, sear, cock and mainspring about 30 times (minimum!) this evening as I sorted it out.  I think its all exactly right now, so I’ll leave it until tomorrow and check it in the cold light of day and if it is OK I’ll harden it – I think the steel has a fair amount of carbon in it, so it should harden nicely.  The mainspring is pretty strong and is marking the tumbler arm when you cock and uncock the pistol, so I’ll have to repolish it when I take it out before hardening it.  I’m planning to go to Eriswell to shoot on Thursday – its scheduled as a semolina day and I’ll try my guns out on the pattern plate as well as trying to remember how to hit clays!

I put a a flint in the lock to check the fired and half cock positions as I tweaked the bents etc.  The mainspring end acts quite close to the tumbler pivot, but it works OK.

27th October – Very pleasant sunny day – inspired me to trim the hedges this morning – I spent the entire day being disorientated by the time change but I survived.  This afternoon I made the new tumbler for the pistol as I found a 1 inch  bar of some very tough steel in the workshop.  My usual technique is to  turn up a disk with the lock bearing and blank for the square and tap the hole for the cock screw then partially turn the back and part it off and glue it onto the end of the bar (with a hole in it) so I can work on the other face. I used epoxy in the past but this time I was in a hurry and used instant glue which worked just fine  – I couldn’t break it off but a bit of heat shifted it.   I printed out the photo below on A5 and marked up lines to give a guide to the geometry and hacksawed off most of the spare metal and filed it up – first clear the part of the diameter that goes past the top tumbler mount, then the bit that has to clear the pivot of the sear, then shape the bit where the spring end rests.  I then put in the full cock bent some way round from its probable position.  At this point I put the square on the shaft by careful comparison with the old one and pressed the cock on – perfect fit!  Now it’s possible to fix the full cock bent and start work on the half cock  position  – while the full has to release, the half cock has to capture the end of the sear and hold it when the trigger is pressed, which calls for a bit of tricky filing.  I had to reshape the end of the sear as it was too thick to go into a reasonable half cock bent, but it all seems to work as for as I can tell – I will put the lock together as soon as I get time, and if its OK I’ll harden the tumbler. I may have to do a bit of fiddling with the bents when I can try the gun with the spring in place to make sure the sear doesn’t pop into the half cock bent as it goes past in firing. It all seems to fit reasonably together and I think there is no need to do anything with the bridle – most of the slop in the system has gone with the bearing fit of the new tumbler in the lock plate, and the gun will not be used for shooting, I assume!  A good afternoon’s  work – with a bit of the evening to put in bents and finish it – say 5 or 6 hours work.

26th October – Had another offer of a muzzle loading shoot yesterday – they seem very popular at the moment! I had a discussion with the owner of the pistol I mentioned yesterday and we decided the best course of action was to make a new tumbler rather than try and mess about with the old one.  The first step is to sort out the dimensions for the blank – mostly measure with calipers or a micrometer, but also photograph it against a ruler to get a better clue to the shape.  I’ll have a look for a suitable bar of metal when I go into the outside workshop tomorrow.  I’m still hoping someone will tell me what the slot across the tumbler is for – it must have been quite difficult to shape the axle in the middle of the slot!    I had to make a couple of wooden bench hooks/tops for my STEM club – the kids discovered the hacksaws in out trolley of bits and pieces and decided it was fun to saw up the strips of wood I provide for projects – I have no problem with that except I live in fear of them cutting into the nice classroom tables ( we don’t have a craft room and we always make a mess so I live in fear of the caretaker – I seem to remember that traditionally the caretaker strikes more fear into everyone than the head teacher! – certainly does for me) – hence the wooden bench tops.

The cock screw hole is well off centre in the square. It looks like 25 mm bar will just do without using a 4 jaw chuck.


25th October – My shoot wasn’t the best I’ve ever been on – I hit an unlucky run of pegs and didn’t see much action, and what I did see I didn’t make much of!  The last two drives were shot in pouring rain which with a muzzle loader is a bit more of a bother than with a breech loader.  I did feel a bit smug as I’d put on waterproof overtrousers at the start when the rest thought they could  get away with it so I was comfortable and dry throughout.  I expect my gear will dry out sometime!  We had several discussions about the use of semolina instead of wads so I must do some quasi-scientific experiments some time.   I had a visit from the owner of the Wilkes 11 bore so that has now left the workshop and another satisfied customer.  He brought a single barreled gun to ask me if the nipple ( a new commercial 1/4 BSF one)  was a tight enough fit to be safe from blowing out.  It was a slightly wobbly fit all the way down although the thread in the breech looked fine – it would probably have been OK, and if it had been my gun I might have used it, but if someone asks me, I feel obliged to ere on the side of caution as they are relying on my judgement. Anyway I was able to find a titanium nipple that I’d made with an oversize thread that was perfect.  As I’ve mentioned before, titanium is funny metal to work with as it does not like very fine cuts with a die so I tend to cut just once with the die opened out to make a slightly oversized thread as most nipple holes have worn a bit and when cleaned out with a 1/4 BSF plug tap ground a bit flat at the end come out perfect for  them.   I got another job in this morning – a nice classic flintlock pistol from the first half of the 18th century – its only unusual feature as far as I am concerned is that it appears to have a detachable pan.  Its main problem is that the half and full cocks don’t hold – basically a wear problem that is exacerbated by a bit of messing about at some time.  The bents in the tumbler seem to be worn but also reshaped with a file, as has the nose of the sear.  The tumbler is loose in its bearing in the lockplate but also in the hole in the tumbler, which has been crudely countersunk on the inside.  The tumbler has a fine crack and part is almost broken off.   The tumbler also has a groove filed across the middle that I can’t quite work out – my first thought was that it was for a fly – the little arm that steers the sear past the half cock notch when the gun is fired, but it doesn’t correspond to the form of that device that I am familiar with on later guns and I can’t see how it would work as it is.  So the question is how to sort it out.  The tumbler is straightforward – it needs annealing and flattening – I forgot to mention its a bit warped – and a spot of weld put on the crack.  The sear can probably be reshaped, possibly with a spot of weld on the nose.  The tumbler has three problems – the lock plate bearing, the tumbler bearing and the bents, so the best solution may be to make a new tumbler with oversize bearing surfaces,  or just to forget the poor bearings and pop a bit of weld on the bents and refile them.  To be discussed with the owner……….

Red arrows – evidence for detachable pan – green arrow bad sear/bents

What is the slot across the tumbler for?    The full cock bent is very deep, and there is no safety element to the half cock bent.

The countersunk bearing for the tumbler shaft is cracked at the thin bit and the large look has lost part of its side, its all also warped a bit.

23rd October – Shoot tomorrow, usual gun so I got the kit ready.  Its only just over an hour away so no need to get up at cock crow (ours starts around 4 a.m.).  Had a session today replacing duff fluorescent tubes around the workshops – in total I have something like 20 tubes in use, mostly 6 ft ones.  I’ve just replaced the first with an LED strip fitting which is very effective.  I changed over to white tubes some time ago and the one or two old ‘warm white’ ones look very dim by comparison. The fluorescent  LED fittings are pretty expensive, so I don’t think I’ll be doing a wholesale change yet – just the odd one or two.  They are not all used very often so there isn’t much saving in power.   I’ve been doing a bit of engraving for prizes for the school children’s half term challenge – mostly in CZ120 brass – I can now handle that as well as I can steel.  It’s mostly lettering  which is good practice – I have got my spacing almost up to scratch!   I was looking over the two 11 Bore guns I have in the workshop (finished) at the moment  – the Wilkes has a bore of around .751 in both barrels which is bang on for 11 bore, but the ’11 bore’ Westley Richards clocks about .753 in the right barrel and about .740 in the left – i.e. there seems to be a bit of choke in the left barrel. The WR barrel is so late for a percussion gun that I began to think it might be a 32 inch breechloading barrel from a 10 bore with the chambering cut off ( the barrel itself is 29 1/2 o.a.) but the bore is a bit small for that possibility ( 10 bore should be .775 ?).   Actually, having had a look at replacements for LED tubes its not too bad – but I can’t find a simple rewired 6 ft tube in daylight, but I’ll keep at it.

22nd October – tried to harden the WR lock plates in my electric furnace but the element kept popping out and shorting – needs a new element – they come for China so a week’s wait.  I did it with a couple of  gas burners – seems OK .  I put the locks together – the mainsprings were a bit of a struggle as my mainspring clamp is a bit worn and the springs were strong and quite open – I got thee eventually without breaking either spring!  So now that is all together – there are a couple of small wood repairs that I could make, but I’ll see how it shoots before I get carried away.  It promises to be a cracking gun – quite modern in its balance ( there is some lead in the stock for balance, or so it seems) and about the weight of a modern o/u 12 bore.  It seems to come up nicely.  That leaves me with a dilemma – I have a shoot this Thursday – should I take it, or stick to my regular gun?   Probably stick to the regular as I haven’t got any wads for the WR and I haven’t explored the equipment needed to use semolina instead of wads in the field – a jam jar and spoon probably won’t cut it with my fellow guns!   I have one small job to finish – I bought what I thought might be an original Spanish military pistol from a photograph but it turned out to be a repro – the buyer was happy sell it to me at the appropriate price as I wanted one as a demonstrator for the through the lock sear.  I am tweaking it a little to make it look a bit less like a repro – the screws are a terrible so I’ve made some new ones, and cleaned up the stock and distressed things a bit so it looks more presentable – I do NOT intend to pass it off as an original – the buyer had acquired it on her father’s death so had no inkling that it might be a repro, and had consulted an antiques expert – who of course would not necessarily know about guns.

Very modern semi pistol grip for a percussion gun –   the gun is part 1843 part 20th century.

21st October –  Quiet day – went up to school to take advantage of half term to try out a bit of soundproofing between classrooms – there is a big gap I was trying to fill with foam sheet to see if it had any effect – just as a test, as obviously foam is not a good sound insulator – anyway playing sea shanties at full blast (ideal as the sound level is pretty constant) I measured the loss through the existing structure as -20 dB and with the foam as about -25 dB so its probably worth replacing the foam with something more solid –  it’s wonderful what you can get a phone app to do – think of the cost of a sound level meter!   My gun time was spent finishing the re-engraving of the Westley Richards locks – They are not perfect, but I am happy to leave them like this as I don’t want to  refinish the lockplates down to clear metal as a) the job isn’t worth it, and b) it won’t add that much to the overall effect when I’ve coloured up the plates and put them in the gun. If I wanted perfect lock plates I’d probably make new ones anyway!   I now have to re-harden them and temper them – not sure if I’ll do it in the furnace or just with a gas torch – I’ll need to check the book for the right temperature.  There will be the problem of avoiding scale again – more important this time as the engraving will suffer if it scales up.

20th October – looking on the Westley Richards website at ‘New Guns’ I saw a picture of a very nice duplicate pair of rifles in a case and a nice leather label saying what they were, with special mention of their Patent Detachable Lock’s (sic)  – you would have thought that if you were selling a pair of rifles at, lets say £100K, you would at least proof read your labels and not commit the apostrophe sin!  I of course emailed them, troublemaker that I am….   I decided to bite the bullet and re-engrave the Westley Richards locks – One problem is that you have to anneal them or they are as hard as the gravers and you get no-where.  To anneal them you have to take them up to about 820 degrees C for 20 minutes or so and then cool them very slowly.  If you are not careful this puts a hard oxide layer on the metal that you then have to clean off  – I have two ways of defeating this – I have a coating from Brownells that in the past has been almost as  difficult to remove as the oxide, and a stainless foil that you can make a supposedly sealed packet from to exclude oxygen – you put a piece of brown paper in the packet to burn up the residual oxygen.  On this occasion I painted the goo on the backs of the locks, and put the faces together with chalk between them, wrapped them in brown paper and sealed them in a foil packet (its deadly sharp stuff so you have to handle with great care) – I then put them in my furnace set to 820 C and left them to get up to temperature and soak for a bit, then turned on my graduated cooling heater for 4 hours, after which they had got down to 100 C.  When cool I opened the packet and to my surprise the coating all brushed off and there was virtually no scale on the lock faces.  A first!   I gave the lock faces a rub with 600 grade paper and am re-engraving the first one.  It is always interesting re-engraving gun bits as long as there is enough of the original left to get an idea of the pattern.  In this case 95% was just visible so I was able to keep to the design – after a bit you get to work out exactly how the engraver did each sort of cut and are able to imitate his cutting, and with a bit more practice you can easily extemprise where there is not enough to go on.  I will go over all the engraving including the name as a first go, then look at whether I want to refine the finish on the lock, which will knock the engraving back, so I would have to re-cut a second time over my initial re-cut.  Here is the first recut of a bit of the lock – I have just done the W of the name, no more yet.


At this stage I’m just re-cutting the bits I can see clearly – in the next iteration I will look at possible missing bits, and do the name. I haven’t recut the fine border line yet but I have cleaned out the main line a bit.

18th October later – Just got back from ‘The Greek Play’ – every 3 years the Arts Theatre,  Cambridge puts on a play from ancient Greece  all spoken in ancient Greek – mostly performed by students.  Its a sort of culture fest – we have been going for many years so its become a regular if infrequent outing – my ancient Greek is no better than it ever was, i.e. non existent, but there are subtitles and its mostly declamatory so quite easy to follow. This year it was ‘Oedipus’ – the chap who murdered his father and married his mother, all ordained by the oracles – very complicated stuff, makes Brexit look like a walk in the park…………..At least this one didn’t have any blood – most are pretty full of gore.  The culture infusion will last  3 years!    At last the Wilkes barrel can be called finished after 14 rustings – I think probably the early rustings didn’t have enough time to bite, although the ramrod tubes that were made out of a different twist did go much earlier.  Anyway its now an acceptable shade of chestnut – its not as shiny as some jobs turn out, but I couldn’t take off enough metal to get rid of the twist texture – the original finish was  quite deeply textured.  The whole gun now looks so much better – the stock is showing some figure – I deliberately didn’t take out all the dings as it’s not a new gun and shouldn’t pretend to be one.  The titanium nipples I made for it do fit and the barrel is not too bad, there is a bit of pitting about 10 inches from the muzzle, but by then the stress is much less – altogether its taken a sad gun worth a couple of hundred pounds to a useful gun worth maybe £700 – not sure what the final bill will be – probably £240 for the barrel browning and new pipes and nipples etc, and  £120 for the for the stock and foreend pipe and general cleaning.  I usually give a bit of a discount if the owner doesn’t mind the job going on this blog – if they want to keep it off it costs them more!  I sometimes do a halfway house where I put a record of the work on the blog but don’t mention the maker’s name and blur it out on locks and barrels so that the work can’t be found by a google search but in general I like to put it all on the web!



18th October – Looking at the statistics for this blog, I had been puzzled why the post on the New Land conversion had had over 24000 visits – seemed a bit strange that something so obscure should be the second most popular visit after the main page.  I discovered that sites in Russia had been visiting that page every 5 or 10 minutes day and night – the Russians were using a block of IP addresses rather then a single address so they didn’t all show up together.  I noticed a lot of visits from one site a week ago and spotted other visits from sites with close IP addresses so I blocked the whole block of  addresses (easy to do in Wordfence) so now all those visits just get blocked – I can look at blocked visits and they still persist with the futile action – someone must have programmed it into their computer and they must also have access to a whole contiguous  block of IP addresses, which is unusual – it has been going on for several years! It’s probably not a solitary amateur.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Wilkes barrel browning is getting somewhere – maybe a couple more iterations, maybe only one – photos will follow when this browning with Blackleys following steaming is done. I rang Westley Richards re the 11 bore – they have records for 1917 but they say that if it was rebarreled  and in the records it would have had a new number assigned to it and stamped beneath the old number on the barrels.  It doesn’t so the assumption has to be that it isn’t in the records  – all the original percussion records for the original number 1019 are lost.  In all probability it was indeed rebarreled by WR, but how or why is a mystery.

17th October – later – My strong treatment of the browning might just be paying dividends!  before rubbing off  it was a pretty solid brown overall, see below.  After rubbing off there was some coverage over the steel but still some way to go – I’ve given it another go with Blackleys and we’ll see, maybe steam it after that and perhaps another go with my solution – I rather like browning with a blackish tone – anything but the dreaded ginger browning!   Dick had got the bridles of the Westley Richards welded for me – a really neat job – I can’t keep my welds anywhere near that neat – it cleaned up in no time on the diamond hone and the hole only needed a couple of strokes with a round needle file to clear it. Dick has more or less pursuaded me that I ought to anneal and re-cut the lock plates of the WR – I am almost convinced.  I will ring Westley Richards archivist tomorrow and see what history he can dig out on this gun or general information that might be relevant – The locks are 1843 ish but the barrel has a post 1917 WR address and  post 1868 proof marks but the only number on the barrel is the same as the locks – 1019 – an approx 1843 number which implies that it was a replacement barrel from WR numbered for the gun ?

This has gone a bit further than I usually let it but desperate times call for desperate remedies!


That is a dummy tumbler to support the broken bridle during welding ( and soft in case I needed to drill it out if it got welded)  The sear bearing pin is most unusual – it screws in from the outside of the lock plate with the thread in the plate and the head countersunk slightly on the outside – it is a plain bearing in the bridle hole.  Niether Dick nor I have seen one like this before.

17th October – Very frustrating – I’ve now clocked up 11 rustings of the Wilkes barrel and so far there is no sign of any browning on the steel elements of the twist – I’m beginning to think that the barrel maker inadvertently invented stainless steel!  I’ve now tried Blackley’s and Dysons’s slow brown and my own pretty aggressive used printed circuit etchant, all to no avail, although the iron component is being well etched!  This morning in desperation  I steamed the barrel pretty thoroughly and then put a coat of my solution on while it was still hot – if that doesn’t get it going I don’t know what will!  I am not filled with hope.  I am going into school this pm to give the yr 5 & 6 children a challenge for their half term – to decypher some (fictitious) emails relating to a (fictitious) raid on the school – Penny is worried that they won’t realise it is fiction and I’ll scare them!   We shall see………………….   I took the locks of the Westley Richards to Dicks and he is going to take the bridles to our speciality welder as they both have small cracks across them.  I made up a couple of small dummy tumblers so the bridles could be welded while on the lock plates to ensure they are aligned properly – The dummies are soft so can be drilled out if they are inadvertently welded to the bridle.  My welding is not really up to such fine work and if I try to do it I’ll end up spending ages removing all the surplus weld and ruining my best files on bits of the tungsten electrode that get broken off when I touch it in the weld pool, which I do occasionally.  Every time I look at the WR lock plates I start to wonder if I should anneal them and re-cut the engraving as they would look so good.  The gun is obviously made up from bits of different generations, so I wouldn’t be destroying a straight antique…. I still can’t decide……

14th October – AT the Bullard Archive a.m. and then school this afternoon.  I managed to fit in a bit of barrel browning – but still not touched the steel bands after 7 rustings with Blackley’s slow brown.  It really is resistant stuff!  I’ll keep at it although I think I’ll try some of my solution as its a bit more dynamic!  I purchased a small Spanish flintlock pistol stamped for the King’s guard from a correspondent – it looked interesting and is in need of a little, I hope, gentle cleaning and tidying up.  It should arrive tomorrow so I’ll put up some photos when it does.  Tomorrow I’ll get a load of logs dumped on the drive so my day’s work will be shifting them to the log store… tedious!  Not too creaky from the climbing but my right  hand had the odd twinge  – I guess I don’t usually hang  by my fingers so climbing is a bit of a shock for them!  Better remember to take the Slacum off the Wilkes stock before bed!

13th October – Climbing (boulderng) this morning has left me a bit creaky – I do feel a bit out of place there as I’m usually the only person over about 25!  I am some way into browning the Wilkes barrel and its not going quite as I would hope – I’ve done 6 passes with  Blackley’s slow brown and a bit of my ex printed circuit solution but it is quite uneven in its action – it is etching the iron bands quite enthusiastically but has still left the steel more or less unmarked – the twist pattern shows clearly but I wish the shiny bits of steel would start to bite.  I guess its the metal, and it would account for the fact that when I first saw the barrel I thought it had been etched – I guess it was just that there is a marked difference in the effect of the rusting on the two components of the twist – more than usual.  Patience is the name of the game….I will carry on and see where it gets to – I may move to using my solution as it has a bit more bite than Blackleys.  I’m still putting Slackum on the Wilkes stock – that’s up to about about 5 coats and is beginning to have a uniform shine – I’ll probably be able to stop in a few more.  This afternoon I decided to try and melt my lemon brass and cast up some rods for making ramrod ends so made a mould and fired up my flower pot furnace with charcoal – I made the furness some time ago from a large flower pot that I set in plastic tub lined with weldmesh and filled the the gap with a mixture of cement and vermiculate ( plastic tub removed when set)  – I put an old vacuum cleaner on blow through a hole near the bottom.  Last time I used it I managed to melt and cast brass – this time I just couldn’t get it quite hot enough -I  packed the crucible in charcoal but the blower didn’t reach round it so it mainly heated from one side and that wasn’t enough so I ended up with a crucible of slush – I’ll have to do better next time!  We live and learn…    Following my visit to Shuttleworth and meeting up with my old school friend I thought I might learn to fly – not necessarily to get my license but just to find out how.  Anyway John kindly offered to take me up in his Auster which has dual controls so I might just do it!

 Wilkes 5 rustings in….Not great quality twist here – very different widths on the two sections.

Pot furnace and blower – I need to sort the air path within the pot so it heats all round.

11th October – I have started to brown the Wilkes barrel after scrubbing it with detergent and water and coating it in chalk paste – it’s had a light coat of Blackley’s slow brown and is hanging in the cellar, but I have to say after 10 hours its not showing much sign of any rusting although the pattern is emerging in places. Patience….   I made a couple of titanium nipples for the Wilkes barrel but as its being browned I don’t want to mess about fitting them so I don’t know if the threads will be a good fit – they have a 1.2 mm hole at the bottom about 2 -3 mm long, then 2 mm up to the top – that’s the generally accepted standard for modern caps.  Some people use 1 mm for the bottom hole, but I broke the 1 mm drill so its 1.2 mm!  I’m still putting coats of Slakum on the Wilkes stock – the workshop isn’t heated and it seems to get to a good tacky/gummy state in about 12 hours so as long as I remember to remove it before bed I will be OK – I have only left Slackum too long once before, and I had to take it off with steel wool and start again, so I am ultra careful. 

10th Ocober – I filed up the cast Westley Richards cock to get rid of the casting ‘orange peel’ effect and engraved the tails and colour hardened both and fitted them.  It is amazing how exactly they now match – there must have been a limited number of patterns of cock made in whichever suburb of Birmingham made cocks, and the squares must have been put in by the maker/filer against a jig, leaving the lock fitter to put the square on the tumbler.  Anyway as you can see, the cock that was on the WR and the cock from Dick’s junk box line up exactly without touching the squares.  I keep looking at the locks of the WR, as the outside surface is quite worn/polished down and I did wonder if the lock plates were in fact a modern casting, but further examination at x25 has convinced me that they must be original, with the engraving just worn down and polished almost out.  I can’t decide whether to anneal the lock plates and re-engrave them – I probably won’t as its a working gun and from that point of view re-engraving them doesn’t do anything for the gun.   I just have to get a spot of weld put on the bridles where they are cracked from being dry fired out of the gun.    I bought some 400 grade wet and dry to finish the Wilkes barrel, and took it down to 2500 grit.  I managed to extract the remaining nipple without any damage – I got the tip of a square needle file onto the nipple so I could get a sharp bottom corner on the faces that the nipple key works on.  Just to make sure I touched the end face of the nipple key on the grindwheel to create a sharp edge with a bit of a burr to bite onto the flat of the nipple.  I put a fine hot flame on the nipple for a while.  The nipple key gripped well but I had to put a large vicegrip on it to get enough leverage and at one point I thought I was twisting the nipple key shaft!  I soldered on a fillet at the muzzle to hold the ramrod in place.  So its all ready to go – wash down with hot soapy water, coat with chalk paste and allow to dry, (? dip in copper sulphate – not sure about that) and brown very slowly – the last gun I did was too quick and the browning wore off quite quickly. 

Wilkes 11 bore barrel – I can live with that finish as a base for re-browning.

Westley Richards 11 bore – Matching cocks!   I will have to do something about the german silver(?) plug in the breech plug – someone has tried to prize it out.

9th October – A couple of school meetings this morning, and then another look at the Wilkes barrel – I found I don’t have any wet & dry between 240 and 600 so I’ve ordered various grades and will wait til it comes.  I started on the old cock for the Westley Richards that I got from Dick – the spur was a bit oversize and the engraving was wrong, but fortunately the one I got from Dick was 1/2 mm thicker than the other so I could file off the unwanted engraving.  I reshaped the spur to be pretty nearly the same shape and size and recut the chequering  with the Gravermax – the advantage of the  gravermax, apart from it being less effort and less liable to slip, is that you can hold the cock resting on a surface while you engrave it, which means you can turn it to cut the lines across the curved surface without forever resetting the vice.  Having done that I ran it against the fibre wheel to wear the cuts down a bit.  Next job was to mount the cock on a piece of wood with setting wax and engrave it.  The metal was pretty horrible so I used a mix of hand and Gravermax.  It is now done and looks remarkably similar to the other cock – I do find it amazing how much standardisation went on in the gun trade, particularly in Birmingham. Anyone who imagines that every gunmaker  lovingly made all the bits of his guns in his own  workshop has some serious explaining to do!  Looking at the photo, I realise I ought to do some more surface filing on the casting to get rid of the cast surface – nothing is ever finished!

The re-engraved casting is on the left, the re- engraved cock from Dick’s junk box on the right – amazingly good match – even the square is right!

8th October –  I spent a dirty couple of hours stiking off the Wilkes barrel – it looks possible although there is really no prospect of getting rid of all the pits etc.  I need to get rid of some of the remaining scratches – its distressing how many faults always show up when I photograph things- my photos are always very revealing – most of the photos I get sent to look at are , by comparison, like looking through soup!   I keep my Canon M50 with  18 – 150 lens handy and have a 500mm square white LED panel on the ceiling so its very quick to do, and I always use manual focus.   I went to Dicks and we has a look at the locks of the Westley Richards 11 bore – the lockplates are castings as are the cocks, although the works look like they were originals.  Unfortunately the bridles have both been cracked – probably because the tumblers stop against then instead of being stopped by the cocks hitting the nipples.  I will keep the cast lockplates – they need the engraving recut – I managed to get an almost perfect original cock to replace the really bad one from Dick’s box of spare cocks, its a good fit and as often happens with late locks, the square drops on teh tumbler in exactly the right orientation. Dick’s supply of percussion cocks  is fine if you want a left hand cock (I did) but not so good if you want a right hand cock – in fact he has hardly any, not sure why, I think he bought them years ago in a box of junk from aWeller and Dufty auction, which is where most of his stuff originated.

It looks a bit better in the flesh but I’m not going to be able to get all the pits etc out – maybe a bit more though…..

7th October – I derusted the Wilkes barrel to see where we go from here – still not clear on the best course of action – the barrel has a very uniform fine pitting over its surface with no obvious areas of serious corrosion – I’m still puzzling out how it got to be as uniform !    I’m not sure how much metal I’d need to remove to get a smooth surface, or what it would look like if I did a partial strike off.  In any event its probably not possible/sensible to strike it off to get rid of the deeper twist related fissures.   But I do realise that leaving it as it is is not a viable option, so something has to be done…… And I still need to get one of the nipples out – I don’t like drilling them out as it risks messing up thread.  The one I did get out left a reasonable thread in the breechblock that I cleaned out with a 1/4 BSF plug tap but its a bit oversize so I will make up some (titanium?) nipples oversize for it.   I need to collect my fine gas torch from Dick’s where I left it, to see if that will shift the second one.  I probably need to make/find a better fitting nipple key as I can’t get a really good grip on it to put enough force to turn it – to do that I’ll need to buy some more 10 mm silver steel rod from ebay!  I have learned to be patient and try different things before resorting to anything too drastic!  There is always the option of recutting the nipple holes to 9/32 BSF (same pitch as 1/4 BSF) but I prefer not to have to do that.

Very uniform pitting over all the surface, with some deeper fissures as part of the twist pattern.

7th October – on Saturday I went on a trip to the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden airfield – my old school friend John had been the Director for several years and my nephew wanted to give my brother a day out as he is suffering from Parkinsons, so John kindly flew him down to Old Warden in his vintage Beechcraft Bonanza and we all had a tour round the collection – almost all the aircraft there are kept in flying condition and get an airing from time to time – John was one of the Collection pilots and has flown most of the planes, so was able to give a real insight into the merits and demerits of the various planes.  One thing I learnt was why the Spitfire became the dominant fighter plane in WWII in preference to the Hurricane – the Hurricane could never have stood the development that ultimately resulted in the Mk 10 Spitfire which involved fitting an engine of over 2000 bhp in an airframe originally designed for 850 bhp!  As John pointed out, you only have to look at the thick aerofoil section of the Hurricane to realise that the drag was always going to restrict it – its more like the (Clarke Y??) sections we used to use on our slow flying model planes when John and I were mad keen aeromodellers in the mid 1950s ( mostly control line planes – John gave me back the last plane I built – a Lucky Lady stunt plane some time ago).  Great day out, if you haven’t been to the Shuttleworth Collection – GO!

6th October – I think I’ve put enough coats of Slakum on the Wilkes for the time being – I’ll let it harden off for a few days.  I derusted the barrels inside and out in the tank and got all the superficial rust off.  There is quite a lot of structure in the exposed surface and I’m not sure how much I would have to take off to get a better finish – I’m not sure it is sensible to take them down to a perfect surface – it would mean removing a fair amount of metal, but I may be able to take it partially down and etch it slightly in copper sulphate before browning – I’ll have to see what looks possible.  I had another careful look at the Westley Richards and decided that the locks were a recent replacement from castings – nicely made but in need of some work on the engraving – luckily that’s something I can do.   I have been p[

lanning a challenge for the children at school and was looking for some prizes  – the school ‘badge’ is a couple of owls so I am engraving them on slices of rod and mounting them in oak blocks as I do with screwheads for the kids when I do engaving demos.

4 th October – I woke up in the night and realised that I’d left a coat of Slakum on the Wilkes stock and it was probably getting past the gel stage, but my concern didn’t overcome my desire to go back to sleep!  I had a meeting at 8:30 so rushed into the workshop early to find the Slackum still  just about workable, so rubbed it off with kitchen roll and linseed oil – hard work, but it looks good & I made the meeting. I put another coat on today (and I’ve taken it off before bed time!).  I made up a couple of screws – as regular visitors to this site will know, its one of my favourite jobs.  I made a side nail for the Westley Richards 11 bore to replace the brass one.  I reckoned that a 2 B.A. thread would fit as that seemed to be what the brass one was, so I made a blank and cut a thread with a new 2 B.A. die  -it didn’t fit the thread, so I closed the die right down and recut the thread but it still didn’t fit, which was odd as I’d tried it with a different brass 2 B.A. screw.  Rumaging in my screwcutting box I found an old 2 B.A. die that turned out to cut quite a bit smaller than the first one, so success.  I also had to make a small screw to hold the foreend pipe on the Wilkes – those are very short screws with large flat heads filed into a hollow to clear the ramrod – it worked so that is in place now.  P.M. I went over to Dick’s to see about the Wilkes barrel pipes that needed resoldering – a tricky job as it means locally heating the barrel up to around 300 C to melt the tin ( tin is the preferred soldering material as it melts at about 100 degrees C  lower than lead and is stronger) – Dick had made a couple of pipes out of a bit of a twist barrel, so they were tinned, and the mounting places on the barrel/under-rib were gently tinned keeping the heat to the minimum as one doesn’t want to expand the under rib to make it bulge out  – anyway suffice to say that they now appear to be soldered in place and the ramrod fits.  I have a gas/oxygen torch with a tiny nozzle that is ideal for localised heating – it was sold for lead welding.  We will see if they stay in place after derusting – I’ll derust the barrel inside and outside over the weekend, then take a view as to whether to strike it off or just rebrown as it is. I might be able to get the nipples out after derusting, as the moment I can’t shift them.  I filed off the face of one of the Westley Richards cocks at it was a plain but rough surface and engraved it in imitation of the other cock – both were modern castings and the metal isn’t ideal for engraving so I used the GraverMax machine – it’s a bit of a cop out but the metal was so horrible that I couldn’t really get passable curves with hand engraving – even with the GraverMax it was difficult to get flowing curves, but I think its passable.

Wilkes stock – Photo shows the grain but not the shine!


Westley Richards cocks – made from reject castings ?  I engraved the one on the right -not as conspicuous as the one on the left as that was smeared  in the casting process


3rd October – Carried on with the Wilkes 11 bore stock – after removing most of the shellac based finish the wood was looking a bit grey so I wiped it over with a damp tissue with oxalic acid on it to lighten the finish, then when dry put on a couple of coats of sanding sealer with another tissue and filled a couple of pits with instant glue and walnut dust.  After rubbing down with 0000 wire wool I’ve started to put on an oil finish – rub on ‘Slacum’ – a mix of boiled linseed oil with colouring from alkonet root, beeswax (4%) and Terbine drier (1%), then leave till it gels and rub off with linseed oil – it will take many coats to get a good finish but each takes only a few minutes.  The foreend pipe was missing so I ‘stole’ one from an old stock – its not quite the correct shape but will perform the function and with a bit of filler it will not look out of place.  I could have made a new one as an exact fit, but I’m afraid the job doesn’t really merit the expense.  See photo below.  Looking for a suitable foreend pipe I came across the 11 bore Westley Richards I’d picked up at auction and hadn’t done anything with – it looks like a good shooter so I’ll see what needs doing to it – If you look at the post about it, it is a mystery – I haven’t yet got on to WR to see if they have any history on it.  The first and obvious job is to replace the threaded Brass 2 B.A. screw used as a side nail for fixing the locks with something a bit more appropriate – a job for next week.  Tomorrow I have a meeting in school again – being a school governor is a very demanding ‘job’ if you take it seriously.  Schools are run and managed in a way that seems totally illogical to anyone who has been involved with businesses in the ‘real’ world.  How any small organisation can generate so many different policy documents, development plans, termly reports, head’s reports, action plans and newsletters not to mention inumerable charts, tables and graphs is well beyond me.  They almost always duplicate something that exists already with slight variations and many repetitions.  The nett result is that no-one can see the wood for the trees and there is no time to think – it’s what I believe is known as displacement activity.  One of the wonderful concepts introduced by the Department of Education and OFSTED is ‘British Values’.  Not only are the children supposed to learn and understand these hypothetical concepts, but be able to recite them if anyone asks ‘What are British Values’.  No one has yet given me a satisfactory explanation of what is ‘British’ about them – one is democracy (presumably a bit dented at the moment) and the rest are in part derived from (modern) Western  Christianity, which is in turn based on evolved ways of cooperative living with a bit of authoritarianism thrown in. All seem to me to be shared by any number of countries – Scandinavia, western Europe, Australia, Canada etc etc.   The only truly British Values I’d be sure about are a propensity to form queues, and to laugh at Monty Pythonesque humour…….but that won’t cut much ice with OFSTED……                        Howsoever, I’m told that as a governor I must take it all very seriously, which of course I do, as anyone who knows me would expect!

It will cover almost all the cutout – the fixing hole in the stock will need moving and some filler put in a few voids.

2nd October – One of my regular viewers rang me this morning and complained that I had ruined their mornings for too long by ignoring my blog – Apologies – I have been busy with school things and trying to bring a little order to our lives – alas without much success so I have reverted to playing with guns!  A friend brought a couple of guns he was thinking of buying to my stand at Sandringham.  One was a somewhat tired 11 bore double percussion – sound and once a good gun.  He was looking for something to shoot so I suggested he go for the other gun which was in better condition and didn’t need any work, but in the end he bought both – he paid at the low end of my suggested price for the 11 bore which I reckoned left a bit of a margin after I had sorted it.  The gun is signed T Wilkes London on the locks – I can’t find a T Wilkes in my books , lots of J Wilkes but earlier than this gun, and a T Wilks of the right date – so none the wiser – could just be the retailer. I forgot to take pictures of it before I started, but it looked sad but not bad!  The barrel was, I think, originally quite deeply etched twist as in the French or Rigby tradition, and had been a bit rusted but because the etched twist was an uneven surface it probably looked worse than it will prove to be. One ramrod pipe was missing and the other was soldered on with a great mass of solder over the pipe and barrel.  The bores looked possible but not perfect, although there was plenty of metal at the muzzle. The locks were OK – a bit of surface rust but still decent engraving and the actions were fine.  The furniture had need pretty well rusted so that there wasn’t much engraving showing, but the fit in the wood was very good – always an important clue.  The stock looked a bit worn and had the remains of a fairly shiny black finish, with little of the chequering visible through the thick layer of dirt/oil/varnish.  There were a couple of old splits in the foreend and the foreend pipe & finial was missing.   Estimating the value when restored as £600 to £800 leaves around £300 – 400 for restoration and a small margin- not a lot, and not enough to get too fancy!   My first job was to give the barrel to Dick to sort out the pipes, then I’ll get it back and de-rust it and decide if it needs to be struck down or just wire brushed and browned.  In the meantime I had an investigation of the finish on the stock as it was clogging up the chequering and didn’t look right.  First test was to go at a discreet bit with meths to see if it was shellac based – it was.  That meant I could use my normal method of getting rid of the finish – apply meths to a couple of layers of kitchen roll and wrap them round the stock and cover tightly with kitchen foil, then after half an hour remove and rub with 000 steel wool soaked in meths and wipe the gunge off with more kitchen roll.  A whole lot of dirty black muck came off with the shellac and the grain became visible.  After soaking the chequering under paper and foil I brushed it with a brass suede brush along the lines and it came up fairly sharp and clean after a few iterations.  I decided that I would strip all the furniture from the stock – its not always sensible but in this case all the screws came out fairly easily and the edges and backs of the furniture were not rusted so it all came to bits OK.  I  took the mainsprings out of the locks and a all the metalwork went into the de-rusting tank in relays, was then dipped in clean water, dried at gentle heat and brushed hard on a fine wire wheel and sprayed with gun oil.  Stripping and de-rusting and brushing took about 2 1/2 hours in total – all the parts could go back in without further work, although I might strip the locks right down later.  I may, if I feel like playing, recut some of the engraving on the furniture but the surfaces are rusted and for it to be effective I’d need to file  the surfaces smooth, and that is probably too much work – I’ll see.  Back to the stock, after a number of goes with meths I steamed the surface to lift a few small dents, and cleaned it up with meths again.  I could call it a day and apply sanding sealer and then oil, or I might do a bit more before I start to refinish – so far I think I’ve spent about 2  hours on the stock.  The whole gun begins to look like it will be nice when done, and I look forward to finishing it.  Although I didn’t take photos to start with ( I’d not done restorations for the blog for so long I’d forgotten), I do have some progress ones;-

As luck would have it, it was a shellac based old finish – easily removed!

After derusting & brushing:-  The lockwork and insides of parts is in good condition – the edges of bits are not rusted at all.

While the lock (hardened) is fairly rust free, the furniture engraving is  pretty far gone and would need a lot of filing to get it flat enough to re-engrave – its probably best left, but I’ll see whether I feel like having a go at it later for fun – almost certainly not an economic proposition.

26th September – I went to a School Governor’s meeting yesterday and was told that I had to send in a (short) report on my trip to Norfolk and to Kentwell Hall – there is no such thing as a free holiday!  I’ve been struggling with making my cupboard – the doors are a bit of a problem as the outer layer is planked in t&g and that is not ideal for screwing in hinges – in the end I bought a couple of pairs of ‘Parliament Hinges’  which are deep and will screw into the blockboard behind the T&G.  I had to buy large fancy ballbearing ones that will support 120 Kg per pair, rather overkill for a 900 x 450 door as they were the only ones Screwfix had and I wanted them today.  I’m looking at my pile of  gun jobs that I should be doing – a double percussion to restore, a single tubelock needs the lock engraving and an o/u pistol needs sorting – in fact I’ve even forgotten what needs doing to it, I think it needs its cocks refitting and matching….. Plus my own Venables is crying out for the barrels to be resoldered (again).. Ah well, I’ll do a bit when the cupboard is finished. Tomorrow I must take the funny pistol back to Dick as I’ve done a bit of engraving on it, and send back the rat tailed Albanian job.



Dec 212020

December 21st 2020 – The new kitchen is more or less finished and about to be occupied, just in time for Christmas……..



This is probably the last time it will be so uncluttered!


At the beginning of the year I planned to redo our old kitchen – I had done a bit of work on it over the years, replacing the old coal fired range with an oil fired AGA and putting down another layer of vinyl floor over the deteriorating black and red tiles laid on a few dabs of lime mortar directly on to the earth and then coated in self levelling compound about 30 years ago before we bought Cables Farm.  I had also patched a large hole in the old lath and plaster ceiling that fell down when Penny slammed the back door,covering everything in a thick layer of gritty dust. Oh and the main sink unit was looking very tired when we moved in 26 years ago and was looking even tireder now, despite my best efforts at trompe d’oile!    I got Covid in early March, a week before the lockdown, which laid me out for about 5 weeks and took another 3 months before I was fit enough to do anything useful.  I was just about fit for our sailing trip to the Hebrides in late July, and on return I figured that I had better resume ‘normal’ activities – time to start on the kitchen…   A bit of planning and I figured I’d make units out of oak with wooden worktops, and of course the ceiling would have to be entirely re- plastered at the very least as quite a lot of it looked as if it would follow the example of the fallen chunk (which I had rather neatly patched!)  Obviously the damp and uneven floor would have to be tackled – old buildings don’t work well with any form of concrete slab as they need to breath to prevent the moisture in the ground being diverted to the walls, so a bit of research was called for into breathable floors, obviously incorporating a decent level of insulation.  Having got a few basic ideas I started gently on building the unit to hold the sink and a built in oven and gas hob ( I’ve always longed for a gas hob as electric hobs seem too uncontrollable). Having ‘got my hand in’ I decided it was time to get serious, so I recruited Matthew, my son from a previous incarnation, who had been a joiner and worked around buildings for many years.  We started on September 7th – Here is the story….

About the design:  The basic arrangement of the kitchen is more or less defined by the position of the Aga and the door to the larder and the window on the North wall, so any major rearrangement would be very difficult to imagine – plus it more or less worked, so there was only limited room for change – in the end amounting to moving the water softener from one end of the working area to the other.  The ceiling was very low – uncomfortably so both physically and aesthetically so, but without taking the AGA out and lowering it ( a massive job)  I reckoned that the best we could do was to lower the floor by about 30 mm.  We had always speculated on whether the ceiling beams would be good enough to expose – its a ‘normal’ conundrum in old houses like this – but without having a good look at a number of joists its impossible to guess.  We initally thought that it they might not be good enough, and expected to leave them covered – see below  but it became clear that they had originally been exposed.  We had a vinyl  that represented pale square floor tiles and we rather liked the look of it, plus  pale yellow tiles and bricks  are made using a local clay – Burwell whites.  We should probably have got floor tiles from the Burwell Brick company, but when I looked at them some time ago they were too small and too rustic for a kitchen floor so we went with the Norfolk Pamments tiles.  There is quite a lot in the room that won’t change with the work – the two leaded windows and the door to the utility room ( elm boards – hand sawn and 19th century or earlier) and the larder door ( pine boards with an old apotopical ‘witch’ mark inscribed by compass – maybe 18th century?) and bread oven (Victorian) that give the room its ‘period charm(!) but we didn’t want to add to the old-worldiness by putting in faux old features, so the furniture and fittings we added were designed to be comfortable to live with and not too ‘kitcheny’ since its a room we spend a lot of time in.  Kitchens  inevitably get cluttered but we have a decent utility room and a large larder so the intention is to keep things clear, particularly above the level of the worktops.   I’m happy that we pretty much achieved our goals – there isn’t much I’d change if I did it again, possibly a smaller, less dominant gas hob, but otherwise I’m very happy with the outcome, and the apparent  and real improvement in headroom is welcome.

Ceiling : First job after clearing everything out was to take the plaster off the old split lathes so I could replaster.  The original ceiling was quite low and the lathes were nailed onto the floor joists above, with the main cross beams exposed below ceiling level.  We got all the plaster off, and took out a few laths so we could clean the backs and see what was there.  In one corner we exposed a couple of older panels of lath and plaster fixed directly under the floor above and plastered and painted brown.  From what we could see, the joists looked in pretty good condition, some being squared and chamfered  (so must once have been exposed) and some pretty wavy and rustic.  After some discussion we opted to remove all the laths, clean off the joists and attach 1 1/2 inch battens alongside the tops of them and fix short laths to the battens and plaster between the beams, so as to maximise the ceiling height and create an interesting feature.  Fixing the laths under the batten edges was accomplished using an electric stapler, although it was still a very slow job re-using the old split laths, cutting them to fit between the joists and stapling each end a couple of times – a job I left to Matthew while I got on with fixing in the wiring for new lighting and getting rid of the old wiring.   I then plastered the strips between the joists using  lime putty plaster – one coat of ‘coarse stuff’ – sharp sand and lime putty with some chalk and goat hair mixed in – laid on so it extruded between the laths and the extruded bits bent over and held the plaster in place, the hair giving the wet plaster enough strength to stay in place (mostly!)  The second coat used plastering sand, lime putty and chalk with no hair and was laid on to form as level a surface as possible.  A very thin skim coat of chalk and lime putty was used to level up the second coat plaster when it had almost dried.   For the most part the finish worked although in places the surface cracked and needed a further skim to hide the cracks.  The plastered ceiling was given 3 or 4 coats of white limewash – water and lime putty to the consistence of milk (it covers a multitude of sins!).   Matthew then waxed the joists as they looked a bit dusty.  I was a bit skeptical about making them too shiny but they turned out perfect.


Two original ceiling panels from a previous ceiling on the undersides of the original floorboards – before 1850???

Matthew fixing reused split laths

Quite challenging plastering without getting plaster all over the beams! They look to me to be around 250 to 300 years old.

The Floor:  Having more or less finished the ceiling and the falling mess/plaster/limewash it was time to tackle the floor – there are a couple of firms specialising in flooring for old houses that use lime instead of cement based concrete – its called limecrete and isn’t as strong as concrete but is adequate for floor slabs laid on a firm foundation.  Two firms specialise in the materials, Mike Wye and Tyn Mawr.  We used Mike Wye although they are both similar.  The basic floor insulation is provided by foamed glass (Geocel) supplied  broken into chunks about 30 mm mesh and tamped down with a whacker plate to a depth of 150 to 200 mm, followed by a limecrete screed of 80 mm , followed by the tiles.  We wanted to drop the final floor level by 30mm from its original level so we ended up digging out the old floor to a depth of around 350 mm – generating 4 trailer loads of spoil – kindly taken away by our farmer neighbour  after being shovelled and barrowed out by Matthew – probably more than 10 tonnes judging by how much sand went into the limecrete!   Having dug out the floor to something approaching a level – all very compacted earth – we laid a patch of wine bottles in the centre as supplementary insulation, blinded them with sand, laid down plastic conduit for cable runs and put down a permeable membrane to receive the Geocel foam glass.  We had very little joy with the hired whacker plate as the Geocel won’t bond and just kept moving around – in the end we put a another membrane on top and ran the plate over that, which did improve things a bit.  We had been intending to put electric heating wires onto the Geocel layer, but this was clearly not practical, so we laid the first limecrete screed of about 75 to 80 mm thick, levelled from a laser datum.  We left that for a couple of weeks to dry, then laid out the in-screed 105 metres of electrical heating wire fixed into plastic strips precariously bonded to the very friable limecrete surface with fix-all. The heating was calculated to give around 140 watts per sq m.  We laid 2 inch battens on edge on the first screed as a guide for leveling the second screed – which was therefore laid to about 50mm and finished pretty level – probably to within +/- 2 mm over the floor.  This took an age to dry – 2 to 3 weeks while we got on with leveling the walls and decorating , fixing services and a long list of odd jobs, including Matthew laying a French drain along the outside North wall.  I ordered the clay pamments in February from Norfolk Pamments Ltd – hand made by a small mother and daughter business in Norfolk in a very pale white/yellow clay 12 x 12 inches by about 24 mm thick.  They are somewhat uneven in size and some are a bit convex underneath as we discovered later.   In order to keep the floor permeable we had to avoid cement (OPC) in fixing the tiles (modern tile adhesive is  impermeable and so not suitable)  and so we used a lime/kiln dried sand mix with a bit of lime putty for workability.  Our main problem was that the dry floor and the very permeable pamments sucked the water out of the mortar almost instantly, making adjusting the position of tiles very difficult after a few seconds.  We soaked the floor and wetted the pamments but only towards the end did we hose down the pamments repeatedly before bringing them into the kitchen.   Once dried I carefully walked on all the tiles, and discovered about 10 where the tile was so convex that it sat on a mortar pad in the centre and rocked – these were taken up and less bent tiles relaid.   We decided that, once dry, we could afford to use a modern grout, even if it wasn’t permeable as it only accounted for a small area.  During drying the tiles went through a nice range of colours, pink, deep yellow and back to pale yellow/white.  Suffice to say that when finished the floor looks fantastic!  Before grouting, and again afterwards I sealed the tiles with a natural, breathable seal – Natural Finish Stone Sealer from Eco Protec.  Since we started using the kitchen I’ve noticed how much warmer the floor is because of the Geocel insulation – I tested the underfloor heating, and it raises the temperature measured in the slab at a rate of about 1 degree an hour, with the surface temperature rising with a bit of a delay, and the slab seems to loose heat quite slowly – the heat input to the approx. 12 sq meters  covered by the heater is only 1.6 KWatts so I think it will work perfectly as a storage heater charging overnight on cheap electricity – although given the additional insulation in the floor, the AGA does a pretty good job of keeping the room warm.

Part of the 10 tons of earth removed from the floor.

Wine bottles for extra insulation !

First screed laid.

Underfloor heating cable plus battens for levelling next screed

Penny says the Norfolk Pamments look just like the vinyl that used to be on the floor!

The Walls:  The walls were not straight or flat and had texture on them where a previous finish had been partially removed – however I had put a number of coats of limewash on years ago and it had made a very hard and stable layer that was almost impossible to remove.  The wall I wanted to tile had to be straight and level so that was leveled up using a modern lime based plaster called R50 that turned out to stick to almost any surface and was easy to use to level the tiled area and also repair some dodgy bits of wall that had been hidden behind the sink unit and were wet and crumbling.   I had to replaster some areas of exposed lath using lime plaster, and on the ‘textured’ plaster walls I used a very thin skim of fine filler to hide the texture – not more than about 1/2 to 1 mm maximum.  The walls were then given half a dozen coats of limewash that I tinted using acrylic artist’s paint (cobalt blue, yellow ocre and phalos green) – its vital to mix the pigments thoroughly in tap water before adding to the limewash as the alkali in the lime prevents the pigment from disersing as it reacts with the paint medium, causing specs of pigment to come out in the brush strokes.   As a guide I generally mix pigments in quantities of 5 to 10 grams to add to 4 litres of limewash, its always possible to add more (dissolved) pigment but if you are not careful you will end up adding more limewash and have enough to paint the Forth Bridge.  Limewash is a vastly under-rated finish and costs almost nothing – a £10,  25 Kg tub of lime putty will make  at least 100 litres of limewash!   At one point Matthew put on rather a lot of lime in his limewash (my fault) and so the final finish is a bit streaky, which I rather like so I haven’t tried to rectify it.  I spent a long time messing around to get the right white for the bits of woodwork – window cills and wooden corner strips, and eventually settled on Farrow and Ball Shaded White, although I think maybe a bit more black in it would be better!

The problem with the walls was mostly due to previous patching with gypsum plaster or strong cement – both WRONG!

The Services;-  The lighting in the kitchen was horrible – basically a striplight in the centre of the room – so something had to be done – choosing light fittings for such a low ceiling is difficult as you need a good spread of light in the working areas.  After a bit of thought and hours looking at unsuitable fittings, I came across some fittings in IKEA that had 3 G10 spotlight bulbs in each fitting that could be controlled by the IKEA remote system.  I have to admit that the price of the TROSS  fittings (£7 each) was an added attraction and the sample I bought was so well made that I ended up buying 9 fittings and putting them around the kitchen – using 5 W LED bulbs that is 145 Watts of LED light!  The plan, so far not fully implemented, is to use a combination of static 120 degree bulbs and 30 degree remote controlled bulbs so that the lighting can be adjusted by remotes but the wiring is kept very simple – all the lights are on one circuit.  The power circuits were half on one consumer unit and half on a very old original one, so they were rationalised onto the newer one and circuits added for underfloor heating.

The plumbing was similarly chaotic, and the new plan involved moving the water softener (essential as we have a heatstore cylinder) so that was redone for the softener and sink – I enjoy a bit of plumbing!

The extractor fan was challenging as there was barely enough height to meet the regulation height above the work surface – in the end the hole through the wall is touching the floorboards above – just fits!  I went for a cheap Electriq extractor from Appliance Direct as all the possible models were exactly the same  dimensions and noise levels, so I guessed they all had the same components inside, even fairly expensive ones. The first one arrived with the glass broken, and they didn’t want the rest back so I now have a set of spares!

The gas hob necessitated a couple of  propane cylinders and a changeover switch outside and a 15 mm copper pipe through the floor screed. I have yet to get it finally connected and build a box outside for it.

And it all worked!

The furniture;-  I wanted to avoid kitchen units made of MDF in some monotonous tone, so decided that it would be nice to make them out of oak, with  slightly darker tops of black walnut ( which we had used in Giles’s kitchen).  I had a store of various old oak salvaged from goodness knows what bits of furniture, and my friend Richard, a local carpenter/joiner had a large stock of very good quality 18 mm ply in large offcuts left over from job.  So my basic design involved a carcass of 18 mm ply – massively heavy – with  oak framing and oak doors and drawer fronts.  I had to buy a couple of 200 x 50 x 3.4m  kiln dried oak boards for the framing and legs (£217 – but I’ve got half of one left over) but the rest is all reused wood.  When I came to make the door under the sink I planed up what I thought was a nice bit of oak for the door panel, only to discover that it was elm, with a beautiful figure. ( it had been a draining board in a darkroom in the Geodesy and Geophysics Department at the University – I had acquired it when the building it was in was demolished in the 1960s) .  I made the handles out of bog oak, a typical fenland wood from trees that have laid for thousands of years in fenland bogs – I had a few bits I had bought at a sale of timber 20 years ago.   Later on I got Matthew to build a more or less matching sideboard for the other side of the room, similarly out of reused wood and we wanted to put elm panels in all 3 doors – since Dutch Elm Disease killed all the trees its very difficult to get elm and I got laughed at by several timber merchants for asking.  I eventually sourced a beautiful old plank of elm on Ebay for £85 that made 3 panels with perfect grain patterns – its lighter than the surrounding oak frames but looks fantastic. All the timber for the drawer carcasses came from an enormous hoard of cherry shelving recovered from the refurbishement of Homerton College library, which also made some of the panelling under the worktop.  The window cill of 1 1/2 inch oak came from some table tops salvaged from an Oxford college  some 35 years ago, and the back Matthew put in the top of the antique dresser came from the back of an old cupboard from the Zoology Department –  all of which has run down my stock of salvaged timber to a sadly low level.  My old second hand radial arm saw and planer thicknesser earned their keep on this job as always!


The Bottom Line:-  Penny and I didn’t have a firm budget for the job as the priority was to make something that we were happy with – we’re not extravagant by nature so it is a fairly safe technique!   The overall cost of  the materials, wood, appliances and sundries  was a smidgen over £10K  although I am prepared to accept that I might have missed off a few expenses I can’t trace.  The biggest area of expense was the flooring materials, pamments (£2433.00), grout and tile sealant and heating cable, in total about 45% of the direct cost.  The solid wood worktops and table top accounted for around 15%, as  did the appliances.  The remaining 25% covered ceiling materials,  plumbing and electrics and lighting and everything else, including loads of small Screwfix bills for bits and pieces. The materials for the furniture apart from the worktops was almost all reused from old oak furniture  I had salvaged over the last 30 years  and 18 mm ply offcuts my friend Richard gave us and cut to size  and biscuit jointed for us – total spent on (new) wood was less than £300.  The whole job, minus the building of the sink unit that I did before Matthew started on the project, took the two of us 15 weeks from start to finish, We each had a couple of days off – Matthew worked a 5 day week, I worked 5 or 6 days a week if there was stuff I needed to do to prepare for the next week.  Given the Covid situation Matthew and I tried to work separately, at least at opposite ends of the room with a through air current between us, or with one of us working inside while the other worked outside.  It’s difficult to pinpoint where the most time was spent, but the floor took a long time to dry at each stage so it spread over a large part of the project.  Not surprisingly the ceiling was also a long job.   If you assume that Matthew and I together would have charged around £300 a day if we were being paid ( pretty much the standard trade rate for a similar two man team round here) then the labour would have cost around £25K, making it a £40K  minimum kitchen revamp at commercial rates!

 Posted by at 11:28 pm
Aug 072020

This year we had a charter from Alba Sailing in Dunstaffnage (near Oban) as all the other charter companies North of there have closed down.  We don’t normally go that far south as it is very crowded, even this year.  Around Oban and Loch Linne and up the Sound of Mull is a bit like Piccadilly Circus was in the rush hour in days gone by – Loch Dhroma na Buihde at the top end of the sound just inside Loch Sunart had 10 yachts at anchor when we went in!  I’ve never seen more than 4 at any one time before. North of Ardnamurchan Point things thin out a bit, and a bit more North of the Kyle of Loch Alsh, but over on the Outer Hebrides it is a lot quieter.  We went into Soay Harbour for the first time – its been on my bucket list for years – its the site of Gavin Maxwell’s ill fated Basking Shark oil factory in the 50’s.  Its a bit of a squeeze getting in as there isn’t much water – Penny doesn’t like rocks and sensibly stayed below while we went in.  A quick trip across to Lochboisdale – motoring into a headwind – found the new marina fairly busy although nominally closed due to Covid-19.  It was difficult to see what the problem was, but I suppose it was just that they hadn’t opened the loos and showers – there was water and electricity on the pontoons, but no charge for using the marina.  The marina has been built between two islands and is almost all imported rock – very impressive- its about a mile from the ‘town’  –  2 hotels and one small shop and a museum and sandwich stall.  From there another motor up to Loch Maddy where the marina looked a bit sad – I rang the harbourmaster who told me where to berth – again no loos or showers and no water on the berths.  We stayed an extra day there while a 30 knot wind blew – its not the wind speed per se that gets you up there, but the waves it throws up if you have to go into it.  Then a good long sail  chasing another Alba boat, Chantilly, to  Stornoway ( they just beat us!), which we love, as another blow was forecast – we got just about the last berth in the marina, which is mainly full of local boats – it didn’t materialise so next day we headed back across the Minch to a beautiful anchorage on Rona in the Inner Sound between Skye and the mainland – Acaraid Mhor (or something like that!) . We tried going South from there the next day but ended up slamming into an uncomfortable sea and 30 knots of  wind so turned back (very carefully across the seas) to the lovely anchorage and had a bit of a roller coaster ride on the waves in the downwind direction.  From there next day we went through Kyle Rhea with the tide to Isleoronsay on Skye, a not particularly attractive harbour, and from there to Loch Dhroma na Buihde.  We has a bit of a scare about running our of fuel at that point so went across to Tobermory next morning.  The fuelling berth had one boat on it already and very little maneuvering space, but I enjoyed squeezing  13m of boat into the space – and I didn’t hit anything even though we had to end up with our bows overlapping!  Manouvering big sailing boats in confined spaces is interesting as, apart from the effects of wind and tide, the boat makes sharp turns by effectively pivoting on the keel, so the stern sweeps out a path outside of path of the centre of the boat and this can catch you out in confined spaces.  One of the joys of chartering yachts is that you  end up taking the boat into marinas etc without knowing the habits of that particular boat – part of the enjoyment for me is to make a perfect landing on the pontoon!  On Pollyanna it was very difficult to see the port (left) side when at the wheel near the engine controls ( cockpit dodger and folded tent in the way) so docking ‘port side to’ was extra fun – why is that the way we seemed always to go?.  From there back to Dunstaffnage and the end of the holiday.  In all we visited 6 islands, lost 4 days from bad weather, covered around 350 miles and used about 150 litres of diesel.  We spent 6 nights at anchor and 8 in marinas, including 3 on the Alba pontoons – total marina bill was £31.25  – a great holiday.  Almost all of our navigation was done on a Galaxy tablet running Navionics Boating software – the tablet was in a decent waterproof case that allowed the USB port to be accessed. That meant we didn’t need to take it out of its case to charge, but more importantly it meant that I could plug in my big battery to keep the tablet running all day – The Nav software is thirsty and without the battery it would only survive a full day’s sailing by turning it off when not using the display – the nav continues plotting the track etc and jumps back when you turn it on again . I’m not even sure it would do 8 hours of background tracking without the battery.

Pollyanna from Alba Sailing.

Looking towards the entrance to Loch Dhroma na Buihde.  Its usually calm at nights if there isn’t a strong wind.

Just to show it wasn’t all wind and rain –  motoring in a calm  almost sunny spell ( one of two in two weeks!)

Apr 022020

28th December  – I found a website that explains the gut feeling I had about the early medical response to Covid in the UK on STATNEWS.COM  – google “Ventilators are overused for Covid-19 patients, doctors say”

With ventilators running out, doctors say the machines are overused for Covid-19

12th August  – Had an antibody test yesterday (£69 @ the local pharmacist) –  very quick and simple finger prick and a drop of blood on a plastic strip and watch for lines in window – at first nothing appeared except the control line and I was told that I hadn’t had Covid, but then the two lines appeared faintly and bamboozled the pharmacist, who said I had definitely had it but he had never seen a result like that.  So my level of immunity is probably uncertain!  I will try hard not to get it again!  I did manage 90 lengths of the bag today so I guess I am reasonably fit.

7th July – Back from our sailing holiday –  I was well up to sailing the boat, although we had 3 younger crew on board to do the grunt work like winching- well, I had to leave something to them!   I think I am  almost back to my previous fitness – I did manage 50 lengths of our 10 m swimming bag today, and I’m aiming for 100 per day by next week…..   I came across a couple of studies of people who, like me, have CLL, in relation to Covid-19 which were a bit depressing – we stand a higher chance of needing intensive care, and a greater than 37% mortality if we go into an ICU. Which makes me realise how lucky I was to come out of it alive and with no apparent long term symptoms – its surprising and worrying how many people of all ages end up with very long lasting after effects.  I just hope I don’t catch it twice! If I hadn’t already had it I’d be feeling a bit paranoid .I’m about to book an antibody test with the local pharmacist to check my antibody levels.   I still haven’t made it to 65 Kg – I’m stuck somewhere between 63 and 64 Kg which is OK as its more or less in the middle of the normal BMI (body mass index) range.   My saturated Oxygen level is usually around 97 or 98 and my blood pressure is at the level it was two years  ago –  122/65, which BUPA says is OK at my age, so I hope all is well.

28 June – a month on from my last post here.  6 weeks ago I had lost around 10 – 12 Kg and was pretty much a skeleton at 55 Kg, as I didn’t carry much spare to begin with.  I couldn’t sit on a kitchen chair without a cushion as I had no natural padding left.  I started an eating campaign – cooked breakfast every day etc and initially put on weight fast and started to exercise a bit as I got my strength back.  I have now put back a good 7 Kg ( mostly muscle) and my weight gain has slowed somewhat, but I am still trying to put on 50 to 100 grams a day and will be glad to get to 65 Kg .  I got interested in finding out how much food, particularly protein, one needs.  One has a BMR, a Basal Metabolic Requirement that depends on height and weight – mine is about 1400 Kcal per day just to keep my body going.  Then you add a percentage depending on your level of activity – in my case that bumps it up to around 1700 Kcal/day.  The proportion you should get from protein depends on age amongst other things and increases with old age.  Mine is 20%, so I need 340 Kcal of protein, which equates to about 86 grams of protein – since I am trying to build, or at least restore muscles (its not clear if you can do more than restore when you get old) I am trying to concentrate on getting enough protein.  To put on weight you need to eat in excess of these requirements – the equation seems to be that you put on a pound (440 grams) for every 3500 Kcal you eat above your  BMR+activity level over a period of a week.  That is equivalent to  2 days worth of basic food requirement, so to put on 1 lb per week I need to eat 9 days food every 7 days – if I wanted the excess to be protein I’d need to eat almost a kil0gram of protein, which corresponds to around 3 Kg of meat.   I know – sounds totally improbable, and I’ll check the figures again but I think its about right –  maybe I’d better move to Texas where 14 oz (385 gm) steaks are considered a bit mean –  8 of them would just about do for my 1 lb weight gain!  Alongside eating I’ve been quite active and am doing exercises with weights and resistance work with elastic bands ( short bursts only) and doing some exercise each day – walking a mile plus being on my feet all day, or active swimming for 1/2 hour, so I feel reasonably fit.  I’m not sure how fit I’d be if I hadn’t got a bit obsessive about eating and exercise!

29th May  I think I can now safely say I’m finished with Covid.  Its a pretty nasty new virus and it seems to have taken  few weeks/months for the doctors to get a handle on it.  In the beginning they didn’t understand the effect Covid was having on Saturated Oxygen levels, and bunged people on ventilators willy nilly, and are now suggesting that this may have been wrong in some cases.  They now give Oxygen earlier and keep the ventilators as a last resort. ( people put on Ventilators have a chance of dying that is a quarter of what it was at the beginning of the pandemic, which suggests a change in outcomes whatever other factors may be involved)  In previous uses the average time on a ventilator was 7 days, whereas with Covid it was/is 7 weeks –  7 weeks with strong sedation is itself pretty dramatic.  When I got the Oxygen generator I bought a pulse oximeter to measure my Sat. Oxygen level –  to begin with it was often below 95%, but oxygen pushed it up to around 97 or 98 % – a more healthy level.  I’m not sure the Oxygen was essential for my recovery, but it certainly made thing more acceptable and reduced my anxiety level, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have got it from the NHS  – there was (is?)  no halfway house between being ‘on your own’ and being in hospital and on the treatment conveyer belt that all too often put people on Ventilators. ( In ‘normal’ respiratory disease a Saturated Oxygen level of 93 is taken as an indication that a ventilator may be necessary).

2ND May.  The encouraging thing is that every couple of days you notice something that is improving in your recovery, and only then do you realise how bad it had been.  I’m sure if you had asked me a few days ago I would have said I was eating  well, but in the last day or so I realised that my appetite had been  a lot worse than I realised.  All encouraging stuff.  I now have to persuade my oncologist that I am not fading away!  I bought a posh set of bathroom scales to track my weight  but I can’t yet take any comfort from them. I’m  just puzzled at how much my weight varies from day to day, even taking into account the obvious variables!


30th April,  Well, after just over 6 weeks since I got symptoms I  am beginning to feel almost human again.  I’m not sure how much weight I lost- probably around 8 Kg. so it will take me a while to get most of that back.  Hard to remember how nasty it was at the time!  I’m up and about all day and am finding  that I am unable to avoid  domestic chores.  Oh well, no gain without pain!

15th April,   Managed to sleep last night but it left me feeling tired all day – strange!  Anyway I’m sort of getting to grips with things, or at least I hope I am!  I will have to find something to occupy my mind before I go stir crazy………   I can understand how it got Boris J – and he has s few years on me!

1th April.  The oxygen concentrator is a neat gadget.  It strips nitrogen out of the air to give around 70 to 80% oxygen at up to 5 litres a minute.  I think I am getting to grips with most of my problems – I could even taste coffee this a.m.  But I still have difficulty sleeping….  Watching all sorts of iplayer and youtube junk.  A friend had been raving about ‘The Repair Shop’ series on BBC 1, but I thought it had too little technical content and far too much emotional clutter.  Shame as it could be good  Most of the you tubes are similarly disapointing – I’ll just have to make some more f my ow,

10th  Got an Oxygen concentrator from a friend so I  can trickle Oxygen up my nose at night and, I hope, get some sleep.  Before that I used the oxygen cylinder from my lead welding outfit to give myself bursts of oxygen – going up half a flight of stairs had me lying on the bed gasping for air for 5 minutes – not nice – a quick squirt of oxygen into a plastic bag and breath that speeded recovery! I seem to have lost up to 20% or my bodyweight in the last 4 weeks, so I’m trying to eat as much as possible -talk about turkeys and Christmas!  Giles is locked down in his flat in Cambridge, and building climbing walls on all the surfaces that are strong enough -Ive challenged him to build a compete climbing wall that will fold up into a matchbox.!

Now made it to 9th – I think things are slowly improving, and then I can’t sleep for 24 hours. At least there is better information  out there and my GPs seem to know what they are dealing with, which is pretty re-assuring.   Hang on in there and EAT and BREATH.

Its 6th April and things haven’t moved on much – normal temp but absolutely wiped out if I try to do anything except lie down. any effort leaves me completely breathless.  I am just about managing to eat, but I doubt that in reality it would keep a knat alive……….  Still overall not feeling too bad………  Not sure what the problem is so will have to talk to my GP if I can….

When I first got feverish around Tuesday  17th March I started to look at the  ‘official’ NHS symptoms and was confused that I seemed to have missed out on sneezing some exact number of times a day and coughing for so many hours.   So did I have COVID-19 ?.     As a 78 year old with Leukemia (CLL) I new I was a high risk patient, although a fairly fit one with minor CLL symptoms.     How long might it go on for?   and what else  might turn up as a symptom?  My Oncologist, and the CLL community in general don’t yet know if CLL is likely to make COVID-19 worst or better – COVID-19’s target is to set off a massive immune response in the respiratory-  maybe it would offer some protection.   Anyway here is what happened to me.  The first phase took about a week,  Fever 38 to 39 C, aching lower limbs and loss of appetite, or more specifically your mouth moisture all disappears, making it difficut to eat solids. I found it difficult to get my temperature comfortable.  After that I had a couple of days of mostly near normal body temperature 37.2C etc.  I was told by the ever helpful 101 service that I might expect breathing difficulties and temperature from day 8 (ish) but the breathing difficulties didn’t occur. (CLL bonus?)  I discovered over the next 6 days that I could be comfortable lying in a more or less unheated (17 -18C) bedroom with an open shirt and pants without feeling feverish.   After a few more days my temperature has come back to normal for most of the time.  Overall I’m impressed with 101 and with my GP and Oncologist who all seem to know the pattern – just a shame our official NHS advice is is nowhere near as good. It is a great shame the NHS thinks it knows all the answers – it has massively screwed up on testing by not buying reagents in time, not really knowing what it is going to do with its testing, and by insisting only PHE could run tests (at Colonwood)- a decision now revoked under government pressure to include commercial labs.  We love our NHS, but just don’t look too closely at the moment if want to avoid disappointment!   Good luck if you get it.j

I think mine started around 17th March – no real idea where I picked it up, but I was in a classroom for an hour a few days before that.

 Posted by at 3:57 pm
Jan 252020

The first question is ‘why would you want to make nipples out of titanium?’   I guess the answer ‘ because its there’ isn’t really adequate!  I like it for several reasons – T5 is very tough and doesn’t deform when hammered by the cock, it is  completely corrosion resistant as isn’t marked by the cap composition or black powder residues and it doesn’t get ‘gas cut’ by escaping gas past the thread – plus it looks distinctive and I find it as easy or easier to use than a steel of adequate carbon content.  I’ve made lots for myself – almost all my shooting guns have titanium nipples, and I’ve made a number for clients and friends and haven’t had any negative comments.. As with steel nipples, I always wrap the thread with PTFE pipe tape before inserting the nipple.

The one on the left is made from silver steel  – its a bit of a mess, the rest are titanium – much easier to make!

Most original gun threads are like the one on the left – the right hand one is a 1/4 x U.N.F. 28 t.p.i. thread in titanium.

All nipples are not born equal!  Most don’t follow the current trend for small holes at the bottom – old caps were more powerful so it was probably less important.

WARNING:-  I do NOT recommend that you make nipples for a gun that is going to be shot unless you are a competent engineer and understand the risk attached to a nipple blowing out – a detached nipple is effectively a bullet out of YOUR end of the gun!  Always proof test any gun/nipple combination remotely.

Caution:-  Titanium burns and can be ignited during fierce cutting – only special extinguishers will put it out.  Swarf is usually continuous and sharp and very strong. Stop the lathe  often to remove swarf (use a paper towel to avoid cuts if necessary) and put in a metal bin.  If you start a titanium fire and don’t have a special extinguisher use sand.

Advice:- When cutting do not stop the feed with the tool in contact with the work – retract it before you stop the feed – or you will leave a mark and likely work harden the titanium. The same goes for drilling.  If you use coolant, flood the work to carry away heat, otherwise I use oil to drill small holes – any smoke acts as a warning.

I was looking on the web at comments on turning and milling T5 titanium and I realised that in my ignorance I had got on much better than the comments would suggest!  The only thing I knew before I started was that titanium swarf burns with intense heat and is difficult to extinguish – impossible with water.  I know that because we had a fire in swarf on a lathe in a workshop I was responsible for many years ago.  We called the Fire Brigade who unreeled their hoses until we told them titanium and water didn’t mix – in the end they took a bucket into the grounds and dug up some sand.  Titanium T5 bar ( the titanium alloy of choice) can be found on ebay as reasonable prices for offcuts from production runs in 10 and 12 mm diameters.   The problems with machining T5 titanium are several – its very elastic (Young’s Modulus low) so will deform out of the way of the tool, it work hardens dramatically so if the tool stops cutting and rubs it may not start cutting again easily, and the low thermal conductivity and heat capacity means that very little heat is carried away with the swarf but remains with the tool.   I have made many nipples of T5 and I guess that I have learned how to do it by trial and error.  I can turn it with cheap replaceable carbide tipped tools to get a slightly ribbed finish on the boss of the nipple, or with a sharp HSS tool to get a fine finish, but its difficult to take off very small cuts because the elasticity tends to deform the metal out of the way.  I haven’t had too much difficulty drilling 1 and 2 mm holes up to 12 mm or so deep – if you stop the drill it does work harden but you can break through – it pays to use sharp/new drills – I found that Tracy tools sold Imperial 40 thou drills for £1 each whereas the equivalent metric 1 mm drills cost £3.00 – no contest so I got 5.  I break less drills than when I try to make nipples out of silver steel.  I am fairly careful to splash oil around when drilling and to clear swarf often – pull the drill out and don’t let it idle in the hole or it will work harden.  You need a smooth control on the tailstock thread so you can feel progress when using the 1 mm drill – I can tell even on my big lathe how it is going, and feel the breakthrough of the 2 mm drill into the 1 mm hole.

The most difficult part is putting an external thread on the nipple – you need a sharp HSS die and you cannot have several goes at getting the diameter down – you have to know what gap to set in the die with the wedge screw and go for it – unless you need to remove a significant go in your second try you’ll just end up swaging/work hardening the thread.  It is a pain to try cutting a thread with a blunt die – I used one for some time and couldn’t understand why it was as much effort to back off the die as to ‘cut’ it onto the work!  It is a good idea to turn up a dummy and cut the thread, then part it off and try it  in the breech before going through the whole process so you know how much to open the die.  I have opened dies up so far they break in attempts to get a better fitting thread – I have also run a TIG welder up the outside of the die by a hole to weaken it so it opens easier.  You will find that a standard die doesn’t cut up to the shoulder of the nipple so you can’t screw it in completely – you need to grind up a small tool (or use a parting tool) to undercut the thread at the top slightly.  You can also grind out surplus taper on the face of the die to let it cut a bit nearer the shoulder, but you will almost certainly still have to undercut with a tool.  Make sure that you get the thread length right by checking the depth of the hole in the breech and any nipple you removed from the gun – if you make the thread too long it will be the devil’s own job to shorten it once the nipple is finished, and if you make it too short you will be loosing security in the thread – try to get the bottom edge shaped to match the bottom of the hole if you can.  Having got the initial turning and threading done the nipple is screwed into a bit of tapped bar in the chuck and the nipple end turned using the top slide set to a taper of a couple of degrees – using the top slide complicates the use of the Digital ReadOut so you have to remember not to touch the leadscrew wheel – I can’t lock the saddle on my lathe unfortunately.  If you are making a slightly oversize nipple it’s a problem tapping the hole in your jig bar – you can sometimes do it by rotating the tap around the diameter at the same time as turning it. Getting the actual nipple to be a good fit in the cap is tricky because you can’t proceed in very small steps, and files are not that effective.  The nominal nipple diameter at the top for a 1075 cap is, I think, 4.20 m.m.   Having got the nipple blank turned I put in the flats with a file while its in the tapped bar in a vice because its too difficult to hold the nipple firmly enough for them to be milled – a file works (slowly!) although it doesn’t quite look as professional as it should.   We, the Anglian Muzzle Loaders, reckon that the most reliable configuration for a nipple is with a 1 m.m. to 1.2 m.m. (40 to 50 thou)  hole in the bottom extending 4 or 5 mm up the threaded part put in before bothering to cut the thread in case the drill breaks off in the blank, and a 2 to 2.2 m.m ( 80 or 90 thou) hole down from the top as you shape the actual nipple end.  If you use the tailstock wheel to advance the drill you can feel when it breaks through into the 1 m.m. hole and can then put the 1 m.m drill through to clear out the hole. Most nipples in English percussion sporting guns and pistols correspond to 1/4 BSF thread with 26 threads per inch, although the diameter is often worn somewhat oversize.  The thread profile used in guns is generally quite different from modern threadforms – it has a much lower angle, probably 45 to 50 degrees as opposed to 60 degrees for the BSF and a much more rounded top and bottom to the thread – this means that the thread depth as a fraction of the overall diameter is less, and may mean that modern male threads cut a bit small for the equivalent old hole..  Be aware that the 1/4 UNF is the only UNF thread that DOES NOT correspond in pitch to the equivalent BSF diameter – 1/4 UNF is 28 t.p.i.   The Smiths patent nipples I am copying use an oversize 1/4 by 28 t.p.i (UNF) which is a first for me.  If you have a breech with a very loose nipple you can recut the thread with a tap of a slightly bigger diameter but you really must keep to the same t.p.i.  Fortunately 9/32 BSF has the same pitch as the 1/4 BSF (26 t.p.i) so can be used for recutting those threads and making new nipples.  If tapping out the breech for a bigger thread you will almost certainly need to grind the end of a tap almost flat to cut down to the bottom of the hole – it may need two taps, a plug to start and a ground off plug to finish.

Jan 082020

This little pair of pistols are marked ‘Public Office’ and ‘Bow Street’ and are signed Parker, who was the contractor to the early London constables and supplied various arms for the early London law enforcement patrols around the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century.  Interestingly there was some objection even then to arming the police, but the level of highway robbery on the roads leading in and out of London made it expedient to arm the patrols with pistols.  These little pistols are identical, but are not a pair – one is numbered 5 on teh trigger guard and the other is 13 (?check!).  They fire a hefty ball and would have been able to cause a nasty wound, although they are fairly light, so would not have had a very large charge of powder – in any event any gun wound was likely to prove fatal from infection in those times.  For details see ‘Those Entrusted with Arms’ by Frederick Wilkinson.

 Posted by at 10:44 pm
Jan 082020

Here are photos of  ‘O’ gauge model railway bits that I am keen to pass on to good homes – they came from my 90 year old father-in-laws father, so probably before WWII.  The are not in particularly good condition and all have been modified early in their life.  Almost all the wagons and coaches appear to be home built, one or two commercial, some from kits? but some scratch built ?  Most of the locos wind up and run. There is an oval of track using what I would regard as 1/2 curves and full straights, plus a few quarter straights – I recognise the track as Hornby. I am keen to find out who made the locos.  These  trains were run on an outdoor layout that ran around a garden – the oval of track is barely big enough – there are enough coaches to make a train 15 ft long although it would have had to have most of the engines coupled to pull it!   There were around  a dozen coaches and 45 goods wagons plus the 7 engines!  I suspect that the locos are from a couple of different manufacturers as they take different sizes of keys – I don’t have original keys for any of them and the keys I do have (ex clocks) mostly don’t fit.

Loco No 1

Loco No 2

Loco No 3


Loco No 4

Loco No 5


Loco No 6

Loco No 7

Wagon parts etc – need axles, wheels from the box of bits!


there are half a dozen similar coached with different class configurations etc, and a number of scratch built LMS coaches.

Dec 202019

William Smith was a gunmaker  apprenticed in 1766 to John Joyner who at the end of his career had his shop at 64 Princes Street, Soho from 1821 to 1824.  The business passed to his son Samuel, who had the business from 1825. In 1830 he took out an English patent No 5978 for ‘Imperial caps and nipples’ to his own design.  In 1834 he took his brother Charles into the business and it became Samuel and Charles Smith, still at 64 Princes Street Soho.  In 1855 the business passed to Samuel’s sons, also Samuel and Charles, so continued to trade under the same name until 1877, although it  moved to Haymarket for the last 6 years.  Many of their sporting guns, rifles and pistols used the patent Imperial caps and nipples – some are now found cased with alternative conventional nipples so that common caps could be used.  I do not know if Smith originally supplied them as an option, and if so whether alternative cock noses were supplied. Thus early (1831 -1834) Imperial guns would have Samuel Smith’s name alone, with the Prices Street address, for the rest of the percussion era guns would be under the name Samuel and Charles Smith (usually abbreviated as on the lock plate below.) still at the Princes Street address

I haven’t yet seen the Smith patent so I cannot comment on what was claimed to be the advantage, but it was taken out fairly early in the percussion era so maybe the ‘standard’ percussion cap wasn’t yet fully established?  ( I believe it was that they needed less primer, and were easier to make, plus had a shorter path to the main charge).   The distinguishing feature of the Samuel Smith’s caps and nipples is that the caps were larger in overall diameter ( about 8.5 mm ) and sat over the round body of the nipple, which had a small projection in the centre with the hole for the flame – the projection forming the ‘anvil’ on which the cap was detonated by the cock. The nipple top was flat and circular except for the raised ‘anvil’ and so gave no purchase for a conventional nipple key  – they were unscrewed using a special tool that fitted over the body of the nipple and had a small (2.5mm diameter) sprung  peg that engaged with a hole in the side of the nipple  body.  The cocks of Smiths’ guns featured a removable nose on a 7/32 x 32 t.p.i thread – this was flared towards the end, which was around 12.3 mm in diameter (1/2 inch) and was recessed about 1.5 mm (1/16th in.) over most of its end diameter.  Guns seen nowadays usually have conventional nipples to replace the Imperial ones, although they do stand higher by 4 – 6 mm  than the Imperial nipples.  I have not seen replacement noses for the cocks for use with conventional caps ( original or modern) so I don’t know if such things existed!

When conventional nipples are mounted in Smith guns that retain the original cock nose intended for Imperial caps, the caps are not guarded by the usual skirt on the cock nose of guns intended for conventional caps.  The skirt on the nose of a conventional percussion is intended to prevent shards of red hot cap being blown out onto the shooter’s face and hands (it happens!).  It is possible that the Smiths’ cock noses were made detachable to allow the user to fit a safer design for conventional caps?   Early on a number of makers ( Joseph Manton, Samuel Nock etc…) did use detachable noses on the cocks, possibly a relic of the pill lock days –  these, of course, did have protective skirts.


The Samuel and Charles Smith gun shown below is a double 12 bore and is fairly heavy for a normal percussion sporting gun, weighing around 7 lbs.  It was made without a ramrod or fittings for one, which suggests that it was made as a live pigeon gun, probably around 1840, It is one of a cased trio of identical guns, two numbered consecutively and one later, all fitted with Imperial caps and without conversion nipples.  The guns are not individually numbered 1,2 and 3 as one might expect (or is it too early for that?).  The numbering of the guns suggests that they were made as a pair and that the third was made later to complete the trio.  It is difficult to see why anyone would want to have a set of three live pigeon guns, and that makes a case for them being game guns for driven shoots where the shooter might have had two loaders and therefore 3 guns on the go at once, or were they made before the era of massive driven shoots?   As always there exists an enjoyable puzzle!


My project is to convert them to use conventional caps (reversibly and without damaging any original parts, naturally!).  I will make new nipples of a squatter design that normal (modern nipples are about 1.5 mm shorter than the originals from 1840) and will  also make new detachable noses for the cocks to protect the shooter from stray bits of cap.

The nose on the Rt cock is my prototype nose for use with conventional caps & nipples.


Here is the original tool for removing the Imperial nipples – note the spring loaded arm with the pin (approx 2.5 mm diameter) that engages with the radial hole in the nipple edge.

The tool is not particularly worn, but doesn’t fully grip one of the nipples, which I assume had had its hole damaged by trying too hard to remove it.  I will try making a better design of tool – quite a challenge, although I do have a few ideas……





Here is the tool I made to get out the caps that the Smiths tool didn’t seem up to removing;-

The ‘original Smiths tool (above) didn’t grip the cap well enough as the side hole in the nipples was a little worn, and I didn’t want to damage the rather weak joint between the metal and wood of the tool.  I designed a ‘foolproof’ tool that I reckoned would allow me to put much more force on the recalcitrant caps and was ‘more or less’ guaranteed not to disengage in the process.  The principle is that the cup for the base of the cap is a good fit over the cap, but the shaft and end is split so that it can be opened and closed to allow a fixed peg on the inside of the cup  to slip into the hole in the cap, after which the cup is closed to grip the cap by sliding a tapered collar down the split and tapered shaft of  the tool.   I drilled a 2.5 mm hole through the cup and used a piece of hardened steel rod to engage the hole in the nipple – one nipple had the hole facing outward so I could leave the rod sticking out for a trial – it worked, although the thread was pretty stiff even after it had started to turn – too stiff for the original tool to work without holding the sprung loaded catch.  I have now silver soldered the peg into the cup and quenched it to harden it all up, and I’ll try the finished tool on the other nipple.  The thread on the nipple I have removed seems  to be   .253 O.D. and as near as I can judge 28 t.p.i. with a very shallow rounded thread as is common on old guns.  As far as I can see the best fit would be an oversize  1/4 inch U.N.F thread (28t.p.i.) rather than the 1/4 inch B.S.F thread (26 t.p.i.)  I was expecting.  I will cut some test threads – I have a UNF die, and if its opened up to the maximum it will probably cut a big enough thread.  If not I’ll open out a die holder and run a flame down one side of the die to soften it and open it some more………………………………………………………… nothing to do with old guns is straightforward!   If you want one of these tools please email me, see SHOP page at top for price etc.

I ought to have put a nipple pricker in one of the arms – …….. next time?

I cut the slot with a hacksaw, hence the wobble – I don’t have a suitable slitting saw.  It works!

There is still a bit of silver solder round the pin, it has now been removed.

New nose and nipple for 1075 caps.

The nipple could be a shade smaller diameter as the cap hasn’t gone fully down.

I made a new nipple with the same radial hole as the original Imperial nipples, and discovered that the space between the body of the nipple and the flash guard isn’t enough to allow either my tool or the original tool to engage with the nipples unless the radial hole happens to be pointing outwards.  I don’t think the threads and hole were all aligned so wonder how the original tool was supposed to work!  Anyway it isn’t a problem for the nipples I’m making as I can make them fit a normal nipple key, which I have done in the photo above.

Dec 172019

Here are the diary entries from June to the end of August 2019 24th September – A day at the Kentwell Hall Elizabethan Re-enactment with ‘my’ class of 9/10 year olds and their teachers.  The reconstruction was set in the year 1588, which was a momentous year – in July the Spanish Armada arrived off Plymouth giving rise to the apocryphal(?) story of Drake and the game of bowls.  The English fleet harried the Spanish but would not close engage, denying the heavily soldiered ships of Phillip the opportunity for hand to hand combat.  The Spanish needed to rendezvous with  the Duke of Parma  in Calais to pick up the main body of the invading army, but the wind was unfavourable and blew them into the harbour, which enabled the English to send in fireships and cause havoc.  Most of the surviving Spanish cut their anchors and fled north, eventually going round the north of Scotland and into the Irish sea, most being wrecked on the way.  Only the gentry talked of the great sea victory on our visit.  The whole of that period was one of religious upheaval following Henry VIII’s break with Rome, Mary’s Catholic revival and Elizabeth’s return to Protestantism all pursued in a  mightily brutal fashion.  The rise of Puritanism was smouldering around 1588 with the satirical Martin Tracts, although Elizabeth succeeded in keeping the lid on it during her reign, but of course it burst forth during Cromwell’s Commonwealth and then petered out. The Clopton family of Kentwell Hall were, one presumes, safe Protestants, so the Hall presumably has no priest holes for recusants!   The children had a great time and two small boys left the Alchemist’s demonstration hell bent on making gunpowder.  I found it difficult to discourage them as that is exactly what I did at that age – and I’m still playing with the stuff – mysteriously I still have all my fingers, eyes, hair etc although I might once or twice have had rather singed eyebrows.  Wonderful time was had by all – they are a lovely bunch of kids.  My only reservation was that the woodmen were cutting up Sycamore, although it had only been introduced into England in the last hundred years of so as a park tree. 22nd September – Another few days of hectic activity – a couple of days interviewing job candidates and a fantastic shoot on Saturday down on the Essex coast after Partridges.  We were expecting lots of English but in the end the bag was almost entirely Frenchies.  The whole shoot was on dead flat terrain and there was a steady breeze of around 15 m.p.h or so and all the drives were downwind so the birds were going at a fair speed – there were some massive flushes – with that wind its  difficult to pick and stick to one target when there are several nearby, and I find it almost impossible to pick up and hold a second bird by the time they are on top of me.  Anyway it was a great first of the year.  I always live in fear of accidentally shooting a pheasant  before  the season for pheasants opens, but this was not natural pheasant country and I only saw one in the whole of the shoot.  Ours was the first muzzle loading shoot on that estate – an experiment that I hope will be repeated.  Things should calm down next week – just the start of my STEM club at school and I put myself down for the school trip to Kentwell Manor, where the children will be taking part in an Elizabethan activity day – the only condition is that I go in some sort of period costume – I’m working on it but I don’t think I’ll be putting a photo on the webside! 17th September – Spent the day talking to a dozen groups of 14 year olds about seismics – its great fun and they are, for the most part, engaged and interested although I did have one group that was so badly behaved that I threatened to throw them out – and the ‘teacher’ sat there and did nothing… Its the first time in 20 years I’ve had to do that!   I’ve got another day of it tomorrow and then a couple of days of interviews, so no time to even think about guns, although Friday night I’ll have to get ready for a partridge shoot on Saturday ( 6:45 a:m start).   I did manage to get fine semolina from ‘Daily Bread’, a wholelfood supplier in Cambridge – at £1:87 per Kg. it is a lot cheaper than wads so I’ll see how it works some time. 15th  September – There is still a large pile of sailing stuff in the living room and I didn’t want to put it back in the bedroom that I have to renovate soon, so I spent most of the day making a cupboard in a void over the stairs to put it in – now  got to make doors etc…..  I went to Dick’s yesterday and brought back a strange percussion over and under pistol that he has been renovating as it needed a couple of bits of engraving 0n the tang of the breech and on the tang of the trigger guard – the breech one I can do easily but I hate trying to put lines on a very curved trigger guard tang as I can never get sufficient room to maneuver the tool. anyway it’s done – the rest of the engraving is very poor – its a low value job so I did mine to match rather than go over the whole thing and tart it up.  I have to confess I used the Gravemaster to do it.  I failed to find fine Semolina in Waitrose today……………….. 14th September – While we were sailing I asked Giles’s friend, a metallurgist, about brass and how to make a pale brass as used in 18th & 19th century guns.  Brass is basically an alloy of copper and zinc,  in different ratios for different purposes, with a melting point of 930 degrees C plus or minus 20 degrees depending on composition.  It is relatively easy to heat brass to melting point for casting but changing the composition is not so straightforward.  Copper melts at 1084 C so you need to get the brass to that temperature in order to up the copper content and make it a redder  brass – I tried this but couldn’t get the temperature high enough and the copper stayed in clumps within the brass.  Going the other way and trying to add zinc is much more difficult for although the zinc melts at 419 C, well below brass, it unfortunately has a boiling point of 913 C  so dropping zinc into molten brass just boils off the zinc at great hazard to anyone near.  One suggestion was to add tin rather than zinc, which would make a form of bronze (a tin/copper alloy) – tin has a very low melting point  of 232 C but doesn’t boil until 2720 C so adding it to molten brass should be OK, but I’m not sure what that would do for the colour.  There are a number of alloys of copper, zinc and tin – its the basis of Admiralty or Naval brass.  Nickel was also suggested but that melts at 1455 C so is beyond my furnace. Perhaps just melting old brass is the answer! 13th September – I bought back a’rat tailed’ pistol from Sandringham to be repaired- its quite an elaborate, well made brass bodied Miquelet pistol, almost certainly of Albanian origin, that would go to half and full cock but wouldn’t release by pulling the trigger.  I stripped out the lock to see what was wrong, and as I expected it was simply a bit of wear on the trigger where it contacted the sear, so a dab of weld along the edge of the top hung trigger fixed it – a quick and easy job.  The lock was in reasonable condition so I just gently wire brushed its exposed parts and oiled it rather than a more thorough derusting which would have disturbed the patina.   One of the hot topics at Sandringham was Semolina – yes,  the stuff you used to get for pudding at school?  But not in the pudding context here, more serious use!  Our team shooting in Hungary had discovered that some Hungarian team members were using fine ground semolina instead of wads between powder and shot – just put the powder in, then a scoop of semolina, then the shot, then the overshot card.  It sounds improbable but if people were using it in International competition they must be pretty confident it works.  Some of our shooters tried it a Sandringham and couldn’t tell the difference.  I wondered if the fouling would be worse and cleaning more difficult because there was no lubrication from the wad, but was told that if anything the barrels were easier to clean out after semolina.  So there is a thing.  I can see it being a convenient technique at clays, but I’m not sure about using it on a game shoot or in a strong wind, although perhaps if made up into paper packets it might work.  Something to try….. Oh, & it does need to be the fine ground semolina – I think the stuff we endured at school was coarse – and you must omit the jam  in guns………………………… The red arrow points to the blade on the cock, the green arrow points to a button that pops out under spring pressure. it has a notch to capture the blade.  The full cock detent is a flat plate hidden above the button.  Both plate and button are pulled back against the spring when the trigger is pulled. The red arrow points to the sear spring, the green arrow to the sear and the purple arrow to the arm of the sear that is towards you. When the top hung trigger is pressed the sear arm moves backwards and tilts the sear and withdraws the button and blade. The sear pivots on its rear edge and is located by the tongue that is  through it. 2th September – A chance I might get things under control again and find a bit of time for the blog!  I had a couple of weeks sailing round the Hebrides in a Jeanneau 419 during which time our home part of the UK was in a heatwave, while Scotland was wet and windy – it was ever thus!  A fair amount of motoring as the wind was always ‘on the nose’ and we had a series of drop offs and pick-ups planned that didn’t leave much leeway for waiting for the wind to change.  I got back from that and the next day set off for the Sandringham Game fair where I did an engraving display/demonstration to almost nobody!  The MLAGB stand that I’m part of was located in a backwater well out of any passing trade, so although the dedicated muzzle loader shooters found it, they were only interested in that.  Still I picked up a couple of small jobs – a ‘rat-tailed flintlock from ?Turkey? that wouldn’t fire when cocked, and an old double percussion gun that will probably clean up into something presentable.  Back from that on Sunday evening and off on Monday morning with the older children from ‘my’ school for their adventure camp in Norfolk – as the school has no male staff I go in charge of the boy’s dorm – I had 15 boys and the two staff had 5 girls between them!  Anyway I  I should have a few days before I do a couple of days at the Cavendish Labs in the University talking to groups of 14 & 15 year old would -be scientists – 12 groups a day  – come October things should have settled down a bit, although I’m threatened with having to finish and replaster a bedroom that has been used as a junk store for 20 years – it was lathe and plaster but has had the plaster stripped off so I have to make good the lathes and then do it out in lime plaster – easier than gypsum plaster as its setting time is hours not minutes!   All this with the shooting season starting………………………………….. Rather nice charter boat, new this year.   Martin Crix and a very pleased young shot, Molly, at Sandringham. 21st August – Things have got a bit manic on the commercial work front so I have had to put off any more playing guns for a bit, but I hope to get a day or two off sometime to play!  Maybe I ought to retire. I do have to get in trim for my engraving demonstration at Sandringham – I can’t do engraving ‘cold’, I need to get my hand/eye in for a day or two beforehand.  Oh and I made a discovery today watching a YouTube of making a Holland and Holland gun – their engravers use chasing, ie hammering chisels, or much to my horror, pneumatic gravers, probably GRS Gravermax like the one I have but hardly use.  There goes my illusion that they did it by push engraving………. 19th August – The last two days have been spent struggling with my internet – one or two devices were loosing the internet while still having connections to the local network while others are perfectly OK.  I got a new router but I am minded to send it back – the cord from the power adaptor is just over a meter and the LAN cable supplied is 2 feet long  – not sure why they think that it is a good idea to require users to rewire their houses to accommodate the router!  Anyway work in progress.   Following my visit to the Open prison, I’m pleased to tell you that my name has been put down for a rather nice room should I need it!  I did sneak a moment to do a few little jobs on the Fishenden to keep myself sane – I cut up a piece of 2 m.m spring steel for a turnscrew and found a chunk of ebony for the handle and turned up a brass ferule – The handle was turned and then flattened each side on the big disk sander – doesn’t look bad and fits the intended compartment perfectly – needs more coats of sanding sealer……  I ‘economised’ and used a bit of Indian Ebony instead of my real black Ebony so it isn’t quite as dark and has a much more open grain but I didn’t want to cut 4 inches off my ramrod stock length.  I also made a brass ring for the lid – it is probably the ‘right’ thing, although maybe my boss shape is wrong?  The wire could be a bit thicker but there was nothing between 1 m.m and 1.6 m.m on offer. I think maybe the knurled ring is a bit prominent – I don’t have a straight knurling tool so its skewed Needs holding down tighter – how I got a 1.2 m.m. hole through the centre is a mystery!   The only thing wrong is that the bullet mould is 30 bore and the pistol is 16 bore – I have to look out for one the right size. One might almost think it all fitted together by design!   15th August – Day out today on a visit to an Open Prison – since my time as an Independent Prison Monitor I’ve been interested in what goes on in prisons – I have to say that this catagory 4 prison is a pretty good place – 300 acres of estate, massive greenhouses and immaculate gardens and lots of the prisoners working in the voluntary sector and commercially outside the prison, and many of the rest working within the prison – all working towards release and rehabilitiation.   Although I’m not planning to commit an offence in the near future I can think of worse places to be – like the old people’s home my father ended up in, about which I still have nightmares!   I did crack Fusion 360’s toolpath generation but still haven’t cracked is zero reference positioning so although I can make the miller follow the correct path  its still displaced about 5 mm  from where I think it should, so it partially misses the piece of brass I’m trying to shape – I WILL crack it……………………. 14th August – Busy with clearing out another space..  But I did spend a little while on the Fishenden case – I had made a case label in A4 size on the assumption that by the time I had reduced it any imperfections wouldn’t show.  I was wrong! So this morning I had another go at drawing one in A4 but being a lot more precise.  I photographed it and printed it out and it looks much better than the first effort, although I probably ought to steer clear of script …..  I had a bit of trouble getting the exposure right as most of it is white, and in the end it came out slightly shaded, which doesn’t look bad.  Note that this isn’t a fake label, its for information, and has my name in small letters on the corner. This is about the size I’ll use it. 13th August – More clearing out – generated the best part of a full load for the dump!   In the course of clearing out I’ve generated at least another car boot sales worth!  I just bought a derelict Mortimer duelling pistol in need of some serious restoration that will become an autumn project, after finishing the pinfire double 12 bore and a client’s percussion pistol……  And put the finishing touches to the Fishenden case – Each time I pass it I rub on another coat of sanding sealer with a touch of  darkish brown spirit dye to tone down the colour a bit.  I have been trying to pursuade my cnc miller to profile out an escutcheon with scalloped corners for it, but so far I haven’t mastered the Fusion 360 software toolpath generation – it is the most awkward piece of software ever written, but its very powerful and free for startups.  Went climbing tonight- did manage a few good climbs – a bit tired after an hour of it………. 12th August -Clearing out the attics today – very dusty, although I only got about 1/4 done – I’ll have to go to the dump tomorrow!  I collected the pinfire that Dick has tightened up for me – it is now very good in the bite and and ‘on the face’ – I guess there is now no excuse for not getting on with it, except that I have a lot of  ‘serious’ work on over the next month or so, so my playing with guns will be curtailed, as will my postings on this blog – I’m afraid a Non Disclosure Agreement  prevents me from revealing what I’m doing – I’ll try to find time for a few gun bits on the blog, and I do want to wrap up a youtube video I’m trying to do on making springs – always too many things to do,……….. and I thought retirement would be restful, although I suppose in all honesty I don’t really want it that way!.  I hope to fit in a climbing session tomorrow evening – I am getting a bit rusty. 11th August – Did a car boot sale this morning to get rid of some junk – fairly successful but still have too much.  I  was selling a couple of brass candesticks, and realised that one pair was a somewhat paler brass than the other – the pale pair looking genuine and the others obviously being  modernish (Indian?) repros.  That got me thinking about ‘lemon brass’ for old gun parts, and wondering if most 18th/early 19th century brass was paler than modern brass.  I made an escutcheon for the Fishended box from modern ‘engravers’ brass’ and then found one stripped from an old box with a genuine Chippendale handle that was a whole lot paler – you can see in the photo, even though the surface of the original is pretty rough.  Checking out details of modern brasses, I can’t find any reference to the colour of the resulting brass – I’d like to get hold of  a couple of feet or so of 1/2 inch ‘lemon brass’  for making ramrod fittings.  I’ll have to consult Kevin Blackley as I know he uses it for antique brass castings.  I presume it is high in zinc, does it also have nickel ( which takes it Towards being German silver)?  I might have to sacrifice my candlesticks to cast a rod!  Maybe a helpful correspondent can help?  One such did enlighten me about the hole in the bottom of  patch boxes (blog passim) – its to push out the patches, especially if they are oiled or greased.  I’ll have to see if I can put a hole in the bottom – I keep learning from this blog! Anyway thanks – see comment…. The photo is taken in reflected white (LED) light on a white background! 9th August – My making treat for today was a quick box for the Fishenden for 1 1/2 inch patches – occasionally found in pistol and rifle cases, Keith Neil and Back say that the ones for patches had a hole in the bottom (why?) but the ones -later – for percussion caps obviously didn’t.  Anyway the thing to make boxes out of is clearly Box (the wood) – and I happen to have a branch of rather manky Box just big enough so I cut off a 6 inch length some distance from the split end and chucked it and rough turned it until it was a full cylinder, which fortunately turned out to be just big enough to make the box with about 51 m..m outside diameter.  I turned a bevel on the end to rechuck it the other way round with better grip and marked out the lid and body parts.  I filled the small crack that ran along one side with instant glue and activated it.  I cheated on this box – normally I would put a bevel on both ends of the blank so that I could work on the hollowed sides of lid and box so as to keep the body and lid as one continuous grain so the lid grain matched the body grain ( except for the bit missing from the overlap of lid and body).  In this case I was a bit short of length so I made the lid on the same blank as the body – meaning that the grain doesn’t match up across the joint – the lid being effectively reversed – but box has very little figure so it doesn’t show.  The top of the lid was turned by pushing it onto the finished box while that was still chucked (with a bit of tape to make it tight).  Anyway here it is – looks very good in the box, but I found I’d made the loading rod too long to share the space – luckily I had only pushed the knob on the rod, so I could redo the end 20 mm shorter – still long enough to load but now fits!  I bit the bullet and cut a bit of decent mahogany for the compartment lid and planed it down to about 5 m.m.  Its a bit fraught as you push the bit of wood into the thicknesser and then put a strip of ply in to drive it through – it worked although I did get a bit of a groove on what is now the underside of the lid.  I had a 25 m.m. scrap of fake ivory that was going to make a knob for the lid, but its made of polyester and if you don’t turn it right it starts to chip out big concoidal fractures – so I destroyed it pretty thoroughly – Ive just ordered some more (£2.99 for a 150 m.m. length of 25 m.m bar) so it will be a day of two before that is done.  (too many boxes in that paragraph!) The Box box – 1 1/2 inch patches are a perfect fit. The top right compartment might just a take a turnscrew with a ‘flag’ on the side for the cock screw – we shall see!   I picked up a couple of branches of Box during a walk along the Devil’s Dyke – someone had planted some bushes years ago. Woodturning is a good way of producing waste – you start with a decent sized piece of log and end with a little box! As shown its chucked on the log, which is not particularly good as it can’t be put back true  and it needs the tailstock centre – the bevel on the tailstock end will let it be chucked and rechucked if necessary. The body and lid were parted off near the chuck and chucked on the beveled end- the lid hollowed and parted off, then the box hollowed and finished and the lid put on and taped in place while its top was turned and rings marked. 8th August – Most of today I was clearing out the rubbish from various glory holes about the house – a mere 5 bags of rubbish and a half a Land Cruiser full of recyclables plus a couple of boxes for stuff for a car boot sale.  I was clearing my tools from the casemaking and happened to look in the oil soaked instruction book that came with the aforementioned Record No 50 plane and saw that it could be used to plane  dowels with its fancy cutters – well I had to try it out on a loading rod for the Fishenden – as I had a roughly correct sized ebony square already the plane didn’t turn out to be ideal, but I ran the square a few times through the thicknesser to get it the right size and got some way with the No 50, then reverted to a small low angle plane and eye.  Then it went in the lathe for 10 minutes treatment with hard  80 grit paper and it came out perfect – a few minutes with finer grade papers, burnish with a handful of shavings and a quick once over with friction polish and it looked perfect so I had to turn up a knob from figured walnut and a brass end with screw.  I am very suspicious of the highly tapered screws that are used in ramrods etc when used for ball as the expand the ball against the barrel walls as they are driven in, making it harder to get it out.  Anyway my loading rod wasn’t meant to be a fake so I sorted out a modern woodscrew with a vicious point and not much taper.  I do have a number of ramrod ends, but none suitable for a pistol loading rod.   I mentioned yesterday that I’d made the case with the pistol the unconventional way round – I did check ‘The Book’ and knew which way round it should be, but when I drew out the partitions on a sheet of card in the case I forgot to mark front and back, and it just got made the ‘wrong’ way.  I think I would probably have done it this way if I’d thought about it anyway as the main function of the case is to display the gun, and it does that much better this way round! 7th August – Almost there with the case –  internal lid and escutcheon and a few more coats of oil/shellac  on the outside still to do but it is OK for the time being.  I anguished about the finish –  in fact I still am.  I got the ‘Dark Brown’ suede dye but it gave a bright ginger colour. I tried the traditional colourant for mahogany – a solution of potasium permanganate  – it looks violent purple but soon goes dark brown, but I didn’t really like it.  In the end I put on a coat of diluted ‘Slacum’ (linseed, beeswax and turps) – it will probably go darker with time.    I was going to make a lid for the triangular compartment but the thin mahogany I had was too light and open grained ( it was a piece of a punt).  I am very mean with nice wood and reducing stuff to 5 mm thickness is wasteful as my thicknesser likes quite big bits of wood or they don’t come out of the other side!  I will find something better in time, probably by sacrificing larger pieces of  better mahogany. I can see a couple of bits that need attention – one see things in photos that escape the naked eye!  Case experts will immediately recognise that I’ve made this one the unconventional way round – normally the top of the pistol is nearest to the front of the case – i.e. the whole thing 180 degrees rotated.  It is normal to case single barreled pistols and guns with the lock up and I guess if the pistol is the conventional way round you can open the case and pick up the pistol with your right hand in a ‘shooting’ grip.  Having said that I have seen a number that break the rule. Its crying out for a loading rod, a round  box for wads and a pan brush, plus some spare flints in a leather pouch. 6th August – one of the mysteries of this blog is who looks at it – every day it gets between about 120 and 180 visitors, and only very occasionally gets to either limit – given there must be many tens of thousands of people round the world who might be interested, why does the number not fluctuate in a more random way?  Or are most of them regular viewers?  Between 20 and 45 each day come via a search engine, still not a lot of random variation.  I suppose I could put software on the site that would tell me how many returning visitors there are each day, but given the GDPR regulations that might be difficult.  Incidentally almost half the visitors are from the US, twice as many as from the UK.  Africa and Greenland are poorly represented! The case making occupied most of the day – AGAIN!  We used to have a motto at the lab when things got complex or our equipment had to be fixed in zero time on board ship with 50 crew waiting – ‘ Had I known what was involved I wouldn’t have started!’   – that probably applies to this case.  If you decide to make a case, start with a nice simple one all one depth and with fabric over the dividers – it is much easier.  Having said that, it is looking quite fancy, and coming together fairly well – I will prefabricate the compartments and part cover them before fixing them in place – I’m still waiting for the suede dye before I can finally put it together, but I did hinge the lid on today – at which point I discovered that the two hinges I had salvaged from a box were of different widths ( back to front).  I had already made cutouts on the assumption that both hinges were the same and couldn’t remember which I’d used as a template – but a bit of jiggling and a bit of screw hole filling got it there in the end…  …I’m having second thoughts about the escutcheon with the running leaf border – watch this space. I had planned to use the red baise, but when I made up some sample partitions it didn’t contrast enough and the paler green that we had initially rejected came out as favourite.  The upper left compartment will have a lid, the upper right is for a brush that I will have to make!  The rectangular one is for the flask – its a bit big.  All the rest of the junk will go in the lower compartment.  Compartments not fixed. 5th August – still playing with the case – made a small brass escutcheon for the keyhole and inlet it, fitted the lock and cutouts for hinges and made up some of the partitions.  The Fishenden double pistol is very wide so the case has to be around 100mm deep to accomodate the widest part but that makes the rest of it far to deep to be practical so most of it will have to have the base raised with packing by around 40 mm.  I found a box of pieces of balsa wood that we had bought for making things years ago – lots of different thicknesses, so that will be ideal for packing as it won’t add significantly to the weight – I guess there is some merit in not throwing anything away!  I made an escutcheon to put on the lid and felt like doing some engraving so I put a ‘running leaf’ border as on 1800 locks round it.  I might just feel the need to put a ‘stand of arms’ engraving in the middle there is one on the tails of the locks of the pistol. I’m now waiting for Amazon to deliver a bottle of dark brown suede shoe dye  – it is by far the best way to colour wood if you want to go for a significantly darker colour – my bottle is almost empty. Probably ought to be mounted the other way up?   4th August – Bit more work on the case – preparing stock for the partitions – I decided that as its not meant to be a ‘fake’ old box I could do what I liked, so I’ve started to make partitions that show a strip of mahogany at the top rather than fold the cloth over the top – more work but more fun.  I have 4 different biases for lining cases – all dyed in original military colours from Bernie the Bolt – I got Penny to help me decide which went best – to be revealed later…. 3rd August –  Got the basics of the box done – the ‘lining’ round the inside of the box that stands proud of the base to form a lip is a tricky machining job – the outside needs to be chamfered at about 15 degrees so the lid closes.  I managed to do that on my table router. The inside surface is less easy – the biase only comes up to the level of the sides of the box and ends in a recess that needs to be tapered  – I spent a long time trying to work out how to do it with a router, before I realised that I had a very fancy old Record plane that did all sorts of ploughing jobs somewhere in a box – I tend to forget that often hand tools are much easier for some jobs than trying to fudge things with machine tools.  In a similar vein I made the traditional bead round the bottom of the lid using a simple scratch plane with a blade I filed up for the job.  Anyway it is now looking like a box – a few more jobs to do – fit hinges, make internal partitions, make keyhole escutcheon, make lid escutcheon/handle, plus all the finishing – colour it down, sanding seal it, varnish//wax it and line it  etc etc.  In the end it will represent almost a week’s work – no way an economic proposition but I’ve wanted to have a go at casemaking for some time, and I can rest on my laurels when that is finished.   I didn’t put hooks on the front as I wasn’t confident I’d get them right, so presumably I should not really put a handle on the top – I do have a lock for it, but no key  If I were doing it again I’d try to get my cnc machine to make the pockets for the hooks before I assembled the box, and also get it to machine the hooks themselves from brass.  Maybe I’ll fit hooks after all – by hand………… Thinking about the typical construction of cases, I reckon that the bead round the edge of the lid (sometimes round the box instead)  is there to hide any misalignment in the two parts, which it does rather well! 2nd August – Bit more work on the pistol box for the Fishenden and on discovering how the cnc software and hardware interact – I could be getting there but I can’t get the hang of the z axis – the tool raising and lowering – I think I have got it sorted, and then it goes and digs a hole in the piece of wood I’ve put on the bed to protect it from just such events – I will get to understand what it thinks it is doing – at least with computers I’ve learnt that everything that goes wrong does so for a reason – almost always human error or misunderstanding. One little quirk of the free software I am using is that every time something goes a bit wrong I have to restart the whole shooting match.  I went over to Dicks – he has just fitted new frizzens on a pair of locks that had lost theirs, and they really look as if they have always been there – he also found a perfect matching top jaw in his box of old parts – great to have a workshop absolutely packed with the pickings of 30 years in the game!  Dick is now sorting out the Sturman pinfire – tightening up the action and getting it back on the face – that involves putting a bit of weld on the breech hook to move the barrels back a bit, and putting some on the rotary catch to pull them down onto the action flat.  I probably ought to learn to weld properly as our specialist has now started charging a high price for his expertise!  I did manage to weld a pin on the side of a small mainspring for the Harding pistol so maybe there is hope for me yet! 31st July – Trapped at home waiting for a delivery that didn’t come so a repeat tomorrow!  I was going over to Dick’s to see  how he is getting on with pair of locks that he is conjuring up frizzens for – I need to take the Sturman to get him to tighten the action – too modern for me.  I also need to sift through his collection of percussion cocks to see if I can find a better pair for a double barreled pistol I’m restoring for another client – both cocks are replacements and don’t match, one doesn’t strike the nipple and neither are anywhere near the right half and full cock positions.  When I think about it at least half of the antique guns that pass through my workshop have had the cocks replaced – flint as well as percussion.  Most are modern replacements – by modern I mean in the last hundred years – I had one replacement flint cock that was dated 1969 on the back  – I think people, including Blackleys, have been selling casting since the 1950s.  It would appear that quite often replacement percussion cocks are recycled old ones, maybe from the recoversion of percussion to flint, and they often have their squares in the wrong alignment.  Actually gunmakers from about 1830 ish seem to have had a standard square alignment that many followed, especially for sporting guns.  I have been able to swap cocks with perfect alignment  – in one example I put John Manton cocks on a Samuel Nock double gun and the were perfect – they were even a decent tight fit.  I’m still using them regularly! My ‘playing’ today took the form of making a case for my double flint coach pistol by Fishenden.  There are two photos of cases in the Keith Niel and Back Case book , and I am  more or less copying the one for a John Manton pistol as the pistol looks similar.  My first task was serious timber conversion to get enough strips of 10mm wide mahogany for the sides, and a sheet 8 mm thick for the top.  I’ve done the dovetails and glued up the bottom of the case – I made the sides 10mm tahick but I had a bit of a job chasing round to find a small enough lock and hinges.  Hinges for gun cases can be a problem as gun always had ‘stop hinges’ that allowed the lid to be opened just over the right angle.   Stop hinges are difficult to buy and can be horribly expensive if you can find any.  They do come oon old boxes from time to time, but take some tracking down.  The best proper antique stop hinges were made from solid brass but I’ve found two alternative constructions – cheap stop hinges made of folded brass sheet are like normal cheap hinges, except that the brass is folded back from the ‘inside’ edge of the hinge and carried back under the hinge to protrude at the back and form the stop.  The other ‘cheat’ is very useful – just cut a piece of  brass sheet to go under each side of the hinge and let it stick out the back and file bevels to act as the stop – they are drilled to match the hinge and could be soldered on for added security – that means you can turn any cheap hinges into stop hinges. I was trying to look at some adverts for guns on Gunstar to see if it was worth putting any on there.  The thing that struck me most was how awful a lot of the photos are – it may be that Gunstar cuts the resolution down to save space although that would be both silly and unnecessary.  I think it is that in spite of mobile phones being perfectly adequate cameras, people just point them in the general direction of the chosen gun and never look at the result – failing to notice that the framing was all over the place so it doesn’t show what they want, the lighting is terrible and the focus is like looking through thin soup!  Some of the correspondents to this site send me similarly awful phots – some are OK, a few good, but mostly its difficult to say anything constructive about a brown blurr, or worse, half a dozen brown blurrs.  I do take a lot of trouble to get good photos for this blog, although sometimes I can’t get the optimal lighting and occasionally I  don’t remember to manually focus perfectly – I probably take 6 photos for every one that gets on the blog.  I am awaiting delivery of another Canon lens for my M50 – I managed to find a good second hand one with a year’s guarantee for half the price of a new one – lenses are far and away the most expensive part of serious photo kit.  Sturman;-  Recut engraving – first iteration.  The barrel will be ‘struck off’ ready for browning and I’ll then go back over any lettering that has disappeared and recut as necessary. 30th July – I got a coarse diamond disk for my hone and tried grinding flints with a view to reusing worn ones – it works to an extent, in that it does grind down the flint, but the grinding chips off the edge in a way that doesn’t leave a sharp edge – so you need to grind down to a suitable angle and then tap along it as you would to refresh a blunt flint, and take off a series of very small chips – the flints then spark well.  I managed to make a mini flint for the Harding pistol by putting a larger flint in the lead covered jaws of my 4 inch vice and using a pin punch and a tack hammer to take off the back and edge and then grind down the thickness a bit – works and looks OK.  I spent this evening recutting the engraving on the Sturman pinfire barrel  – it is presumably an 1860s gun so its quite old – it has a fairly simple single bite action  of the early form – well back from the action face- the action flat is signed EMME – as with most of those early single bite actions this one is quite loose and ‘off the face’ so I’ll get Dick to tighten it up when the barrel is done.  Pinfires had a very short period of popularity before Daw’s centrefire rendered them old fashioned, although they went on being used for many years.  Anyway it is now ready to be struck off and then re-browned.  I came across an article in a 1995 copy of Gun Review (There used to be lots of mags for us then!) about a magic gun cleaning solution – so I checked it out on the ‘interweb’ as its known locally. Found a firm selling it for lab purposes and had a chat with their technical people, and I have a sample on its way – I will report back when/if I get it…..   Oh and I read the Home Office consultation on firearms licensing and filled in the online questionnaire  _ I’m afraid we are moving towards a more tightly controlled system, but the arrangements for medical checks are very dodgy and may make it very hard for some people to who have uncooperative GPs to get licenses – plus undefined fees for the medical records check.  The main problem is the discretion it gives to Chief Constables to make decisions about the significance of mental health issues and ‘intemperate behavior’  while the aim is OK we are putting far too much power in the hands of the police – which mostly they don’t abuse but there are enough cases where they do for it to be a matter of concern..  I heard of one case where a person was refused because they went to the pub regularly – irrespective of what they consumed there. Find the survey here;- https://www.homeofficesurveys.homeoffice.gov.uk/s/T7L6I/ For the guidance here;- https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/statutory-guidance-to-police-on-firearms-licensing] 29th July – Now that the Harding pistols are done and dispatched I had a chance to get rid of some of the clutter from the workshop and take it to the loft ( or in the case of a depressingly small amount, bin it).  In the process I found my little cnc machine that had been moldering for 4 years since I bent the spindle shaft – so I thought I’d better replace it and try again to use it as I want to make the stocks for a pair of duelling pistols and it would just be big  and powerful enough – watch this space. I also uncovered 20 gravers waiting to be sharpened – so I’m some way through that.  Before I get distracted into doing any other projects though, I must finish off  the video on making a mainspring, including  film of the flaming tempering.   I have at the back of my mind the fact that I am scheduled to take my engraving demonstration to the Sandringham Country Fair at the beginning of September and, this being the summer and distractions many, I ought to think about what I’ll need to take – to that end I took the dramatic step of ordering business cards instead of endlessly printing them and cutting them up myself with pretty second rate results – you get 250 cards for £25, which seems OK compared with the time it would take me to make that many, and the ink for my printer isn’t free either – people seem keen to take them when I’m doing demonsrations.  It was a day of extravagance on account of getting paid for a job – I found a good cheap secondhand 18 -135 lens for my Canon M50 so I don’t have to carry round the big old EF-S 18 – 135 lens and adapter from my old 760D!  Spent out now so I can rest. Out of curiosity I was searching the web for pictures of other similar Harding Post Office pistols – they are certainly rare – I located one that was sold in an American auction, and one in the UK Postal Museum in poor condition, plus Dom Garth Vincent sold a very similar pair by Mortimer that were supposed to be the design patterns for Harding when he got the PO contract. Anyway the Postal Museum specimen is a bit rusty and missing the top jaw and screw, so I offered to fix it up for them, pro bono. 28th July – Most of the Harding stuff is now on its own post.  I finished the Harding – pinned the brass ‘bolt’ to the slider with a piece of 0.8 mm diameter rod tapered slightly  and driven in and hardened the tumbler and sear, so now its finished!  I had made a spare spring blank so I thought I’d replace the spring in the first (PO) Harding that had a cut down main from something else.  I was doing a video of bending the spring, and got so carried away that I bent it the wrong way, so the tab for the pin was on the wrong side.  I didn’t fancy straightening it and starting again so I filed off the tab and welded a small pip for the peg on the correct side – I managed to get a blob of the right size in the right place and it filed down into a 1.8mm peg perfectly.  I hardened the spring in oil and the used the traditional method of tempering springs in burning oil – I made a video of that too.  Anyway that seemed to work – at least the spring is in and working and hasn’t gone ‘ping’ yet.  The spring and the metal container I fired it in are both pretty black! The process looked a bit like a firework display – I thought it was because of the  light rain but it persisted when I held a slate over the top.   Anyway both Harding pistols are now done and look fantastic, especially when compared to the starting point.  They are quite special – I might even make a box for them one day, its a shame they are not an exact pair!  Anyway its now time to move on to the next project!  Nick suggested the pinfire I got from him might make a good project – so I’ll see what I can do!  My first job was to get rid of the absurdly highly polished finish to the case which looked completely over the top.  It would appear to be French polish as fine wire wool and meths ( alcohol) broke the surface.  here are some photos – the main jobs are:-  tighten the underlever catch and put the breeches firmly ‘on the face’ ( a job for Dick),  recut the engraving on the barrel and strike it down and rebrown SLOWLY.  Engrave  the right hand cock which is s replacement.  get the dings out of the stock. recut the chequering, inlet the barrel bolt escutcheons as they are proud of the old chequering.  Make a new horn bit for the foreend.  Then sell it! Perhaps keep the case as it would do for the Venables, which deserves a good case!  Talking of which I need to sort out the barrel again(!) as the ramrod pipes came off! Before: What a depressing sight! I’m really pleased with the way they have turned out – it almost justifies what I paid for the bits. And the next project;- 27th July – bit cooler and wetter today!  Had a visit from a regular client to collect some pistols – I swapped some work for a little 1860s pistol case and a cased double pinfire 12 by Geo Sturman that need a little tidying – the barrel needs striking up and rebrowning – I need to have another go at browning as I am keen to improve my technique – basically slow it all down…  I did a bit more fiddly work on the sliding safety of the second Harding pistol  – this one turns out to be a bit different in its internals from the first, which was conventional.  here there wasn’t a lot of space so I modified the mechanism so that the slider itself actually bolted the tumbler, the slider being retained by a small brass ‘bolt’ that had the ramp on its tail that engaged with a pip on a small spring retained by the sear spring screw.  I found that this time the bridle had a slot that aligned with the slider, so I left a pip on the slider to engage in the slot  – actually that’s not true – I’d already filed off the slider when I realised that the slot lined up, so  I had to weld a tiny  blob in the right place….. Slider and its brass retainer  – ramp on the tail,  plus sear and slider springs –  slider spring has dimple to engage ramp.  ( bridle removed)  All very fiddly as its a very small pistol.   25th July  Predictably the pool got a lot of use today from friends and neighbours -seemed to be full of children all  day!   I sheltered from the heat in my ‘machine shop’ which keeps a reasonable temperature, so I was able to finish a couple of jobs on the Harding –  I glued up a piece of dowel with a turned end into a horn blank – Araldite went off rapidly in the heat, and turned it all down together – looks fine and fits perfectly. I also turned up a side screw – I was going to cut off the thread portion and weld on a new head but found that an M3.5 thread would just do, so made a new screw – I had a very cheap non adjustable die for M 3.5 which worked well enough.  I filed up the slider for the safety catch from the blank I machined yesterday – it must be one of the fiddliest jobs – especially for such a small pistol – anyway its almost done.  Not quite sure how to do the mechanism inside – there is precious little room for the bolt to intersect the tumbler so I might just make a slot in the tumbler to take the blade of the slider, then make a dummy bolt to stop the slider falling out…. I’ll see what is possible. I gather we have a small group for the ‘Have a go’ tomorrow, and I’ll take a breech loader for some lazy shooting afterwards – not sure which – I’m not sure the Beretta I bought fits terribly well, so I might take something else. 24th July – rather warm today – when I got in my car to go to Dick’s it said 38 degrees (C) – that went down to 33 when I was moving!  By 4 oclock I was ready for a swim in the giant bag of water – I reckon I’m up to 700m a session and am aiming for I km – that’s a lot of turning as its only 10m long- I think I’m going to have to make something to keep track of how many lengths I swim!. A good day on the tinkering front – I machined blanks for the top jaw and slide safety, and turned a top jaw screw and a better cock screw, and filed up the top jaw and gave them a once over with Blackley’s case hardening powder to colour them down a bit – they actually look quite good now.  I ‘spiked up’ the bottom of the top jaw with a 45 degree graver without the heels, mounted in a metal rod and tapped with a small hammer – it throws up really vicious little hooks that are just like the originals must have been – its always a give away that a cock has been replaced by a casting as very few people bother to file off the cast ‘teeth’ and replace them with nice sharp ones.  It only takes a few minutes!  Anyway the little pistol is beginning to look really good – the photo has a nasty bit of flint I broke off a larger on as I don’t have any micro flints in stock – it does actually spark up although probably not reliable enough to set off priming consistently – anyway better than a repro Scottish Pistol I was looking at with Dick that would not spark except very occasionally one feeble little spark.  I didn’t have any perfect flints with me – most had been used but you can usually persuade a few sparks out of the lock if you tap a new edge on the flint.  It was sold as a working repro with proof marks so presumably was intended to shoot but I think its going to need some work on the frizzen, either some heat treatment or facing with a bit of old saw blade or whatever – I’ve never had any problems using Blackley’s frizzen  casting – they spark OK – and I’ve never worn a frizzen to the point when it needed refacing.  I don’t shoot flintlock that much – I have enough of a job hitting things with a percussion!  Having said that I’m doing another corporate ‘have a go with a muzzle loader day’ on Friday for Cambridge Gun Club and I have to take both a flintlock and a percussion.   Slide safety and ramrod to do and it can join its ‘almost’ pair, the P.O. pistol   23rd July – I went into ‘my’ school for the ‘Leaver’s Assembly’ to say goodbye  to the year 6 pupils who are moving on to secondary school – a few tears amonst them, but they will do well – their teachers have been so caring.  More tinkering with the Harding – I used a chunk of thick tubing as a heat reservoir to temper the spring and it worked just fine with the radiant thermometer and got a good uniform blue towards the bright end of he spectrum – the spring fits, so I adjusted the full cock bent on the tumbler – very carefully in stages as I didn’t want to loose any more cock swing than necessary.  Once that was done I case hardened the tumbler – it was made out of mild steel – and made a ‘cut price’  sear spring from a bit of spring steel sheet – works fine but looks a bit naff!  might have to revisit.  Anyway so far so good, the lock fits, the spring, trigger and sear work fine – I’ve filed up the cock to a slightly better shape and put a bit of engraving on it – I now need to tap the hole for the cock screw that holds the top jaw, and make a top jaw, plus the safety slider and internal bits – I realise that I case hardened the tumbler and haven’t put in the notch for the safety bolt, but I’m sure I can file through the case. I reckon the restoration of this pistol has already cost far more than it could possibly be worth and it isn’t finished yet – a true labour of love – but at least it all goes on the blog!   Thick tube as heat sink for tempering springs etc.  Bean can holds wood ash insulation so parts cool slowly to avoid hardening them. 22nd July  – Went into Cambridge to do some work on the Bullard Archive but ended up towing a giant skip with my Landcruiser and sorting some junk.  I made one of the springs for the Harding pistols.  This one looks a bit more convincing than the last one.  I’ve hardened it with an oil quenching and its now glass hard so I’m being very careful not to break it – I suspect dropping it on a hard surface might even do it.  Now I have to decide how to temper it, since I screwed up on that stage last time.  I normally find a spot on the hotplate of the AGA which is the right temperature, using a remote temp probe and pop it on there with a couple of layers of aluminium foil over it and shut the lid down for ten minutes, but the AGA is out for the summer.  The traditional method is to put the spring in a pool of oil in a tobacco tin (now a historic item!) and burn it off, after which the spring will have got to the right temper as if by magic.  There is always a discussion about what oil to use – used engine oil is often quoted, but whether its the engine oil or the used bit that’s critical isn’t revealed.  I think I’ll probably heat a thick walled tube in my furnace to 300C, check it with the radiant thermometer  and then pop the spring in and leave it to cool down.  – a lot more trouble than the burning oil, but at least measurable!  As I wrote yesterday, the spring feels different now its fully hard, even when its just resting in my hand – mysterious or imaginary? I can never decide if the two arms should touch along the joint – I think most original springs don’t so I’ve left this one slightly open – you can get a piece of thin card in the joint.  I think this spring is a better shape than the last one.  We shall see!

21st July – What a lovely day sailing in the dinghy on the Orwell! Yesterday I made a couple of blanks for new springs – This time I did the thicknessing of the blank on my medium soft  grindwheel (after flattening it with a diamond tool) rather than the linisher and it worked much better.  I had a look at the broken spring – it was fairly clear that I hadn’t tempered it sufficiently as I could barely mark it with a file – a spring properly tempered should just  be fileable.  Thinking about hardening, I sometimes think when I handle the occasional metal component that I can tell if they are soft or fully hard just by the feel of them – and not by trying to flex them either.  It sounds pretty improbably, but I guess the elastic properties are quite different and maybe this affects the internal damping of vibrations so they do feel different?  Or maybe its just a vivid imagination…….  

19th July – Tragedy  – my new spring broke when I tried to put it in the pistol!  I had hardened it and tried to temper it in my furnace, the AGA being out for the summer, but its not good at controlling temperatures as low as 300 C and I don’t think it was taken to spring temper.  Anyway it seemed a bit strong, and pinged when I compressed it – I think maybe it should have been thinned a bit more, and I need to be more careful to compress it at the ends to allow more of the spring to flex.  Anyway its busted, so I can have the excitement of making another one – I’ll probably make two whle I’m about it as the other little pistol has a fudged spring…. Oh well, I’m going sailing on Sunday and will be busy tomorrow so it will just have to wait – at least I should be much quicker this time.

18th July – yet more tinkering with the little pistol!  I worked on the tumbler and spring to get the combination working – its an iterative process – check, file, check as you converge on what looks like a satisfactory arrangement.  I filed a square on the tumbler shaft and drilled and filed a matching hole in the cock so that I could see how that fitted at the same time.  It all went together quite well as far as I can test at the moment.  I found a sear that will probably do although I might have to bend the arm a bit as it threatens to foul the edge of the lock pocket – so now I’ll need to file the bents in the tumbler for half and full cock – the half cock is more difficult as it has to resist firing by letting the sear nose enter a slot.  I’ll have to make a cock screw to keep the cock in place – although its not loose it still comes off, and also a screw for the sear pivot.  The cock  screw is 5 UNC ( I made the tumbler) but the sear pivot seems to accept an  M2.5 thread, and I don’t have a die for that one – for the moment I can use an existing screw.  That just leaves making hardening and tempering the spring and any other bits, and making the sliding safety catch and spring, oh and the sear spring…. not much to do then!

The shape of the end of the spring, the ‘spur of the tumbler and the orientation of the cock on its square all have to be right – its a slow job if you haven’t done it very often.

17th July  Bit more tinkering with the little pistol – I made a new mainspring and also made a video of the operation – difficult to concentrate on two things at once – tryiing to bend the spring into a ‘hairpin’ while juggling an oxy/gas torch and talking to the camera is fun.  I can’t put it down without turning it off, by which time the spring is cold. I got it in the end  though. Anyway it is almost there – just got to alter the bend a little to make it more even and slightly less open, and shape the end that bears on teh tumbler.   Very satisfying making springs!  Much more so than struggleing with editing documents in Word – I’ll have grey hair if I have to do it much more – making springs etc is a doddle compared to struggling with Bill Gates’s constructions.  I think I got the bridle to fit as well, so progress!

The bend has a face with a slight angle so it looks dark – its fine!

16th July I did some work on a gun case – I bought a set of ‘furniture pens and crayons’ from Amazon for a few pounds – they are meant for touching in scratches on furniture but they might be useful on guns and cases – I’ve aleady deployed the mahogany one – it helps but I really need darker shades.  In my ‘spare’ time I’m still tinkering with the little Harding pistol.  I put the proto tumbler in the miller and got a bit more metal off it, and have now filed it to an approximate shape.  I found a sear that looks as if it will fit so I’ll  have to sort out the bridle and fixing screws  – I think I can use the bridle out of the box of bits if I weld up the hole for the tumbler extension shaft and re-drill it in the right place.  Then its just a case of making the mainspring, the sear spring, and the sliding safety catch, bolt and spring – nothing really!!!!!

Part way there with the tumbler. not sure about the sear?

15th July – Looking through my Manton book yesterday I realised that whoever botched the single NOCK barrel to have a recessed breach didn’t need to recess the side opposite the lock – Joseph never did on single guns….

I bought back a pair of continental locks sans frizzens to see if we could find replacements for the owner – and indeed we found a pair of matching frizzens with pan lids exactly the right size – the tails need extending to reach the pivot position but that can be done…. a result.

My ‘office’ table is now covered with nautical charts as we begin to plan our summer trip to the NW of Scotland – we have a new charter yacht from Skye and will head out to the Outer Hebrides – we are a bit light on crew this year, so a bit more work for me, although the boat has in-mast reefing on the mainsail so not so much deck work needed  – its 43 ft long so it will be interesting to see how we get on with just 3 of us.     It’s the coming alongside in marinas that’s tricky, although we don’t do that very often. The last few years we’ve had the same boat so I knew how it handled under power – its going astern that is always tricky – most boats just won’t steer until they are moving so you never know quite how they will set off backwards so there will be a learning curve with this one.

The table is  also covered with the bits of a pistol case that I am remaking – fortunately was just held together with animal glue – or indeed no glue at all!  Anyway its all in pieces now.

I’ve had a couple of conversations with experts on gun browning in the last few days – one, supposed to be the best in England says it can take up to a month to get a good browning on some barrels, and he stops if the weather gets too hot.  The other friend says he reckons up to 16 days and thinks that if you brown them faster than one rusting a day the browning wears off very quickly – so maybe I need to slow down as I had been aiming to get at least two brownings a day……..

14th July  – Holts shoot at Cambridge Gun Club.  Not my best day – but I did manage to hit one of every different clay except one – at least that shows something!   Derek brought the owner of the Joseph Manton 22 bore featured in the posts and the gun for Nick Holt to have a look at – I was able to assist him in unravelling the gun as I’d done a blog on it.  He was shown another gun that was a bit of a mystery – a very late Jo Manton flint lock on a single barreled gun  signed H Nock on the barrel – its difficult to appraise a gun without my list of dates and references etc, but  the gun had the patent Jo Manton recessed breech C1810(?), while the barrel and trigger guard looked older. My suspicions were confirmed when I noticed that the breech blocks had been machined down from a normal width to the recessed width to take the late lock, and not particularly carefully.  The lock fitted quite well. Nothing on the bottom of the barrel made a lot of sense – no HN maker’s stamp as I would expect, or a number (Henry Nock was amonst the first to number his guns around 1790). In the absence of any further info I thought it was maybe a Nock gun of maybe 1790ish with the ‘wrong’ lock. Possibly a spuriously engraved NOCK?   The left side of the breech plug had also been recessed – I didn’t see if the stock had had a bit glued on to fill the gap where the barrel was milled away. If not I’d have to suspect that it had been restocked – the lock was very well inletted so a possibility. I’m afraid the jury is out on that one! I was hoping for a valuation on the Post Office pistol – I know what its worth as a little pistol but not what the rarity value of the P.O. connection is – but it wasn’t fair to expect Nick to guess that.  I actually found a reference to one similar being sold at Bonhams in 2015 for $2800 – so obviously some rarity value there….

13th July  – bit more tinkering with the pistol below – I had to make a replacement screw ( I had to grind it out) for the tang of the trigger guard – I don’t like just using a woodscrew as the heads are never right and in this case they don’t work well into the endgrain of the plug I had to glue in,  so I turned up a countersunk screw with a No 5 UNC thread and an extra false head.  I slotted the false head and screwed it in, then marked the fore and aft line, cut off the false head, put in the aligned slot  and filed it to conform to the curved shape, then engraved a few lines on it and used Blackley’s case hardening powder to colour it down (and incidentally harden it).  Jobs left include all the works of the lock, some reshaping of the cock casting I have, to reduce the prominent breast it has and scale down the spur, and make a ramrod.  Tomorrow is the Holts Shoot at the Cambridge Gun Club – I am, of course, going and will hope to exceed my 50% target – I didn’t quite make it at the Helice shoot – I was on target but missed all of the last 4 ‘easy’ birds!  I’ve finished a batch of de-cappers to take to CGC – they make good engraving practice so I did a little stand of arms, and a stand of music and a sunburst and a scroll plus some borders.  Quite interestingly (at least for me!), the strip I was using that I said was as soft as butter turned out to be pretty tough down the other end – just goes to show what cold rolling does to the grain structure near the surface.

11th July   I more or less finished the woodwork for the second Harding pistol, at least in so far as anything is ever finished in this game!  I’ve given it an initial coat of stain to darken it down and match the wood repairs in – a coat of Van Dyke solution first, that didn’t do much, then a coat of Jacobean Oak stain. The problem with stains that are supposed to be black is that there is no effective black stain – so they mostly contain black solids, which in this case I had to rub off, which leaves a decent dark brown colour that matches the original colour pretty well.  The various joints are still visible but not too bad – I’ll work on them a bit as I apply finish – probable a couple of coats of sanding sealer, then alkonet root coloured oil finish to give a deep rich colour and finish off with a very hard wax finish.  Any recalcitrant joints will probably get blended in with a black Sharpie pen and smeared with a finger!  – it works a treat.  One trick that does help if you want to disappear a joint is to take a very sharp modelling knife and create some ‘grain’ across the joint matching that around it – do this early on in the process so they get treated the same as real grain!  Oh dear, maybe I shouldn’t reveal trade secrets here but anything that is continuous across the joint hides it from attention!  On this pistol the main joint runs with the grain, so that technique is of marginal benefit!

10th July – I seem to have got landed with compiling a document for the school governors – I am thinking of enrolling for ‘Say No‘ lessons!  It rather got in the way of my gun activities.  I finished the blank for the tumbler for the Harding pistol and unglued it (heat) and then glued it onto a piece of scrap plate to put it centered on the turntable in my miller so I could reduce the diameter over most of the circumference – I did get some way, but the strain was too much for the glue, so I’ll have to finish it by hand.  I’m made some progress on with the woodwork – I now have sundry bits of wood stuck onto the pistol and tonight I managed to inlet the barrel – I think its now just a matter of filing/sanding everything to shape and inletting the lock.  I put some oxalic aid on the existing wood which got rid of most of the black stains – I should have done it before selecting the wood for the repairs as its now a bit darker than the original – but the other little Harding pistol is almost black so I can colour this one down – it will help to hide the repairs too.  In the course of sanding down blocks of wood for the repairs I managed to sand the end of my thumb on the 12 inch disk sander – painfull still!

Tumbler blank on a scrap plate – the glue failed!

Clingfilm on a dowel to locate the repair in place – self amalgamating tape as an elastic binder. see earlier photo for the ‘before’ state.

9th July – several jobs on the go, which is handy when there is adhesive setting time involved.  I started the new tumbler for the little pistol  – I turned  the axle that bears in the lockplate plus a bit for the square and tapped it No 4 UNC, and faced a 22mm diameter disk to make the actual tumbler out of,  I then parted off the disk and axle, leaving a bit for the bearing in the bridle, faced off the bar left in the lathe and drilled a hole that is a good fit on the lock axle and Araldited the proto tumbler to the bar so I could finish the other side of the tumbler – its still in the lathe hardening off.   I milled some of the broken wood from the pistol lock area and glued in a piece of walnut – there is still quite a lot of wood to be fitted in, but its starting to look less bad.  I also decided to make another batch of de-cappers in case I get orders from the Holt’s shoot participants – I know Martin is keen for everyone to have one on safety grounds. And I got the new screen for my PC so that had to be set up…….

8th July – I got a request for a couple of my personalised decappers – I had run out of my original supply of metal and bought some 15m.m wide strip but it is a bit wide to fit round the nipples of some guns, so I picked up a length of scrap 1/2 x 1/8 from my old lab and made two decappers – when I came to engrave the names etc on them it was a bit of a revelation – they cut like butter, and it made me realise how horrible most of the metal I engrave is!  I guess the scrap was mild steel but it didn’t have the cold rolled crust that most mild steel strip has.  Anyway a pleasure to work with.  I did some more on teh little pistol woodwork.  It was fairly riddles with cracks as well as having chunks of wood missing, – the first job is to find all the cracks and see which move if you gently flex the wood.  If they are wide or full of muck they need clearing out with the back of  a modelling knife blade – these I fill with liquid epoxy, mixing in a bit of walnut dust to fill the surface.  As you put the epoxy in, flex the wood to open the joint more and suck the glue in.  You may need to clamp or bind the wood to close up cracks while the epoxy sets – I find self amlgamating tape is ideal for quick elastic binding of parts while glue sets – a couple of turns and it will stick to itself and hold things in place.   For small cracks I use an instant isocyanate glue and again work the joint to get the glue in – I keep a spray can of activator handy to start the polymerisation.  I also put walnut dust in the top of these cracks and drop a little instant glue on it and set it with the activator. I’ve done all that for the Harding pistol and the next step is to work out how to do the replacements and what needs milling out, and find a bit of matching walnut from my offcut box, or go over to Dick’s as he has a much bigger box of offcuts.

7th July – I started to strip the little Harding pistol so that I could sort the woodwork, but the woodscrew holding the tail of the triggerguard proved to be a major problem – first, the slot had got worn into a ramp and wouldn’t shift even with heat, then it turned out to be dead hard and I couldn’t drill it with any of my drills.  I ended up grinding off the head and digging out bits of it with the GRS graver – that released the guard.  That left the stub of the screw very firmly embedded – I tried cutting a slot in it with a small disk but the screw broke when I put a screwdriver on it!   Only solution was to core out the remains of the screw so I made a corer from 8 mm silver steel with a 4 mm hole in the centre and a 5.5 mm outside diameter and filed up some teeth and hardened it – at least that got it out and I could glue in a wooden plug for the next screw!   A lot of work to get one screw out – lucky I enjoy making tools!  I derusted the lock and the barrel, which is in good condition – I lightly recut the barrel engraving.  I will have to make a new tumbler as the one with the pistol is completely wrong, but I might get away with the existing bridle – I think it might have been the right one, but it had been broken and rewelded with the parts not quite aligned – I will make the tumbler and see if the sear is right before I decide whether to make a new bridle or fudge that one.

Corer for removing headless screw.

A bit of pitting but not too bad!

6th July – Dick got the pair of hammer gun hammers welded and filed up – they are a pretty good match in shape, but without the gun to try them on its difficult to be certain.  Photo below.   I was looking round for another project to do – apart from the documents I offered to edit for the School – I decided it was time to tackle the wrecked Harding flintlock pistol.  I bought a box of junk that purported to contain two rare small post office pistols by Harding. I paid good money for them, heaven knows why. Anyway one was actually stamped for the Post Office and was more or less complete so I’ve done that one up (see diary past) and it is a very pretty little pistol even if a bit corroded on the barrel.  The second set of parts is more problematical as these photos will show – the wood is badly broken with large missing bits and cracks, it has no mainspring , no cock or topjaw or screws, the bridle is a bit wrong, the tumbler is completely wrong, I’m not sure about the sear either, and so on….   I will strip it down and derust it (for a short while so as not to disintegrate any faulty metal) then mill away the broken wood so I can match in new wood to clean flat surfaces -As you can see, there is quite a lot of work in reshaping the inserted wood to match –  I usually leave such woodwork to Dick, but I will do this one – I need to up my woodwork skills – I can make a reasonable job of it but Dick usually manages to find better matching wood and grain, and make tighter joints.

There are slight differences in the overall shape of the cocks – the one on the left has a less rounded breast.  possibly one was a replacement, or more likely they never matched fully.

Pistol has very nice brass furniture

The barrel, lockplate, frizzen and frizzen spring and barrel bolt are the only parts of the original pistol – the tumbler,bridle and  sear don’t fit and will need replacing.

4th July – I tried out the CZ120 brass to see how good it was for engraving – its a ‘free cutting’ brass with about 2% lead, 60% copper and the rest zinc.  Its better than most brass that one comes across for hand engraving, but still not as ‘steady’ as copper, silver, gold or well prepared steel.  I did a quick trial freehand to see what it was like – I’m sure if I used it for any length of time I’d adapt my technique to work better, possibly even sharpen my tools differently.  I found it more difficult than steel to cut long straight lines of uniform width – it was more difficult to maintain a uniform depth and the resistance of the metal seemed to be more variable.  I found it had two modes of cutting –  in one it cut in a series of small jerks that were visible in the cuts under the microscope,  in the other mode it cut smoothly – it wasn’t always easy to predict which would prevail.  I did get a couple of skids, and the tool had a tendency to dive deep and it wasn’t easy to drive the cut back up – cutting ‘O’ s I had to stop half way through the down loop and come back from the bottom.   The $64,000 question – would I recommend someone learns hand encraving using CZ120 brass?  It requires a good deal less force to cut than steel and is much kinder on the gravers, both of which are advantages for the beginner.  Its not a pushover so you’ll learn most of the basic skills, although it will take you a while to adapt to steel if you ultimately want to be able to do that. On the other hand if you have reasonably strong hands I’d probably say go straight in with the steel.  Here is my test piece, skids and all….

The brass is 22 m.m.high – a very quick & dirty test….

4th July – bit the bullet and bent the 38 bore  Adams spring – I’d filed up both ends while it was flat, so the bend had to go in the right place – difficult to change if you get it wrong!  Anyway it all bent & went together just fine, I haven’t hardened and tempered it yet, but it all works  and I suppose I could just leave it – the thought is tempting as the cock tension is just about OK and it all functions as it should and it was a bit of a b***** to assemble………  It even looks the same shape as the original although the bend is not quite as tight – there is no point in stressing the metal any more than necessary!  I really enjoy making springs although I have had my share of failures!

The Adams patent is a very simple self cocking mechanism.

3rd July – more work on repairing the Adams revolver – Tom has now left for St Andrews so I have to do my own filing!  I never served a proper workshop apprenticeship so my filing is not so hot.  Anyway I finished off the link and started making the new spring from a piece of 15 mm x 2.5 m.m. spring steel.  I first annealed the steel at 950C for half an hour  and cooled it over an hour or so as it was a bit hard to file.  First job was to build a ridge of weld  across one end so I could file the claws that hold the link when the rest of the spring was shaped. ( I should have done that before annealing the metal, as I had to anneal the weld anyway.)   There was quite a lot of thickness reduction to do – the business end of the original spring was 1 mm thick, tapering to around 1.4 at the other end – most of the removal was done on the linisher, both flat on the platform and over the end roller, but eventually I got there.  The width had been roughly cut with a 1 mm cutting disk, and I filed up the claw to fit the link  – the next problem is bending the spring to shape and hardening it.

Link and flat spring without the slot to hold it to the frame

A lot of people ask me about engraving and want to start off engraving brass.  Most brass is a pain to engrave because its very hard and the tool chips rather than cuts cleanly – its very prone to slip etc. I checked a couple of websites and found the spec of  engraver’s brass, which is what its name implies. Brass is the usual copper /zinc mixture but some had lead added to soften it up – engraver’s brass should have between 1 and 3 % lead and around 60% – the type numbers seem to be CZ120 or CW612N or C35600 – all thses are classed as engravers brass.  I have ordered a sample of CZ120 to try out and will keep you posted with how I get on.

Here is a summary of the countries that visit the site most often over the last three years;-

Rank Flag Country Visitor Count
1   United States 70,644
2   United Kingdom 48,099
3   China 27,032
4   Germany 14,004
5   Canada 13,931
6   France 12,545
7   Russian Federation 11,212
8   India 7,121
9   Ukraine 6,330
10   Australia 5,828

2nd July – In the end I milled the blank for the link as it was easy to make several in case they went wrong.  Luckily I left the ‘pins’ oversize as I did have a problem matching the milling on the top and bottom in spite of having a clear index hole.  Tom has done the bulk of the filing and it is looking good – a little finishing at the spring end, and then its making a new spring……….

part filed link and blank for a spare.

1st July again…  A small problem – Tom was looking at my Adams 38 bore revolver and was testing the action when the mainspring stopped functioning – I don’t think he did anything wrong as its difficult to see what that could have been, but it seems the link broke and the mainspring then broke as it ‘dry fired’.  So that has to be fixed!  We have drawn up the link and one possibility is to turn up a blank from which to cut the link  – the plan is to turn up a disk with one pin at the centre and a rim that will yield the other pin, then part it off and glue it onto a boss and repeat on the other side. Its rather a longwinded method but I have done it before.  An alternative would be to mill the shape with square pins – but turning it over to mill the back and ensure register would be a little difficult, although I guess it too could be glued into registered holes.  not sure there is much in it! The easiest way to measure such things is to photograph them with a ruler and print it out A4 and scale from there – you need a good mm ruler graduated in 1/2 mm as in this pic, and a micrometer to check the pin diameters.  Anyway its another job to keep me busy….

The break is just visible at the arrow tip.

1st July – half way through the year!  Here is the promised pic of the finished trophy – off to cut the hedge now…..

beautiful piece of old stock and offcut for base – but not very good photo!


 Posted by at 4:50 pm
Nov 222019

Here are some details of the workings behind the blog in case you want to know how to set one up yourself – posted 11/2019.

( Note – Internet Hosting Service provides storage space and hosts your domains, i.e. your website addresses – you only need this if you want your own website/s.  The Internet Service Provider – ISP connects your computer to the internet and send requests to internet Hosts for the information that makes up the webpages you want and passes them to you. It also passes you email to and fro from whatever email Host you are using – i.e. Googlemail etc.  You can’t get on the web without an ISP – you pay them for your line rental etc.)

I have an Internet Hosting Service that provides me with facilities to have have a number of different websites and to have an unlimited number of email addresses and mailboxes associated with each website.  The service provides me with the storage space I need to build the websites, and allows those websites to be available to anyone on the web. (1&1.co.uk)

I used to build my websites in HTML, the language of the (old) web, but that is slow and laborious and difficult to change, so I use a proprietory package called WordPress that lets me work on the website as if it was just a simple word processor, and then put any changes and photos onto the visible website immediately and seamlessly.

My WordPress websites are built on  my hosting service servers in my own ‘domains’ i.e. my own web addresses, but you can put your WordPress sites onto the WordPress server for free if you don’t mind the website name being www.wordpress.com/yoursite or whatever.

WordPress has all the tools for making your website, and a great many ‘themes’ you can use to give it all different appearances. I use just one – ‘Suffusion’

You can add any number of ‘plug ins’ to WordPress to let you do various things – I use a number including ‘Statistics’  that lets you see how many visits and visitors the site gets each day and in total, which pages and bits are most popular, how many referrals come from which search engine and more. It provides the numbers you see on the start page – It is free.

Another vital plug in is ‘Wordfence’ – it comes in two flavours, free and paid.  I use the free one as the website isn’t earning anything.  Wordfence guards your site for you and keeps out undesirables – it also let you see who is doing what, and if you see that your site is being attacked by a particular IP address or a group of addresses you can easily block their access. It tells you the location and IP address of all visits for security purposes.  It is a very powerful tool, and I would not be without it, although tracking miscreants can become a bit addictive at times.  One of the little known features of the internet is that all ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have to have an email address for reporting abuse from IP addresses they are hosting, and they are supposed to get after anyone who abuses the service they provide – I have used this on a number of occasions and the ISP will usually stop blatant abuse like excessive calls to your site for no apparent purpose.  For instance I had one post (Hanover Pistol..) visited 26000 times by a Russian site at regular intervals – obviously programmed into a computer for the purposes of goodness knows what – but the Russian ISP has ( I hope) stopped it following an email to their abuse account.   If you do see an IP address that is causing you problems you can put it into ‘Whois’ and find their ISP and the abuse email address.  It has worked for me in the past including taking out a whole botnet that was attacking my site, although that was mostly down to a bit of detective work on my part and carelessness on the part of the botnet operator.

There are a number of other plug ins that are useful – a backup plugin stores regular ‘images’ of the website.  A login diverter hides the login from view to add another level of security – that seems to work well.  Anti spam plug ins guard you from (most) spurious comments to your posts.

For me an essential plugin is the ‘classic editor’ as I don’t like the  new default editor, but if you haven’t known the old one you may prefer the new one with blocks, whatever they are!

While on the subject of backups – a very useful feature of the internet is a website called ‘the wayback machine’ that periodically stores images of the whole of every website on the entire web – sounds improbable, then try it!  I was involved as a witness in an American legal patent case, and part of my evidence was something I put on my company website in 1999 – the wayback machine had a snapshot of my website from then, with the thing on it, and that was acceptable in a court of law in America as proof of the date it was put on the web.  There are something like 40 versions of this website stored, going back to 2011 when I started it for rebuilding this house – then as a baker, then for the present purposes.


How does it all work?  very well and not a lot of trouble but it pays to be a bit technically savvy, although once set up it is easy for anyone with basic word processing skills to use and edit!

What does it cost?   To be honest I’m not sure – I have about 10 websites and use a professional Hosting package which costs about £200 a year, then there are the renewal fees on the domains that come to around £10 per year each, and then the ISP connection fee that is around £40 a month for a professional service – so maybe £800 a year total, or £80 a website equivalent, which given the service I get is reasonable – this website alone is pretty massive as you will see as you explore it.  I pay nothing for Wordfence or WordPress or any of the plugins although I do occasionally donate to them.


Photographs;  Photos are an essential part of this website – you’ll see in various places details of the setup I use – basically at the moment a Canon M50 camera with 18 to 150 lens, and crucially, PhotoScape as a free photo editor.  There are so many  photos on the site that I am careful always to edit them down to a width of 1200 pixels, unless they need extra detail, in which case I use a width of 1600 pixels.  Computer screen get bigger all the time, but those sizes work at the moment.

To make the blog more interesting it is important to have good, detailed photographs to illustrate the work, and that means you need to be able to take technical photographs quickly and without a lot of setting up.  I don’t have space to leave everything set up permenantly, but I have a 50W white LED panel on the ceiling above the big table in the library/office and a stand with a tripod head that gives a good coverage, so I can photograph anything from a screw to half a long gun in a couple of minutes, and edit in Photoscape quickly and get it on the web in around 5 minutes.  The 18 to 150 Canon lens is perfect for the job – it doesn’t focus very close but as I’m putting photos of limited resolution on the blog ( 1200 or 1600 pixel width) I can get my ‘macro’ shots by cropping my 6000 pixel wide images, which effectively gives me x4 zoom.

 Posted by at 10:02 pm
Oct 042019


Here are some exerts from my blog relating to the gun I bought at Southams earlier in 2019:-

The gun I bought is a Westley Richards percussion double 11 bore – I had left a bid above the bottom estimate, but got it for £380 Hammer price – just below the bottom estimate, so good!  There were a couple of expensive Westley Richards guns for sale that went for what I thought were fairly high prices given their condition, which frankly wasn’t wonderful, but I bought this one as I thought it would make a good shooter.  It is a bit of a dog’s dinner, and I havent yet quite worked it out fully.  The barrel is very good externally with pretty fair bores – its genuine Westley Richards with his barrel maker’s stamp, signature ( very clear and unworn and looks genuine but unusually read from muzzle to breech ) ‘Westley Richards & Co  23 Conduit Street London’ and Birmingham proof marks V & BPC which were used 1868 to 1925.  The problem is the address – it was only occupied by WR & Co  from 1917.  The barrels are numbered 1019 as are the locks – all looking like they are original numbers.  The numbers, according to Nigel Brown’s book, should be for 1843 ish.  The gun has a rounded or semi-pistol  stock which was quite a late style.  There are a number of things that are notably odd – the stock at the breech isn’t deep enough to cover the sides of the false breech by about a mm or so.  The forend pipe and trigger finial don’t quite fit the cutouts suggesting that they are replacements.  The forend ramrod pipe has somewhat abbreviated engraving, the trigger guard finial very abbreviated but of classic shape.  The trigger guard has no engraving and is blued, the butt cap is full steel and similarly plain and blued.   The barrel looks much less worn than the lock plates which are signed Westley Richards and numbered 1019 on the insides – the cocks are poor replacement castings.  The nipples are loose – the holes are too big for 1/4 BSF and too small for 9/32 BSF so I’ll see if borrowing oversize 1/4 BSF taps will work.  The screw holding the locks in has been replaced with a round headed brass screw with the head filed down.  There is no ramrod.

What would I speculate about the gun?  one guess is that there was an 11 bore percussion gun made in 1843 ( the locks are signed Westley Richards, not ‘& Co’, and are fairly worn).  The gun was then rebarreled by WR & Co post 1917 (I know it sounds unlikely?).  The stock is not original to the 1843 gun but is later,  possibly reused from something else, but fairly unworn and certainly not 1843 style – possibly dating from the rebarrelling.  The good news is that WR still exists, and their historian may be able to help with the puzzle.


I borrowed a set of oversize taps to fix the nipple holes on the Westley Richards, but even the 15 thou oversize one was still a bit loose, and they are UNF  which is 28 t.p.i. ( 1/4 and 9/32 BSF are 26 t.p.i. and 1/4 is what is used on most later English percussion nipples) which means that in 1/4 deep hole you are almost half a thread out by the bottom.  So I tapped them out  9/32 BSF, which is 30 thou bigger than 1/4 BSF, and that worked fine.  I made a couple of titanium nipples, but one didn’t start the die properly, and doesn’t have a very good thread so I’ll remake it before I try to use the gun.  The photo shows the back of the die, which I have ground on the 5 inch grindwheel so that it can cut the thread right up to the shoulder of the nipple – use the unmodified side first.   Here are a few shots of the WR markings etc….  The gun is 11 bore, weighs 7 1/4 lbs and has a pull of 14 1/4 inches – about 1/4 inch of cast off.

Bottom of die recessed on grindwheel.

Serial number appropriate for about 1843 on barrels (above) and inside lock plates

Address occupied by WR from 1917….

Locks are well made inside, engraving is bog standard minimal Birmingham standard of the period. cocks are castings – they look like Kevin’s rejects!

Rounded or semi pistol grip – hardly a 19th century style!

 Posted by at 3:27 pm
Aug 152019

Having made a case for a double barreled flintlock coaching pistol I thought I’d put  post on it using bits from the diary and some additional hints and tips.

This case is unusual as its rare for a single flintlock pistol to be case – almost always flintlock pistols came in pairs – at least from about 1760 to 1850, and it wasn’t until the percussion revolver era post 1851 that single percussion revolvers pistols were commonly cased in oak boxes with brass screws visible on the top.  prior to that it was usually pairs of pistols, most commonly duelling pistols in mahogany cases.  _ See Keith Neil and Back’s book on Trade labels and cases.


Oak – dark, for early cases

Mahogany – fairly fine grained , for pistols and long guns up to around 1850.

Oak – light yellow in tint – for single percussion revolvers from ?1851.


The carcass of almost all old cases used open  dovetailed joints – the joint provided the strength as there were no good glues.  These joints were cut with very fine ‘pins’ – on the outside edge of the tapered pin they were often no more than 1/16th of an inch  thick – they were, of course cut by hand and they still need to be as router cutters can’t do such narrow pins – dovetail cutters for doll’s house furniture are not long enough and regular cutters have too thick a shaft.  Cutting such narrow dovetails by hand requires a saw with a very thin ‘kerf’ (cut thickness)  – certainly no bigger than 0.5 m.m. – I use a Japanese pull blade with a kerf of 0.3 m.m. – a fine tool for the job.  The bottoms of the cuts is best done with a very fine blade in a fretsaw.   We can of course use modern glues to disguise our imperfetions – but that is really cheating!  Cutting fine dovetails by hand is very satisfying.

The bottoms of boxes were usually fixed in a rebate in the sides and were often of pine and quite thin.  The tops were usually placed on top of the sides and held by animal glue and often panel pins.  In the case of oak cases for revolvers the tops were invariably screwed in place with small brass screws.

For a pistol case the sides were usually between 10 and 12 m.m. thick, the bottom probably 5 or 6 m.m. and the top maybe 6 to 8 m.m. thick.


Gun cases almost always had a lining around the sides of the base that stuck up above the sides of the base by at least 12 m.m – I guess it sometimes/often reached the inside of the top of the lid.  The lining strips were from about 6 to 8 m.m. thick.  The outside edge was chamfered from the top of the sides and rounded on the top edge.  The chamfer ensures that the lid fits snugly without rubbing as it closes.  The lining could be fully covered with the lining material (baise or velvet etc) on the inside and over the top and down below the top of the sides – in which case the lining wood needs to takea ccount of the thickness of teh covering.  Alternatively in better class cases the cloth ends in a sloping cut on the inside of the lining and in line with the top of the sides.  The lining strips are carefully bevelled at the corners so that they fit together neatly. The lining strips are a good fit in teh carcass and can be held with animal glue.


These can either be fully covered with cloth, or they can have a  strip of wood showing at the top ( probably about 10 m.m. deep) with the cloth stopping in a sloping groove as for the lining strips. They are usually glued in wth animal glue and may also be pinned through the base.  Sometimes in better cases they are fitted into slots cut in the lining strips.

Fabric covering;-

It is normal for the inside base of the case to be  covered in one piece of fabric (baise) fixed down with animal glue before the partitions are put in place, and the lid is similarly covered inside.   Traditionally animal glue was what was available – basically collagen that melts and absorbs water  at fairly low temperatures ( 60C ) and sticks within 10 minutes of so.  It has the advantage that joints can be taken apart with steam and patience.


to be continued!

 Posted by at 11:55 pm
Jul 282019

I bought a pile of bits at a Bonham’s Auction for a pretty exorbitant price and they sat in the tin box they came in for a year or so. One stock, barrel and lock plate were fine – fortunately the one with the Post Office stamps as that is a very rare pistol.  J Harding was the official contractor to the Post Office and made many brass barrelled blunderbusses and brass barreled coach pistols for the mail coaches, plus it would seem, a very (?) few pocket pistols for Postmen on foot.  There were bits for two pistols, they were not identical- the Post Office stamped one was by J Harding and Son and the other was just Harding, both of Borough in London.  The names indicate that the Post Office pistol was post 1834, the other earlier.  The differences between the two are subtle  – slightly different butt shape and barrel shape, and slightly different lock size and action parts.  Anyway when I came to sort out the pile of bits it was clear that only some were related, but I got enough parts to make most of the Post Office one – minus the sear , mainspring and sliding safety parts – there was one small part of the wood missing at the muzzle but apart from making a few new parts it is original, althought the cock is an old (1969)  replacement and I had to re-adjust the square fit.  The second pistol stock was a complete wreck and almost looked beyond repair, but in fact only needed three bits of wood let in and it is  as good as new – in fact its difficult to distinguish it from the other.  I had to find a cock, make a tumbler and sear etc and sliding safety, plus top jaw and cock and side screw.  But now its finished what you see is largely original! Here are the before and after photos!  

The positive is that they have the original barrels, lockplates, frizzens & frizzen springs, brass furniture and the overall woodwork – just a few minor details missing!


What you see in the end is almost entirely original except the cocks and slide safety catches and one (?) ramrod.  The top cock is a 1969 replacement (it was dated on the back) and the bottom is my replacement – not identical but pretty similar.  The top pistol is stamped for the Post Office.

The following bits are extracted from the Diary posts for 2018/19

This starts with the Post Office pistol – my ref 146A

26th December  Pheww……  Christmas is passed, now just 2 big parties to organise and run in the next week – but at least we had today to relax!  We even managed to go to the cinema and see ‘Mortal Engines’ which seemed rather like the last Star Wars film I saw, lots of shootups and clever cgi.  Anyway I did manage to get more done on the sear for the Harding pistol – it just needs to be finally adjusted after the mainspring and cock have been sorted.  I rather like fiddly machining, although I’m prone to being a bit careless at the last moment and taking off too much metal somewhere. I just about got the sear OK, – the arm that intersects the trigger plate was welded to the sear itself rather than machined as one piece to save more machine ops, and I left the joint as a fillet.

There is a bit of a puzzle with the works of this pistol that I can’t get my head round at the moment – the bridle appears to fit perfectly on the lock plate – the 2 screws, tumbler and the peg are in perfect alignment, and the tumbler seems right.  The puzzle is that the lock plate has a slot for a sliding safety catch and the tumbler has a slot into which a catch would fit at half cock – all as it should be to work with a small part moving inside the V of the sear spring, with a cover spring with a pip to hold the catch in either position.  All as I would expect – But the puzzle is that there is a slot in the bridle that doesn’t quite align with the slot for the catch in the lockplate, and a additional hole in the bridle that doesn’t coincide with a hole in the lockplate, and anyway is half obstructed by the tumbler when its on full cock  – so what are  the slot and the hole in the bridle for – they would appear to get in the way of the sliding safety and tumbler ?  Any ideas or photos would be appreciated;-

25th December 00:12 hrs    Happy Christmas, and thanks to all the followers of this blog who have contacted me over the past year – have a good day, and may Father Christmas bring you something special, or, more likely if you are like me, you’ll have to buy it yourself if its in the gun line!

23th December – I couldn’t keep away from the workshop and came across the little pair of rubbish pistols I had bought at too high a price, and thought they deserved a bit of attention as at least one is restoreable.  The first problem was fixing the stock – the muzzle end was cut away so I needed to splice on a bit of matching wood, glue up a crack down the middle ( partly covered by the patch wood) and then patch a couple of small holes with instant glue and sawdust, then steam a few dents out and colour up the patch.  That is all going well so the next problem is the cock, which isn’t the original one – its a casting and is stamped on the back with initials and the date 1969. – it had never been fitted to this pistol as the square is completely out of alignment with the tumbler.  I cleaned up the cock and recut the engraving and filed it up a bit to make it look a bit less like a casting – the next job is to fill up the hole in the cock and weld it all up ready for a new square to be cut.  I’ll fill up the hole with a square plug of steel with a pilot hole drilled in the middle, and weld round it.  I’ll need to get a sear that fits and make or find a mainspring, plus all the bits of the safety catch that locks the tumbler in half cock position.

De-rusted and ready for restoration.

The wood of the patch is a little light but it will colour down OK

Cock stamped 1969 – with plug to block the square.

24th January – Switched back to my little Harding Post Office pistol.  I needed to remake the square in the cock as the cock was from another pistol.  As mentioned I decided to bore out the tumbler hole in the cock and silver solder in a disk and put the square hole in that.  The cock was Araldited to a scrap of wood and centered under the mill/drill and a 6 mm end mill put through – the square on the tumbler is a 5 mm diagonal, approx 4 mm square.  I then dropped an 8 mm end mill into the back of the cock 1.5 mm deep, and turned up a disk to fit the two milled holes with about 0.2 mm proud on the back surface and a 3.5 mm hole in the centre to start the square from.  I had intended to put the square in the disk before fixing it in the cock, but there is no way to hold it so I silver soldered it in place with ‘easy’ silver solder paste that melts at 650C (dull red heat).  I then filed up the square hole very carefully to fit and , I thought, in the right orientation – but it turned out to be about 10 degrees from where I wanted it, so I just heated the cock up  to dull red and turned the insert with the end of a screwdriver to the correct angle.  That all went well so I worked on the sear to get it all aligned as I hadn’t done the final shaping until the cock was on.  I am not sure that all the parts I had were from the same pistol, and the shape of the full cock bent was a bit too ‘re-entrant’ for the motion of the sear and you couldn’t fire the lock – so the bent had to be opened out a bit.  All done so I tweaked the mainspring and hardened it and tempered it to blue – and then broke it while clamping it to put it in place!  It was my fault as I couldn’t find a small mainspring clamp and used a mole grip too near the ‘elbow’ and overstressed it – another job to do, although I might just try welding it.

The cock is actually stopped by the step hitting the edge of the lock as it should be, but the ‘chin’ of the jaw is a bit close – the cock needs slightly reshaping, although I’ll have to be careful not to loose the square insert if I heat it to red heat….. 


Yesterday I started on the safety catch slider for the Post Office pistol – I took a chunk of 8 mm EN8 and cut out a tab of about  the right size on one end so I could work on it and have a decent bit to hold in a vice.  I milled the rough blank – slightly oversize and still attached to the chunk – and filed it to fit, only separating it from at the last minute to shape the knob.  It looks fine, or will do when I’ve engraved the slider – now to do the internals.




  4th Feb Update – did a bit of work on the Harding Post Office pistol safety catch today (workshop was up around 25C!) – I couldn’t see a good way of making a 1.5mm wide slot through the inside bolt for the tongue of the external slider – my mill is nowhere near good enough to use such a small cutter, so I decided to mill a groove in a strip of metal and silver solder another piece over the top to complete the slot – worked a treat…   And it all fitted together after a bit of filing – you can’t see the silver solder line.  As before I left the part attached to the strip of metal until the last minute as its much easier to handle that way.

Strip with milled groove and piece silver soldered on top.

Shaped bolt still attached.

The bolt fits neatly over the tab on the slider – it will need pinning.

Safety slider is now engraved.

4th February – It continues cold, although I did get the indoor workshop up to 25 degrees C yesterday by  burning wood at a rate of knots for 6 hours.  I need to do a bit of TIG welding but by Argon has run out – annoying because it has leaked out of the cylinder – I’ve not used much in two years but its empty so I’ll have to change it.  I couldn’t do that with the loan car as it wouldn’t fit in. but I’ll take it on Tuesday.  I got some parts from Fred in the US to engrave for a gun he is making, so I’ll have to do a bit of design work.  I have the Post Office pistol to finish making the safety catch parts for, and the Venables barrel to re-do, plus a bit of silver soldering for Dick on a flintcock to fix a disk for a remade square.  I have converted Dick to using Bev’s method of re-doing the squares in cocks by milling out a hole and silver soldering in a disk.  My method is to mill a stepped hole so there is some depth location when it comes to the soldering, but Dick has done a plain hole – We shall see if that works as well.  The advantage of the stepped hole is that you can have a smaller ring of silver solder on the cock face so it doesn’t show round the cock screw but get an increased area for the solder as you can make the back mill of greater diameter.  Anyway we shall see which is best….


The following is for 146B – the non PO J Harding pistol


Pistol has very nice brass furniture

The barrel, lockplate, frizzen and frizzen spring and barrel bolt are all original – I’m not sure about the bridle or tumbler but I think the are original – the tumbler is wrong.

 I did some more on the little pistol woodwork.  It was fairly riddles with cracks as well as having chunks of wood missing, – the first job is to find all the cracks and see which move if you gently flex the wood.  If they are wide or full of muck they need clearing out with the back of  a modelling knife blade – these I fill with liquid epoxy, mixing in a bit of walnut dust to fill the surface.  As you put the epoxy in, flex the wood to open the joint more and suck the glue in.  You may need to clamp or bind the wood to close up cracks while the epoxy sets – I find self amlgamating tape is ideal for quick elastic binding of parts while glue sets – a couple of turns and it will stick to itself and hold things in place.   For small cracks I use an instant isocyanate glue and again work the joint to get the glue in – I keep a spray can of activator handy to start the polymerisation.  I also put walnut dust in the top of these cracks and drop a little instant glue on it and set it with the activator. I’ve done all that for the Harding pistol and the next step is to work out how to do the replacements and what needs milling out, and find a bit of matching walnut from my offcut box, or go over to Dick’s as he has a much bigger box of offcuts.

7th July – I started to strip the little Harding pistol so that I could sort the woodwork, but the woodscrew holding the tail of the triggerguard proved to be a major problem – first, the slot had got worn into a ramp and wouldn’t shift even with heat, then it turned out to be dead hard and I couldn’t drill it with any of my drills.  I ended up grinding off the head and digging out bits of it with the GRS graver – that released the guard.  That left the stub of the screw very firmly embedded – I tried cutting a slot in it with a small disk but the screw broke when I put a screwdriver on it!   Only solution was to core out the remains of the screw so I made a corer from 8 mm silver steel with a 4 mm hole in the centre and a 5.5 mm outside diameter and filed up some teeth and hardened it – at least that got it out and I could glue in a wooden plug for the next screw!   A lot of work to get one screw out – lucky I enjoy making tools!  I derusted the lock and the barrel, which is in good condition – I lightly recut the barrel engraving.  I will have to make a new tumbler as the one with the pistol is completely wrong, but I might get away with the existing bridle – I think it might have been the right one, but it had been broken and rewelded with the parts not quite aligned – I will make the tumbler and see if the sear is right before I decide whether to make a new bridle or fudge that one.

Corer for removing headless screw.

A bit of pitting but not too bad!

I more or less finished the woodwork for the second Harding pistol, at least in so far as anything is ever finished in this game!  I’ve given it an initial coat of stain to darken it down and match the wood repairs in – a coat of Van Dyke solution first, that didn’t do much, then a coat of Jacobean Oak stain. The problem with stains that are supposed to be black is that there is no effective black stain – so they mostly contain black solids, which in this case I had to rub off, which leaves a decent dark brown colour that matches the original colour pretty well.  The various joints are still visible but not too bad – I’ll work on them a bit as I apply finish – probable a couple of coats of sanding sealer, then alkonet root coloured oil finish to give a deep rich colour and finish off with a very hard wax finish.  Any recalcitrant joints will probably get blended in with a black Sharpie pen and smeared with a finger!  – it works a treat.  One trick that does help if you want to disappear a joint is to take a very sharp modelling knife and create some ‘grain’ across the joint matching that around it – do this early on in the process so they get treated the same as real grain!  Oh dear, maybe I shouldn’t reveal trade secrets here but anything that is continuous across the joint hides it from attention!  On this pistol the main joint runs with the grain, so that technique is of marginal benefit!

10th July – I seem to have got landed with compiling a document for the school governors – I am thinking of enrolling for ‘Say No‘ lessons!  It rather got in the way of my gun activities.  I finished the blank for the tumbler for the Harding pistol and unglued it (heat) and then glued it onto a piece of scrap plate to put it centered on the turntable in my miller so I could reduce the diameter over most of the circumference – I did get some way, but the strain was too much for the glue, so I’ll have to finish it by hand.  I’m made some progress on with the woodwork – I now have sundry bits of wood stuck onto the pistol and tonight I managed to inlet the barrel – I think its now just a matter of filing/sanding everything to shape and inletting the lock.  I put some oxalic aid on the existing wood which got rid of most of the black stains – I should have done it before selecting the wood for the repairs as its now a bit darker than the original – but the other little Harding pistol is almost black so I can colour this one down – it will help to hide the repairs too.  In the course of sanding down blocks of wood for the repairs I managed to sand the end of my thumb on the 12 inch disk sander – painfull still!

Tumbler blank on a scrap plate – the glue failed!

Clingfilm on a dowel to locate the repair in place – self amalgamating tape as an elastic binder. see earlier photo for the ‘before’ state.

9th July – several jobs on the go, which is handy when there is adhesive setting time involved.  I started the new tumbler for the little pistol  – I turned  the axle that bears in the lockplate plus a bit for the square and tapped it No 4 UNC, and faced a 22mm diameter disk to make the actual tumbler out of,  I then parted off the disk and axle, leaving a bit for the bearing in the bridle, faced off the bar left in the lathe and drilled a hole that is a good fit on the lock axle and Araldited the proto tumbler to the bar so I could finish the other side of the tumbler – its still in the lathe hardening off.   I milled some of the broken wood from the pistol lock area and glued in a piece of walnut – there is still quite a lot of wood to be fitted in, but its starting to look less bad.  I also decided to make another batch of de-cappers in case I get orders from the Holt’s shoot participants – I know Martin is keen for everyone to have one on safety grounds. And I got the new screen for my PC so that had to be set up…….

8th July – I got a request for a couple of my personalised decappers – I had run out of my original supply of metal and bought some 15m.m wide strip but it is a bit wide to fit round the nipples of some guns, so I picked up a length of scrap 1/2 x 1/8 from my old lab and made two decappers – when I came to engrave the names etc on them it was a bit of a revelation – they cut like butter, and it made me realise how horrible most of the metal I engrave is!  I guess the scrap was mild steel but it didn’t have the cold rolled crust that most mild steel strip has.  Anyway a pleasure to work with.  I did some more on teh little pistol woodwork.  It was fairly riddles with cracks as well as having chunks of wood missing, – the first job is to find all the cracks and see which move if you gently flex the wood.  If they are wide or full of muck they need clearing out with the back of  a modelling knife blade – these I fill with liquid epoxy, mixing in a bit of walnut dust to fill the surface.  As you put the epoxy in, flex the wood to open the joint more and suck the glue in.  You may need to clamp or bind the wood to close up cracks while the epoxy sets – I find self amlgamating tape is ideal for quick elastic binding of parts while glue sets – a couple of turns and it will stick to itself and hold things in place.   For small cracks I use an instant isocyanate glue and again work the joint to get the glue in – I keep a spray can of activator handy to start the polymerisation.  I also put walnut dust in the top of these cracks and drop a little instant glue on it and set it with the activator. I’ve done all that for the Harding pistol and the next step is to work out how to do the replacements and what needs milling out, and find a bit of matching walnut from my offcut box, or go over to Dick’s as he has a much bigger box of offcuts.

7th July – I started to strip the little Harding pistol so that I could sort the woodwork, but the woodscrew holding the tail of the triggerguard proved to be a major problem – first, the slot had got worn into a ramp and wouldn’t shift even with heat, then it turned out to be dead hard and I couldn’t drill it with any of my drills.  I ended up grinding off the head and digging out bits of it with the GRS graver – that released the guard.  That left the stub of the screw very firmly embedded – I tried cutting a slot in it with a small disk but the screw broke when I put a screwdriver on it!   Only solution was to core out the remains of the screw so I made a corer from 8 mm silver steel with a 4 mm hole in the centre and a 5.5 mm outside diameter and filed up some teeth and hardened it – at least that got it out and I could glue in a wooden plug for the next screw!   A lot of work to get one screw out – lucky I enjoy making tools!  I derusted the lock and the barrel, which is in good condition – I lightly recut the barrel engraving.  I will have to make a new tumbler as the one with the pistol is completely wrong, but I might get away with the existing bridle – I think it might have been the right one, but it had been broken and rewelded with the parts not quite aligned – I will make the tumbler and see if the sear is right before I decide whether to make a new bridle or fudge that one.

27th July – bit cooler and wetter today!  Had a visit from a regular client to collect some pistols – I swapped some work for a little 1860s pistol case and a cased double pinfire 12 by Geo Sturman that need a little tidying – the barrel needs striking up and rebrowning – I need to have another go at browning as I am keen to improve my technique – basically slow it all down…  I did a bit more fiddly work on the sliding safety of the second Harding pistol  – this one turns out to be a bit different in its internals from the first, which was conventional.  here there wasn’t a lot of space so I modified the mechanism so that the slider itself actually bolted the tumbler, the slider being retained by a small brass ‘bolt’ that had the ramp on its tail that engaged with a pip on a small spring retained by the sear spring screw.  I found that this time the bridle had a slot that aligned with the slider, so I left a pip on the slider to engage in the slot  – actually that’s not true – I’d already filed off the slider when I realised that the slot lined up, so  I had to weld a tiny  blob in the right place…..

Slider and its brass retainer  – ramp on the tail,  plus sear and slider springs –  slider spring has dimple to engage ramp.  ( bridle removed)  All very fiddly as its a very small pistol.


25th July  Predictably the pool got a lot of use today from friends and neighbours -seemed to be full of children all  day!   I sheltered from the heat in my ‘machine shop’ which keeps a reasonable temperature, so I was able to finish a couple of jobs on the Harding –  I glued up a piece of dowel with a turned end into a horn blank – Araldite went off rapidly in the heat, and turned it all down together – looks fine and fits perfectly. I also turned up a side screw – I was going to cut off the thread portion and weld on a new head but found that an M3.5 thread would just do, so made a new screw – I had a very cheap non adjustable die for M 3.5 which worked well enough.  I filed up the slider for the safety catch from the blank I machined yesterday – it must be one of the fiddliest jobs – especially for such a small pistol – anyway its almost done.  Not quite sure how to do the mechanism inside – there is precious little room for the bolt to intersect the tumbler so I might just make a slot in the tumbler to take the blade of the slider, then make a dummy bolt to stop the slider falling out…. I’ll see what is possible. I gather we have a small group for the ‘Have a go’ tomorrow, and I’ll take a breech loader for some lazy shooting afterwards – not sure which – I’m not sure the Beretta I bought fits terribly well, so I might take something else.

24th July – rather warm today – when I got in my car to go to Dick’s it said 38 degrees (C) – that went down to 33 when I was moving!  By 4 oclock I was ready for a swim in the giant bag of water – I reckon I’m up to 700m a session and am aiming for I km – that’s a lot of turning as its only 10m long- I think I’m going to have to make something to keep track of how many lengths I swim!. A good day on the tinkering front – I machined blanks for the top jaw and slide safety, and turned a top jaw screw and a better cock screw, and filed up the top jaw and gave them a once over with Blackley’s case hardening powder to colour them down a bit – they actually look quite good now.  I ‘spiked up’ the bottom of the top jaw with a 45 degree graver without the heels, mounted in a metal rod and tapped with a small hammer – it throws up really vicious little hooks that are just like the originals must have been – its always a give away that a cock has been replaced by a casting as very few people bother to file off the cast ‘teeth’ and replace them with nice sharp ones.  It only takes a few minutes!  Anyway the little pistol is beginning to look really good – the photo has a nasty bit of flint I broke off a larger on as I don’t have any micro flints in stock – it does actually spark up although probably not reliable enough to set off priming consistently – anyway better than a repro Scottish Pistol I was looking at with Dick that would not spark except very occasionally one feeble little spark.  I didn’t have any perfect flints with me – most had been used but you can usually persuade a few sparks out of the lock if you tap a new edge on the flint.  It was sold as a working repro with proof marks so presumably was intended to shoot but I think its going to need some work on the frizzen, either some heat treatment or facing with a bit of old saw blade or whatever – I’ve never had any problems using Blackley’s frizzen  casting – they spark OK – and I’ve never worn a frizzen to the point when it needed refacing.  I don’t shoot flintlock that much – I have enough of a job hitting things with a percussion!  Having said that I’m doing another corporate ‘have a go with a muzzle loader day’ on Friday for Cambridge Gun Club and I have to take both a flintlock and a percussion.


Slide safety and ramrod to do and it can join its ‘almost’ pair, the P.O. pistol


23rd July – I went into ‘my’ school for the ‘Leaver’s Assembly’ to say goodbye  to the year 6 pupils who are moving on to secondary school – a few tears amonst them, but they will do well – their teachers have been so caring.  More tinkering with the Harding – I used a chunk of thick tubing as a heat reservoir to temper the spring and it worked just fine with the radiant thermometer and got a good uniform blue towards the bright end of he spectrum – the spring fits, so I adjusted the full cock bent on the tumbler – very carefully in stages as I didn’t want to loose any more cock swing than necessary.  Once that was done I case hardened the tumbler – it was made out of mild steel – and made a ‘cut price’  sear spring from a bit of spring steel sheet – works fine but looks a bit naff!  might have to revisit.  Anyway so far so good, the lock fits, the spring, trigger and sear work fine – I’ve filed up the cock to a slightly better shape and put a bit of engraving on it – I now need to tap the hole for the cock screw that holds the top jaw, and make a top jaw, plus the safety slider and internal bits – I realise that I case hardened the tumbler and haven’t put in the notch for the safety bolt, but I’m sure I can file through the case. I reckon the restoration of this pistol has already cost far more than it could possibly be worth and it isn’t finished yet – a true labour of love – but at least it all goes on the blog!


Thick tube as heat sink for tempering springs etc.  Bean can holds wood ash insulation so parts cool slowly to avoid hardening them.

22nd July  – Went into Cambridge to do some work on the Bullard Archive but ended up towing a giant skip with my Landcruiser and sorting some junk.  I made one of the springs for the Harding pistols.  This one looks a bit more convincing than the last one.  I’ve hardened it with an oil quenching and its now glass hard so I’m being very careful not to break it – I suspect dropping it on a hard surface might even do it.  Now I have to decide how to temper it, since I screwed up on that stage last time.  I normally find a spot on the hotplate of the AGA which is the right temperature, using a remote temp probe and pop it on there with a couple of layers of aluminium foil over it and shut the lid down for ten minutes, but the AGA is out for the summer.  The traditional method is to put the spring in a pool of oil in a tobacco tin (now a historic item!) and burn it off, after which the spring will have got to the right temper as if by magic.  There is always a discussion about what oil to use – used engine oil is often quoted, but whether its the engine oil or the used bit that’s critical isn’t revealed.  I think I’ll probably heat a thick walled tube in my furnace to 300C, check it with the radiant thermometer  and then pop the spring in and leave it to cool down.  – a lot more trouble than the burning oil, but at least measurable!  As I wrote yesterday, the spring feels different now its fully hard, even when its just resting in my hand – mysterious or imaginary?

I can never decide if the two arms should touch along the joint – I think most original springs don’t so I’ve left this one slightly open – you can get a piece of thin card in the joint.  I think this spring is a better shape than the last one.  We shall see!

21st July – What a lovely day sailing in the dinghy on the Orwell! Yesterday I made a couple of blanks for new springs – This time I did the thicknessing of the blank on my medium soft  grindwheel (after flattening it with a diamond tool) rather than the linisher and it worked much better.  I had a look at the broken spring – it was fairly clear that I hadn’t tempered it sufficiently as I could barely mark it with a file – a spring properly tempered should just  be fileable.  Thinking about hardening, I sometimes think when I handle the occasional metal component that I can tell if they are soft or fully hard just by the feel of them – and not by trying to flex them either.  It sounds pretty improbably, but I guess the elastic properties are quite different and maybe this affects the internal damping of vibrations so they do feel different?  Or maybe its just a vivid imagination……. 


19th July – Tragedy  – my new spring broke when I tried to put it in the pistol!  I had hardened it and tried to temper it in my furnace, the AGA being out for the summer, but its not good at controlling temperatures as low as 300 C and I don’t think it was taken to spring temper.  Anyway it seemed a bit strong, and pinged when I compressed it – I think maybe it should have been thinned a bit more, and I need to be more careful to compress it at the ends to allow more of the spring to flex.  Anyway its busted, so I can have the excitement of making another one – I’ll probably make two whle I’m about it as the other little pistol has a fudged spring…. Oh well, I’m going sailing on Sunday and will be busy tomorrow so it will just have to wait – at least I should be much quicker this time.

18th July – yet more tinkering with the little pistol!  I worked on the tumbler and spring to get the combination working – its an iterative process – check, file, check as you converge on what looks like a satisfactory arrangement.  I filed a square on the tumbler shaft and drilled and filed a matching hole in the cock so that I could see how that fitted at the same time.  It all went together quite well as far as I can test at the moment.  I found a sear that will probably do although I might have to bend the arm a bit as it threatens to foul the edge of the lock pocket – so now I’ll need to file the bents in the tumbler for half and full cock – the half cock is more difficult as it has to resist firing by letting the sear nose enter a slot.  I’ll have to make a cock screw to keep the cock in place – although its not loose it still comes off, and also a screw for the sear pivot.  The cock  screw is 5 UNC ( I made the tumbler) but the sear pivot seems to accept an  M2.5 thread, and I don’t have a die for that one – for the moment I can use an existing screw.  That just leaves making hardening and tempering the spring and any other bits, and making the sliding safety catch and spring, oh and the sear spring…. not much to do then!

The shape of the end of the spring, the ‘spur of the tumbler and the orientation of the cock on its square all have to be right – its a slow job if you haven’t done it very often.

17th July  Bit more tinkering with the little pistol – I made a new mainspring and also made a video of the operation – difficult to concentrate on two things at once – tryiing to bend the spring into a ‘hairpin’ while juggling an oxy/gas torch and talking to the camera is fun.  I can’t put it down without turning it off, by which time the spring is cold. I got it in the end  though. Anyway it is almost there – just got to alter the bend a little to make it more even and slightly less open, and shape the end that bears on teh tumbler.   Very satisfying making springs!  Much more so than struggleing with editing documents in Word – I’ll have grey hair if I have to do it much more – making springs etc is a doddle compared to struggling with Bill Gates’s constructions.  I think I got the bridle to fit as well, so progress!

The bend has a face with a slight angle so it looks dark – its fine!

16th July I did some work on a gun case – I bought a set of ‘furniture pens and crayons’ from Amazon for a few pounds – they are meant for touching in scratches on furniture but they might be useful on guns and cases – I’ve aleady deployed the mahogany one – it helps but I really need darker shades.  In my ‘spare’ time I’m still tinkering with the little Harding pistol.  I put the proto tumbler in the miller and got a bit more metal off it, and have now filed it to an approximate shape.  I found a sear that looks as if it will fit so I’ll  have to sort out the bridle and fixing screws  – I think I can use the bridle out of the box of bits if I weld up the hole for the tumbler extension shaft and re-drill it in the right place.  Then its just a case of making the mainspring, the sear spring, and the sliding safety catch, bolt and spring – nothing really!!!!!

Part way there with the tumbler. not sure about the sear?

15th July – Looking through my Manton book yesterday I realised that whoever botched the single NOCK barrel to have a recessed breach didn’t need to recess the side opposite the lock – Joseph never did on single guns….

I bought back a pair of continental locks sans frizzens to see if we could find replacements for the owner – and indeed we found a pair of matching frizzens with pan lids exactly the right size – the tails need extending to reach the pivot position but that can be done…. a result.

My ‘office’ table is now covered with nautical charts as we begin to plan our summer trip to the NW of Scotland – we have a new charter yacht from Skye and will head out to the Outer Hebrides – we are a bit light on crew this year, so a bit more work for me, although the boat has in-mast reefing on the mainsail so not so much deck work needed  – its 43 ft long so it will be interesting to see how we get on with just 3 of us.     It’s the coming alongside in marinas that’s tricky, although we don’t do that very often. The last few years we’ve had the same boat so I knew how it handled under power – its going astern that is always tricky – most boats just won’t steer until they are moving so you never know quite how they will set off backwards so there will be a learning curve with this one.

The table is  also covered with the bits of a pistol case that I am remaking – fortunately was just held together with animal glue – or indeed no glue at all!  Anyway its all in pieces now.

I’ve had a couple of conversations with experts on gun browning in the last few days – one, supposed to be the best in England says it can take up to a month to get a good browning on some barrels, and he stops if the weather gets too hot.  The other friend says he reckons up to 16 days and thinks that if you brown them faster than one rusting a day the browning wears off very quickly – so maybe I need to slow down as I had been aiming to get at least two brownings a day……..

14th July  – Holts shoot at Cambridge Gun Club.  Not my best day – but I did manage to hit one of every different clay except one – at least that shows something!   Derek brought the owner of the Joseph Manton 22 bore featured in the posts and the gun for Nick Holt to have a look at – I was able to assist him in unravelling the gun as I’d done a blog on it.  He was shown another gun that was a bit of a mystery – a very late Jo Manton flint lock on a single barreled gun  signed H Nock on the barrel – its difficult to appraise a gun without my list of dates and references etc, but  the gun had the patent Jo Manton recessed breech C1810(?), while the barrel and trigger guard looked older. My suspicions were confirmed when I noticed that the breech blocks had been machined down from a normal width to the recessed width to take the late lock, and not particularly carefully.  The lock fitted quite well. Nothing on the bottom of the barrel made a lot of sense – no HN maker’s stamp as I would expect, or a number (Henry Nock was amonst the first to number his guns around 1790). In the absence of any further info I thought it was maybe a Nock gun of maybe 1790ish with the ‘wrong’ lock. Possibly a spuriously engraved NOCK?   The left side of the breech plug had also been recessed – I didn’t see if the stock had had a bit glued on to fill the gap where the barrel was milled away. If not I’d have to suspect that it had been restocked – the lock was very well inletted so a possibility. I’m afraid the jury is out on that one! I was hoping for a valuation on the Post Office pistol – I know what its worth as a little pistol but not what the rarity value of the P.O. connection is – but it wasn’t fair to expect Nick to guess that.  I actually found a reference to one similar being sold at Bonhams in 2015 for $2800 – so obviously some rarity value there….

13th July  – bit more tinkering with the pistol below – I had to make a replacement screw ( I had to grind it out) for the tang of the trigger guard – I don’t like just using a woodscrew as the heads are never right and in this case they don’t work well into the endgrain of the plug I had to glue in,  so I turned up a countersunk screw with a No 5 UNC thread and an extra false head.  I slotted the false head and screwed it in, then marked the fore and aft line, cut off the false head, put in the aligned slot  and filed it to conform to the curved shape, then engraved a few lines on it and used Blackley’s case hardening powder to colour it down (and incidentally harden it).  Jobs left include all the works of the lock, some reshaping of the cock casting I have, to reduce the prominent breast it has and scale down the spur, and make a ramrod.  Tomorrow is the Holts Shoot at the Cambridge Gun Club – I am, of course, going and will hope to exceed my 50% target – I didn’t quite make it at the Helice shoot – I was on target but missed all of the last 4 ‘easy’ birds!  I’ve finished a batch of de-cappers to take to CGC – they make good engraving practice so I did a little stand of arms, and a stand of music and a sunburst and a scroll plus some borders.  Quite interestingly (at least for me!), the strip I was using that I said was as soft as butter turned out to be pretty tough down the other end – just goes to show what cold rolling does to the grain structure near the surface.



Jul 112019


30th June – Shooting Helice at Rugby yesterday – boy was it hot!   Its a difficult form of clays and great fun – I wasn’t the worst there by any means – lets leave it at that!  I don’t know who won as I left after my last shot ( knowing it wasn’t me!) to have dinner with the family.  I jumped in the swimming pool aka large plastic bag of water and when I got out sons pointed out that I had a spectacular bruise on my shoulder in the shape of a gun stock.  I was shooting in shirtsleeves with my  14 bore – weight 6.4 lbs – using 2 1/2 drams of Swiss No 2 and ( it turned out when I checked the flask) 1 1/4 oz of  shot, which I suppose is a fairly heavy load for the gun, although its what I usually shoot without feeling anything special in the way of recoil – in fact I had been using 2 3/4 drams and the same shot load  – I probably ought to put a bit of sheet metal in the flask neck to get it down to 1 oz.  The only thing that bothered me is that the trigger guard makes a mess of my second finger – I smoothed it down, which stopped it cutting my finger but it still pummels it into gory submission.  I realised afterwards that the trigger guard has a rear loop as in rifles and If I grasp the wrist of the gun in my normal shotgun way there is only just room for three fingers on the guard so my second finger is already pressed on the guard.  You don’t often see those guards on shotguns – thinking about it, I shoot shotguns with a full grip using the joint of my finger on the trigger whereas I hold rifles so that I use the middle of the first joint of my finger on the trigger to get more feel, in which case there would be a lesser grip and more room in the guard.  Maybe that accounts for the different guards in shotgun and rifles.  Not sure what to do about it – it was suggested that its because the stock is too short, but it measures up OK and is longer than many guns I shoot without problems.   I more or less finished the Trophy (see past diary) today – cutting and milling the old stock and making a base – wood courtesy of Chris Hobbs.  Looks quite good now – I’ll post some photos when I get a moment! 

The effect of 20 shots – 2 1/2 oz of Swiss 2 and 1 1/4 oz of shot in a 14 bore weighing 6  1/4 lbs – strangely I didn’t feel it as particularly savage.

Quite limited gap for 3 fingers!

28th June – Shooting yesterday – seem to have lost my previous form!  Obviously not a good idea to change guns…. Off to the Helice shoot at Rugby so I’ll shoot my regular percussion gun for that…..   I had a a cock off a hammer gun sent to me to have welded as the spur had broken off, so I asked for both to be sent so that I could be sure the spur got put back on at the matching angle.  When I looked at the ‘good’ cock I noticed that it had a bit of a kink in the line of the spur (see arrow)  – A closer inspection showed a whole lot of small cracks across the back of the spur at the bottom, indicating that it too was not far from breaking.  There is a popular misconception that the spurs (and cocks of flintlocks) break because of the force of cocking them – but the actuality is that they break due to the sudden stop when the cock connects with whatever halts its progress  and the part ‘outboard’ of the stop carries on under interia.- in the case of a hammer gun probably the cock hitting the surround of the firing pin if the firing pin doesn’t offer enough resistance to slow the cock –  this might happen e.g. if the gun is dry fired without a snap cap, or a flintlock is fired with the frizzen open – or just through inadequate design or poor materials..

Arrow shows slight kink in the line of the spur – dents on the back of the cock show where it had been tightened up on the square.

Very clear cracking on the back of the ‘good’ cock show its not far from breaking – there is a slight compression crease forming on the front of the cock!  It will get welded along with the broken one.  The weld needs to be deep to put some strength back, and use a reasonably high carbon steel rod.


26 th June – I cleaned up the lock of the Pistoia pistol – my electrolytic deruster ran out of steam as the iron positive electrode had got so rusted  (the rust is stripped from the negative electrode and forms on the positive where the active oxygen is released.  I cleaned off the positive electrode but decided to electrolytically derust it properly by putting a sacrificial chunk of mild steel as the positive.  I left it for about an hour at about 2 1/2 amps and the result was quite impressive, at least in terms of the rust on my chunk of steel –

I needed a ramrod for the 11 bore Westley Richards – its a ‘working gun’ so it doesn’t need to be fantastic, so I spared the ebony and used a 10 m.m. ash dowel I bought at a re-enactment fair as an arrow blank – I selected all his straight ones!  I wrapped masking tape round one end so it fitted in the chuck of my woodturning lathe – the other end just rested inside the hollow tailstock.  Using 80 grade sandpaper I tapered the rod to 8.5 m.m at the end, and smoothed it down.  I have had problems staining the wood to match ebony – the ash is not very absorbent and its difficult to get a deep enough colour – I did think of ‘ebonising’ it with a blowtorch but wasn’t sure if it would work.  In the end I got a black felt pen of the sort that marks on everything and ran it down the rod while the lathe turned slowly so as to cover the entire surface – result a fantastic deep black – a couple of coats of water based satin varnish rubbed in with a tissue and its a very convincing ebony rod!  I decided to make a proper screw end as they are sometimes handy if I forget my unloading rod.  I has a 1/4 x 32 tap and die (Model Engineer threads) for the cap thread, and cut off a 5 m.m. hardened zinc plated screw – getting rid of enough of the tread to solder into the brass body was done by putting the screw point first in a drill and running it against the grindwheel.   A 5.4 mm hole up the cap end cleared the screw and was right for tapping the 1/4 x 32 thread.  The head was turned freehand – not perfect but OK – result a perfectly acceptable substitute for the real thing – NOT a fake – you can tell because I Araldited the ends on and didn’t put ‘fake’ pins through!  Note for future efforts – be more careful to size the rod and ends to the same diameter and make sure the reduced diameter on teh rod is concentric.

The zinc plated screw was blacked with TIFOO instant gun black.

It really should be lemon coloured brass, but it will still work!

I think I soldered the screw in slightly crooked so its pushing the cap out of true – I’ll fix it sometime! (or just get used to it).  The brass has been toned down a bit with dilute Blackley’s brass browning solution.

25th June. Thinking to put the Westley Richards on my certificate to shoot it so I had a look for wads and cards – I decided that it would just about work with hard 12 bore wads soaked in oil/wax but Pete says he has some I can use.  I decided to make a wad punch for cards anyway, but couldn’t find any suitable metal in the workshop short of turning down a bar of 2 inch steel – then I remembered a set of box spanners that I had and didn’t use – the biggest, 20/22 mm had a section of tube in the middle that was just about the right size.  It turned out to be quite hard and my parting tool didn’t want to cut it so I cut it with a hacksaw (it finished the blade!) leaving one spanner with a short stem, and the other with a long stem – I bored the end of the long tube with a carbide tool &  turned the outside taper with a carbide tipped tool and got a good  edge – it works very well – the only disadvantage is that I was too lazy to cut a hole in the side for the cards/wads to escape, so they have to be pushed out with a rod.  The size was about right – .770.   I started to clean up the Pistoia pistol – see that post.   I’ve been finishing a pair of duelling pistols for a client – we had a discussion about what the appropriate finish was.  The arguments revolve around whether it should be varnish or oil finish.  Most of the originals were probably varnished, but it is a very unforgiving finish and needs almost perfect woodwork or it shows up every ripple and unevenness – these pistols have less than perfect wood so I think a high shine oil finish would be better – they also have potentially uneven colouration that has been toned down – varnish needs an almost perfect substrate.  We shall see how it turns out……  I did a bit more research into the P53 type gun – Looks like after the failed Indian Mutiny of 1857 when the British Government took over the administration of India from the East India Company there were effectively 3 Indian armies officered by the British for three provinces – I presume that this gun was issued at some point to one of the armies.  I can’t quite identify the proof marks on the barrel – I don’t think its Liege, but it is not in my book as a London or Birmingham proof for anthing like 1868.

24th June.  I picked up my purchases from the local auction – I missed out on the nice little flintlock pocket pistol (picture below) because someone had put in the same top bid before me.  Anyway I got a pretty little continental(?) pistol and a percussion Enfield style musket that I’d like some help from visitors to this site to pin down.   It has a P53 type lock externally marked LSA Co and 1868 with a strange pattern just visible in front of the cock – the lock is pretty pitted on the outside, but the inside is shiny &  good quality and carries a broad arrow mark and the name Barnett plus the stamp J.C. –  Barnett & Co made locks and barrels for the British Government  from about 1854(?)  It is missing its bridle (holes exist).  The barrel appears to be a musket barrel of about .630 bore (not the .656 that was used when Enfields were made in smoothbore), of length 33 inches, giving the gun an overall length of 48 1/2 inches (weight 7 1/2 lbs)  The barrel carries the stamped name  ‘MANTON & CO CALCUTTA’ as one stamp, followed by ‘& LONDON’ made of individual letter stamps.  It carries Liege proof marks. There is a bayonet boss in the usual place, and a foresight but no rear sight or any sign that one was ever fitted.   The trigger guard is stamped with the number 35110 and the butt (LH side) has 88 in one place and 77 in another.  The stock looks fairly like a normal P53 stock, although I’m not really familiar with them.  It has three old style barrel bands (before Badderley) – the sling swivel is on the muzzle one, the other swivel is on the rear trigger guard screw.   The ramrod is steel, and has a somewhat squared end with a slotted jag – no bulge – I can’t see a retaining spring in the stock.  Overall it looks ‘of a piece’ and not mucked about with in recent times.  The British were at pains to equip the Indian troops with guns that looked like Enfields but were not effective against their own weapons – this gun may have been made up by Manton Calcutta (at that time run by Wallis) using old British Enfield locks, or maybe old stock complete guns, with the barrels replaced by new Liege smoothbore barrels to ensure inferior performance.  It would seem that this gun must be one of many that were issued, hence the 35110 stamped on the trigger guard.  Any thoughts gratefully received. 

I am also contemplating the two pistols below – rather pretty little Continental pistols, the top German, the bottom has a possibly Italian barrel with a gold PISTOIA stamp and a lion stamp( or might be a a fake Italian barrel?) one – any ideas??  New poston this too – Continental Pistols.

See new post ‘Indian Enfield’ for the bulk of the photos.


22nd June – Yesterday I went to look at the guns in the Willingham Auction and was amazed at how random the cataloguing was! There was an obvious repro blunderbuss that might or might not have been Section 2 catalogued as an antique with ‘loss of patina’ to the stock!  I emailed them to warn them and I’m glad to say it was withdrawn.  There was a ‘percussion pocket pistol with bayonet under the barrel’ that, on a cursory glance was actually a diecast toy pistol – I should have warned them but it wasn’t a matter of law so I didn’t.  It sold for £120 – I just hope the buyer throws it back!  I got the only 3 guns that hadn’t been messed about and were not relics – a little turnoff flintlock pocket pistol, a pretty ?French pistol and a P53 type rifle by Manton of Calcutta.  I’m off the Birmingham Arms Fair tomorrow with a couple of guns for David Stroud to put on his stand – I need to recoup some money to fund  my recent purchases.  The P53 will get some TLC and appear on this site – I’ll probably keep the French pistol, and I might or might not keep the little pocket pistol (photo below) – I am tempted to make a box for it – I know they didn’t come in boxes, but they look nice and I don’t think its a terrible sin to sell people a pretty little boxed pistol!   I tracked down the problem with my screen colours – it got a technical review as having the worst contrast of any that the reviewer had ever seen – I should have read the reviews before I bought it – my stupid fault.

It’s all there – needs the action fixing, which is a nice exercise!

21st June – Going through the photos I took in Norfolk – which was difficult because I brought a completely useless monitor with my new computer – I came across a detail I hadn’t seen when I looked at the gun.  On a good quality brass blunderbuss of mid 18th century by Barbar I found one part of the lock engraving that had been (partly ?)  chased with a hammer and chisels – the rest of the lock and cock and all the brass seemed to have been engraved by ‘push’ engraving – I think that is the first time I’ve noticed chasing on old English guns.  I found a similar age blunderbuss by Turvey that definitely had the steel engraving on the lock done by push engraving.

Blunderbuss by Barbar – classic early engraving

Click on the photo and you will see the serrations on the lines of the foliage – at least you should if your monitor is not as bad as mine (its going back- I’ll have to replace it with a more expensive one though!)

This all looks like bona fide push engraving!

20th June – Back from Norfolk, where I have been photographing guns from a friend’s extensive collection – I’m adding to my library of early gun English engraving as my own own limited collection is mostly late 18th and 19th century sporting guns.  He has some nice engraved blunderbusses and pistols from early and mid 18th century that have the characteristic shapes of that period, and I’m planning a series of plates showing the different styles at different periods. Photos will follow!

18th June  – Edited another part of the trophy engraving series – Engraving the Thistle, which I have now put on Youtube.

17th June – AT a school meeting all day!  I did manage to make another nipple for the Westley Richards, so I’ll be able to try it sometime – the stock is very heavy, so I think it must be weighted, or at least a specially dense wood! The Bonham’s auction crept up on me un-noticed so I haven’t viewed it – just a quick glance through the catalogue.  Nothing that excites me – the Adam’s revolvers were nothing special, a good lot of American stuff, but that’s not really my scene.  There were an interesting assortment of percussion shotguns – maybe somewhere among them there is a bargain!  No flintlock rifles, which is my next ‘want’ – its about the only long gun I haven’t got, apart from a blunderbuss.  I put a new Video showing engraving of a Stand of Arms on the site, see VIDEOS at the top.

16th June – three parties in 2 days left me a bit dazed…  Anyway it was out annual Recession shoot at Cottenham today – we ‘invented’ the competition in the bad old days to be shot with 1/2 oz of shot only – muzzle loaders of coarse – it is amazing how little difference it makes halving the shot load.  I left before the final tally, but our group contained its share of the top M/L shooters  – top score in our group was 21 out of 30 – I was very pleased to hit 18 – my aim is to do a little better each shoot, but strictly keeping to the game shooting technique and not shooting ‘gun up’ like most of the people who bettered me!  I borrowed a set of oversize taps to fix the nipple holes on the Westley Richards, but even the 15 thou oversize one was still a bit loose, and they are UNF  which is 28 t.p.i. ( 1/4 and 9/32 BSF are 26 t.p.i. and 1/4 is what is used on most later English percussion nipples) which means that in 1/4 deep hole you are almost half a thread out by the bottom.  So I tapped them out  9/32 BSF, which is 30 thou bigger than 1/4 BSF, and that worked fine.  I made a couple of titanium nipples, but one didn’t start the die properly, and doesn’t have a very good thread so I’ll remake it before I try to use the gun.  The photo shows the back of the die, which I have ground on the 5 inch grindwheel so that it can cut the thread right up to the shoulder of the nipple – use the unmodified side first.   Here are a few shots of the WR markings etc….  The gun is 11 bore, weighs 7 1/4 lbs and has a pull of 14 1/4 inches – about 1/4 inch of cast off.

Bottom of die recessed on grindwheel.

Serial number appropriate for about 1843

Address occupied by WR from 1917….

Rounded or semi pistol grip – hardly a 19th century style!

14th June – I got the gun I wanted at Southams, but not the two miscellaneous lots  – someone else must have spotted the Blackley flintlock castings in the box of junk as the lot went for £110 Hammer price, as did the oak case I was after – both just a bit more than my limit.  I did buy a flintlock pistol by Kruchenreuter that is nice although it needs a bit of tlc.  The gun I bought is a Westley Richards percussion double 11 bore – I had left a bid well above the bottom estimate, but got it for £380 Hammer price – just below the bottom estimate, so good!  There were a couple of expensive Westley Richards guns for sale that went for what I thought were fairly high prices given their condition, which frankly wasn’t wonderful, but I bought this one as I thought it would make a good shooter.  It is a bit of a dog’s dinner, and I havent yet quite worked it out fully.  The barrel is very good externally with pretty fair bores – its genuine Westley Richards with his barrel maker’s stamp, signature ( very clear and unworn and looks genuine but unusually read from muzzle to breech ) ‘Westley Richards & Co  23 Conduit Street London’ and Birmingham proof marks V & BPC which were used 1868 to 1925.  The problem is the address – it was only occupied by WR & Co  from 1917.  The barrels are numbered 1019 as are the locks – all looking like they are original numbers.  The numbers, according to Nigel Brown’s book, should be for 1843 ish.  The gun has a rounded or semi-pistol  stock which was quite a late style (?) .  There are a number of things that are notably odd – the stock at the breech isn’t deep enough to cover the sides of the false breech by about a mm or so.  The forend pipe and trigger finial don’t quite fit the cutouts suggesting that they are replacements.  The forend ramrod pipe has somewhat abbreviated engraving, the trigger guard finial very abbreviated but of classic shape.  The trigger guard has no engraving and is blued, the butt cap is full steel and similarly plain and blued.   The barrel looks much less worn than the lock plates which are signed Westley Richards and numbered 1019 on the insides – the cocks are poor replacement castings.  The nipples are loose – the holes are too big for 1/4 BSF and too small for 9/32 BSF so I’ll see if borrowing oversize 1/4 BSF taps will work.  The screw holding the locks in has been replaced with a round headed brass screw with the head filed down.  There is no ramrod.

What would I speculate about the gun?  one guess is that there was an 11 bore percussion gun made in 1843 ( the locks are signed Westley Richards, not ‘& Co’, and are fairly worn).  The gun was then rebarreled by WR & Co post 1917 (I know it sounds unlikely?).  The stock is not original to the 1843 gun but is later,  possibly reused from something else, but fairly unworn and certainly not 1843 style.  The good news is that WR records still exist and I should be able to track the gun down from the serial number.  Photos of my purchases tomorrow.  I am also working on an engraving video or two to put on Youtube based on the trophy engraving – I have something like 60 GBytes of videos to edit down to about 5 Gb!

11th June – I went to Southam’s Antique firearms etc auction viewing in the big new Auction Centre outside Bedford – a pretty impressive place and quite an expansion in the volume of stuff that Southams had gathered (I was going to say ‘raked up’ but that would be a little unfair!) for the sale compared to their previous sales – they now have their sights on Bonhams and Holts but will somehow have to pursuade the vendors of quality antique arms that they can achieve top prices – their big selling point as far as buyers are concerned is the 17 1/2% commission as against 27 1/2 elsewhere..  I guess they are more like Holts in that they clearly take everything anyone wants to sell, and had all those delicious boxes of junk that mirror what we all have in our workshops!  There were one or two good antiques, but I didn’t find anything in the way of English 1850s revolvers that excited me- most were just not good enough to make it into my collection – I found a couple of hidden treasures in the junk listed for a song, and one possible gun for restoration, but I’m not going to give anything away at this point! I did a bit of sleuthing for a friend so he will have a couple of bids.  Not sure if I’ll watch the auction on line, I might be tempted to bid on other things…..    I still think I will redo the Trophy, although people tell me its fine – here are some of the things I think are wrong with it….

10th June – I fixed the element back in my furnace and finished ‘normalising’ the steel test plates.  Cleaning off the anti-scale paint is a pain, but having done that, the metal seems to be much better to cut, although I only did a small bit on the edge.  Surprisingly the plates have distorted very slightly so that a sheet of 1200 grit on a flat plate doesn’t abrade the whole surface – the surface is probably out of true by about 1/10th  of a mm in a smooth curve, not enough to matter for my purposes, but in future I’ll  ‘regularise’ the metal BEFORE I get it ground flat!  Obviously some stress relief took place.  Looking at my Trophy engraving, I think I’ll have another go at it – there are a few details I’m not happy with, and I wasn’t careful enough with the lettering spacing – it is one of the problems of engraving using a microscope, that your field of view is small – only a few letters – so you can ‘drift’ away from your chosen spacing – I mark out the lettering, then when I come to cut it I adjust somewhat as I go along, and then find its not all evenly spaced.  Anyway I’ll have another go, and make sure that I get the gold inlay right this time. I could do with more practice!  I’m about to start on the wheellock video, but got held up because the hard drive on my computer is almost full (it takes ages to do anything) and all my SD cards for the camera are full.  An upgrade of my computer system is on the way  – I can go about 5 years before the system gets too slow and clogged up,  at which point I get fed up and replace it – by then it will have earned its retirement!  My new system will have 6 terabytes of hard disk – which should see me OK for a few more years, although its only enough space for about 1000 videos.

9th June – a Pleasant party today making Elderflower wine with friends.  I had a chance to ask Giles’s girlfriend, who is a doing a PhD in materials science, about my struggles with mild steel blanks.  I had thought that as they are more or less pure iron with very little carbon they wouldn’t suffer from hardening, although it was clear from experience that they did.  Anyway I now understand what happens, more or less.  Its all to do with the grain boundaries and the stresses within the grains and between grains which are generated by the cold rolling process, essentially work hardening – so the answer is to anneal the blanks – I thought I’d tried that without a great deal of success, but apparently I should take the metal to around 80% of melting temperature for a good long soak.  That means going to  around 1000C for a couple of hours, which I should be able to do in my furnace, but when I tried tonight I got it up to about 950 but after half an hour the element in the furnace came out of its groove and tripped the supply by shorting to the metal load, so I’ve left it to cool to see whether it managed to anneal or not.  The tedious part is the preparations you have to make to prevent scale forming on the plates – I have some antiscale paint (it is difficult to remove after heating) and also some stainless/titanium foil that you can make packages from that you seal by folding over the edges  to exclude air- its vicious stuff as its thin, hard and sharp as a razor.  I used both tonight.  The trophy engraving is now complete – there are a number of slips and bits I would do better a second time, but it is not too bad!  I wouldn’t want to do it again with the metal in that state – I must have sharpened my gravers over 100 times in the course of engraving it – about half because I snapped the points off, which is mainly down to my lack of practice with hard metal , and half wore down and were ploughing through the metal rather than cutting it cleanly as they should – they wore much more quickly than they should.  My previous test plates were EN8 steel with a bit of carbon but I had 1/2 mm ground off the surface which got rid of some of the work hardened layer.

8th June – a bit more work on the trophy engraving, starting with sharpening about 20 gravers!  I also made a key for the wheellock so I could wind it up properly and see how/if it worked. The answer is that sear is worn and won’t hold the wheel against the mainspring, which is pretty strong.  Also the cam action that is supposed to open the pan as the wheel starts is worn. but overall it seems to be complete and potentially working.  but I have yet to work out how the trigger operates the sear  – the tail of the sear has a small spring catch that could be a safety catch.  I haven’t yet stripped the lock down so I can’t see all the works, but its in good condition with almost no rust except around the pan where it has been fired, although the wheel is perfect.  As soon as I’ve done a bit more exploration I’ll make a video.   I was hoping to make a video of the engraving of the trophy, and I have got quite a lot of bits of the engraving etc, but the job has taken maybe 12 hours, and its difficult to attend to the camera and the enraving – when I look at the camera its often run out of battery ( rather poor capacity for videos) or the card is full or its got knocked and the focus is off….. so I’m not sure I’m really keen on the job of editing it all down to a manageable length!  Anyway here is the key I made for the wheellock…..

Filing the square hole up the middle was a tedious job – luckily I had a square file just the right size.

7th June – I spent today on my tropy engraving,  the metal is somewhat challenging and I spent ages sharpening gravers that had worn blunt – I have a pile with the points broken off, but they will have to wait til another time…  I finished the pictorial stuff (excpt for a couple of bits I only just remembered) and started to think about inlaying a gold ‘1’ in the centre of the shield – I did a practice on a scrap plate and it worked reasonably well – I made the upright wide enough to take two pieces of 0.5mm gold wire side by side.  When I cut the final one I made the recess too deep so that 2 wires didn’t fill it but I couldn’t get a third piece of wire to stick in the middle as it didn’t have any undercuts to grip.  Despair for a moment! I pulled all the gold I had got fixed out – it was pretty firmly in the undercuts.  Anyway I have some silver sheet so I cut a strip the width of my cutout and ‘hammered’ that in using a polished rod in the GRS gravermax as a ‘Kango Hammer’  – it actually worked very well and stands proud in a nice convex surface that catches the eye.  It  should be gold, but that is for another time when I’m feeling rich!

I rushed the lettering so the spacing is a bit erratic!

5th June – back from a trip to London, which gave me an opportunity to pick up the bits I’d bought at Bonhams at the last auction.  I was particularly interested to see the little pocket pistol I’d bought – signed BOBY NEWMARKET on the barrel – I bid for it sight unseen as I hadn’t noticed it when I went to the viewing, but I am inclined to trust David Williams who does the Bonhams valuations, especially for ‘run of the mill’ things like that,  Anyway it was a pleasant surprise as its middle quality pistol in fair condition, its only fault is a few marks on the barrel corners near the breech where someone has used a wrench to unscrew the barrel.  It raises the usual question of just how far to go with any work on it.  It does need a quick going over to remove surface dirt and maybe a little cleaning out of the barrel engraving.  Its probably good enough  for it to be better to keep the barrel finish as is, and put up with the wrench marks than to strike up the barrel and rebrown or blue it.  The chequering on the butt is very fine and in pretty much mint condition, and the butt fits well – somewhat unusually for these basically cheap little pistols.  The wheel lock is a very fine piece and I’m pleased I got it.  It has the stamp of Jacob Schachtner of INSPRUGG  (Innsbruck) who worked from 1709 to 1778 and looks genuine – it has certainly been fired a few times.  I  guess it probably dates from around 1740 or later as Jacob wouldn’t have put his stamp on locks until he was at least in his mid twenties (?). You can see why the mechanism wasn’t much used in England at that time – its so much more complicated than a simple snaphaunch or flintlock.  Anyway its in very good condition and I think it will work, although I have to make of find a key to wind it up.  I wanted it for a video on the development of firearms, but I think I’ll have to do one on stripping the wheellock to show how it works…..

Nice clean pistol with a bit of rust and a few marks, but still well preserved.

There is a lot of work in this lock – the German gunsmiths were not deterred by the complexity and the wheellock hung on there long after it was abandoned elsewhere.

2nd June – busy day.  Penny decided it was time to put up the ‘plastic bag’ swimming pool – it is a pretty large pool, about 30 ft x 10 ft and holds 30 tons of water – We’ve had it for 12 years and its given good service – it only has one small repair. Anyway I had to do some shifting of earth to level the site again but its now filling up happily.   I did a bit more on my Trophy – I’ve got a more or less final design and started to cut the outlines.  Unfotunately I  slipped and sat on one of my cameras ( the 760D fortunately) and broke off the folding screen – it sort of works but occasionally complains that it has an error and I have to take out the battery and start again.  Anyway I managed to do a long video of the basic engraving that will need editing extensively.   I almost forgot I was supposed to be filming it!  Here is the final sketch and most of the outlines – just the thistles to outline and then its into the detail.  The scale of the stand of arms is a lot bigger than anything you’d get on a gun, so lots of opportunity for careful detail!

Getting the letter spacing is much more difficult when you are constrained by a fixed length – mostly on guns its either short words or unterminated space – it will take a bit of playing about to get this right – you can measure and count letters but it’s basically trial and error..  Its easier if you have big spaces at the ends – I don’t!

Here is a first sketch for my MAXWELL Scottish Nationals Trophy;-

Just about actual size – 50 x 120 mm

1st June – the last post was really 31st…   Fiddly job this morning, Penny’s expensive spectacles broke again – crazy design with a tiny plastic bobbin that is the hinge pin – this is the second one I’ve had to replace with a brass one – I am not a watchmaker so making a bobbin 3.4 mm diameter by 3 mm hight with parallel  grooves top and bottom is challenging!  Especially when I dropped it on the floor – it took me 10 minutes to find it but that’s a lot less than making another one!

Spectacle frames are a rip-off – look at the hinge of a £200 frame!

That’s my replacement brass bobbin – original was plastic and broke.

1st  June – Not much to report!  I spent a boring couple of hours sharpening 20 gravers that I’d used at the Northern Shooting Show and hadn’t got round to sharpening.  When dealing with that many I sort them into lots according to how worn/chipped they are so they only get as much grinding as they need – you can’t really see if you have done enough without going back to the microscope.  At each stage they get checked under the microscope to make sure the faces are all even.   I had a bit of a go at undercutting simple letters for filling with gold – didn’t get very far as its very easy to cut where you didn’t mean to, or to break the tip of the knife tool used for the undercutting – I’d like to watch a ‘proper’ engraver doing inlay on letters – I’ve seen inlay of areas of gold but that seems a lot easier, although still difficult enough!

30th May – finished off the case for the Beaumont Adams 54 bore revolver – the lids for the compartments are made from mahogany salvaged from a St John’s College punt – quite a lot of ‘conversion’ to get from a 16 ft punt to a bit of wood 1/4 inch thick but it looks the part. The knobs are better than they look in the photo as they are ridged on top – they are made from faux ivory as I happened to have a small chunk.  The box looks right for the pistol, although it is mahogany and most were oak – the construction is identical to the original boxes I have.  The advantage of using the dark baise is that it already looks somewhat dirty! – a quick run over bits with a disposable ‘ladies’ razor helps a bit too.   It is not my intention to pass the box lining off as original (anyone who knew these revolvers would see it as a slightly oddly refitted case immediately) – just to look in keeping with the state of wear of the pistol.  It is interesting that all these Adams based pistols have the pistol on the side away from the hinges  – I guess because its easier for a right handed person to pick it out that way round and it shows the right side that usually has the patent etc on it. I’ve been discussing what makes an ‘authentic’ case for a pair of duelling pistols – I think I know and then I see one that claims to be original that has all the marks I had just decided mark  cases out as adapted boxes, usually cutlery boxes.  I tend to be suspicious of fancy escutcheons on the lid without a  handle , brass corners and baise carried over the inside lip, but I’ve seen all three on a late Mortimer box claiming to be original  – I suppose its perfectly possible that a gunmaker or later a client went to a cutlery box maker for a box!

I need an oil bottle and a turnscrew, plus a round box for spare nipples.

29th May – Had a day at Cambridge Gun Club with Bev and Pete – not sure that my shooting was up to my standard in Scotland, but maybe the Cambridge clays are more difficult!  Anyway the Beretta worked OK after Pete discovered that to hit the driven clays you actually had to shoot directly at them with no lead – I tried and got a full house – I don’t think its how I usually shoot them but it worked.  I have finished relining the original box for my Beaumont Adams revolver in maroon biase – which I know is not the correct colour for that date, but it looks good.  I used the traditional rabbit skin glue, which is actually better for the job than any modern glue – it sets quite quickly and you can soften it with a bit of heat or steam.  I’ll post a photo tomorrow.  I have a project to engrave a plate for a tropy for the Scottish National comp next year – will post details in due course.

27th May – Back from the Scottish Nationals M/L shoot at Leuchars – a 10 hour drive there on Friday and 8 back on Sunday – but a very enjoyable shoot although the afternoon ( black powder hammer guns so not too bad) was shot a ‘Scotch mist’.  I had a good day, and if I hadn’t changed guns between the M/L single and double competitions I might have done better – it took me a few stands to get my eye in each time I changed guns.  I almost made third place in the double percussion but lost out in the shoot off – we both got 4, then my opponent missed one and I missed two – end of story.  Shame as that was the only medal that didn’t come back to the Anglian Muzzle loaders!   Martin was shooting in his usual consistent way and Clare had  a good shoot. Bev said he had a ‘curates egg’ of a day and had trouble finding form, but he still beat me convincingly.  I was pretty pleased on the whole, as on some not so easy stands I managed  good scores – enough to keep my enthusiasm to improve going……   I decided to resist the temptation to shoot ‘gun up’ – i.e. with the gun in the shoulder when you call for the clay, which a lot of the better shots do, as it is liable to restrict my vision and mean I don’t see the clay coming, and on slower clays it gives me too much time to wave the gun in the air! plus it isn’t possible in game shooting.  I was tempted to use gun up on one fast clay that came  from the left, passed very fast close in front and quatered away right but held my nerve and, as Martin said, started with my gun sticking up in the air – managed to hit it several times..

Me, single barrel M/L comp.

It looks as if Bev is worried about his barrels coming off!

He did, however, win some medals , which is more than I did!

I got back my bits of steel that Allan Wellings had kindly ground off for me – a perfect finish for engraving test plates or making locks – I can’t wait to start on a project.  I may have a couple of  bits spare if anyone wants a 50 x 140 x 6 mm mild steel blank – email me.

23rd May  – I’m sorry for the gap here, but things got a bit hectic and I had to make several trips to London, one to the Bonham’s viewing.  There were a couple of things I thought it might be nice to have, always with the proviso that they looked like reasonable value.  I had my eye on a detached wheellock, a box of flasks and a cased Beaumont Adams pistol that had been completely refinished in a very dramatic way – as far as I was concerned completely ruining it as a collector’s piece.  I wanted it as I have a fairly decent one and was planning to swap it into the case and use the refinished one for shooting – I was niavely expecting it to go at the estimate (£500) on account of the abuse it had suffered, but there are obviously people out there who are not put off by refinishing because it made £1200 hammer price ( around £1650 to pay)- not much different from the price of a decent one.  I did get my wheel lock, not quite as cheaply as I hoped, but still OK at only 2 bids above the bottom estimate,  I had a couple of pokes at small pistols in passing, but they all escaped my clutches – on balance most guns  made somewhere in the range of the estimates, although a lot of the swords went below estimate. There were not many really nice pistols in good condition.   The box of flasks, of course, made almost twice the top estimate.  I did see a cased pair of  Mortimer pistols with the nastiest re-browning I’ve ever seen – a sort of salmon pink colour – glinting through was the most extreme and un- sympatetic recutting of engraving I’ve seen for a long time – fortunately I didn’t have a magnifying glass with me so I was spared the worst of the horrors (and they made £10K!!!!)  There is no accounting for people, as my Mum used to say….  (If you bought them, I didn’t mean it).  Tomorrow I’m off to Scotland to shoot in the national M/L competition.  I’m hoping that my improved form means I won’t be the worst shot there!  Some hope…..

18th – started to make the small jigs for sharpening the heels of gravers – it involved milling 3 mm wide grooves across a stainless steel bar,  Unfortunately my miller has too much play in the slides and the metal is on the tough side, so the cutter didn’t survive beyond the first one.  In my usual bodging way I found it was pretty quick to cut the slot roughly with a 1 m.m. disk in an angle grinder and then file it out, but it took me all the time I had available to make two.  It would be a simple and cheap job to put them out to someone with a cnc machine, but the turnover is not really enough to justify the setup costs, so I suppose I will just have to struggle on!

I tried to make up some rabbit skin glue to stick the lining on my pistol case, but put too much water with it, so will have to start again!  Next week is the Bonham’s Arms and Armour sale on Thursday – there are a number of possible interests, as I’m looking to extend my collection backwards in time.  I’m in London on Tuesday so I’ll go to the viewing in the afternoon, and see if its worth going for the auction, or whether to bid by phone, or just sit on my hands!   There is the rest of the enormous collection of Winchester lever action rifles for sale – you could probably pick up a good repro for a song…………

16th May – SATS exams are over – last one this morning – much to the relief of the children (and me, as it means I can have my mornings back).  I always seem to have several jobs on the go at once, partly because I like to leave them on the side to ‘mature’ and come back to them later with a fresh eye!  At the moment my engraving bench is occupied by the 4 bore Tolley Barrel, and I am part way through refitting a case for the Baumont Adams revolver.  I had to spend  today making up some graver sharpening jigs as I have a couple of orders pending – I made a few of the simplified 45 degree jigs, and tomorrow I’ll make a few of the 15 degree ones, which should be a little easier.  The 45 degree ones are a bore as I have to machine a 90 degree V slot in the top of a piece of hex bar, which involves tilting the head of the miller and  fiddling to get the cut in the right place – my miller is a feeble and rickety device so it is always touch and go whether things will turn out right – in this case not too bad, only one hiccough.

Today’s jobs in progress!

15th May  – More exams in school – I did the KS2 SATS first maths papers this morning – Arithmetic and Maths Reasoning – more tomorrow…..  I got a barrel re-engraving job to do while at the Northern Shooting Show – a 4 bore double Tolley  – the barrel is a little rusted in patches and is going to be struck off and re-browned when I return it.  I have tried to get a reasonably deep re-cut as its going to loose some metal on striking off – ideally when I’m re-browning them myself  I like to lightly recut the engraving before its struck off, then recut it again while in the white before re-browning – that way I can judge the finished effect.  In this case I’ve recut a little deeper as I can see some metal will have to come off.  If necessary I’ll have the barrels back in the white. Unusually for barrel lettering, the existing lettering made extensive use of a flat graver, and so isn’t as deep as that done with a 90 degree one – as usual ther first stage of the ‘re-cutting’ was actually cleaning out the rust, but this didn’t restore things completely as it sometimes does.   I will have to make a few more engraving tool sharpening jigs soon as I keep getting the odd order, and sharpening is a really difficult thing for beginners to master.   I’m busy refitting a nice original oak pistol case that will be perfect for my Beaumaont Adams 54 bore revolver – all the inside has been stripped out in the past, so I have a clean slate to work on.  I’m doing it in deep maroon baize as I have some nice very thin stuff from ‘Bernie the Bolt’, supplier of fabrics to re-enactors.  At the moment I’m considering what glue to use to stick the lining in with.  The quick and dirty way is to use spray photo mount if you can mask it well enough, but traditionally it should be an animal glue – I do have a jar of rabbit skin glue, so maybe I’ll do the job in the traditional way and use that…..  After that I fancy making a mahogany case for my Fishenden double carriage pistol – it will require a quite small but deep box.

13th May – back from Harrogate, where I had a very busy Northern Shooting Show.  It made me realise how integral the shooting sports are to the North of England compared to our namby pamby Southern counties!  It is a huge show and very popular – crowds surge in at 8 a.m. and it is busy all day until about 4 p.m.  I met lots of interesting people, including a number of friends who I only know at the show from past years.  Saturday was better than Sunday as people stopped to look and talk – Sunday seemed like a constant procession of people spending a few seconds and moving on.  I engrave screw heads as its easy and doesn’t require concentration, and give them to any children that show a decent level of interest – on Saturday I was giving them away as fast as I was doing them but on Sunday hardly any child qualified for one and I ended up with a stock for next time.  Today I was in school invidulating the SATS exams – it was an English paper and contained one bad mistake – treating ‘team’ as a plural, when it is clearly singular! tut tut – comes to something when an English exam contains gramatical mistakes…………………………………

8th May – I made a couple of Youtube videos today on stripping and assembling a flint lock – mostly because I felt guilty about all the equipment I’d bought to make videos and hadn’t really used – so the Great British Youtube watching public will just have to suffer!  (see a link on VIDEOS at the top of the page)  Talking of suffering, a friend rang me up in distress as he is quite ill, and asked me to pick up his gun tomorrow and get rid of it for him as he will never use it again –  I guess it comes to all of us in time.  I’ll put it on my license for a while and sort it out later.   I’m off on Friday and have a pretty full day tomorrow so I ought to be sorting all my engraving stuff to take to the Northern Shooting Show on Friday – at least I did manage to make 4 new gravers in case anyone wants to buy one.  I am optimistic that I’ll get it all sorted in time…………………………………..!

7th May again – I decided to start my case making by fitting out an original pistol case from about 1855 ish that is right for an Adams style revolver.  The case has been partially stripped out, so I just had to get rid of the remnants of the internal lining – stuck on with the usual animal glue so it is relatively easy to steam it and scrape it out – horrid sticky mess though.  The bit I find difficult with fitting/refitting cases is making the partitions – they are thin strips of wood (around 4mm thick x 45mm wide) that need to be chamfered to a fine 1mm edge at the top to wrap the fabric over.  I have yet to find a satisfactory way of putting the bevels on – using a low angle hand plane doesn’t get a very even result so I tried to set up my router table to do the job, but that didn’t do a very even job either.  Maybe I’ll try sanding the bevel on tomorrow – at least its covered by fabric!  When I come to making a new box there is also the problem of the lining strip that goes round the inside of the box – they have a slight chamfer at the top on the outside, and a steeper one on the inside and also a slight recess about 8mm down from the top on the inside that takes the top edge of the fabric.  The lining strips are very conspicuous as the wood shows above the fabric, and need to be made quite cleanly with sharp angles etc. so can’t be fudged.  Not sure how I’ll make them, especially the outside chamfer of maybe 5 degrees which is there to clear the opening of the lid.  I may try using my surface planer in some way with a jig, but handling thin strips of wood is very tricky, it might be better to clamp the wood down and use a hand router with an angled baseplate – maybe stick a soleplate on at an angle  and fix up some guides – I need to think about it!  I can at least temporarily screw the strips to a bearer as the holes can be filled and will be covered by the fabric………

7th May – Sunday morning AML shoot was good – I managed to hit half the clays, which was my target, as they are now quite challenging, although there was one ‘teal’  coming straight towards the muzzle of the gun that I think only one person managed to miss, and only once at that.   I have to correct my ‘tool porn’ post –  I said that there were over a dozen models of the expensive planes – actually when I counted it was 36!  And some hand saws at over £200 each – equipping your ‘tool porn’ workshop with fancy hand tools is going to cost you the price of quite a decent car – which I suppose is fair enough if you like that sort of thing!   I’m doing well filling the skip, and can now get to my woodworking machines – I’ve planed up some 3/8th thick oak to make a pistol box this morning, and fixed my big router back in its table with a car jack under it for height adjustment, so I’m now ready to start!  Now I need to decide what I’m going to box up!

4th May – I can now tell you with some authority that trying to load a flintlock in a hailstorm is no fun.  Its really difficult fishing the hailstones out of the pan before they wet the priming powder!  Apart from that, the ‘Have A Go’ day was good and the participants had fun – fortunately we had just about done the first session when the hail arrived, so we could retire for a cup of tea, and we had similarly just about reached the end of the second session when the lashing rain and howling wind overtook us and lunch beckoned.  My Manton flintlock was going off well – just one ‘flash in the pan’ and a couple of misfires as one flint was on its last legs ( my fault for being famously mean with flints), and one noticeably slow discharge.  We’ve got our regular 40 bird competition tomorrow so I’ll take a percussion double, maybe  the Venables. I should be spending time clearing things out at home as I have a 10 yard skip parked in the drive waiting to be filled with rubbish from my sheds and the house – so far its half full of stuff from the yard and one shed – it would be a pity not to use up all the expensive space…..

I had a look in the Axminster catalogue for a fine saw for making the dovetails – their catalogue always amuses me, I’m afraid I call it ‘tool porn’ for all the ridiculaously expensive cult tools, especially planes – you can pay up to about £470 for a plane, and then you can buy special fancy screwdrivers for working on it for about £25 each – you’ll probably need a set of eight to cover all the screws – oh and if you want the two alternative blocks to give you very slightly different blade angles they will set you back over £100. Now there are of course over a dozen different planes in the series, so you are heading for quite an expensive hobby, even without all the other fancy hand tools you will be needing – and I think you can even buy special bags to keep each of them in – truly tool porn!  Me, I’ll stick to my old slightly rusty Record plane (or more probably the old planer-thicknesser that I had to get the rust off the beds when I finally fought my way through to it yesterday), but they do have a basic saw for £13 that will probably do for the joints…………

3rd May – I seem to have been rather busy with school etc the last few days and the change of month passed me by!  I decided that it would be fun to try my hand at making reproduction pistol cases, particularly for revolvers as they are rather easier to make – they were mostly oak and the tops were often screwed on with small brass screws.  They also have a simple escutcheon on the lid that is not too hard to make as its circular.  The only problem is getting suitable stop hinges that only open to about 95 degrees.  You can buy them but they are expensive – I do have one pair on a rather boring cutlery box so I’ll use those.   I was going to try using a router and a jig for cutting the dovetails but the originals have very small wedges, smaller than any router bits. Anyway I watched a couple of Youtube videos of cutting dovetails and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t really such a big deal making them by hand, and they would be more authentic.  It struck me that there were two very different approaches to getting to be able to make passable joints – one can either start out very carefully doing everything as well as possible, aiming for a perfect result and taking a long time about it so that the first one eventually and with luck turns out right, or one can go at it fast, without worrying too much about getting perfection, but doing it in a fraction of the time of the first method, and then just doing it again several times, keeping the speed but getting better each time.  The second method suits my personality, and means that it doesn’t mattter if you make a mistake – you will have learnt for the next one.  Anyway my second and third attempts are shown below.   Tomorrow I’m helping run a ‘Have a Go ‘ day at Cambridge Gun Club – we will be giving each person 8 percussion shots and two flint shots – I think w’ll have 8 ‘customers’ each so thats 80 shots which is quite a lot with a muzzle loader.  I’ll use my Sam Nock percussion as it takes the same wads etc as my flint Manton.  Should be a busy day.  Then on Sunday we have our monthly shoot at Cambridge so its going to be a very black powder bank holiday w/e.  Its getting near to the Northern Shooting Show – I’ll be packing my kit into the Land Cruiser and heading North to set up my stand in a week- with luck it won’t be too cold as I shall be camping in it when the geat is out. Most of the MLAGB gang camp so we have a bit of a party on Saturday night.  If you come to the show, make sure you look me out in the ‘Artisans’ area.

The wood on the top one (third attempt) is a bit thick for a box so it looks wrong.  The bottom box is a real one that will have my Beaumont Adams in it when I’ve done the inside.

28th April – I’m sure I posted on here a couple of days ago, but must have forgotten to press the ‘publish’ button!  Put it down to age…..  I had a pleasant trip to deepest Norfolk to see a friend who has a nice collection.  I have been invited to go and photograph some of his guns for the blog, so as soon as I can find a couple of days free I’ll go.  The O/U is now finished – I reshaped the ramrod end as it didn’t rest easy against the barrel and rib, and it now looks comfortable!  I was looking through ‘The Price Guide to Antique Guns and Pistols’ by Peter Hawkins – its of course massively out of date (1977) so the prices are of historic interest only, but it has over 1000 illustrations and useful comments – Peter Hawkins was the Christies gun man before they gave up selling guns, so his observations are still valid.  I am amused by some of his comments on the aesthetics of  some lesser pistols!   I had a session of making cloth covers for any gun or pistol cases that don’t already have them, as they are handy if you pile up cases and try to pull ones out of the middle of the pile!  I need to shift some more of my collection to make room for new acquisitions – I am putting a cased pair of Liege pistols that Dick restored some time ago on the For Sale page.  Email me if you are interested.  I was looking out some locks for a YouTube video on lock mechanisms and found these three as a nice size contrast;-The biggest is from an East India Company wall gun of 1793, its 9 1/4 inches long.  The second is (probably) a bog standard India pattern type Musket lock, probably of the Napoleaonic war period ( I don’t have the musket it came off) and the little lock is from a fine silver mounted horse pistol by Barbar of about 1760.  All have in common a mainspring without a link, a frizzen without roller  and a frizzen spring held by an external screw.

24th April – I went into school as The Black Knight this morning, having put my suit of armour in the classroom under wraps yesterday – great fun with the year 1 & 2 kids (5/6/7).    I spent another few hours sorting the O/U pistol first bending the left cock to match the right, and then inumerable goes at filing a bit off the sear and putting it back and checking to see if the full and half cock poisitions of the cocks lined up.  I had made the new sear as a careful copy of the old one ( which was a bit bent and not working) but in the end had to file the nose down 1 1/2 mm to get the cocks to line up – ergo the damaged sear could not have been the right one?  Anyway I got them lined up to a pretty good tolerance – I then found when I put the locks in the pistol ( I’d been doing the lining up in a jig) that the new sear arm needed slightly bending to give a bit of clearance on the trigger blade. Once done the sear was hardened and then tempered at about 225 degrees C to take the brittleness out of it.   I just need to decide if I need to modify the ramrod, and we are done.  I had a look at the remaining Harding little pistol parts – the stock is in need on pretty major surgery – its one of those jobs where you think it might almost be easier to restock it rather than struggel to repair, but that is almost never a good option as any value in the pistol is much reduced compared to a careful repair.  I cleaned off the wood with paint stripper to see what was there and discovered that there were old repairs using panel pins – I need to get the furniture off and have a good look, but in the meantime here is a photo;-

22nd April – yet more lovely weather!  I sorted out the boat from yesterday and then remade the ramrod for the O/U pistol as it had been badly damaged – I bought a nice length of straight grained ebony about 30 mm square some time ago and cut some lengths into 12 x 12 mm for ramrods so I cut a bit off a long length for the pistol and turned it in the woodturning lathe – it was quite short, so no problem with whip – actually I was amazed at how strong the ebony was, I turned a bit down to about 1 mm diameter to separate it and it was quite difficult to break!  Anyway its all coming together now – I realised that before I can finish the sear to give the exact positions I need to bend one of the cocks slightly as it was at some time dropped on it, the bend is no problem as its only a few mm but it will make a difference to the sear.  I will heat it up before bending in case that turns out to be problematic too.  I was going to try to soften the little screw that is sheared off in the lockplate by playing a very fine flame on it – I have the perfect torch – a Turbogas 90 – that I had for lead welding, it can use a hypodermic syringe of 18 gauge for a nozzle so has an extremely fine flame.  Unfortunately it has run out of Oxygen, so I’ll have to wait while some comes care of ebay!  Oh, and I did manage to fit in an hour and a half of climbing (bouldering) this afternoon, so I should sleep well tonight! They are making all the climbs more difficult, or I am getting worse, I prefer the former explanation.

Here is the browned O/U barrel with the new ramrod.

21st April – another lovely day here! Took the dinghy to Wolverston and had a decent sail on the Orwell – extremely pleasant, just an adequate breeze for 4 in the dinghy without any gymnastics,   I didn’t have any time for anything else, but I was thinking about the problems with the internal lock parts of the O/U pistol – when I got it to sort there were a couple of bits of the bridles broken where they were thin round the screws, even though they shouldn’t come under any great stress.  I asked a materials scientist friend of Giles who was sailing with us about possible causes, and she offered to take a sample and polish it and look at it under a Scanning Electron Micaroscope to see what the structure is and look for any possible problems.   There is always someone in Cambridge who can provide expert advice on technical problems if you can find them!  I think all the bits of the pistol works have been hardened to an inch of their lives – one of  the screws was broken off in the lock plate and as there was nothing to get hold of,  I tried to drill a small hole through the embedded screw – my brand new HSS drills wouldn’t even mark it.  Screws are not usually that hard as it makes them too brittle, so I’m not sure what is going on.  I don’t know if I dare to put the whole lot in a furnace and temper them to dark blue to get rid of any brittleness.


20 th April  I spent a happy 4 hours on the replacement sear for the O/U pistol, as well as getting the boat ready for a sail tomorrow – take advantage of the weather while you can!  For the sear, I milled a strip of spring steel to fix the main shape and then filed it – I am now at the stage of very cautiously filing the nose of the sear to set the full cock position – since the pistol has a lock on each side, its critical that the cocks are aligned at half and full cock or it looks like poor workmanship or a bodged repair.  The sear probably needs to be filed and honed after hardening and tempering to within 1/10 th of a mm.  I had a couple of problems with getting clearance for the sliding safety that was catching on the sear, until I discovered a drip of araldite on the safety from some crude previous repair!  I always leave small parts attached to the bulk of the metal until the last moment as it makes life much easier – After shaping the sear I welded the arm on and tidied it up.  It would all be so much easier if I had a working cnc miller!

New and old stacked – not a bad fit!

Final fitting and tidying up  to do, but more or less there, thank goodness!

19th April  I put the O/U pistol together and the right hand lock would not cock – on taking it out the sear fell out – half the bearing had broken off – this was the sear that had been welded in the past, and had a folded over tip I had to straighten out.  Not sure what happened to the metal here, but it clean broke off the thin bit of the bearing.  I guess I could get Jason to pile a bit of weld on it, or do it myself, but the nose of the sear is still a source of concern after it was straightened out, so I think its a case of making a new sear.  I’ve photgraphed the sear against a rule so I can work out the necessary two hole centres, one for the bearing and the other for the curve that fits against the tumbler – if I get those right and drill/mill my blank it should  fit when I attack the rest of the outline.  Its a job I could do without, but I don’t think there is any sensible alternative.   It won’t happen for a few days as the weather is so nice that I’m getting the dinghy ready to go sailing on Sunday on the Stour.

There is a small crack from the bottom just to the right of the bearing hole so definitely not worth trying to repair!

The arm was already repaired – I guess its just a bad piece of metal!

18th April  I finished the browning of the O/U pistol barrel – a nice even figure.  I have cleaned out the chequering a little, not recut it, just got rid of the ingrained dirt that always obscures it.  I also renewed the escutchon as the oniginal had dents and scratches that I couldn’t get out.  It is looking good.  I ordered some old Nettlefold woodscrews from ebay to engrave at the Northern Shooting Show where I’ll be doing my regular engraving demonstrations – I give engraved screws to children who show interest.  The seller, Tony,  rang me to say he hadn’t got the size I’d specified but as the length isn’t important he had others suitable.  We had a very interesting discussion about the uses of pre war woodscrews – he has a brisk business selling old stock to all sorts of restoration projects and reenactment makers – I’m his first screw-head engraver!  Anyway as I give them away to children he kindly upped the quentities he was sending – so I probably have a lifetime’s supply now.  I will engrave a couple for him – he said he will make a donation to a charity that makes prostheses for children  without any official funding  – have a look at http://www.teamunlimbited.org and donate if you feel inspired.  I’ll make a donation in return for all those extra screws too.   I finished the tumbler/sear/sear spring bits of the dog lock – enough to demonstrate how the horizontal sear works.  Shame I haven’t got the mainspring casting for it – maybe I’ll make one some day. ( the nail pivot for the sear is so that I can easily remove it to show the workings).

17th April – I made a ramrod for the Purdey Rifle – it needed something as it looked a bit bare without one. I didn’t have time to make a proper one out of the ebony that I have, so I made a simple one with a dummy instead of a worm.  I went to a re-enactors fair last year and there was a chap selling ash blanks for arrrows so I bought all of the straight ones he had and have kept them taped to a straight edge.  The nominal 10 mm ones fitted the pipes on the Purdey almost perfectly – I just needed to put the blank in the lathe and sand the inboard end down a bit to give a good fit, then fit the dummy end and the top end and colour the wood up a bit, and the gun looks much happier although its a nice rifle and does deserve better – I’ll get round to it when I have time to round off the ebony squares and can find my worm ends.   I’m rebrowning the O/U barrel again – I stripped the over browning off in the electrolytic deruster and then polished off the residue with 7000 grade paper.  Its looking good and I’m proceeding very carefully to avoid a repeat of the over browning.  I am fettling up a partial set of castings of an English doglock as a demonstration piece to show a lock with a horizontal sear – it took me a while to work out how the lock was supposed to function as it wasn’t immediately obvious from the bits I had – I have now got the sear working on full and half cock, and need to make a sear spring – its also missing the mainspring and the steel/frizzen/hammer or whatever you choose to call it.  Not sure if I’ll bother to make all the bits as I don’t intend to make a gun from it at the moment.

16th April – Busy day – I got out a couple of percussion rifles to see what I might put on my license and shoot at some point this summer – I found bullet moulds for my Staudenmeyer 30 bore – it takes a 34 bore ball and a 10 thou patch, and my Purdey that takes a 95 bore ball with a 12 thou patch. Anyway I did a bit of casting – the best accessory I’ve come across is the pourer designed by Jeff Tanner consisting of a small CO2 cylinder with the outlet hole cleared and a section cut off the top of the back, mounted on a shaft with a wooden handle.  Keep it in the molten lead and just pour it nto the bullet mould – keeps the dross out, and once the mould is up to temperature it gives a nice clean cast.   I occasionally get asked if I do gold inlay, so I thought it was time I had a go, so I splashed out on 2 inches of 0.5 mm pure gold wire – that was about £8, so £1 per quarter inch!  Anway I blew a bit of it on a test inlay 1 mm wide, which worked except that in punching it in I slightly dented the steel and didn’t quite get the groove I’d cut filled – there was not much surplus gold above the surface.  I have a supply of fine silver in the shape of vacuum gaskets so I decided it would be cheaper to mess about with that and save my remaining  bit of gold!  I did a quick test to see if the silver was soft enough (it needed annealing), using a script letter I had previously cut – and it worked – this time I had a decent excess of silver after I had punched it in, so it filled the cut properly.  I made the cuts with a number of cuts with the square graver to remove metal, then cut to the edges with the square graver canted to give a near vertical edge, then undercust with an Onglette as best I could.  I also nicked the bottoms of the grooves with the point of the square graver to give the silver some more purchase.  It looks possible, at least worth trying to do it properly!

Well, its a start!

14th April – I’ve been away for a couple of days sorting our cottage in Cornwall ready for letting via AirB&B – Mainly a new cooker and smarten up the terrace.   Back home I was looking through my bits and pieces to see what projects I could come up with.  I found a massive original East India Company flintpock by Moore (with replacement cock) that I was going to drop into my wall gun that had been converted to a punt gun.  I also have a set of original parts for a 1768 military pistol that needs a barrel and a stock and  few bits and pieces. Plus a set of parts for a pair of Wogden duelling pistols (minus cocksand stocks and a few bits) and a set of castings and wood for a double flint gun.  I ought to put some of the bits on my ‘guns for sale’ page so other people could have a go at making them up – I’ll sort through and see what I can find.  I’m still trying to get a cock for the other little Harding that almost matches my Post Office pistol.  I’m in communication with Jessica at the Post Office Museum, they have a little Harding pistol very similar to mine and I emailed to ask if it has the crown and broad arrow stamps on lock and barrel like mine. If not, they should aquire mine and have the real thing!  The reason I was rumaging was to find a set of doglock castings that I had somewhere, to use them  in a video – I found them – there are a few bits missing but there are enough to show the principle – so I started to file them up so I could make the bits I| have work enough to demonstrate the horizontal sear

10th April – I was doing my homework in preparation for making some videos on the history of antique firearms and came across a series of youtube videos – called Forgotten Weapons -from the US that describe some of the guns being offered by Rock Island auction house – mostly breech loaders but a few real antiques like the Lorenzoni and a couple of wheellocks. The videos are well made and informative so I’ll take what I can learn from them and not duplicate what they already do.  I have yet to see a video of anyone actually firing a Lorenzoni but there must be someone out there who has.  I do have a friend who has one in his collection but I haven’t so far managed to persuade him to let me fire it!!!!!

8th April – I ordered a 3 m length of 1/4 inch by 2 inch mild steel bar, cut into 300 mm lengths to use as trial plates for engraving practice.  A friend offered to surface grind them to get rid of the cold rolled skin that makes engraving them a bit like engraving a ploughed field although you can’t actually see the unevenness.  When they are ready I’ll cut them in half and put some on the ‘For Sale’ page.  I have a project for half a dozen of them – I want to make a set representing different vernacular gun engraving styles ( i.e. from guns that were intended to be used, not presentation pieces which I find altogether over the top).  I am fond of the late 17th century / early 18th century style – strawberry leaves and grotesque faces, but things went a bit quiet on the engraving front for a few years, then a rather loopy but quite sparse style came in towards the third quarter of the 18th century.  The last quarter of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th were the heyday of the Palmer style with running leaf borders and poor representations of birds and dogs with liberal additions of scrolls.  The second quarter of the 19th century saw a marked improvement in the technical aspects of gun engraving with Gumbrell and contempories which persisted alongside the heirs to the Palmer tradition, plus the introduction of all over simple scrollwork and a wide variety of border styles round locks with a range of finess.  By the late 19th century engraving had become almost the only  thing that distinguished the guns of the top gunmakers like Boss, Purdy and Holland, causing them to adopt distinctive engraving styles – at that point I loose interest!  Before anyone corrects me, I do realise that the above is a gross simplification, but does convey a sense of the progress of the art. See Beginners Guide to Engraving on this blog….  Anyway it will make a nice set of exercises for me!

7 th April – Sorry about the absence of diary entries – other work took precedence.  I browned the big o/u barrel – it was going nicely but a bit light coloured, so I used my ex PCB browning –  I must have swabbed it on too liberally and then wiped off some of the excess as it went very wrong – part of the barrel went quite black, some stayed brown with the twist pattern visible and some appeared to have lost most of its browning – there is nothing for it but to start again.  I will use the electrolytic derusting as that should remove most of the browning without taking any more metal off.  I may have to go over it with 2000 grit paper but will take care to avoid the lettering.  I am still busy with sorting out some patent work so it will have tobe put on hold for a week or so!  I feel stupid as I am perfectly aware that you need to put the browning on very sparingly – hardly wetting the surface at all.

3rd April – I was preparing the barrel of the big over and under flintlock pistol and decided that my expensive ( £25) 6 inch No 6 file was a bit dead so I remembered reading somewhere that you could revitalise files by putting them in dilute (10%) Nitric acid, so as I happen to have some Nitric Acid left over from my experiments with anodising, I tried it.  well, the file fizzed happily for a few minutes before I rescued it, and did seem a quite a bit better. so I put most of my 6 inch files in the acid for a few minutes.  They need drying and oiling afterwards as the surface is highly reactive.  Anyway,  I finished the barrel with 3 grades of wet and dry wrapped round a hard, flat object ( small sharpening stone)  – 600, 1000 and 2000 after the No 6 draw filing.  I’ve given it about half a dozen rustings so far, not letting any of them run too long, and its developing a good figure – those  classic flintlock over and under pistols usually had well figured barrels, and the two barrels were made separately and brazed together – I have a feeling that they matched up the two barrels at the joint pretty carefully to respect the twist pattern.

2nd April II – Yesterday I got a very nice 12 bore boxlock ejector by Askill for a friend, who was delighted with it – nice side by side shotguns can be had for a song as hardly anyone shoots them now.  I finished the engraving of Fred’s gun bits today – a few difficulties, like a screwhead that my normal gravers couldn’t mark – I had to dig away with the GRS pneumatic, and then only managed a few crude cuts – it wasn’t hard, just very tough.  Another one I had to engrave was dead hard, but that was Ok because it annealed OK.  I finished the false breech for a single barreled gun of 1770 style, based loosly on that of my Twigg single of about the same date – The metal was pretty horrible and part of it had to be done with the GRS, I am ashamed to say!   I’ve been stripping and fettling a heavy flintlock over and under pistol – one of the locks wouldn’t engage half cock, and then wouldn’t engage either bent.  stripping it revealed the tip of the sear bent into a nice U shape!  The leg of the sear had been welded, so the tip must have been annealed in the welding process and being quite thin, just bent right over.  Anyway I managed to heat it up to red heat and bend it with a fine pair of round nosed pliers until I could flatten it.  It was then heated to bright red and quenched and tempered so it is now working.  In stripping the pistol I had some difficulty in freeing the ‘nail’ in the false breech tang – in most guns it goes through the stock into the trigger plate, so is a ‘bolt’, but in this case it was just a woodscrew, which explains why it was really difficult to get out even when it had started.  ( loading these photos I realised I still needed to engrave the ‘flanks’ of the false breech as they shouldn’t be left plain.)

Obviously the screw is not the proper screw – its just to hold it for engraving!

2nd April – The blog has just passed 2 million visits in the  5 years it has been going – here is a snapshot at 11 a.m.

Online Users: 0
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Today: 93 475
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Last 30 Days: 5,593 37,526
Last 365 Days: 96,261 693,216
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31 March – I had to make a new pair of nipples for the Venables as the originals were just too small to hold the standard caps tightly and I had a couple of ‘misfires’ where the cap had fallen off, so I had to pinch each cap slightly before putting it on.  Is a shame as the originals were ‘proper’ nipples with a small (about 1 m.m.) hole through a narrow waist in the centre of the nipple.  I made a video of the making, but the second one just didn’t go well!  I got too gung ho and tried to cut the titanium  too fast with my HSS tool – quite spectacular as the heat set light to the swarf coming off the cut and there was a very bright flash that burnt the tip of the tool away!  Not sure if I have that on video or not.  Anyway I eventually  ended up with a pair of nipples that are a perfect fit for the caps.  Then lawn mowing took over……………..

30th March – shooting at Cambridge Gun Club – with the Venables.  It obviously fits me as I only missed one clay in the first 8 but it was downhill from there as usual – still I do manage most of the ones that  simulate game!  I shot some ‘driven’ clays later with my big Miruku and that was OK ish so not too unhappy at the result!  There was a supplementary shoot in the afternoon with long range clays – 60 yds and up – I didn’t take part as it seemed a triumph of hope over expectation  – the best score was 5/13.  At that range with the average antique barrel I would reckon that at best you would stand a 50% chance of breaking the clay even if it was in the centre of your pattern as there are usually plenty of clay sized holes at that range.  I’ve now got all the bits for filming videos, although I’m having trouble getting my old camera to cooperate with the HDMI screen.   I’m trying to put together something on the history of firearms as an intro, but the trouble is that its very difficult to get hold of anything before about 1750 to film, and I don’t know anyone who shoots wheellocks, or Mingulet locks for that mattter.  Anyway I’m working on it, and on some more engraving videos.  I have been doing a bit of practice and I am beginning to think it might just be worth using special steel gravers – GRS sell some in what they call GLENSTEEL – I have one and as long as you don’t break the point it lasts much longer than my normal ones before it needs sharpening – the only trouble is that when the point breaks it usually takes of quite a chunk of metal and takes longer to sharpen as its harder. I have one single barreled false breech to engrave for Fred, so I’ll try and do a video of that – I may copy the false breech of my Joseph Manton Tubelock as its quite attractive and not too longwinded – to be decided, as they say.

29th March – I have thought of a great new business opportunity – selling newspapers from which every mention of Brexit has been expunged – I anticipate a brisk trade, although I fear there won’t be much left to read !  Had a pleasant morning discussing guns with a regular client who collected a pair of pistols that we renovated, and left a nice cased pair of 1785 ish pistols that need a bit of attention, and a hefty over and under flint pocket pistol of around 1810 or so that will freshen up into something better.  I didn’t get any time for engraving – I’m keen to keep my hand in and maybe do a couple more videos – I guess that ones of something being engraved are likely to be more popular than explanations!  I just remembered in time that I’m shooting tomorrow and that the Venables is a 14 bore and all my overshot cards are a bit small at 16 bore, so I had to dig out a 14 bore punch and make a few.  I will try the Venables, as I’ve spent so long doing it up that I need to get some use from it.  I think I have now sorted out resoldering barrels after three tries, so I’m quite gung ho about another try!

28th March – Almost at the end of another month!  I had another look at the Venables with a view to shooting it – it still has the nipples that I bought it with, and they have a fairly big hole right the way through.  I tried to fit the spare titanium nipples I have but they wouldn’t go all the way in – checking the depth of the tapped holes in the gun I think it is not that they are too long in the thread, but that I haven’t tapped them far enough up to the flange.  Its a problem because the dies always have a long taper on the lead-in and don’t cut right up to the shoulder.  I tried relieving the thread at the top but obviously not enough.  My die is ground off on the reverse side so that it doesn’t have such a long taper, but obviously not enough to do the job.  I would have a go at sorting the titanium ones, but tomorrow is a busy day and I’m shooting on Saturday – in fat I don’t know when I will be able to fit in next week’s shopping… maybe we’ll starve!  I’ve continued to sort out what I will need to do my videos of guns – I  am making some test runs to try out different lighting arrangements.

27th March – I survived my Ofsted interrogation so far, we have to return tomorrow afternoon to learn what the Inspector makes of our school!  I’ve put another screwheads video on youtube – and on the VIDEOS page here.  I’m just doing a few simple ones as practice for what I hope will be a series on the history of firearms.  We have an AML clay shoot at Cambridge on Saturday, I may just put the Venables on my ticket and try it, or I might follow my resolution and just stick to one gun,  my old Samuel Nock.  I have been a bit dissapointed at my shooting with my 20 bore hammer gun (when I give up on stuffing things down the barrel of the muzzle loader) – it has a very tight choke, but I don’t think that is the main reason – I have a feeling that it is a bit light and I end up waving it about in the air.  I might just take my big Miroku U/O and see if I can still shoot with that, it hasn’t had an outing for ages.

26th March – it never rains but it pours!  We learnt this evening that the school is to have an OFSTED inspection tomorrow, so governors have to go in to be quizzed by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors about what we are doing to improve the school! I wish there was a simple answer to that, but I don’t expect repairing the doorbell will cut much ice!  My youtube videos are getting a few views, I’ve nearly done another one, but I find that I really need a decent microphone – is there no end to the expense involved?  They are relaying the road just outside our house through the nights this week, and at the moment there is an enormous machine that is shaking the whole house in a very disturbing way – no chance of sleep while that is going on 20 yards from the bedroom window, so not only do I have to face an OFSTED grilling, but have to do it after a sleepless night. Please excuse my somewhat negative post!

25th March – Did our STEM club at school – we were doing the experiment of inverting a glass over a burning candle – two competent scientists and we still couldn’t work out exactly what is going on – all the simple explanations on the web are clearly wrong, being far too simple – I think it is a number of processes going on simultaneously but we couldn’t work out any numbers.  The main problem is where all the oxygen ends up after it is burnt – it should be converted to carbon dioxide and take a comparable volume, but it doesn’t!  Puzzle…….  And while at school I was asked to take my suit of armour in and be a knight next term – makes a change from fixing their doorbell today!

24th March – I had a comment (see CONTACTS) from someone who took me to task for restoring firearms and for shooting animals.  As it’s the first time I’ve received such a comment I thought I’d reply via this post.  I support the right of my correspondent to hold whatever legal views she likes, and am more than happy to give my response in detail on this occasion.   My interest in restoring antique firearms is separate from my interest in shooting – in fact most of the restoration I do is of guns that could not be used, and would be unsuitable for any kind of sporting use.  Our cultural and engineering history has been intimately connected with firearms for the last 400 years – during that time they represented the only advanced mechanical systems manufactured in any significant quantities, and most advances in metalurgy and engineering were associated with firearms manufacture – two examples illustrate this, the first that around 7 milion examples of the Brown Bess musket and its derivatives were made to a broadly similar design in the years from1700 to 1830 while NO other engineering products even reached a thousanth of that output – giving rise to the concept of pattern manufacture and standardisation.  The second example is that when Newcomen invented the steam engine he was dependent upon technology developed for cannon boring to produce the cylinders. Guns represented the peak of both quantity and quality production and  are deeply embedded in our history – To ignore or allow such important artefacts to decay because of a recent cultural shift, however well meaning, would be to trample on our history.    As far as using  guns for shooting is concerned, most people who shoot do so at either clays or targets, not game, and as such enjoy a challenging and physical sport that harms no-one.  I defend my right to shoot game  – like the majority of the population I eat meat and don’t shy away from occasionally killing to provide some of that meat rather than sub-contract all the killing to others.  I am, as are my friends , always conscious of our duty to have regard for our quarry and to avoid wounding, and there are some aspects of game shooting, particularly when it doesn’t give rise to useful food, that I disapprove of.  As far as culling and control is concerned, in most cases shooting is widely regarded as the most humane method – think of more humane alternatives to shooting for deer or boar control.  One  large estate in Eastern England has been told by Nature England that it needs to cull 400  older head of deer a year to maintain a healthy population – I don’t know of any method more humane than (skilled) shooting to selectively cull such large numbers – perhaps my correspondent knows of a better way? Humans have removed the top predators from some species and we need to take on that role to preserve the health of the stock.  There are now supposed to be more deer in the UK than at any time in our history, and its likely to be true of wild boar within 30 years. Finally,  I challenge the assertion she makes that I have no moral conscience or compassion – it just may not align completely with hers, although I bet it does over the vast majority of issues!

P.S. I did a Youtube video on engraving screw heads – see VIDEOS at the top.

23rd March – I didn’t find the foresight of the Venables so I had great fun making a new one – very fiddly!  the hole appeared to be tapped 8 B.A. so I made mine that size although Dick said they were mostly 7 B.A.  Anyway the Venables is now complete and a very fine gun too!  I may replace one of my shooting doubles with it.  I’ve been planning a few more Youtube videos for the future – I’m told that things like watching engraving are popular, so I’ll do a few, but I really want to do some on the history of firearms – I’d like to  be able to show some of the splendid guns that various friends have in their collections – there is so much of interest in the history.

20th March – I bit the bullet and had a go at straightening the stock of the Venables which if you look back in the diary, you’ll see had a 3/4 inch cast off. First it is necessary to set up a jig to hold the gun (stripped of its trigger guard and trigger plate and locks) against a straight piece of wood that can act as the reference plane, packing the muzzle so that the centreline of the gun is parallel to the reference plane and clamping the muzzle to the plane and the bench so it can’t move or twist. Your reference  plane must be straight and rigid – my wooden plank was backed by a 1″ x 3″ steel bar that ensured it didn’t bend as the clamp on the butt was tightened. The stock is clamped to the reference plane with suitable packing in the lock area.  You can now measure the offset of the centre line of the gun from the reference plane and measure the amount of cast-off ( about 3/4 inch in this case).  I wrapped the lock area in aluminium foil to protect it from heat as I wanted to restrict the bending to the wrist area, and wrapped the wrist in a sheet of kitchen roll folded in half.  I poured a little very hot vegetable oil on the tissue and played a heat gun on medium heat on the wrist – it takes a long time for the heat to penetrate the wood, but eventually ( >3/4 hour) you should find that the butt will flex a bit, and its time to start gently tightening the clamp holding the butt to the reference plane and measuring the cast. Make sure you clamp so that the stock isn’t twisted. There is no need to rush this stage and force the wood as it is likely to spring back if it isn’t allowed to relax into its new shape.  The butt will spring back a bit when its no longer held by the clamp, so its best to tighten the clamp on the butt just a bit more than you want the evenatual cast off to be – I bent it to about 0 to 1/8 inch cast off and then went off and had lunch and did a few jobs so it had about 3 hours to cool  – when I unclamped it, it has a cast of around 3/16th to 1/4 inch – just perfect for me.  So I’ve now put it back together – the lockpockets were a bit of a tight fit as presumably the wood has changed shape slightly.  I was pleased to see that the finish of the stock is still perfect.The only bit of the job left is to find the nipples and the foresight bead….. I’m sure they were somewhere! – there is always something else to do to finish the job.