tim

Aug 212021
 

One class of antique firearms misses out on attention – little pocket pistols!  Apart from the ‘Queen Anne’ pistols, which were mostly not pocket sized, the bog standard boxlock flintlock and percussion socket pistols are held in scant regard by most collectors, and I’ve yet to find a book dedicated to them.  They were, however, probably among the most widely produced and owned firarms of the period – if not the most used.  They evolved from the Queen Anne pistol, which had a turn-off barrel screwed onto a breech which was made integral with the lock plate on the right hand side and the floor plate, making a three sided box , with the cock and frizzen spring on the outside of the lock plate side and the trigger pivoting in the floor plate.  This arrangement meant that there was still the need for a tumbler on the inside of the lock plate.    The box lock came about when it was realised that by moving the cock inside to the centre line, the tumbler could be dispensed with, thus simplifying the design.  To support the pivot for the cock another side could be added on the left, and then a slotted top plate to cover the mechanism When used with a conventional trigger, the sear could become part of the trigger, and the bents could be cut in the cock breast, thus reducing the basic lock parts count to cock, trigger, trigger spring and mainspring.  the pan had of course moved to the top of the barrel and the frizzen could be mounted directly over the breech.   The butt at the back completed the sixth side of the box and enclosed the mainspring. A safety catch was added to anything but the very cheapest boxlocks, either by a sliding trigger guard that locked the trigger(?) or a slider on top of the top plate that both intersected the mainspring and inserted a pin through into the pan cover to prevent it opening. These pistols probably made their appearance around the middle of the 18th century or a bit later. They gained in popularity in cities where street violence was fairly common, including large parts of London during the last quarter of the 18th and first quarter of the 19th centuries.  For the most part they were a utilitarian pistol and would have  been cheap to make and cheap to buy – almost certainly the vast majority of the more utilitarian – bog standard- pistols would have been turned out in their hundreds by Birmingham gunmakers and engraved, probably as part of the manufacture, with the names of the eventual retailer.  It is as unusual to see on engraved ‘Birmingham’ as it is to find one engraved ‘London’ that was actually made in London! Even those that were made in London were probably made from rough forgings made in Birmingham.  You will find the names of famous gunmakers engraved on these basic little pistols – some may have been retailed by those makers or given away with their expensive guns,  but more often it was just put on by the maker to sell more, mostly when the named maker had left the trade..   Here its important to note the way that the Birmingham gunmaking trade was organised as a whole raft of separate independent craftsmen, each making one or two parts of the pistol and nothing else – the ‘gunmaker was the name given to the organiser of the enterprise who may or may not have had a role in physically making the pistol, but probably not. As a result of the volumes produced, the raw forgings and manufactured parts from Birmingham were usually much cheaper than could be produced in London.

There were variations on the boxlock pocket pistol design, and they came in a variety of sizes and qualities , including some good quality ones that may have been fitted up by good gunmakers, and a few presentation pieces or quality items sold as a cased graniture with other pistols.  One early variation was the folding trigger, which reduced the bulk of the pistol considerably and made it more suitable to carry in a pocket or purse at the expense of adding two more parts – a sear that shared the pivot with the trigger, and a spring that acted to close the trigger into the recess in the bottom.  Functional variations included ways of adding additional barrels to give better defence capabilities – the most common variety being double barreled pocket pistols with vertically stacked barrels and a tap action to shut off ignition to the bottom barrel while the top barrel was being fired.  Extending the number of barrels to three or four by various ingenious means again increase the defensive capability.  A further variation combined the tap action with a superimposed charge in a single barrel – the barrel was made in two parts corresponding to the double charge, see below.

 

Basic functional flintlock turnoff flintlock with the name ‘H Nock’ on the side – Birmingham proof marks. Butt wood a fancy replacement

Superimposed load tap action pistol

Neat decent quality small pocket pistols of the ‘cap guard’ variety, sometimes called ‘top hat pistols – W & S Rooke

 

About as basic as it gets!

Still pretty basic but omewhat better quality – probably typical of the bulk of Birmingham’s output of pocket pistols. by(?)  John Bates

 

A bit bigger,  and a bit better quality too – ( retailed) by Boby of Newmarket

 

Probably a bit big for a pocket, they have a belt clip, so count as belt pistols – but nice quality by Salmond of Perth

 Posted by at 11:14 pm
Mar 072021
 

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)

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.

 Posted by at 12:25 am
Mar 062021
 

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.

 Posted by at 11:48 am
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.

Material;-

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.

Construction;-

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.

Lining;-

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.

Partitions;-

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 212019
 

 

IMPORTANT NOTICE

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS:  

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.

Diary 

 

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Important Note 14th October – the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners  has put up a survey on police licensing of firearms and shotguns – please take time to read the intro at:-

https://www.apccs.police.uk/latest-news/have-your-say-on-potential-changes-to-firearms-licensing/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=Orlo

and take the survey at;

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/5J7PV2K

Of the many points that could be raised, The Norway archer illustrates very well that it’s the people not the guns that you have to sort out, and tellingly, in many cases the Police have had prior contact with the attacker concerning radicalisation or antisocial behaviour and failed to follow through – but innocent gun owners carry the implied blame.  GPs, particularly now 58% of appointments are remote, don’t know anything about a person’s motivations or obsessions, nor should they – its not their job.  If they can’t find time to say whether  drivers with certain conditions  are safe to be on the road, (see news)  how can they be expected to know anything about my thought processes and likely behaviour?  

The result of the survey will no doubt be used to justify further repressive measures if the ‘antis’ get their way.  You can bet they will be getting all their friends to fill it in, make sure you do to.  Please don’t let that happen…………………….

11 November – Really good muzzle loading shoot yesterday!  Weather very cloudy and occasional Scotch mist – enough to twart one of the flintlockers for one drive – and not a breath of wind to deflect the birds.  The bag was fairly small – 67,  but the birds were flying well and the drives were good and even, so everyone had a most enjoyable time – proving that numbers are not everything.  I had mostly pegs on the outskirts and wasn’t in line for any big flushes, and I decided that I prefer it that way, especially as I shoot my single barreled percussion gun, so ‘left and rights’ are not possible. I seem to be the only person to shoot a single – someone asked my why I used it – the answer is I shoot better with it than any other gun I have, it is light to carry about all day (5 1/4 lbs), and it saves the dilemma of whether to reload after shooting one barrel or wait til you have shot both.  I was surprised in discussion to learn that other experienced shooters had inadvertently reloaded with a cap still on the live barrel! I  did make a small plastic ‘top hat’ that fits over the nipple and is locked in place by the cock, but I haven’t used it.     All in all a very good day, enhanced by the fact that it was only 25 minutes drive from home.  I seem to have got my left eye under control – I have a vintage pair of big gold round frame glasses of the type the NHS used to issue that have a W bridge instead of nose pads – so they fit closer to my face than normal specs and thus offer better protection from bits of cap.  I put a bit of sellotape over the top quarter of the left lens which is just enough to stop my left eye dominating when my head is down on the stock – I don’t notice it when looking normally.     I’m carrying on the browning of the pistol barrels – I think we are getting somewhere this time – I’m about 6 or 7 rustings in, so hopefully we will be nearly there.    Work on the bedroom continues – still not much visible reconstruction yet, but lots of fiddly framing started, and I’m now putting in conduits to pull the electrics through later.  I need to use conduits as the house seems to have had a severe mouse problem at some time – much to my surprise they seem to be happy burrowing and making nests in the fibreglass insulation – which makes it pretty disgusting – I’m replacing it with wood fibre (Seico Flex 036) and I’ll try to compartmentalise it to keep rodents out.   I did come across one power wire that had the insulation nibbled off – jut not enough to electrocute the perpetrator!  In my last house when I lifted a floorboard there was a 2 meter length of flat cable with all the copper exposed like a railway track!  That was the advantage of the old TRS rubber covered cable – nothing ate it, although it did get brittle.

7th November – I’m sorry for the missed blogs – I got a nasty infection that made me feel rather useless – and it took a while to sort out – I even stopped working on the bedroom restoration and sat on the sofa most of the day.  I did try and do a bit of gun work, but that turned out to be a disaster!  My browning of the pistol barrels got no-where – goodness knows why.  I never managed to touch some of the steel layers – almost as if it was stainless steel, and the rest didn’t get any colour to speak of – a complete mystery – I ran it to about 14 browning and then gave up and decided to start again when I felt a bit more dynamic!  I hardened and tempered the pistol spring, but wasn’t really ‘with it’ and it ended up a bit too open and the ‘hook’ end snapped when I tried to put it in the pistol – I will have to tackle that shortly!  I am now more or less back on track and working on the bedroom again, which is just as well as there is a load of work to do – as I pointed out before, I do tend to get more ruthless as I begin to be able to see the job in hand – so I did a bit more demolition and removed an old built-in cupboard that was built of completely woodwormed uprights.  I  now have a larger room to finish.  I have taken it all back to the rafters I put in in 2002, and will put in lots of insulation before putting on Savolit wood fibre board – its a substitute for lathes and can be diretly plastered over.  There 1s a lot of plastering to do  – 40  or so sq meters at three coats, I’m not very quick at plastereing so I might ‘cheat’ and get a professional in to do it if I can find someone who is good with lime plaster.  We had Giles’s flat  plastered by a pro – a joy to watch and perfectly smooth, but he left one room to his mate, and that was no better than I could have done (but quicker).

25th October  The browning of the two barrels looks a bit more promising – I may have found a clue – I suspect that if you put on the browning too generously it actually takes off the existing oxide layer? sounds improbably I know, but I’m now wiping on a very little browning solution.  I spent the afternoon scrubbing distemper off the gable end wall  (horrid job) so I could dub it out flat ready for attaching the cork.  I rang the floor board chap this morning to confirm their bank details as my bank doesn’t like me using bank details that come from emails – there  are loads of scams called BECS going the rounds, where somehow a scammer intercepts genuine emails from a business and sends an email perporting to come from that business but with the scammer’s own bank details.  It is usually directed at big business and has raked in hundreds of millions of pounds for the scammers.  Penny got scammed out of £500 pounds when having carpets fitted in the cottage in Cornwall, so I take it seriously…….   Anyway the floor board chap (Ben at Sutton Timber if you need floorboards!) pointed out that I’d better get all the ‘wet trades’ finished before fitting the floor or the boards would curl up ( actually curl down is more likely!) so I must push ahead with the plastering, but a lot to do first – like putting in the conduits for the power and lights, and sticking the wood fibre boards up so I have something to plaster onto!

24th October – Well, a bit of a gap again – sorry!  I had a skip delivered so have been trying to fill it to justify 6 cu yds!  Work on the bedroom has been progressing – I have been debating what to do about the floor – its a mix of old and not so old pine boards with lots of patches and gaps – I was going to board it with OSB and have it carpeted but Giles pursuaded me that that wasn’t in keeping with all the other fearures of the room – I did think of getting a few old pine boards and lifting the floor and relaying it, but figured that that would be quite difficult as the nails will surely tear the wood if they are lifted.  Anyway after a discussion and a search on the internet I have opted for new Elm floorboards (I didn’t know you could still get Elm in England!) 300 mm wide – we have other rooms with old Elm floorboards, so its a reasonable choice.  One really surprising thing came to light when I lifted a section of floorboard – the space between the joists was filled with tan coloured loose material that looked like perfect insulation – at first I thought it was coarse sawdust, but careful examination showed it was plant material that I identified as the petals of hops – I got some hops from the garden, and apart from the colour (garden ones are paler) they were identical.  Goodness knows how many hops would be needed to fill around 10 sq meters of floor to a depth of about 7 cm (3 ins) – I wondered if they were a byproduct of brewing or something.  Anyway they are clean and a good insulator (the room underneath was the dairy) and will stay, possibly supplemented with some vermiculite if there are empty joists.  I’ve never heard of hop petals being used as insulation in old buildings – must make some enquiries….  Things happened on the gun front, but slowly – I did about 8 rustings of the two pistol barrels but they haven’t started to brown yet – in despair I rang Dick to see if he would like to have a go, but he said it usually takes him 10 to 12 rustings and I should be a bit more patient!  I have adjusted my technique, being careful to apply browning with an almost dry sponge, and using medium steel wool…. we shall see……….  The pistol’s owner sent me the stocks to make sure things fit and work – I was having problems with the heel of the spring coming below the lock edge, so I welded a longer stud on the top arm that locates on the bolster, that kicked the heel up, but the tumbler end of the spring then got a bit low and was too short – straightening out the bent bit a little fixed the length, and bending it down cured the problem of the low spring – now I just have to reharden it.   Now I just have a little bit of woodwork to do on one stock and finish the browning, then I have another gun to sort out and another client is threatening to visit wih more work….. And I think I have another pistol to do that I’d forgotten about! And the frames to make for the secondary double glazing…… Plus I have to plan and buy stuff for the STEM club that starts after half term next week…………..   Maybe I should retire for the third or fourth  time, but I don’t seem very good at it!

17th October – I got one gun job out of the way this morning – a repaired spur and ‘mouth’ on a percussion cock to engrave – difficult as its all on a steep curve, so I resorted to the GRS – the welds are not altogether even textured so it was not straightforward, but the overall effect is OK.  I coloured it down with my gas-oxy torch, and then made its mate the same – I think it looks good, but I don’t have the gun to check the overall effect.  I photographed the cocks together after I’d engraved the top and  the photo showed that the repaired cock had much less engraving on the high part of the body – its a thing I’ve  noticed before – you think a job is done and you photograph it, and pack it up to go, then later you look at the photo and see a problem.  Anyway I got the cock out again and recut that bit of engraving – the two cocks are subtely different in engraving and surface texture but now look a bit more of a pair. I’ve done two brownings of the pistol barrels – they are beginning to show figure, but there is still a fair amount of metal the browning won’t bite on.  I’ve been taking photos after each browning, but they don’t show up  as much as in actuality – I must see if I can find a photo trick to show the actual effect.  You can distinctly see that the barrel is made of strands of different iron/steel rather than a homogenous material, but as its a pistol barrel the composite bar wasn’t wound round a mandrell in a spiral as it would be in the case of a long gun, but was made into a strip and wrapped round the mandrell and hammer welded into a tube in a series of grooves in an anvil with a lap joint so broadly the pattern runs along the barrel.  I believe most pistols were made this way, as were all (?)  military muskets and rifles. Some fancy pistols did have wound barrels and elaborate patterning, but most didn’t.

After second rusting – there is pattern, but faint, and a lot of untouched metal!

the cock on the left has lost its engraving on the high part

 

 

Recut – original engraving not identical on the two cocks…… (& different lighting)

Here is the bedroom I’m working on – the visible vapour membrane is directly inside the  slates. –

there is 140 mm of wood fibre insulation to go in and 60 mm of cork on the gable end wall.

This beam is probably at least 250 years old – it has a curved  brace at the left end that I’m repairing as its half rotten.

A similar brace at the right end is missing and will be re-instated when I can find a curved bit of wood.

16th October -More work on the bedroom yesterday – got me thinking about the 7 deadly sins of old house restoration and what would be the 7 deadly sins of old gun restoration. My 7 for old buildings are :- 1) Cement, 2) UPVC in any shape or form, 3) MDF board, 4) Plasterboard, 5) Vapour barriers, 6 Struck pointing of brickwork, 7) Float glass.  Not sure I can get to 7 for guns ;- 1) Sandblasting (yes, it has been done!), 2) Brazing of broken parts, 3) Use of woodfiller, 4) Polyurethane or similar varnish, 5) stainless steel, 6) Slotted head woodscrews, 7) Almost all sanding of existing wookwork.   This weekend is devoted to getting some gun jobs done – I’ve prepped the barrels and cleaned them with water and washing up liquid to get rid of any oil, then given them a wash over with chalk and water mixed like thin cream.  When this was allowed to dry you can see some figure showing through as faint rust marks – the beginnings of browning – its now having its first proper browning.  I decided to make a completely new top jaw screw and cut the thread on the lathe since it is set up for a suitable thread pitch – 28 tpi.  I heated up the top of the screw and dipped it in colour case hardening compound not to full read heat – anyway that dulled it down a bit.  I then reverse electrolytically derusted it ( i.e. rusted it rapidly) – in order to slightly dull the surface.  Its actually put some natural looking blobs of the surface too.  Its not a bad match for the original, I’m satisfied.  There is one niggling job that I need to attend to;- the new mainspring I made/converted is very close to the edge of the lock, and probably won’t fit within the lock pocket of the completed pistol (which I don’t have) = There are 2 options, either move the hole in the lockplate that houses the peg on the top leg of the spring, or reshape or remake the spring.  Either way its a great bore and will take a while – the lock plate is hardened so I’d have to anneal it, which won’t improve it, so I’ll proably work on the spring!  I got an email from school a couple of days ago asking if I’d organise/run a project for 2 classes to build their Nativity display models for the local church – I’ll be delighted to do it, I’ve already bought a couple of strings of LED christmas lights to illuminate Bethlehem!  Bit ironic for an atheist to be doing the church display but hey ho, thats life……

 

II can tell them apart ‘in the flesh’ but don’t know which is which from the photo, so must be OK!

14th October – Destruction more or less complete – just waiting to get the last 20 bags of rubble and muck down to the ground using my ‘crane’ – actually just a pulley stuck out on an arm  from the window. It needs two people, one up one down, to operate so I have to wait for Giles to come over tomorrow.  I was just about to finish in time for my 4 p.m. transfer to gun jobs when the materials for rebuilding were delivered on a couple of pallets and dumped outside – that took most of my afternoon gun time to sort out, anyway nearly ready to go, some framing up to do and it will be ready to stick on the sheets of wood fibreboard (Savilit) that will be the base for plastering with lime plaster.  So I had better go and get a few minutes work on outstanding gun jobs.  I’ve got a percussion cock that has been welded to re-engrave – its all curved surfaces which are very difficult to do hand encraving as you can only keep a constant depth of cut by EXACTLY following the curved surfaces, otherwise you almost invariably slip and make horrid cuts.  My solution for this is to use the pneumatic graver (GRS) that operates with almost no push and so doesn’t tend to slip.  I’ll go and start now………

13th October – Still destroying!  Quite mild here – how long will it last?  We have a massive crop of green tomatoes in need of another week’s sun – can’t face that much chutney!  We planted a grape vine about 5 years ago and have never had more than a handful of unripe grapes, but this year it made it from its trelis to the south facing wall of the house and went mad – we must have had enough grapes for a Chateau Cablesfarm vintage – bottles running to two or three figures ( that’s roman numerals).  It won’t happen, as the potential  winemaker ate them all at about a bunch a day for the last month.   I’m still experimenting with striking up the pistol barrels. One of the problems with using a file is that occasionally a speck of metal gets embedded in the file and creates a deeper scratch.  I tend to file wet as this helps avoid the problem – some people use chalk for the same purpose, not sure which is best.  I got good results from using a small  fine diamond sharpener stuck to a plastic handle (EZE-LAP) until the white spirit I was using disolved the adhesive holding the diamond onto the plastic.   My current best guess at a good technique is filing down to No 4, then use a fine slip, then 400 grit and finally 1000 grit. Looking under my x25 microscope there is still plenty for the browning to get a bite on.  I’ve recut the engraving on the barrels a couple of times as I’ve filed so that they still look crisp.  The microscope x25 does reveal that the surface still has multiple small pits, but I think when browned they will not show (they don’t really show to the naked eye) so I think I’m now ready to go!  I have had to divide my day up to get both the bedroom and the guns done – I reckon 6 hours of labouring is enough at my age, so at 4 p.m. I retire to the gun workshop for a bit of filing etc. ( after a cup of tea of course) until 6, then maybe back again after dinner for an hour or two if I feel energetic, then attend to the blog if I have anything to say!

Photo a month ago  – a few of the many bunches – almost all eaten now!

12th October – Mostly busy on the bedroom renovation – still in the destruction phase. I went out today to buy some 12 mm OSB sheets for some ‘undersheets’ and to make the floor fit for a carpet, but it turns out that OSB is now in very short supply and is almost impossible to get. Shame as there are no really good substitutes.   I spent a bit of time on Sunday and this evening striking off the two pistol barrels.  Nick, a fellow antique firearms collector sent me a link to a facebook page re my post about the difficulty of browning barrels if you burnish them too well.  The link said that the correspondent never went any finer than 360 grit paper, so the browning had something to bite on.  I wouldn’t be as catagorical as that, some very high class pistols had very highly polished barrels under the browning, but it does make the point.  I rang Dick, who has done many more barrels than I have – he basically works up through the paper grades to 1500.  His browning is good.  I feel it is ‘horses for courses’ as usual – looking at a number of guns you can see distinct longitudinal marks (scratches) along the barrel in guns that have never been re-browned, so they were quite coarsely finished when made.  The pistol barrels I’m doing are fairly badly rusted in places, so there is no chance of  striking them off to get rid of all the pits, so I figure it would be better not to have a highly  polished brown.   For pistols with Octagonal barrels my current technique is to strike off the flats with a good No. 3 file used lubricated with thin oil or white spirit (could use water with a drop of detergent but you can’t leave the work in progress or it will rust) either used as in draw filing with the file at right angles to the barrel, or if the barrel faces are flat along the barrel ( these ones are) then you can use the file parallel to the barrel.  Follow this up with a No 4 file used similarly. then a N0 6.   I then have a small slip stone that gets rid of most of the file marks.  The advantage of using files and the slip is that they are completely flat surfaces and therefore keep the flats flat.  In fact, often the flats are not flat but very slightly convex, so you can allow for that as you file.  I really don’t like using abrasive paper  any more than I have to, as I think it is always liable to round the corners off, but after I have filed and stoned, I’ll work through a couple of grades of paper wrapped round a flat surface narrower than the flat of the barrel.  If you have engraving you want to preserve, be careful if you use paper as it invariably rounds the edges of the lettering.  I did try to get the breechplugs out of these barrels, but failed, and it wasn’t essential so I left them in.

If you click on the images you’ll see the rust pitting – it won’t be too conspicuous when done, but its too much to be filed off completely

Top one is at 800 grit stage, buottom one is at slip-stone stage.

8th October – Still hoping to get down to some decent gun work – I have 2 pistol barrels to strike off and brown, but the last two I have done have been a bit of a pain as it took more rustings than usual to get the browning to bite on the steel component of the iron/steel mix in the twist barrels.  I suspect that I may be rubbing the rust off too well between rustings and burnishing the metal to a surface that resisted the rust?  I have been using 0000 steel wool,  while conventional advice is to use a wire brush, but I didn’t have anything except a very coarse brush that I thought would scratch the metal. Anyway I had to do something to put things right, so a search on the web brought up ‘The Wire Brush company’or something like that, and I was able to buy a couple of brushes that were (probably) more suitable – one with .015 mm diameter wire and one with .035 diameter.  I think the website was the one where I found my very fine Vertex wire wheel recently.  I will be interested to see how the next two barrels turn out.  The stripping out of the bedroom is progressing well – as usual the more I do the more drastic my stripping becomes!  Having taken the plaster off the lathes, it was clear the lathes were going to be problematic to retain, and also I needed to improve the insulation between the rafters (its an attic bedroom), so all the lathes are coming out and after I have put in the new insulation (140 mm of wood fibre) I will put on a 15mm  board made of  bonded long wood fibres that can be plastered on.  We started to remove the plaster from one of the slopes, only to discover that it was plastered onto reeds, and so is probably a considerably older generation of work than the lathe and plaster – anyway its interesting enough that I decided to retain it – it has 150mm of fibreglass inulation behind it, so not too bad.  The gable end wall can’t be insulated on the outside ( its a flint wall and it would be desecration) so I’ll add a layer of insulation inside. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of space due to the shape of the room – too thick a wall and there wouldn’t be room for a double bed, so I will have to make do with 50 mm of cork insulation and the plaster applied to that.  I’ve been having fun calculating U values and juggling things!  Insulation Rebellion would be proud if only they were really interested in getting people on-side instead of just driving diesel cars and living in uninsulated houses and alienating people !

6th October  – Excellent day’s shooting yesterday – after fretting all week at the dire weather forecast we had only 5 minutes of light rain the whole day, and any moisture had evaporated in ten minutes!  It took me a while to get my eye in – there was quite a breeze and  I had a couple of stands at the beginning that were at the downwind end of the line so the birds were motoring.  I thought I was better at partridges, but in fact I had a better hit rate at pheasants.  Anyway good fun, and it was nice to see a group of friends who I hadn’t seen for almost two years.  The world is coming back to life again, and I’ve gone from having no restoration work coming in for the last couple of years to having 3 or 4 jobs drop on me in the last month.  I had a visit from the ‘magic’ double glazing chap this morning, and Dave and I had a look at the sample – It is rather impressive – two sheets of glass about 3.8 mm thick with a 0.1 mm gap in the middle which is a vacuum, giving a toal thickness of 7.8 mm.  Normal double glazing has a 20 mm gap filled with argon or krypton that transmits heat by convection – around 70% of the total  heat transferred. Triple glazing is a way to overcome this but then you end up with very thick & heavy units.  The magic units give a thermal performance better than good triple glazing!  They are also pretty good at sound insulation as sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum.  The secret of how the relatively thin glass doesn’t bend inward under the vacuum is a series of 0.5 mm diameter pillars on a grid of about 25 mm that you just don’t see when its in a window – if you place the unit on a sheet of white paper you can see them but they are not particularly obvious.  So I decided to do a couple more windows and replace the glass in the back door.  It is expensive – its very complex to make – but we all have to do what we can to fight global warming, and insulating homes is (probably) one of the best ways. Oh, and the units are fully recyclable – I’m beginning to feel virtuous……  I do get a bit fed up with most of the discussions of what we need to do to get to carbon neutral – a very necessary aim in itself – because we seem blind to the enormous amount of energy that will go into manufacturing all the electric cars, trucks, houses, boilers, heat pumps, nuclear power plants and even wind farms themselves –  That will probably balance out any benefits from the use of these fossil fuel saving systems for years to come, and we won’t have low carbon technologies on line to make these low carbon technologies.  On the other hand we have to start somewhere!

 

4th October.  work has started on the bedroom- I found a newspaper I had put there when I first did a preliminary rebuild in prparation for the full works – the newspaper was dated 2002!  How time flies….  I spent a happy hour starting on a new cock screw.  I couldn’t find a suitable thread to use on the new one, so I have turned up a head and plan to weld it onto the old screw – I’ve done it before with side nails and it does work although its a bit fiddly getting the two bits lined up and getting electrical connection for the welder too.  I’ve jigged them up in a piece of brass channel in the hope that that will work.  I use modelling clay to hold the bits while I make the initial tack as it lasts long enough, just.  Shooting tomorrow so no chance of any gun work – I’m still pondering the welder – I put a current sensing resistor in the celectrode cable, so I will do some esperiments to see what current I want to work at.  The weather for the shoot tomorrow looks a little better than it did, but not too brilliant!

 

Not sure about that – might have another go – its not rounded enough!

3rd October  managed to fit in a bit of work on the pistol sear – mainly ‘tuning’ it to give the right position of half and full cock – its sensitive to the length of the nose of the sear, as you would expect, so you need to file the nose down with extreme caution to avoid taking too much off and having to start over again.  Anyway it now works and I straightened out the sear arm as I hope it no longer needs to be cranked, then hardened it and tempered it a bit in a fine flame, avoiding directly heating the sear nose, just letting the colour run down and dunking it in water when it had gone straw coloured.  I annealed the sear arm, holding the body of the sear in the vice to keep it cool, as it may need to be bent to fit – I haven’t got the stocks of the pistols so I hope it fits, otherwise the owner will have to try bending it!   The welding on the underside of the sear is not perfect – I was struggling a bit as I mentioned before – I went on the web looking for advice on low current welding but it seems that there may be a number of issues with welders, particularly cheap ones, that mitigate against very fine welding – I understand that welders give a short pulse of quite a significant current to start the arc – maybe as much as 50 amps so my quest for a very controllable low current welder may be pushing me up out of my price range – thats what usually happens when I try to be particular about what I  want!  If I can’t find a suitable welder at a reasonable price I will program up a microcomputer to give me short pulses as in a more expensive welder. I spent a couple of hours building a crane to stick out of the bedroom window to lower the old plaster and get the new stuff up as we don’t really want it trecked through the house and over the Persian carpet in the living room!   A major triumph – I did a sortie after diesel – my car is OK but Penny’s is quite low, so I took a 10 litre can and did a reccy and found the local Tescos had diesel so a quick call got Penny out to fill up.  It really is quite difficult round here – it seems to be pretty easy to get petrol but not diesel.  If we hadn’t got some for Penny’s car I was going to borrow a petrol car for a while!    I’m shooting on Tuesday, which is the only day in the next fortnight that is forecast to have heavy rain!  We are to bring a breechloader in case its too wet for muzzle loaders.  I’m not too sure how game reacts to heavy rain but I would be surprised if they can be persuaded to leave cover!  I’ll take my 1950s Bereta  20 bore hammer gun – it has a very tight choke on both barrels so will be a challenge to hit anything, assuming there is anything to hit!  I would take my bolt action .410 ( the rat gun!) as a challenge, only I don’t have enough 2 1/2 inch cartridges to be worth it. But it will be nice to get out!

1 October – I’ve had to spend time prepping the work area for next week and finishing the prototype secondary glazing frame so I can work out the exact sizes of the super insulating glass to order – its on 8 weeks delivery so I wan to get the order in ASAP.  My gun workshop is now getting cold so I have to get the woodburning stove going, which inhibits me from short expeditions to work on guns.  We did manage to fill up the Land Cruiser with fuel and put 10 litres from a can into Penny’s car, but that won’t last long…………

28th September -I’ve spent some time getting ready to start work on the spare bedroom – plaster to be stripped, insulation put on the external wall and all replastered with lime plaster – my grand-daughter starts work on it next Monday – she is used to working on building sites and has done some demolition work so should be well suited!  I’ve also been preparing the wood for one of the secondary glazing frames as a trial.  In the gun line, I’ve made a new spring for one of the Richards pistols out of a modern mainspring – I welded a ‘flag’ on to space it off the bolster – my welder wasn’t set up very well so its not visually perfect, but it is sound and it all works well.  I can’t get that abrupt right angle that the old springs had at the start of the ‘hook’ that engages with the tumbler, but never mind, this one works very well. ( I think I don’t have a hot enough flame).  I’m now working on the sear – you can see from the photo what the difference in the sear shape is for the two pistols.  I tuned up the welder so it started at a lower current, but now it doesn’t really have enough electrode current to strike a proper arc when you just turn it on with the pedal, but does start the high voltage discharge that is supposed to initiate the arc – the high voltage discharge is a bit fierce and seems to blow the tip off the electrode.  I’ll have to have another go at adjusting it, or I might just put in another potentiometer to allow me to adjust the start current.  Nothing is straighforward – I suppose I should have bought a proper TIG welder with a pedal control and pulse drive instead of modifying a cheap one!   Anyway, be that as it may, I did manage a bit of blob welding on the sear without destroying any vital bits, and am now filing it to shape – its a slow process as I must avoid taking too much off!  I think there is a problem with the contact point for the sear spring which means that I may have to file down that area to get it to work.   I had a meeting with the head of ‘my’ school yesterday about restarting my STEM club after half term, and what we would be doing.  There is a bit of a problem as the school has moved over to Chromebooks instead of laptop PCs, and the they run an operating system based on linux but not standard linux, so only a few programs can run on them – unfortunately our favourite Python front end  (Mu python) is one that won’t run for the  BBC microbits, and its an essential part of our plans!  We’re suffering a bit due to the ‘petrol’crisis as Penny’s car is almost empty and so my Land Cruiser is getting a lot of use!  I did try to syphon the diesel out of mine as her car does about twice the mileage that mine does, but mine has a crafty anti-syphon block at or near the tank and I can’t manage to get a pipe into the fuel, even quite a thin one…………………. Oh and I just spotted what I think is my first visitor from the Falkland Islands on this website – welcome!

 

The one on the left is the ‘wrong’ one – its too short so the cock doesn’t clear the frizzen at half cock – also you can see the bends in it.

25th September – I spent the afternoon sawing and planing up the oak for the first secondary glazing frame for the kitchen window – I just had enough oak in stock to complete the job with oak that was a reasonable match to iteslf, although it’s very light compared to the existing frames, which were quite dark to start with and have darkened in the last 20 odd years.  I got round to some work on the bits of the Richards pistols I have to restore – the locks were a little pitted in places and I scraped off a bit of rust from the insides and stripped the works to check everything was OK and wire brushed the whole lot with my 3 thou wire brush to even up the finish.  The No 1 pistol needs a new mainspring – I think I have a modern one that can be cut down and modified to fit – I have annealed it and begun the work – I need to weld the pillar that engages in the slot in the bolster on the short leg, and shape the hook on the long arm.  Cleaning and checking the No 2 pistol I found when I tried to put a flint in it, that at half cock the top jaw collides with the frizzen.  I also found that it was very hard to move the sear.  You can also see that several attempts have been made to bend the sear arm, and you can also see that the angle the sear spring makes with the top of the sear is too steep so there is too much friction when you try to lift the sear.  All this can be put down to a replacement sear that is too short in the nose where it engages with the bents – it needs the nose extended by some 1 1/2 to 2 mm to work properly, or a new sear made.  In all probability the sear was a poor working life replacement, as was (probably) the top jaw screw on No 2, which is just not quite right.   What to do about the sear?  The pistol is not a shooter, so it doesn’t really affect it directly, but its up to the client – I’ll email and see what he wants me to do.

Half cock – note frizzen isn’t quite closed, sear arm is too low, sear spring angle is wrong  and sear arm is bent slightly.  Sear nose is too short!

 

22nd September – In keeping with the spirit of the age I’m preparing to double glaze the leaded windows in the kitchen, living room, library and one bedroom.  I made the frames and leaded windows around 20 years ago – each is slightly different as the openings were not identical, having been originally made around 1800 when the old 17/18th century house was given a makeover.  I plan to make additional internal frames for secondary glazing. I was looking on the web at prices and performance for toughened glass, perspex or polycarbonate when I came across a strange product that is a very thin sealed glass unit claiming a performance better than most double glazing.  Its intended for replacing the glass in wooden window frames as its not much thicker (6.7mm) than normal window glass, but gives you an insulation performance better than 20 mm thick sealed units.  Yes, I was sceptical too!  It does this using very thin glass (3mm) and a .7mm vacuum gap with glass micro pillars keeping the two sides apart.  It is of course quite expensive at about £280 per square meter, but I’m intrigued.  I’ve talked to the UK agent ( its made in Belgium) and am waiting for a sample.  The snag is an 8 week delivery delay.  My plan is to use this glass in the secondary glazing, which should give a very good insulation –  I’ll keep you posted on progress – if I get a sample I’ll run my own insulation test!  I got the gun with the sheared off tumbler bolt and ratty looking hammer to fix, so that is a job in the queue.  I also have a couple of business card sized plates to engrave to go on presentations, so I ordered a couple of bits of 0.8mm sterling silver from Cooksongold.  When I took the protective film off them the surfaces were strongly marked with striations all over.  I put one surface on the buffing wheel but that just made the surface look worse. Obviously a major cock-up somewhere at Cooksongold.  I phoned and they asked for photos, which I sent and I’ve been trying to ring them all day but there seems to be something wrong with their phone…… Off tomorrow for a quiet shoot at Cambridge to see if I can hit anything – I’ll use the little Nock  16 Bore single again, I am so comfortable with that gun – and its light to lug about (5 1/4 lbs) – I shoot 2 1/2 drams of Czech powder and 1 oz of shot.  I guess it kicks a bit, but fortunately I am not particularly sensitive to it – I have noticed a strange phenomenon – I can shoot that load at clays or game all day without noticing it, but if at the end of a game shoot I need to clear the gun by firing it into the air with a normal hold, it kicks like hell….. others have noticed the effect too. Must remember to take the taped glasses!

This was supposed to be polished silver!

19th September – Most enjoyable shoot on Saturday.  I put a bit of clear sellotape over the top of the left lens of my spare glasses – I only use that bit of the lens when shooting (the glasses have big round lenses) so I can see normally the rest of the time.  The sellotape just fuzzes the view enough to make the brain switch dominance to the right eye but not enough to make one conscious of it.  Anyway it worked and I had a sucessful day – I was back to my ususal habit of shooting really well for the first couple of stands, and then not quite so well – the same happens in competitions at clays.  Using a single barreled gun is bit limiting on a game shoot, but I am very quick at reloading as I am using semolina in place of wads – very few of the ‘gang’ who tried semolina still use it, although as far as I can discover the reasons are not related to shooting performance.  I reckon I can reload in less than half the time it takes wad users to load a double.   It was a beautiful warm day with mostly gentle breezes – absolutely lovely to be out in the country – it has really boosted my mood and I’m feeling dynamic – just as well in view of my pile of work in hand.  Nick sent me a couple of photos of a very small flint pocket pistol in a pretty poor condition that he’de found in a flea market and asking my advice on whether to buy it – I thought it would make a good project, and as it was pretty cheap it might be a good opportunity to give it a more thorough makeover than I would if a pistol had more intrinsic value.  Final decision will wait ’til its in my hands……. Among the jobs in hand is possibly replacing some of the silver inlay in the pocket pistol.  I had hoped that I could draw silver wire flat, but it doesn’t really work – there is no substitute for a set of rolls, which I don’t have – so I either have to get some rolls, make some, or get someone who does have jeweller’s roll to flatten the wire for me.

 17th September – Shoot tomorrow – I  am a bit concerned about my ability to hit anything after my last outing at clays as I still have a left eye dominance problem so I am reverting to my most reliable percussion, my little Henry Nock single.  In previous posts I described converting it to flint, and it worked well, but I’m not confident to use it on a game shoot as a flintlock so I have swapped it back. I converted it by making a new lock plate etc and just  used the mainspring, tumbler, bridle, sear and sear spring from the old lock ( I made new screws as I couldn’t match the threads of the old lockplate)  Anyway it was the work of half an hour to swap the touch hole for the drum and nipple and swap the bits over to the old lockplate.   I got used to shooting a single barreled gun and I do find it more pointable – which is why under and over breech loaders have more or less completely taken over from side by side guns.  Using a single has the disadvantage, of course, that you can never get a nice left and right, and you do miss having a second barrel at times, but on the other hand it saves that terrible dilemma with a muzzle loader – whether to reload after one shot if there is a lull, or hang on a shoot both barrels before reloading.  Reloading one barrel is a pain as you have to remove the cap from the ‘live’ barrel, which is always a fiddle, even with my design of decapper. I saw my Oncologist today and asked about my level of immunity to a second dose of Covid – answer, more or less, is my guess is as good as his but probably not great – its a good excuse to avoid what I don’t particularly want to do but not enough to totally avoid what I do want to do! Simple really.

15th September – I seem to have a couple of restoration jobs about to come in – both with a bit of a story behind them!   One is a fairly basic Birmingham Percussion single that has a replacement cock/hammer that doesn’t fit very well.  The owner went to unscrew the cock screw that holds it onto the tumbler and the head came off ‘ in his hand’ without any great force.  I was able to reassure him that we had all been there several times before!  There are two possible causes – either the screw is fractured or corroded and so has very little strength left, or that has already happened to the last owner and he stuck it on with glue.! I’ve had both. In this case my friend tried a thread extractor in a drilled hole in the remains of the screw, and broke off the extractor.  I have to say that I have only used a thread extractor once on a gun as far as I can remember, and that wasn’t very sucessful either!  The basic problem is that the screw/stud/thread extractor forces its way into the remains of the screw and in doing so expands the screw to ensure its an even tighter fit in the threads – the harder you screw in the extractor, the tighter the screw gets…. obvious really!  There are in my view a very limited set of circumstances in which an extractor is any use – its a fine balance in keeping the hole for the extractor fairly small compared with the screw root diameter so there is enough metal in the remains of the screw to resist the radial expansion, while at the same time getting a big enough extractor that it won’t break.  Maybe some people have better luck with them on car engines etc.   Given the existing situation there are a couple of possible solutions – 1)  heat the tumbler shaft up and anneal it to soften the bit of the extractor and try to drill it all out and retap the hole, or  mount a bit of bar in the chuck of the lathe, drill a hole for the back bearing of the tumbler and araldite the tumbler to the block, then cut off the squared bit of the tumbler shaft and drill the tumbler out, then turn up a new shaft and silver solder it in, taking care to get the orientation right when you file on the square ( although you can always heat it up and try again!  The second job involves a mainspring that broke due to mild thermal shock – again I’ve had a mainspring break because I looked at it, or at least that is how it felt at the time.  I also put a mainspring in my derusting tank and came back 10 minutes later to find it in 3 pieces in the bottom of the tank – when I looked at it there were loads of laminar cracks in the spring – the odd thing is that I’m sure it worked before I took it out of the lock!    I do know about hydrogen embritlement but that is only supposed to happen quite slowly as hydrogen diffuses into the metal and then only on high strength steels…..  I finished the browning of the single barrel as the surface was getting slightly rough – I probably left it too long, but my patience was stretched!  If it was a proper job I’d have paid a bit more attention, but its a rough old gun anyway!  The onset of Autumn brought the usual plague of small rodents entering the house (heaven knows where they get in) – I got 7 in 3 days which give me a short lull to go round and find any ways for them to move between rooms – the standard test is that a mouse can get through any crack you can push a pencil into – obviously there has to be some width….

13th September – Following my comment about cateracts I had a very helpful email from a regular viewer of this website – he recommended that when I have my discussion with the opthalmologist I mention that I shoot, as it is possible to specify different lenses for different applications.  Driving lenses are apparently designed to limit dazzle but lenses suitable for shooting are brighter.  I will definately have that conversation.  One of the tricky aspects of this blog is deciding just how much personal stuff to include – like cateracts.  I am sure some regulars would prefer that the site was exclusively about antique firearms, while I believe others do enjoy a more rounded view of what I do!  Talking of which, I am gearing up to renovate a bedroom – move a wall, insulate the outside aslls, redo the floor and redo the lath and plaster ceiling and walls, and at the moment its rather full of furniture that ought to go to the saleroom, although none of it is worth much.  Anyway one nice item is an oak roll-top desk that we have had for some time – the tambour (the roll bit) came apart in me hands, honest guv, so after a quick check on the web I took the desk apart and retrieved the tambour, which had clearly been patched up half a dozen times already – that left me with a choice – do I take all the canvas off the back and start over again or patch the worst bits – in the end I opted for patching – I’m not sure it was the right decision but it should work well enough.  If the renovation sounds like a big job, it is!  I re-roofed that part of the house about 20 years ago – its basically an attic with sloping walls – and left the old roof timbers holding up the plaster while I planted a new roof and new wall plate on top.  We didn’t need the room then so its still as I left it after the re-roofing…. should be loads of fun!     I’m still browning the barrel of my single gun – I didn’t give it a dunk in copper sulphate, which I should have done, so it took around 12 rustings before it would put any colour on the lighter bits of the metal, and even then only if I steamed it after each rusting…. I think its getting there now but I haven’t checked the last rusting.  I started off using Blackley’s Slow Brown, then moved to my ex printed circuit solution and then tried Dyson’s slow brown – but as I was using the same bit of sponge to put it on with, and didn’t wash it out between rustings I was clearly using a mix of all three for all the latter rustings… better go and have a look at it.  And I’ve got some bread rising too.   I had a long conversation with a shooting friend who had been very ill and lost a lot of weight, as I did with Covid – Like me, he had to carry a cushion around as he couldn’t sit on a hard chair, but he is now recovered enough to be shooting and playing golf again.  We are both a bit surprised at how even at our age you can ‘re-inflate’ muscle if you eat enough – maybe we should try extreme bodybuilding to see if it works for us!

 9th Septemeber – Shooting today at Cambridge Gun Club – hopeless!  I did a lot worse than I did at the helice (which wasn’t particularly good but it is develish hard)  and just couldn’t get on the clays.. When I got home I think I found the problem – I have cateracts in both eyes – not bad enough to get them done on the NHS, but progressive, and my left eye seems to be taking over.  I have used glasses with a piece of sellotape across the left lense to supress the left eye in the past when it has been a problem, but I didn’t think of it this time as I didn’t identify the problem – stupid really!  Anyway I think on general grounds I am going to have to get them done, even if I have to pay the 2.5K each eye will cost – have to sell some of my best guns!  I guess I’ll have to wait until I can find a several weeks when I don’t need to drive.  I may need to slip off to CGC for a private check before the game shoot – with sellotaped glasses!   On the plus side I found my box of card/wad punches right in plain view….. Definately time to get my eyes done!

8th September  Disaster – I’m shooting (clays) tomorrow for a warm-up for the next game shoot and I’ve mislaid my box of card punches and I’m not sure I have enough overshot cards.  I know I have seen them fairly recently, which makes it all the more maddening!   I was thinking I might shoot my 11 bore Westley Richards for game shoots, but I got it out of the cabinet but  found it much too heavy although last time I’d handled it I thought it would be OK – probably my arms/shoulders were a bit tired from swimming – it does weigh 8 lbs which is a bit much for swinging about after partridges!  I had an email from a chap in Canada with some photos of a pistol by H W Mortimer and Son that he had bought at auction asking about restoration.  It got me thinking about what is a good candidate for restoration and what is not, at least from my perspective.  In most cases if something is missing, broken or not working then, provided its viable from a cost perspective or has some personal significance, then it’s reasonable to fix it.  Similarly its obviously valid to clean active rust and remove dirt from metal and wood, but one needs to exercise care if that destroys the original finish or a patina that has developed with time.  Beyond that, its a matter of judgement – for instance, one often finds a pistol with the barrel in a worse state than the lock and furniture – the barrel being soft and the rest hard or semi hard – if the barrel has deep rust it can be a mistake to try and refinish it – you may end up making the rust stand out, but if a light striking off refreshes the surface rebrowning may well enhance the result.  I don’t belong to the school of thought that likes to see antiques restored to the condition they left the maker,  patina and the odd dings are part of the gun’s history, but each situation needs careful thought – sorry there is no easy answer!    I spent this morning doing silverwork – my sister in law had 3 napkin rings that she wanted worked on, one to remove the badge of the Clacton on Sea Bowls Association and the other two to cover the inscription/name with a silver plate so I could engrave the names of her grandchildren.  I had just enough .7mm thick silver to make plaques, and some ‘easy’ silver solder paste – it melts at 680C, well below the melting point of the silver., so now I just have to engrave the names on them.  I’ll do a few test engravings in copper to get my hand in – its harder than the silver but near enough.  We are having a few days of late summer – I have managed a swim on the last 3 days, the water in the pool is gradually rising from about 19C last week and its now about 22C  – the surface gets a bit hotter after mid-day – I think tomorrow will be the last hot day.

5th September – Family birthday party today – outside in lovely weather for a change!  Lots of fun for my grand daughter of 11 playing with the boat we made at school on our pool, joined by adults too.  On my birthday I started a course of drugs for my CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukeamia) – I currently don’t have any effects from the CLL but my specialist thinks I soon will so is keen to get me popping Acalbrutinib.  So far no side effects, touch wood.   I’m still undecided whether my first partridge shoot should be flint of percussion, but I am moving towards a percussion as my good flint is only single barreled and that is a bit of a disadvantage.  I resoldered the rib on my ‘Tim Owen’ single percussion as it came off recently – I think its on OK, although not the most elegant job.  I really hate resoldering barrels as its so difficult to clean up the metal to get it to tin properly,  Now I have to re-brown the barrel, – it has a nice damascus pattern (I think) so I am wondering whether to ‘flash’ it in copper sulphate to etch the surface a bit and bring out the pattern.  I still have the Venebles to re-do, I soldered the barrels but it subsequently sprung the rib (its a double so double trouble!) so I’ve to do it over again. I do get asked from time to time if I do restorations for clients – the answer is I do, I’m careful about what I can offer to achieve, and prefer not to do work that doesn’t ‘earn its keep’ by adding to the value of the gun.  I won’t do deliberate faking – like changing the maker’s name etc,  and I prefer work I can put on this blog, even if sometimes I hide the maker’s name.  I don’t do work on licensed breech loading firearms or modern repros, and I ask anyone sending me an antique to remove it from their certificate to ensure that it is a Sect. 58/2 firearm (an antique that can be held without a license) as I am not a registered firearms dealer.

2nd Sept – my birthday today!  So I can be allowed a rant!  The latest report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse was published yesterday and makes pretty sickening reading – almost all  of the major religions in the UK have significant failings in parts, for instance some don’t accept some reports of child sex abuse ( one requires 2 witnesses, would you believe it !) or try to cover them up, so the remarks I wrote yesterday before I saw it do look uncomfortably near the truth. Rant over! ………………………………. Apart from tidying up the garden for a party on Sunday , I did manage to nickel plate the trigger of the cigar cutter- it seemed to lay a thin coat of nickel, then a thicker coat that didn’t properly attach to the thinner coat and peeled off if scratched with a finger nail…. not sure what happened, but it looks about OK against the abraded plating on the rest of the pistol, so I’ll leave it.

You can download the full ‘child sex abuse in religious organisations’  report  here;-

https://www.iicsa.org.uk/document/child-protection-religious-organisations-and-settings-investigation-report-september-2021

1st September – bit of a pause as I had to go down to Wales to set a memorial stone on mum in laws grave in a field, then it was the bank holiday.  I have been playing around with silver wire, and built a little adjustable jig for flattening silver wire – works quite nicely – I can get 0.4 mm wire down to strip about .16 thick which should be OK for the superimposed pistol butt.  I have also been doing some preliminary experiments with nickel plating.  You can use an electolyte made by mixing spirit viengar (basically aceatic acid) with a bit of salt and passing a current through a couple of nickel electrodes ’til the vinegar turns nicely green.  I did an experimental plate which seemed to work, but the finish was not perfect – I shall use a lower voltage and colder solution and see how it comes out.  I’ve been reading an account of Cook’s voyages by William Kingston, published in about 1880 by the the Religious Track Society.  I find it mindblowing how arrogant the author was in regard to ‘converting the heathen’  , and  his objection to Cook’s complete omission of any ‘missionary’ activities.  Although the book is now 150 years old  I guess we still unfortunately see that sort of blinkered religious belief in parts of the world – and sometimes close to home…… One of the  (6) leaders of a  religious group present in the UK  ( I won’t name it!) is reported in today’s Times as saying that it was an offense under their religious law to report  child sexual abuse unless the victim was under 12 or 13!   

25th August – a fun day filling a skip with rubbish!  I managed to get the cigar cutter trigger to work after silver soldering a couple of bits to it – I looked at ‘cigar cutter pistols’ on ebay – one for £185 and one for over £400. Probably  somewhat better than mine, but it does justify the time spent making a new trigger!  Perhaps I’ll sell it when its finished….

 

 

The bad joint is OK on the other side – just a bit wonky – quick job…

24th August – did a bit of work on a trigger for the cigar cutter – think I have filed off too much, may have to hard solder a bit back on!   I was looking at an antiques website that hosts sales from dealers across all sectors – the site claims to have done over 100 million pounds of business this year. Anyway I was looking at a pair of duelling pistols at some fairly high price, I can’t remember the details or the maker but that doesn’t matter as I’m not trying to shame anyone.  As always I was looking at the biggest photo I could get of the pair, and idly scanning for hints that the pistols had been restored – now dealers have one of three approaches to work done on antique firearms – be open about it, keep it quiet or not look too carefully! Or of course they may not have the experience to tell.  These pistols looked pretty genuine, and then I started looking in detail…………….  Its very common for top jaws and top jaw screws to be replaced – but its actually quite tricky to make a really authentic looking top jaw screw! – I had fun making one for the superimposed pistol below because the shape is quite critical to the eye – a few thou here and there can make all the difference.  Anyway this pair of pistols had top jaw screws that were subtly different in the washer bit that bears on the top jaw.  One had a fairly narrow collar that was slightly tapered, the other had a deeper collar that wasn’t tapered – my eye immediately called the second one into question – didn’t look right.  I don’t know if that was the replacement, but no decent gunmaker would sell a pair with that much difference.  Still its a common repair and not that important…. but you need to keep looking …. so then the rollers on the frizzen springs were different sizes – very noticably so.  Again no gunmaker would put out a pair with that difference.  This is a more serious sign as other bits must have been replaced for it to need the roller replaced, so you don’t know where it will end!  So these pistols have been ‘worked on’ – maybe even a reconversion to flint – maybe the dealer knows this, maybe not – but now you know and can walk away……………………………. happy hunting!

23rd August – Bit of garden tidying today!   The following is for UK viewers!  ………….. Browsing the web for something or other I came across a circular on the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 – this is the regulation that for the first time defined ‘antique’ in terms of firearms.  Most public comment in the gun business as about the removal of half a dozen cartidges from the list of Obselete Calibres, meaning that a number of interesting early revolvers  jump from being antiques to be prohibited weapons under Section 5 of the Firearms Act.  As a sweetener 41 cartridges are added to the Obselete Calibre list – mostly for long guns.  The argument for this is that these revolvers were occasionally used in crime by obtaining ammunition.  In truth that much was to be expected, if  a bit of an over-reaction since possessing the ammunition is itself an offence.  One small paragraph at the end did however cause me some alarm –  stuck on the end of the regulations was the extension of Section 126(3)  para 19 and 20 of the 1968 Firearms Act to include antique firearms – this is important to everyone who owns or handles any antique firearms for it means that under 19 it is now a criminal offence to have any antique firearm in a public place without a reasonable excuse despite it being perfectly legal to own, display, buy and sell ( but not to anyone with a crim. record!) them – another opportunity for the police to bother us if they are so minded.  Under  20 its now also a criminal offence to trespass with an antique, although its not a criminal offence to trespass in itself.  

I also had a look at the Firearms Security Handbook 2020 – its quite interesting in the way its framed, implying that the details of security are up to the owner, but then piling on the suggested regulations, while leaving a lot of room for individual firearms officers to interpret them as they see fit. It does however suggest that all licensed muzzle loading firearms may be excluded from any counting exercise used to determine the security level demanded…   n.b any muzzle loading firearm made after Sept 1939 is NOT an antique and must be on either a Shotgun license or a Firearms certificate.

The transition period for getting rid of newly declared Sect 5 pistols etc under the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 end on 21st Sept 2021, so not long.

They can be found here;-

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/circular-0012021-antique-firearms/circular-0012021-antique-firearms-regulations-2021-and-the-policing-and-crime-act-2017-commencement-no11-and-transitional-provisions-regulations          or just Google search for ;- circular 001/2021 Antique Firearms

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/firearms-security-handbook  

Happy collecting – while we still can…………………………………

22nd August  – The little Rooke pistol I made a new trigger for was occasionally refusing to drop the trigger and cock, so I stripped it (again!) and found that the trigger was maybe 10 thou too short on the lumps that the cock moved to drop the trigger, and was jamming.  I had to weld  tiny blobs onto the tips of the trigger arms which are only about 1 mm x 1 1/2 mm – I managed it by switching my modified TIG welder on and off with the foot pedal for maybe 1/2 a second or less and wearing 2 pairs of specs, and managed to fettle it all up so it works – no room for error – I’d love a better welder!  Anyway that job seems to be done satisfactorily. I welded using piano wire as a filler rod  and the resultant blobs were so hard I could only shape them on the diamond hone – a file wouldn’t touch them.  Phew…   Reading ‘The Handgun’ by Geoffrey Boothroyd this evening I discoverd, re my earlier discussion about cock positions that allowd a cap to sit on the nipple without falling off, that Irish percussion pistols, particularly those made by Rigby, often had 3 bents in the tumbler for that purpose.  Always something new to learn………….

21st August I found a box that might do for the pair of pistols by Rooke if I don’t make one.  It had in it the parts of a small nickel plated ‘pistol’ that turned out to be a cigar cutter, rather badly bashed about.  I straigtened it out as best I could and put it back together – its missing a trigger, but otherwise seems to be OK and more or less works.  It is a rather fun thing, so I think I’ll restore for a bit of light amusement, which will involve making a trigger.  I assume from the chequering on the hammer and its shape that it was single action thumb cocked, so I’ll try to remove the hammer so I can check dimensions etc.  Another little distraction – I used to do nickel plating when I was a kid, but I didn’t keep the chemicals and can’t remember what salt to use – time to check the web!  I’ll file the trigger up out of brass – I have a suitable bar, just need to mill it down to the right thickness and maybe rough it out……  You put the mouth end of the cigar in the funnel shaped opening on top of the cylinder and the hammer cuts a V shaped notch in it.  I’ve posted a new Post on pocket pistols – not finished but some photos – I’ll do more as I get round to doing the video….

Little cigar cutter – the (fixed) ‘cylinder’ has ratchets for 5 chambers, but the face has 6 holes!

20th August I finished the trigger detent spring and hardened and tempered it and put the mechanical parts of the pistol together and it worked perfectly – the full and half cock were even it the right places!  I did a bit of patching on the butt where it joins the metal, and sorted the plate in the butt that carries the screw from the top strap – its a common weakness in these little pistols  -they have a small steel plate let in under the top of the butt that is tapped to take the screw and it isn’t visible from outside and never gets oiled or protected so it rusts.  As its usually let into a tight fitting recess in the wood, when it rusts it expands and forces the sides of the front of the butt apart, causing a split. One of the Rooke pistols had one, and this superimposed pistol does too, see photo.  I took the metal plate out – its held by a small woodscrew that sheared off, and cleaned up the metal plate and put it back with a drop of instant glue – it only needs to be held in place until the top strap is screwed on.  I clamped the split up as best I could and flooded the inside with more instant glue.  I’m now looking at doing some work on the silver inlay.  I have ordered some silver wire of 0.3 and 0.4 diameter and will experiment with making a draw plate to pull it through to flatten it. I also ordered some low viscosity instant glue to fix the inlay as I had run out.   I realised that I have repaired and restored a number of these little pistols and that I ought to do a video on how to take them apart and repair them – they are tricky little pistols, quite difficult to work on because they mostly haven’t had any attention and the screws tend to rust in and, being small are tricky to undo and prone to shearing off if  not treated carefully.  It’s a knack to take them apart and put them together again – I think it used to take me ages – and still does if the screws won’t obligue.  I only had one difficult screw on the superimposed pistol, one of the ones holding the top plate on and it eventually came out using the following treatment:  The secret of removing obstinate screws is a) clean any rust around the screw head carefully with a modelling knife and clean out the slot  b) soak them in penetrating oil for a couple of days – c) if you can get any movement in the parts that it holds together, move them. d) apply penetrating oil/acetone mix as it penetrates better.  e) Only use a perfectly fitting screwdriver – if necessary grind/sharpen it so its blade is sharp. f) work the screw in both directions – if it unscrews a bit and is tight, just keep working it back and forth, going a little further each time and making sure you have plenty of penetrating oil around. g) don’t over force it, even a minute amount of movement if  ‘worked’ should eventually get it out.  Heat may help, but too much can damage the finish, – it works better on screws that go into wood.  If those don’t help you are down to filing off the head/drilling it out and all the fuss that follows! …….. Oh, and another thing I realised about this pistol – the tap has a depression for a pan of its own, so if you prime it generously with the tap open to the bottom barrel and then close it, you trap a priming charge in the tap barrel, then when you have fired the front charge using the remains of the priming in the main pan, you open the tap and its ready primed for the breech end charge  …. crafty.

 

Looking much better! The inlay is odd – may be German silver and I can’t make out what the outlines are/were filled with, apart from muck = bit of a mystery!

T

These inserts are a pain – they rust and crack the butts!

19th August – I cleaned up the bits of the superimposed pistol and made a blank for the top jaw and filed it up, and made a top jaw screw.  I case hardened these parts, then decided to temper the top jaw to add a bit of colour, but not having the AGA I used a torch, and it came out a brilliant peacock blue, which isn’t quite authentic!  took it off with 0000 steel wool and  used a bit of slow brown, plus steam and it looks good.  I’ve now just got to make the little spring that retracts the folding trigger, and put it all together – I don’t even think I need to make any new screws, pins or nails for a change!  I had a look at the silver inlay on the butt – the strip that was used was about .15 mm thick  x 1.5 (?) mm and I can only get .3 mm thick x 3 mm – the right way to do it would be to get some wire of about .3 mm and run it through jewellers rolls, but I don’t have any – I could either make some, borrow some or try flattening wire in a press – to be decided!  first I need to get the wire – but I do have a draw plate.   In the photo of the top jaw you can see how I rough  sketch the parts I need on a card so I can take it into the machine shop – I keep the cards in case I need to refer back.  I have quite a pile!  Much of the shaping is done by eye in the end……

 

Jaw blank milled to rough thickness and card template glued on. Once the outline is filed, it will be cut off and glued to a block.

18th August – I’ve now stripped the current pistol and had a good look at how it works –  the barrel comes unscrewed in two places, the part next to the breech is removed using a ‘normal’ ring spanner with a notch to fit over a lump on the barrel, and the muzzle end is unscrewed using a star wrench into the bore.  SO obvioulsy you remove both bits, put powder in the breech, drop the ball in and put back the breech end barrel, then load that and put on the remaining bit of barrel – simple as!  I also realised that the touch hole going to the front charge (which must go through the removable breech section of barrel) is always open, the tap merely shuts off the touch hole to the rear charge.  Still seems to be nothing to stop you firing both barrels together – would be interesting to see what happened if you did (NO, I’m not going to fire it!).  Stripping the action revealed that indeed the head of the sear had broken off, and also the spring that acts to close the trigger had broken, leaving only a small part and the retaining screw.  I spent most of the day on the stripping and machined a blank for the sear and  new top jaw and filing the sear to fit – as I explained for the Rooke pistol, the trigger and sear have so many functions that need to be adjusted that it takes ages to fettle them to work. Anyway I think I have got the sear right so I hardened it – the sear edge is quite fragile as it has to fit tiny bents in the hammer.  I was a bit worried about heating it to red heat to harden it as the edge could overheat, but once coated in Blackleys colour case hardening powder it was somewhat protected – I had better temper it or it will break, which is tricky as the AGA is not on. 

For scale, hole is 2 m.m. diameter

17th August  – I’ve now finished the Rooke pistols, and very nice they look too, although whether the impovement really justifies almost 6 days work is a mute point! Luckily I don’t have to pay myself….  I may get the urge to put them in a case – not because they would originally have been cased, but because it makes them easier to store, and I enjoy casemaking!  Below is a before and after.  I’m now starting on another job in the queue – even more unusual than the ‘cap guard’ (aka top  hat – not a good name) pistols. It is a flintlock pocket pistol, somewhat larger and has a tap action.  What makes it unusual is that there is only one (turnoff) barrel, so what does the tap do if it isn’t switching between two barrels – the answer is that its a superimposed load pistol – you load the barrel with one charge and ball, then put another charge and ball in front of it.  The tap controls two touch hole paths, one to the first charge loaded, and the other to the front, superimposed charge.  I haven’t stripped it down yet, but there doesn’t seem to be any mechanical means to stop the back charge being fired while the front charge is unfired, which would appear to be a bit of a defect!  I do have a French superimposed pistol of large bore by le Page, but that is percussion and does have separate cocks for each load and the trigger is cunningly controlled to make sure the front charge fires first.  I guess this smaller flint pocket pistol  only fires a small charge, so perhaps it isn’t such an issue if you fire the back charge and push out its ball plus the front load?  Still I guess it gives the firer a bit of a jolt, and can’t have much range – plus if the powder from the front charge ignites in the barrel or as it leaves it will be quite a firework! Anyway this little pistol has a broken action (I think the sear is broken – a very fiddly job to replace) and the top jaw is missing and the top jaw screw is broken off and rusted solid. Probably a couple of days work – maybe more if I try to replace the silver inlay in the butt.  I’ll strip it down and probably electolytically derust any screws etc that are badly rusted.  The rest will clean up with a fine Vertex  wire wheel on the grinder.  I have a problem with the wire wheel from time to time – they are very soft and so don’t hurt if you use your fingers to hold small parts, but are still effective at cleaning the parts of loose rust and reducing sharp burrs. My problem is that from time to time the wheel gets a grip on the part and takes it out of my fingers and it ping onto the floor and it takes ages to find.  I’ve now made a catcher to sit under the wheel and hopefully stop the part bouncing onto the floor.  It may still allow the parts to bounce out, in which case I’ll have to fill it with water!  At least having sorted the Rookes I’m up to speed on the mechanics of these posket pistols – they are all very similar inside and out….. and all very fiddly!  Its a bit of an art stripping them and assembling them, so I might do a video………………

 

 

 

 

16th August 2021  – you learn something new every day!  At the helice we were looking at an Egg single conversion from flint  and I noticed a screw head under the butt half way between the butt plate and the trigger guard that I hadn’t noticed before – I said it looked as if there had been a sling swivel there as for a rifle, but the friend viewing it with me said that it was more likely to be a spare side nail, and that a few guns had this.  Indeed when I got it home and had a well fitting turnscrew to hand it was a spare side nail, and fortunately not rusted except for round the head. There you are – another piece of gun lore from the blog!  On the subject of information my correpondent who is researching ‘cap guard’ pistols commented that I correctly hadn’t assumed that the Rooke pair were conversions from flint.  I have to admit that I hadn’t really examined one before, and the flip-up cap guard gave me a moments pause, although it soon became clear that they had been made as percussions for two reasons;  first, there was no trace of a pan ever having existed, and second that the whole pistol was ‘of a piece’ as antique experts might say.  He has identified 220 of these little ‘cap guard’ pistols by various makers – all were originally made as percussion.   My restoration continued… Ithe first pistol has enough of a nipple to fit a cap on and fire, but the second had a mashed up nipple, so I decided it deserved a new one. By design there seems to be nothing to get a wrench on, or any othere way of turning the nipple, and a thread extractor did nothing so I drilled it out, trying not to cut into the brass.  The resultant hole looked OK for a 1/4 inch tap and I was going to use the standard 1/4 BSF x26 t.p.i tap, but thought in the brass a finer thread would be better, so I opted for 1/4 BSEF x 32 t.p.i. which worked well and seemed to be the same as the original thread (?) (actually, to be honest, I couldn’t find a 1/4 BSF plug tap but did have a BSEF  – Extra Fine !).  So a new nipple was made and fitted.  I have now made the pivots and put the mechanical bits together, and finished repairing the butt.  Now just got to sort out the screws for the butt cap and to fix the body to the butt, and its done…  Another friend at the Helice was telling me he had double gun by Forsyth dated to 1822 (he was sure about that date) that had been made for percussion caps, not pellet lock conversion.  I was sceptical, as the earliest date for caps is generally taken to be 1823 and I didn’t expect Forsyth to be the first to use them.  Indeed D.H.L.Back’s book on Forsythe puts the earliest caplock made by Forsyth as about No 3327  in 1826.  Which make my friendd’s gun very important, or the date or details wrong. Sometimes a really good conversion done by the original maker not too long after manufacture will effectively be a rebuild with a new beech plug and a new lock and will be very hard to distinguish – and  may well have kept the original number.   There is seldom any absolute certainty in such cases – one of the attractions of the hobby is the detective work that collecting involves.

Spare side nail in stock of single barreled percussion converted from flint Durs Egg.

 

15th August  Helice yesterday at the Rugby ground sandwiched between the M1 and a windfarm.   I was shooting a gun I hadn’t really ever shot in ernest but I did hit 4 out of 20 – in case you think that is bad, half a dozen of the 25 odd  shooters did worse – I was reasonably satisfied!  Tom hadn’t handled a gun since 2018, and hadn’t shot that gun for 8 years and had only shot Helice once before but managed to hit 8 including a some of the very difficult ground hugging ones – he’s pretty quick, age on his side!  Anyway only half a dozen or so shot better than he did, so he was rightly pretty happy.  Anyway a good day was had by all.  I finished the escutcheon of the first little pistol – left me wondering what, if anything, I should engrave on it ?  I started to repair the butt of the other pistol – a bit of the wood had broken off rather messily.  I was going to try gluing it back on – which I know from past experience only works (sometimes) if the break is recent, new and clean, which this wasn’t – but I was saved the dilemma as I couldn’t find the piece anyway.  I found a bit of dark walnut from my scrap drawer and cut and glued it on with superglue and shaved and filed it to an approximate fit – it’s much better job and the wood matches pretty exactly.  I just have to finish the final shaping and recut the chequering onto the new piece, then make the screws and pivots for that pistol and put it together.  I thought someone might like to see what’s on my workbench when I’m working on the guns so I’ve included a photo.  There are a selection of tools including half a dozen screwdrivers (mostly watchmakers for such small pistols) and a couple of dozen files plus chisels and modelling knives etc.  Drills and machines and gas torches are elsewhere, I just use this bench for ‘fettling’ by hand – taps and dies are in the tray to go to the machine workshop.  Plastic trays from packaging get a second lease of life in the workshop!

 

Last job on the first pistol;- I need to fill the crack – I can’t close it without removing metal inserts inside.

Second pistol;- The two very faint red lines show where the joint is – the colour match is very good, not yet finally shaped.

I shudder to think how much I spent on the finer files – they can be up to £35 each.

13th August  Visit to the dentist to have  a tooth extracted – not too bad – I’m shooting the Helice at the Rugby Clay ground tomorrow with Tom, so I hope it has settled down by then!   I started to make the silver escutcheon for the completed Rooke pistol – I decided that it didn’t merit all the fuss of casting as I had a piece of silver sheet and am happy to epoxy glue it in place, so I made a former and am peining it into shape.  As I have only got a piece of silver just  big enough its difficult to shape it, so I will probably have to make the female part of the former to get it curved enough.     I made the replacement screws and filed the heads to profile – its quite tricky as you can’t file them in situu without damaging the  brass body of the pistol, and also because the slots have to end up fore and aft.  I then case hardened them and heated them to colour them a bit.  So the first one is all together and working – just waiting for the escutcheon.   I’m taking some of my spare pecussion doubles with me tomorrow on the offchance someone is in the market  –  they have all been restored and Ive tried them all – I’ll put them on the page on this site when I get a mo.

11th August  Still working on the little pistols.  I coloured up the top hat of No 1 and finished the hammer pivot and the top hat pivot.  I tried to make  a No 2 UNF screw ( 2.2 mm OD) to hold the spring on the top hat, but the metal I was using just would not let me cut such a fine thread – I ended up finding an old steel 10 BA pan head screw and  using that.  When I came to make the pivot for the top hat I found a short length of bar that had been a part of something or other that turned and threaded much better – I will keep it safe for small threads!  anyway that pistol is now mechanically complete and functional – it just needs the butt restored.  The screw holding the but cap was securely rusted in place, and the screw on the under tang had been beheaded but was still firmly embedded.  I  filed and drilled the butt cap screw to get the head off, then made a small coring drill 5.5 mm O.D. with a 4 mm hole in the middle and filed some teeth in the end and cored out the remains of the screws so that I can plug the holes for new screws – I had to take the butt cap off as it had loads of the white powder (brass polish??) under the edge so it didn’t fit flush.   Now got to sort out the chequering (very fine) and make some new screws – it really doesn’t work to use ordinary woodscrews, even old Nettlefolds slot headed screws, on guns, they never look right, for a start the slots are always too wide.  I usually turn up a short untapered screw  and cut a UNC or Whitworth thread on it and put a point on the end, which is how most gun screws were made anyway.  I am still prevaricating about the extent of any recutting of engraving to do.  I will touch im amy damaged engraving, and very gently go over the light lines that have disappeared – i.e. some of the serifs, so that the lettering can still be read.  Anything more will stand out unless I cut it deep and then polish it down, which will likely loose some of the original stuff  – you then get of a cycle of more recutting, polishing, more recutting etc… better not to start!

Arrows point to new bits-  mostly pivots and screws plus the ‘cap guard’ upstand.

9th August – Another day fixing up the little pistols, with a break for an eye test ( result – I need my cateracts done sometime – optician can’t quite understand why I can see as well as I can! ).  So back to the W & S Rooke pistols…… If I add up all the time I will have spent restoring them it will, in the end, come to at least five days, so its hardly a bargain.  Of course, profit  is not my motive, but a better return would be good!  The main time consuming part has been a replacement trigger – in these little folding trigger pistols it has a lot of interacting surfaces that have to do their job,  The trigger spindle also carries the sear that engages the bent in the hammer.  it has a stop against the trigger to lift the sear out of the bents when the trigger is pulled.  The hammer has a projection that has to hit the back of the trigger  when the pistol is cocked with the trigger retracted to open it, but the trigger must clear the hammer once it is extended.  The stud on the side of the trigger head engages with a small  spring that acts over-centre to retract the trigger into its recess and to spring it open – All quite complex on account of the whole firing mechanism only having 3 parts and 3 springs, and of course all the bits have to be quite accurately fitted.  Although the pistols are clearly a pair and match I was surprised to discover that there was a 2mm difference in the length of the triggers so it isn’t safe just to copy parts from one to the other.  Anyway the replacement trigger is now made and in so far as I can test it, works.  I’ve also made new hammer pivots.  Both pistols had the hammer pivots sheared inside on the left side of the hammer (Note that the hammer pivots and the knockout pins like the trigger pivot all go in from the left side as is usual on guns) – this meant that I had no means of extracting the bit through the hammer , and no way to strip it down further because almost the first step is to remove the hammer.  So the pivot had to be drilled out very accurately to avoid damaging the hole in the hammer or the right side of the body….. All very time consuming as I’m not familiar enough with the works of these pistols to sort things without a bit of messing about!      One little triumph today ;-  Dick and I both use very fine wire brushes on our grinders to clean up light rust and polish up steel parts without removing the patina – they are so soft that you can hold parts in your fingers without any problems.  When I moved my workshop back in January I couldn’t find the wheel, and worse, couldn’t find anything similar in the UK.  As I wanted to use one for this job I had another hunt on the web and found a company – I think called The Polishing Co or something similar, that sold exactly similar wheels – they go by the name of Vertex wheels and have wooden hubs and wires of 0.1 or 0.08 mm diameter ( 4 or 3 thou)  and cost around £25 and fit on taper screws – I got two and am now a happy bunny!   I feel the need to make another video soon – I was going to do one on restoring the little pistols, which would be interesting but doesn’t lend itself to  short films as its mostly tinkering.  I have a couple of unusual percussion shotguns with totally enclosed mechanisms – one by J R Cooper that I believe is the only example known, and one a Jones Patent – they would make a good youtube video.  Also the Satorius might make a video…  We shall see.   I was thinking about all the toools and machines I use, and wondering if I should do a post of suggestions for someone setting up to do the odd restoration – one constraint is that the most common job in any restoration is making screws, which really involves at least a small metalwork lathe of reasonable quality.  I am lucky in that I did quite a lot of prototype building as part of my instrument development company before I took to the restoration racket, and it funded all of my metal and wood working machine tools – there is no way restoration as a hobby would justify a £5000 lathe ( a fairly big Axminster Chinese lathe with digital readouts, not the smoothest but adequate!).

 

 

The arrow points to the sear that pivots independently on the trigger pivot (the long temporary rod)  Each of the surfaces on the trigger and sear has a precise function!

 

8th August – One of the nicest parts of running this website (when I have time!) are the contacts I make with other collectors and antique gun owners around the world.  Many contacts are requests for information or owners wanting restoration work or advice, but a number are from collectors adding information on guns I have featured,  often from people who have specialised in that particular class of antique and know much more about them than I do, which is always welcome.  I had a couple of those recently, one relating to my Satorius Carbine from a US collector who is making an inventory of all the Satorius patent guns he can find.  He has amassed quite a list – most are sporting guns not putative military weapons like mine.  The odd thing is that the serial numbers of the military types are spread over the complete distribution of numbers, implying that they were not produced as a batch for a single customer as I had assumed.  I’ll add the additional information to the Satorius post in due course when I have his consent.  Another email concerned the pair of percussion pistols I am currently working on.  He points out that the makers are W & S Rooke, not H & S as I misread it.  Blackmore says they were active in Birmingham from 1820 to 1837 and marked their guns London, but my old book by Merwyn Casey gives ” W & S Rooke [1770 to 1820] Under Royal Government contract made flintlock holster pistols with swivel ramrods, also cased flintlock coach pistols. Shop in London”  Obviously the little percussion pistols were made well after 1820 so I incline to believe Blackmore, but Casey is very specific, and Google images has a pair of fine flintlock duelling pistols (probably early 1800s) and a blunderbuss (attributed to the late 1770s) – looks like both could be more or less right although its doubtful if the same people ran the business for 67 years. De Witt Bailley and Nye don’t mention him among Birmingham gunmakers but Nigel Brown says “est 1810 Gun & Rifle makers Whitall St B’ham 1820 -21, Bath St 1822 – 1836, Samuel only 1837 – 392”  You pays your money and you takes your choice as the saying goes…….  My correspondent points out that the flipping bit that surrounds the nipple is meant to be down when the pistol is fired to stop shards of cap escaping, and it therefore doesn’t allow the pistol to be carried capped with the hammer resting on the ‘flipper.  He thinks that ‘cap guard’ is a better name for the hinged part, rather than the common ‘top hat’ and I agree – it is a much better description.  Anyway if he consents I’ll put all his information on the blog.   It is surprising that there are not more common ways of making a pistol safe to carry with a cap in place given the fiddle involved in capping it – if the half cock position is close enough to the nipple to stop the cap falling off it would be too close to allow the cap to be put on, and anyway it would still be unsafe as half cock can fail if the hammer is hit.  The only safe system I have come across is that on the Hanovarian conversions of the New Land Pistols taken back after the Napoleonic wars when the Austrian troops returned.  They use a bolt through the breech that intercepts the hammer just above the nipple – a very substantial stop (see the Post on this pistol on this website.  I did a bit more work on the little pistols – I’ve started to freshen up the wood and get rid of the remnants of brass polish that are all over the place, and am planning to make new escutcheons in silver – I’ll probably cast them, either in lost wax, which is a long and tedious job as it atakes all day to make the investment, or maybe in cuttlefish bone and clean them up afterwards – it will probably be a lot quicker, I just need a brass pattern !   I’ve started to make a new trigger for the second pistol – quite tricky!  I’ve got a chunk of steel in the milling machine so I can make a blank…

7 August – back at last!  Its been a busy month and I am sorry that the blog got left at the bottom of the queue!   The Pop-up Workshop went very well and the kids enjoyed it and we made a great boat – we built the boat – making most of the parts in the tent with my small CNC machine, and used the radio control systems I had programmed up to control it, Dave had programmed up a voice syntesizer so that the childern could write messages for broadcasting from the boat, and it happily sailed around my swimming pool making a string of announcements and siren noises.  Great fun and fortunately it worked first (and only) time they had to try it.  I (mis) spent a week afterwards trying to get the Microbits to work with a GPS module, but couldn’t get it to work well as there is not enough memory .  It was then time for our annual sailing holiday in Scotland, so off we all went to Oban to take over Pollyanna,  a Dufor 425, for 10 days or so.  The weather had been quite settled and we had hopes of making it to St Kilda as the trip 40 miles out into the Atlantic needs settled weather, but no sooner had we got out of the marina than things changed and it wasn’t clear what the weather was going to do.  In fact we had mostly very light winds and quite a bit of sun , which meant that we didn’t get much exciting sailing, but had several lazy, sunny sail/drift days.  We didn’t get as far North as usual, but went over to Eriskay and up South and North Uist as far as Loch Maddy, then across to the West coast of Skye and back via the Small Isles and the West coast of Mull.  All in all a good time was had!  Now I’m back and determined to get catch up on the gun restoration!  I had an email for John O’Sullivan (author of the Wogdon book)  saying nice things about my reconstructed Wogdon, and asking for some hi res photos, which I will send.   Anyway the first job on the list is to restore the pair of brass pistols (see diary for 2nd June).  I had got as far as to remove the butt of one and discover that the pivot screw for the flipping nipple guard was broken somewhere along its length and wouldn’t come out.  So after fiddling for half an hour to be certain I couldn’t get it out, I set the pistol in the machine vice of my milling machine using hardboard packing and gripping it tightly and very carefully lined up a small centre drill – I’d filed what was left of the screwhead flat so I could drill it more easily.  Using the mill is much better than using a drill press as the traverses let you line it up exactly. Just don’t try starting with a normal drill or it will surely wander – use a small  centre drill to start. Anyway I then drilled a 2mm hole through the shaft about 3/4 of the way through and then opened it up to 2.4 mm which allowed me to break the flipper out.  I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to put a drill right through as I didn’t think I could line it up well enough, so I have left a bit of the old screw in the far end, and I’ll screw a shorter screw into the head end = a bit of a fudge, but it should be OK.  The flipping nipple guard on that pistol had lost  the mock ‘steel’ bit that acts as a lever for opening the flip, so next job was to weld a new  bit to be filed into the right shape.  That went reasonably well, except that the battery on my welding mask was dead.  I changed it for a new one but it seemed far too dark and the mask has no adjustment –  I shaped the bit but I can’t finish that part of the job as  I need  some smaller taps and dies, so I ordered some UNF 2 and UNF 3 taps and dies from Tracy Tools – I guess I had not made such small screws before – I don’t even have metric taps and dies that small although I think somewhere I have a 10 B.A.  tap…..  I’ve stripped and cleaned that pistol and checked that things should work when it all goes together – I still have the stock to sort out.  The other pistol of the pair has a broken folding trigger with most of it missing so I’m going to have to make a new one.  That will be very fiddly as there is quite a lot of critical shaping – the top of the trigger has a slot into which pivots the sear, and a pin sticking out of the side that the trigger retaing spring bears on.  It also has an edge that presses on the sear to lift it from the cock to fire the pistol……………….. Not particularly easy to fabricate!    Here are some photos of last month;-

 

Hulls made from blue foam painted with Farrow and Ball emulsion in a tasteful shade, cabin cut from 1/16 ply on the cnc machine.

Here is my ‘patent’ motor mount for easy alignment – just pushed onto the 8mm diameter prop shaft tube, with a tension spring for a flexible coupling.

On a mooring in Loch Scressort, Rum.  Mostly we anchored – this was not a particularly comfortable place to be – a bit rolly at times

despite the fact that there was almost no wind – I should have anchored nearer the shore out of the fetch.

Bits ready to clean etc. The long rod in the centre is the drilled out pivot.

4th July – another month gone by and the weather pretty unsummery – our plastic bag swimming pool is not getting used as its pretty cold in there!  I have been working flat out getting my school project ready – its now called ‘The Fantastic Pop-up Workshop’ and today Marin and Claire came down and kindly brought me their 3m x 4m magic tent that they use for the MLAGB shoots at country fairs etc.  Looks fantastic and just right – its the first time they have put the sides on, its usually just a shelter.  I was going to have two tents but when I saw how big that was I decided we didn’t need the second on,  My fellow engineer Dave and I have been working away at getting the project sorted – I think I have now written all the G-Code for cutting out the hull interiors and the decks, hatches and cabin sides and windows, and built and programmed the control systems for motors and rudder.  I made a neat motor mount that clamps on the propeller tube and keeps it all lined up, and my own take on a flexible coupling using a section of compression spring filled with set silicone compound – hope it works, its very flexible!  Dave has written the draft code for the audio link – a second controller will send phrases to a speaker on the boat, and operate a blue flashing light and siren.  In all a fairly major task given my state of knowledge when I began. Anyway tomorrow is the start of the Pop Up Workshop, and the back of my Landcruiser is filled with boxes of materials and tools, my CNC milling machine, computers etc.  so we will see how the kids enjoy it.  I was talking to Martin about upcoming shoots – I really enjoy the Helice shoot in Rugby and Tom is keen to come.  My only problem is that I sort of decided only to shoot flintlock from now onwards (apart from the odd fun breech loader shoot – i.e. at clays with a bolt action .410 with 2 1/2 inch cartridges.  So I’m undecided whether to do the Helice with a flintlock or give up on my intentions and revert to percussion – very few people have done the helice with a flintlock – it requires quick shooting, but I’m usually not that good that it will make much difference!  Besides my favourite percussion gun (the H Nock) is now converted to flint. Thinking back over my comments on shooting clays and live quarry in the last post, I realised that you can break clays at much greater range than you can kill live quarry because 1 pellet can chip a clay and count as a kill, whereas one pellet is unlikely to drop a pheasant, so you need  to hit with, probably 4 or more pellits to stand a chance of a live quarry drop. Also the pellet energy (mass x velocity) and momentum (mass x velocity squared) are much less with a blackpowder gun that a with modern cartridges and you need more energy to penetrate the body of a pheasant than to break a normal clay.

24th June – A long time without posting here – I apologise!  I have been getting ready for a week long project at ‘my’ primary school where I have volunteered to run a project for a group of year 6 ( age 10) children who are not going on a course at the British Racing School involving ponies and riding, so have to be given an equivalent value activity at school! There are only 4 children involved so it can be quite intensive, and my STEM club partner Dave will be helping so we can be ambitious. My plan is to build a working model boat with radio control – the boat will largely be constructed on site by the children using parts that they will make on my small CNC milling machine out of XPS foam or 1.6mm ply (I have written the cutting programs in advance).  The radio control will be using BBC microbit computers that are programmed in Python to control the boat from a hand held microbit transmitter.  The children will help wire it all together and be involved in loading the program and putting together the final stages of the software from modules I have written, plus they will program a second radio system to operate lights and sound on the boat, and possibly get feedback from the boat.   So I’ve been writing the programs for cutting out the hulls and deck and cabin etc in ‘G’ Code, as well as learning to program in Python and writing all the control modules.  Since its about 15 years since I last wrote any computer code ( in ‘C’) it has been a steep learning curve!  Anyway I’ve made good progress, and I’ve arranged to borrow a couple of big tents to house it all in from Martin Crix, plus some tables so it is coming together – so I haven’t been wasting my time  – at least in my view!   I did go shooting with Bev and Pete today at CGC – I wanted to prove the Nock flint conversion, and in particular the re-welded frizzen that failed on my initial tests.  The three of us had a very enjoyable morning, and I managed to fire off 50 shots with only 4 or so misfires due to the flint being so worn it was not sparking at all and none that were ‘a flash in the pan’.  You can usually get away a couple of times re-working the edge of the flint in situ by tapping with a 1/2 inch brass rod, but eventually the edge of the flint gets too steep an angle on it and cannot be pursuaded to slice slivers of white hot metal from the frizzen.  I did  hit a few clays including a couple that evaded Bev and Pete on their first attempts,  Bev brought a range finder with him and we checked the ranges of some of the fixed points around the place to get an idea of the ranges to the clays. Our conclusion was that many (most?) of them were in excess of 40 yards, some we thought up to 60 or so yards.   Given that we were all shooting flintlock guns of over 200 years old it is amazing that the others managed to break most of the clays! I have said before that I think the shooting grounds have upped the difficulty of clays since I started some 8 to 10 years ago – I’m sure there were lots of clays that more or less landed in your lap! I’m not sure why that would be, maybe our shooting grounds are hosting more and better competitions and so need to compete at a higher level?   We agreed, I think, that we would not attempt to shoot game at some of the ranges that the clays were persented at – it being generally held to be unsporting to shoot at live quarry at much more than 40 yards with a cylinder bored barrel. Today certainly made me much more confident shooting my flintlock – although its easy with a couple of experts in attendance!  Oh, and my ebay selling of bits and pieces from the loft is going well – old (vintage!) computers go well but I have also got rid of a few bits and pieces left over from my electronics business – so far I’ve made enough to pay for a basic percussion gun, not that I need another! And anyway I’m spending the money, or some of it, on the school project…….. As an afterthought its sad to report that visits to this blog both direct and via search engines almost halve if I don’t post for this long – serves me right!

4th June More views on this blog than for a while – up from about 150 to 200 per day – must be because I’ve started a restoration project!  I did some more on the Rooke pistol I am working on – its quite a challenge!  The cock pivot that I mentioned had broken leaves behind half its length so you can’t remove the cock, and the bit left in is of course threaded into the brass – can’t be knocked out with a pin punch, don’t know what I was thinking yesterday!  I shifted my attention to the flipping top hat – the screw for the pivot turned about 30 degrees easily but is also broken somewhere along its length and the head section will not come out despite it turning its 30 degrees freely back and forth- not sure why at the moment.  So not a very productive day!  I can’t find my can of acetone – I’m now a firm believer in parallel universes – there must be one in which all the items from my workshop that I can’t find since using it as a temporary kitchen have migrated – some are key things like my very fine wire brush that can’t be bought anywhere on the internet in the UK!  I had to use model aircraft engine fuel as a penetrating oil but its not really up to much… I shall need to have a strategy for sorting out the broken / stuck screws – the key issue is not to damage the brass body of the pistol, the screws themselves are (fairly!) easily replaced – even if they come out, the heads are often messed up.  If the flip top hat didn’t need welding I’d not bother to take it apart, but clean it in situ, but I will need to remove it from the pistol and take off the spring before it can be welded  so as not to damage things. I’m reluctant to use heat here because I don’t want to have to retemper the spring  I’ll post some pics tomorrow……   Harking back a year to my Covid, I had a CT scan for other issues, but the radiologist reported that I had  lung damage consistent with Covid-19 – my consultant said maybe I was lucky to have survived  – I’m pretty glad I managed to sort out oxygen and so avoid hospital in the very early days of the pandemic – I think there is a story to be told there, but I guess it has been/will be buried.

3rd June – I couldn’t resist starting on one of the Rooke pistols below.  The finish on much of the steel is the original bluing, worn in places and with patches of rust, but still quite distinct from the finish you get from electrolytic derusting, which basically removes all oxides, including those responsible for the bluing.  So that means basically the rust has to be removed by hand in a way that only affects the rust patches.  My technique is to scrape the rust patches gently with the back edge of fine modelling knife held at shallow angle to the surface.  To make sure that I don’t put any scratches on the surrounding blued finish I hone the back edge of the blade on a static ceramic wheel with 0.5 micron diamond paste, and gently round off the corners slightly to reduce the risk of scratching. It is a surprisingly effective if laborious technique, it works because the bluing is basically harder than the rust.  It is a good idea to apply WD 40 or AC 90 as a lubricant.   I am working on one pistol first, I’ll do the second later, first step was to remove the wooden butt – as usual it is held by two screws, one at the top through the back strap, and one below through the tail of the bottom tang.  First step is to clean out the slots with the modelling knife – which gave me a warning – the slots are very deep and narrow, and go down as far as the shank of the screw.  The top screw came out easily enough with an accurately fitting screwdriver (it is tapped into a steel plate in the butt) but the bottom screw wouldn’t shift ( its a wood screw) even with a bit of low viscosity fluid with a drop of oil ( I had cellulose thinners to hand).  Before I could put any real force on it, the two sides of the head had started to open out, and one broke off leaving half a head.  Its not possible to get hold of the remaining half, so I ground it down a bit with the Dremel (equivalent) with a dental burr until I could get the remains of the head through the hole.  It came out but I’ll have to unscrew the bit of screw left in the butt before I can refix it.  Having got the wood out of the way I gave the metalwork a good spray with WD40 and left it for a few hours – much to my amazement the pistol cocked and fired without any more work – the only fault is that the hidden trigger doesn’t come out unaided when the gun is cocked – it’s a bit stiff and needs a hand.  I tried to remove the cock pivot but although half of it came out easily, half of it is stuck in the brass body on the right side of the pistol – it will probably come out with a light tap from a pin punch. I’ll finish stripping the lock and cleaning up the parts with my modelling knife, or possibly in the electrolytic tank if they are bad,  On this pistol the frizzen like protrusion on the ‘flip top hat’ that gives you something to use to open it with is broken, so I’ll have to make a replacement part and weld it on, or have a more expert welder do it, which would be a better idea as it is very fiddly.  The engraving is pretty worn so I have the usual dilemma – should I recut it or leave it?  My instinct is always to do the minimum in the way of intervention, so for the moment I’ll leave it.  The wood will take a fair bit of work to patch the missing corners, and I’ll probably freshen up the chequering a bit (not too much) as I’ll have to blend in the repairs anyway.  All in all my impression is that the pistols are really in good shape under a bit of rust and a build-up of brass polish, and won’t take too long to get back into good order

2nd June – Oh dear, quite a gap in the diary!  I have been trying to get my head round programming the BBC microbit in Python and building servo and motor drive circuits, as well as taking advantage of the hot weather to attack the fallen walnut tree with a 20 inch chain saw.   Hopefully that will change over the next few weeks as I had a visit from a friend and fellow collector.  I’d fixed a little double barreled pistol for him and he had found and bought a little pair of pistols that need A LOT of work – he bought them to pass on to me, so I could put the work on this blog, and kindly sold them to me for what he paid for them.  They were a decent and pretty pair of brass percussion muff or small ‘turn off’ pocket pistols signed H & S Rooke and engraved ‘London’ on the other side.  H & S Rooke were Birmingham gunmakers in business from 1810 to 1836 who were known to mark their pistols ‘London’ to increase their appeal (and value).  They have the flipping ‘top hat’ covers that hinge down to allow the pistols to be carried safely with caps in place and be ready for firing by cocking them and flipping the cover.  It  is a similar mechanism to the frizzens of little flintlocks and I suppose might lead one to believe they were conversions of flintlock pistols – I don’t believe these are, but as everything is seized solid with rust and gunk I can’t be certain.  Obviously they have been seriously neglected rather than heavily used, as where the rust hasn’t got at the barrels you can see a nicely blued surface.  The escutcheons on the butts have been picked out, so presumably they were gold.  It will be interesting to see how to go about the restoration – at the moment I haven’t really formed any plans – were they all steel I would remove the wood and chuck the whole lot in the electrolytic derusting tank so I could strip it down but I’m not sure how the brass would react to the process – maybe have to experiment first. They are also pretty bunged up with the residue of brass polish, including the chequering and there is some damage to the wood too….Obviously first job is the separate the wood from the metal!  My friend also bought an unusual pocket pistol, a bit larger – it looks like a typical bog standard flintlock pocket pistol with a turn-off barrel, until you notice the tap on the side and look in the pan. Its a superimposed load pistol, where you unscrew the barrel and load the breech end twice.  The tap diverts the flame to the charge nearest the muzzle first, then you operate the tap to feed the flame to the rear charge,  The rotating part beneath the pan allows a priming charge to be rotated with the tap and stored while the first charge is fired with the priming in the ‘open’ pan (closed by the frizzen).  These pistols normally used tiny charges, which is just as well because there doesn’t appear to be any interlock to prevent the back charge being fired first. ( for another example of a superimposed load pistol see the post on this blog) .The pistol is pretty much OK, but needs a top jaw and top jaw screw.  If I feel really daring, there is a bit of the silver inlay missing on the butt (I’ll post photos and a better description of this pistol later).   I think I will make a few videos of the restoration of the little brass  pistols on YouTube – I get quite a few views and subscribers – people who wouldn’t find cablesfarm.co.uk, and there are very few videos of work on real muzzle loading antiques – besides, I quite enjoy making them…..

The top pistol is missing the tab on the ‘flipping’ cover that look like a minature frizzen and is needed to flip it.

I think one cock may have a crack – mostly hidden.  Crack and some missing wood on the butt of the upper pistol.

 

one trigger is broken off and missing

22nd May – I’m feeling bad about not actually doing any ‘gun stuff’, just reading on the sofa in the evening!  I’ve been reading a US book on how to engrave historic guns by John Schipper.  John is an excellent fellow and has made and engraved many splended guns, both American, mostly long rifles as most American gunmaking does, but some English style sporting flintlocks.  Whenever I pick up his book I puzzle at how, although the engraving is technically fine, I could never in a thousand years mistake it for English antique gun engraving.  He does almost all his engraving with a hammer driven graver, mostly square gravers, but the key is his aim to keep all lines even and of the same width throughout, with a few tapered lead-ins and outs.  He does occasionally refer to ‘bright cut’ engraving, and says it is difficult and he only uses it on script letters – bright cut is where the tool is rolled to give a modulated width and, properly, when applied to jewellery it is intended to create surfaces that reflect light at different angles ( and requires highly polished gravers).  The problem for his engraving is that all English antique gun engraving is actually a form of bright-cut engraving ( but without the reflections as the metal surface dull in time) – the graver is more or less only kept upright for straight lines, all curves are basically bright-cut.  The result is that all the engraving in his book  lacks movement.  I think that tends to be a problem with  (?all)  hammered graver work.  Interestingly I think that work done with the air gravers, Lindsay and GRS etc. tends to be too fluid as its so easy to cut sweeping bright cut curves, so although it looks beautiful, it isn’t convincing English antique gun engraving……..  If you want to see my engraving, I think some of the YouTubes I did have a running commentary that says when I cant ( roll ) the tool. With hand push engraving its actually quite difficult to cut curves, particularly tight curves’ with the graver upright – rather like riding a bicycle round a corner without leaning into the corner, except the other way, the graver rolls outwards. I’m not really a professional engraver, and I’m not really enough of an artist to be one, and  my engraving is rather light compared to the engraving you see on old guns, mostly I think because I’m using tougher steel – one reason why its a pleasure to do barrels as its like cutting butter compared to my usual test pieces!

19th May – I’ve been on a mission to repair the obselete stuff in the attic, so I can sell it as something other than the junk it currently is!  The Web is an incredible resource – I don’t think anyone born in this century can have any idea about how difficult it was to find out obscure details and bits of things before.  Want to fix the power supply of a BBC micro?  a helpful site will sell you the 3 capacitors you need plus a full colour guide to fitting them.  Trying to find the output transistors for an old (1980s) Radford amplifier? again a handy website will tell you what substitutes you can still buy and give you the circuit diagrams, and ebay will sell them to you for a tenner.  Want to know how to connect an obscure 1980s computer to a modern screen ? – there is a site that specialises in all the bits you could need.  Need a drive belt for a 35 year old turntable? Takes 3 minutes to find a supplier on the web, and for £7, which seems reasonable – 10 minutes to fit it and you have a turntable as good as new and better than many on the market…..   I’ve been carrying on my searches for information and blogs on old guns etc – trying to see what the competition is like out there ( there isn’t much!).  Nice article on Ammoguide stating that duelling pistols were sometimes made  in handed ‘pairs’ – one left handed and one right handed and illustrating this with a photo of a perfectly normal  cased pair – I suppose if you are not used to looking at pairs of pistols in cases you might make that mistake!  Not sure how you would use a handed pair of duelling pistols – first shot with the right hand and second with the left, only duel with left handed opponents? The mind boggles!   There is also a lot of rubbish about Wogdon and his bent barrels which makes claims that defy Newtons laws first and third laws of motion – time to make a video on the subject – I can feel it coming on………….

16th May – Put some of my bits and pieces on ebay this morning, but I’m disapointed that I’ve only had one offer so far for my Sony Professional Walkman – still if I sell both of the ones I have at the offer price I’d be able to afford a cheap gun!  Hunting around in the attic I found the Spitfire gun camera I’d mislaid some time ago, unfortunately just after I’d sold it on ebay! Time to list it again…  I also discovered that there is a market for all the piles of electronic components that litter the attic.I have been reading a few books and posts on duelling pistols, and I read some pretty inaccurate stuff!  One source, a US blog said that duelling pistols rarely had sights and that set triggers were a secret advantage and not common. Another in a book by Wilkinson, who wrote good books on various gun related subjects like the post office and the early police stated that some duelling pistols had a piece inside the lock called the detent which stopped the gun firing when it was pointing in the air, which is clearly a muddling of the detent, which is a small lever on the tumbler to stop the sear entering the half cock notch in the tumbler as it passes it on firing – while this isn’t a problem without set triggers because the shooter naturally holds the trigger, and thus the sear, for long enough for it to pass the half cock notch, with a set trigger, as fitted to most quality duelling pistols and rifles by the end of the 18th century,  the sear is only tapped momentarily by the inertia of the blade of the set trigger, and may be free to fall into the half cock notch on passing.   The tap is because the blade of the set trigger needs to fall back from the firing position to allow the lock to be put into half cock while it is still unset, and also because the set trigger blade has to function as a normal trigger blade when unset, so the pistol/gun can be used normally without setting the trigger.  Since a sporting gun ( shotgun) is fired in a totally different action, set triggers were never used on them. Wilkinson was presumably confusing the detent  with Joseph Manton’s patent gravitational safety catch that was on the outside of the lock just in front of the cock and swung back to block the cock when the gun was vertical.  I presume to stop the gun firing while it was being loaded, which would always be done in that position, rather than to render overhead birds safe! It didn’t catch on, presumably because the threat it purported to prevent wasn’t that likely, or that overhead shots were wanted, or that the pivot got gummed up by residues and it didn’t function well – grip safety catches were a more sensible solution although they were not that common. Anyway, I think I had better do a video on duelling pistols some time, maybe for the Wogdon video No 7 which somehow got missed – can’t afford to miss one out of the sequence.  I do get some nice comments for the videos – there isn’t much on restoring old firearms on YouTube except for some enthusiastic ones from the US which mostly deal with breech loaders.  Come to that, there is very little on the web either – I think this blog/website must be by far the most comprehensive/largest in the world – quite a thought! (let me know if you know of a better/bigger one). Penny had her titanium hip fitted on Friday morning and they are threatening to send her home tomorrow – You would think it would take somewhat longer!  They have her walking already, and tomorrow the physio will ‘do’ stairs with her!   Driving is in six weeks… I’m going to be busy being a nursemaid for a while so don’t expect too many posts………..

14th May – Slightly distracted for the last couple of days as Penny has gone into hospital to have a hip transplant, or more accurately a replacement of titanium done by robot.  Anyway having access to my office again meant I could get a couple more Wogdon videos finished and uploaded –  Wogdon Project 8 & 9  ( see VIDEOS page- not sure why there isn’t a No 7 – a  bit of an oversight).   Casting round for any small jobs on guns that needed doing I found that my nice Barbar holster pistol was missing one of its side nails – not sure if it ever had one or I lost it. Anyway checking the existing one showed that it had 22 tpi and about 4 mm diameter.  The only 22 tpt standard thread in small diameters is 3/16 Whitworth (4.76 mm dia.), a good 0.7 mm bigger diameter. I figured that if I squeezed the die in the dieholder til I closed up the gap, assuming it didn’t break, I could get somewhere near.  Since the ‘nail’ is more than 35 mm long it was necessary to turn down sections of it at a time so that there was never more than 10mm of small diameter being actively turned.  I found that the thread could be pursuaded to fit by running round the first couple of threads  with a triangular needle file a couple of times.  The first one I made too short, so I made a longer one, which I then stupidly filed down until it too was too short – obviously not used to files that cut – actually I think it was that I’m used to working EN8 steel and this was freecutting EN1 and much softer.  Third time lucky, so heated it up to red heat, popped it in Blackleys colour case hardening powder and reheated it then dunked it in water, cleaned it and popped it on the hotplate of the AGA under a piece of aluminium foil for 10 minutes.  Perfect. I’ve started to dig out all the old computers and bits and pieces to put on ebay – I found the Spitfire gun camera that I mislaid a couple of years ago, plus several old computers. One was an OQO Model 1+ of 2008 that was the smallest full blown PC made at the time, about 4 1/2 x 4 inches, a fully functioning Windows XP  with internal hard drive and all the connections for USB, Firewire, RJ45, VGA etc and a slide out tiny keyboard.  It cost me almost £2000 and I  bought it when I was doing consultancy in the US so I could carry it in a pocket and just plug in a full sized keyboard and screen when I got there – they are now very rare collectors items!  Mine still works, although the battery won’t hold much charge.  One of the best engineered bits of kit I’ve seen in the PC business.

Depending on your screen, this is about life size – not for the visually impaired – I’d need a special pair of glasses to use it now!

10th May – Having, I hope, sorted the lock of the H Nock below, I remembered that the touch hole was damaged.  I had thought that titanium would make a good material for touchholes as I have used it for a long time for percussion nipples on my own guns and those I’ve re-nippled for other people, and never seen any evidence of any form of damage. However, in making the touchhole for the Nock I had put two holes in the face for a tool for unscrewing it.  I had drilled out the back of the metal so as to leave only a thin bit for the actual touchhole to penetrate as this gives speedier ignition.  Unfortunately one of the tool holes got very close to the back relieving and was quite close to the touch hole itself so after a dozen shots the metal between the three holes had disappeared – presumably burnt away.  There was some classic gas cutting on the outside thread of the touch hole, although fortunately only a slight mark on the thread in the barrel.  I do know that titanium in thin sections burns – Ive seen swarf on a lathe catch fire and the fire brigade having to be called (many years ago) so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  Anyway, although I still think its fine for nipples where there are no thin sections, I will no longer use it for touchholes.  So I replaced it with one made from stainless steel.  It took me two tries to manage cutting the thread on the lathe ( its an odd size ( 9.0 mm O.D. and 22 t.p.i.) as the feed on the saddle has to be kept permenantly engaged and the tool worked backwards and forwards by switching the motor, while adjusting the depth of cut and retracting the tool in the reverse direction- I managed to loose the saddle alignment the first time….  Anyway I decided that a screwdriver slot was easier and safer than the holes.  Although I mainly have a microscope for engraving I use it quite often for checking parts – like the damaged touchhole – on x25 magnification – its got good lighting and makes it easy to see damage and do forensics on gun bits.  One think I find it very useful for is checking the pitch of screw threads – just screw a matchstick or bit of wood into the hole and check it against a thread gauge or a known thread. 

I remembered that I’d browned the Wogdon barrel and steamed it to get rid of any corrosive browning  fluid but hadn’t done anything about oiling it, so I popped it in the bottom oven of the AGA ( around 120 – 150C) and then rubbed it over with a block of beeswax.  I love the finish it gives to metal and tend to use it on all metal parts – it has a lovely sheen and initially a nice smell – I don’t know if its a good defence against rust and corrosion but I haven’t had problems with past use.  I do use  gun oil on moving parts and when cleaning working guns and on the bores. Thinking about the barrel of the Wogdon, I’m now thinking that it actually was a wrapped barrel from an original manufacture in the past when such things were normal – the structure in the metal revealed by the browning strongly suggests it. 

The tool hole extends into the touchhole and the main thread.

I may need to open up the touchhole a tad – its 1.8 mm diameter.

9th May celebrated having finished the Wogdon (at least for the time being) by mowing the lawns, planting out some of the plants that had been protected from the frosts and taking the chainsaw to some more of the stump = there is some very nice walnut there, its about 3 ft in diameter, but the inside part has a lot of concentric cracks – the usable part is about 8 to 10 inches obetween the rotten outside and the cracked core!  But I can see a few pistol stocks and some bowls.  I booked another shoot for September (thanks Bev) and thought I should do a bit more to my Nock back conversion so I can shoot flint on at least one of the shoots.  Anyway I had case hardened the lock and cock in a steel can in my furnace at 730 degrees C – no colour but a decent grey – I tempered the cock at about 300C but left the lock plate hard.  Before that I’d added a bit of engraving on the tail of the lock and a sunburst by the cock as it looked a bit bare.  I have now repaired the frizzen, although I had better give it a thorough test before I do a game shoot with it.  It now all looks a bit less raw than it did!

Henry Nock Lock – a replacement for the percussion conversion for shooting.

8th May  At last I’ve got the Wogdon together – and more or less finished unless I can find a better cock!   I browned the barrel, which turned out to be quite stripy and looking a bit like an original wrapped (not twist) barrel which is better than a bland piece of steel.  I made another ramrod – out of ebony this time, and silver plated the brass powder measure end and it fits beautifully – I was a bit worried as the prototype didn’t fit snugly.  So now I need to make its mate some time, and also make a case for the pair.  I had a comment from a maker of biaze  https://www.baizewoolfabrics.co.uk/  who is including a link to this website on his, so that would be guncase makers can get information. nice.  My photo ‘studio’ has been taken over by Penny as her work at home office, which accounts for the drop in the standard of photos recently. I did have an alternative, but the ceiling lighting has failed and I haven’t yet replaced it.  Anyway here are a few photos of the finished pistol;-

Wogdon duelling pistol reconstruction

Reconstructed Wogdon duelling pistol

 

 

Wogdon reconstruction – barrel signature

Wogdon reconstruction – Lock, the cock is wrong!

Wogdon reconstruction – Cast silver ramrod pipes

5th May  I spent yesterday in school with two groups of children telling them about earthquakes and plate tectonics – it made me realise that almost everything we talked about had been discovered since I was born, and in fact sea floor spreading and plate tectonics was confirmed and understood after I went to work at the Geophysics Department at Cambridge in 1966 where the work was being done, so I was part of it.  Anyway the children enjoyed it all.  I did some more work on the Wogdon today – I made a silver front sight out of a lump of pure silver that was part of  one of the silver casting sprues  and cut a dovetail slot in the barrel.  I had filed up the sight to  the right size and shape, and I cut the dovetail, intending it to be a bit small so I could adjust the fit of the sight, however I had been too precise in my sizing and the sight fitted exactly but left two very small lines across the joint as I didn’t have any spare metal to adjust the dovetail angles.  Anyway it looks good.  The main (only ?) way in which the parts I have for the pistol differ from an original Wogdon is that all of Wogdon’s duelling pistols had two side screws holding the lock on, whereas the locks I have are fitted with a ‘clip’ on the nose of the lock plate that engages under a screwhead in the lock pocket.  I did wonder whether I should remove the clip and use two screws, but the clip is riveted in and it would probably show a mark if I cut it off. The screw to receive the clip was a pain to install and get right!  My ‘Wogdon’ is also ‘wrong’ in that a silver mounted Wogdon would have had a silver casting of Britania seated on the heel of the butt – if I can find one to take a mould from, I’ll make one..  Anyway its coming along – it needs a few more coats of ‘slacum’ to complete the oil finish, but I thought I’d put those on with the furniture in place to help hide the joints where my inletting is a little less than perfect ( the walnut I was using was a bit open grained and not easy to get very clean cuts – at least that is my excuse…….).  I think the remaining jobs are ;- engrave the name on the barrel and brown it, and remake the ramrod with a better piece of wood, possibly ebony although that is probably not traditional and certainly not Wogdon…plus more slacum……..

I might try to get a better cock, that one is too fancy, and I got the square slightly wrong so there is not a lot of space between the cock and friozzen at half cock.

1st May – Welcome to May and May Day!   Apart from appying more coats of  ‘slacum’ to the Wogdon stock I’ve been engraving a small brass memorial plaque for a bench at the school.  I carefully got some engraver’s brass for this sort of job, but it really is horrible stuff to work with.  I don’t know what I do wrong but it is a beast!  Some of it I do hand push engraving and some I use the GRS tool for.  The worst aspect of it is in the depth control of the tool – if it decides its going to go deeper I tend to loose control of it and have to stop the line.  I’ve tried putting longer heels on the tools, but there is a limit to how big the heels can be before it gets messy round curves… Anyway I’ve finished it now and it doesn’t look too bad but it was painful!  I think my GRS tool is not working properly as I don’t seem to have good control of its intensity and sometimes it stops cutting entirely.  Its really annoying because I can pick up a graver and cut a 2 inch line in steel of uniform depth and width without any problems, but not in brass!  I’ll put up a photo later – at the moment my camera is in the shed ready to photograph a casting session tomorrow – I’ll try to get a good brass casting of my owls – its quite a hefty casting by my past experience – about 300  grams.  I’ve also been ‘inventing’ activities to keep 65 children amused and learning on Tuesday – I’m quite good at coming up with things and I enjoy doing them with the kids, but I’m not used to herding cats, or children, although it has to be said that these are very well behaved and amenable!  Fortunately Dave, my STEM club co-runner, is coming along to help, and there will be teachers and teaching assistants so it will all go smoothly!

30 April – Busy few days – I’ve been trying to make a wax of my little owl carving – I made a silicone mould but filling it with wax has proved more difficult than I expected.  I have been using a 50 ml syringe but its difficult to get the wax hot enough and transfer it to the syringe without something going wrong!  The wax seems to set in the syringe nozzle or the plunger and render it stuck, then when I do manage to inject the wax there are bubbles or voids. Anyway I have now trashed the syringe by trying to heat it….  I think I have got a couple of waxes that I managed to repair, so I’ll have another go at casting in the next couple of days.  My previous attempt to cast the owls went wrong because I put too much borax in the crucible and it ended up in the casting – one lives and learns….   I offered to go into school and gives the year 5s and 6s a talk on earthquakes as that is their topic for this half term and I worked on earthquakes, chasing aftershock swarms, many years ago.  Anyway things escalate,, so I’m now doing it twice, adding years 3 & 4. So that will be 4 sessions and last all day… It will be great to be back in school and see the kids again, its over a year since I was last in school.  And I haven’t given up on the Wogdon pistol!  I’m at the stage of putting the oil finish on the stock, and as anyone who has done it knows, its a very, very long process.  I put on a Van Dyke stain and  a couple of coats of thinned red oil and then a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil plus beeswax plus a little Terberine driers with some talc stirred in.  Each coat is smeared on with a finger and then rubbed off several hours later.  I forgot one coat for two days, so it had gone pretty tough – I was able to get it off with 0000 steel wool lubricated with raw linseed oil and a lot of elbow grease, and that filled the grain fairly well.  I did another coat today and that went tacky in about 6 hours so I rubbed it off with cloth and oil – I have now left it to harden up for a day or two and then I’ll change over to the oil/wax/driers mix without the talc.  It will probably need at least half a dozen coats at one or two a day, possibly more…………..  I’ve been attacking the stump of the walnut tree with my new 20 inch chainsaw – how anyone manages to sell such a beast new for £127 is a mystery to me.  Its very wet inside so the wood is incredibly heavy but there is some beautiful grain along with quite a few splits and patches of rot on the outside.  I should be able to get a few pistol stock blanks out of it, plus some bowl blanks – I’m hoping to turn up a big bowl of about 18 inches diameter – I’ve done it before but its a bit of a struggle, not least because I can hardly lift the blank to get it onto the lathe – My lathe will take it = I did once turn up a mould for a fibreglass shape that was 4 feet across on the back of the headstock.  All good fun.

Not a bad colour, and the grain is filling nicely….

25th April – Yesterday I helped Tom put in a 50m extension to his internet wiring down to his office/workshop – using CAT 5E cable there is no loss of speed at 50 Mbits/sec so all good.  I am back to the Wogdon.  The stock is now ready for finishing – I steamed it to raise the grain and get rid of a couple of small dents, rubbed it down with 800 grit paper and Ive put on a brush coat of VAn Dyke crystals in water with a little ebony water based stain ( it is actually not a stain but a colour pigment, the Van Dyke crystals do make a stain derived from walnuts) and wiped it off with a tissue fairly quickly.  It tones down the rather light wood – it actually looks a bit muddy but the oil finish will get rid of that.  I’m now putting on the first oil coat using boiled linseed oil that has had Alkonet root steeped in it with 50% pure turpentine to dilute it.  I haven’t put driers (Terbine) in this coat as the idea is that it should soak in as much as possible.  The Alkonet root dyes the oil a deep red, which brings out the colour in the rather pale walnut.  I’ll  keep putting on this oil for a while – it won’t stop soaking it up for maybe 24 hours…..  If I had a suitable vessel and enough  oil I might soak the stock in oil for a day or so, but I haven’t, so that isn’t an option.  Here is a photo of the gas cut nipple I mentioned a couple of days ago.  The thread is a little mis-shapen as the original 1/4 by 26 thread in the nipple hole appears to have been recut with a 28 tpi tap.  It is all sorted now using a 9/32 x 26 tpi tap that I ground off to cut to the bottom of the hole which removed all traces of the past threads – it did pick up the thread at the top so kept the old and new thread in sync..  When I made the titanium nipple to fit I used a die that I’d modified to grind off  the usual lead-in by grinding the face against the radius of the wheel to create a concave surface.  I also undercut the top of the threaded portion with a 1.6 mm parting tool. I’m not sure about the material the breech block is made of – it was a bit too easy to recut the thread compared to many breech blocks I have done the same thing to.  I got a comment on this website claiming that I’d breached their copyright with some photos =  it is a well known scam to get you to click on a link which presumably downloads something bad to your computer.  I wish there was a system in place whereby one could report such plishing attempts and have the person sending them cut off from internet access.

 

 

Gas cut nipple

23rd April – Shot the Nock flint conversion at CGC – I managed a dozen shots or so with one misfire (worn flint) , so my hardening of the saw blade frizzen face (without tempering it) was a success. However my weld in the arm of the frizzen opened up – I hadn’t got sufficient weld peretration, I had meant to go over it again but forgot – anyway that is fixable, so it looks like a working gun.  I did manage to hit a few clays, although I was with a group of crack shots and the targets were not exactly easy.  I also noticed that one of the holes I had put in the titanium touchole to accomodate a tool for unscrewing it had opened up into the main touchole and into the larger diameter hole behind the touchhole.  I’m not sure if that was due to a thin web of titanium burning, or just to the effects of the explosive pressure.  Anyway that needs to be sorted – maybe I’ll try a stainless touchhole – a platinum one would be good but a bit on the expensive side!   I had a go at colour case hardening the cock and false breech of the Wogdon – I didn’t give them so long in the furnace so they are not as deep a grey, but still no real colour!  I’m looking for my fine rotary wire brush that got moved when the workshop was a kitchen, so I can try that on them. Photos to follow….

21st April  – Sorry about the absence of diary entries – I had to go down to Cornwall to check out the cottage – we hadn’t been down for two years and its due to be let.  We were greeted by a chunk of  the bathroom wall that had fallen off, ttwo out of three storage heaters not working and a dripping lavatory systern, all to be sorted in 4 days including sourcing 3 new storeage heaters.  I got it done – just!   The current generation of storeage heaters need both off peak and peak electricity as they have a ‘brain’ that controls the amount of heat they take in – all very clever but extra wiring!  When I got back I did a bit of tiling for Tom in his new house – I only got half of it done so left the rest for him to do….   I am going to try the converted Nock flintlock tomorrow – when I finished it a couple of months ago I couldn’t get a spark from the frizzen, but left it.  Since I want to shoot it I cut a bit off a saw blade – an ordinary cheap hand saw and bent it to shape and glued it to the frizzen face with epoxy.  That didn’t spark enough to set off the priming powder regularly, so I took the face off and hardened it and glued it back on – its much better now, although I’m not sure its really up to scratch – anyway I’ll take it tomorrow to Eriswell and see how it goes. ( Or is it CGC – better check… I tried to colour case harden the Wogdon lock in a mix of wood and bone charcoal, heating it up to 760 celsius.  My furnace popped an element and blew the trip but I figured it had had enough time so I tipped it into a bucket of water  – it is as hard as glass now, but came out a pretty uniform dork grey, not what I wanted at all. Anyway I have reduced it to a medium grey with 0000 steel wool – not sure if I will leave it of take the finish off and have another go – I’ll have to sort the furnace, the elements just sit in grooves in the firebricks, and tend to pop out and short on the load in the centre…

 

 

9th April  Tidying up a few odd jobs – engraved the side nail, breech tang screw and cock screw and case hardened them and the barrel bolts to bring them to a less bright tone.  I bit the bullet and engraved the lock plate –  I found it quite difficult engraving all the loops ( ‘o’s, ‘d’ and ‘g’) when I had to cut the left hand side upwards, instead of turning the work and cutting those curves downward  – it means cutting a fairly tight curve clockwise which I don’t find easy – still I did get away with only one small slip that burnished out.  Anyway I think it turned out as good as I could have hoped, and probably as good as some of the Wogdon effors but not as good as the best!  It will do!  Now that just leaves the barrel signature.  I recut the engraving on the cock – it isn’t really a Wogdon style, but the Blackley casting has  quite deep impressions of the engraving, and I figured that I would loose too much metal if I filed it all off, so I recut it – strange style, like nothing I’ve seen before.  I do have a ‘proper’ Wogdon cock on order but I’m not expecting it any time soon.  I used conventional designs for engraving the side nail and cock screw etc – I didn’t use a tudor rose as in the end it didn’t feel appropriate.  I am wondering about the finishing of the lock plate and cock – I will probably heat them up and sprincle a bit of Blackley’s case hardening on them to tone them down a bit.  I did wonder whether to pack them in charcoal and bone charcoal and seal them in stainless foil and fire them in the furnace at 800 C.  I also ought to do something with the false breech as traditionally it would be pretty hard.  One problem with any heat treatments is that there is a danger of too much oxidation leaving scale on the surface, which is a pain to remove…..  Anyway I have to go over to Tom’s new house tomorrow, so limited time to do anything……

 

8th April  I tackled the false breech tang engraving this afternoon – the metal wasn’t particularly friendly but I did the design with a hand graver and cut the background with the GRS – its not as good as some of my trials, but I’m reasonably pleased with it.   A few bits need tidying up and a bit more engraving in front of the sight bar when I can work out what to do.  That just leaves the names to do!  I have done lots of practive Wogdon script signatures and I can do it fairly well on a test plate, and I am fairly good on the spacing (some of Wogdons spacing isnt perfect!)  I d need to sort out the LONDON for the barrel – I can’t make up my mind whether it should be in script or block caps – Wogdon used both at different times.  I incline to block letters…..  The script on the lock presents a bit of a problem as the pan projects into the area from which you might want to cut any strokes going down, so everything will have to be cut upwards – I have practiced a couple of times but its not  perfect yet….  I’m going to have to put the Wogdon  project on hold next week as I have a little secret project for my school – I won’t put it on the website just in case anyone connected sees it – its meant to be a surprise…..  I am also having to spend time helping son Tom, who is moving into a pretty little thatched cottage over the next couple of weeks – I’m definately NOT going to spend 3 month’s working on it as I did his last flat, and Giles’s flat ( & our kitchen), but I said I would do some tiling in the kitchen if he takes the old pink and green tiles off.  I will then think about re-surfacing our drive, which is a mess, and tackling what is known as ‘bedroom 6’ – a junk room with the plaster off the walls and ceiling – probably about 3 months work AGAIN… Oh and I have half a dozen vintage computers to get rid of on ebay….  I thought when one retired one was supposed to take it easy – maybe a little golf occcasionally, read the papers, sit in the sun…………… some hope!  I did actually once try golf at a hospitality w/e at a posh hotel in Norfolk – my first shot landed a couple of feet from the hole, which I thought wasn’t very good, but when I was told it was brilliant I decided  that there was no chance of my ever repeating the feat so I stopped there and then and have never been tempted to try again.   The same thing happened to me with slot machines in pubs – I was desperately bored in London for a navigation exam and idly put  my first ever coin in the slot and won £5 (when that was a useful sum) – I figured I’d  got the maximum profit I was ever likely to get, so I have never been tempted since. Maybe I’m deficient in addictive instincts!

Its not fully in position, the inletting is somewhat better than it looks here! It now needs case hardening to tone it down a bit.

7th April – couldn’t put of the actual engraving any longer!  I did the rear ramrod pipe first – not quite bold enough, I might try recutting it deeper, then the finial, that turned out OK, and the bow of the trigger guard looks OK to me – I didn’t go for one of the very elaborate Wogdon patterns as they have a lot of work in the borders, and I think anyway they look a bit fussy.  I’m currently marking out the false breech tang, and I will probably video that – there is a slight risk that I am distracted by the filming, but I do need something to put in another Wogdon video – we are getting quite close to the end – I might make it to 10 videos with luck….  I am using the GRS Gravermax quite a lot lately for a number of different reasons – I have been using it to remove the backgrounds in my practice false breech tangs as its quicker than the push engraver and its easier to avoid running into the raised bits.  I used it on the finial of the trigger guard as it is much easier to control on curved surfaces as it is easier to follow the  (convex) curves – with push engraving if you judge the curve wrongly or fail to follow it, you skid off into the distance and leave a nasty groove, with the GRS you are not really putting any force on the tool so you don’t skid.  The bow of the trigger guard used both, but again the GRS lets you handle the curvature better.   The false breech tang is pretty tough metal and I’ve only just atarted on it – I used the GRS for putting in the borders – they are long pretty straight cuts so its ideal.  I still don’t think that the results from the GRS are quite right for reproducing antique engraving, but at times its better than making a mess of things as I don’t have the control that an antique engraver would have had. The Wogdon No 6 video is now on the VIDEO page as well as on YouTube.

The cuts on the acorn were easy to cut with the GRS, I’d have found it impossible with a hand  graver due to the curvature.

Too much detail and too light, should have fewer, bolder lines!

6th April – Cold cold cold – its is even snowing here!  I editted Wogdon video No 6 on lost wax casting today and its downloading at the moment – will be another couple of hours….

Link when its loaded ( should be around midnight GMT ).

5th April – More practice engraving today…   I was looking at the statistics of my visitors, which always has me wordering how many are regulars.  I could probably write a script that would tell me how many repeat visits I get, or even download the information and look at it in Excel – I did do it once but it took ages and I’ve forgotten what I did ( or I could just pay a service to do it, as they do for shop sites)…  So I just have to speculate!  Given that there must be around 1 billion people in the world who could look at this website if they chose to, its surprising that the number who visit each day is quite constant – over the last 30 days it averages 155 per day, lowest day being 126 and highest being 172.  Of these around 45 per day come via a Google search, although some people just use the search instead of typing the website address in. The average visitor clicks on around 8 posts. The variation in google searches that lead people to the website is a bit more than the variation in the number of visitors, it averages around 50 and varies from about 35 to 120.  Most visits are from the US, with the UK next followed by China, Germany Russia and France plus just about everywhere else on the planet at some time or another – as you might expect other English speaking countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand are well represented!  A lot of visits are from bots collecting links for search engines and from foreign countries trying the site for weaknesses ( lots of Russian attempts) but I don’t think these are counted as visitors by the software.  My favourite attack was on the post on the Hanovarian conversion of the New Land Pistol, where the comments have had a total of 24000 visits from would be hacking bots, mostly in Russia – fortunately my software defends the site effectively.  The attacks are from a series of ‘bots’ placed on innocent computers by the hacker, that he/she then commands them all  to access the chosen site – I just changed the name of the post and that one stopped.  I can usually spot the bots as they follow certain ‘habits’ that are recognisable as bots – one might be an exact number of tries at the same post from several different computers one after another. I did manage to spot an i.p address that seemed to be the hacker himself as it always came before a swarm of attacks, so I emailed his internet service provider ( you can find out) and it stopped.   All good fun…….

4th April Glorious day if a little cold.  I did a bit of outside work as it was so nice, fixed the chainsaw and got it going with some difficulty and attacked the felled old walnut stump but decided that the noise was too much for a peacful Sunday so I packed that up.  I want to cut the log up but its more than twice the diameter I can reach with my little chain saw, so I might be forced to buy a bigger one.  I was going to get this one serviced but its only a cheap one and the service will cost over half the price of a new cheap one with a big enough cutter bar.  I feel bad about it though – a moral dilemma!  Anyway I reverted to working on the Wogdon – I pinned the ramrod pipes to the stock – not a very elegant job but OK. Pinning the trigger guard was a bit of a mess but I hope to get away with it as its inside the lock pocket…..!  Anyway it is all together now, except, I just realised, for the foresight.  Now its is ready for finishing – I’ll have to sand it down a bit as its rather grubby from all the handling, and it has gathered a few slight dings but nothing that won’t come out with a little steaming.  That means that I can’t keep pushing the engraving to one side!  I will have to have another quick run through Wogdon’s signature for the barrel, and another go at doing it for the lock where I can only get access from the bottom and ends of the signature as the frizzen is in the way.  As I’ll strip down the pistol to finish the stock I can do the engraving before putting it all together again.  Penny asked if I was going to feel like doing the second one when I’d finished this one.  The answer is maybe I’ll leave it as a project for next winter -if I have any ‘indoor’ time before then I might make a case.  I do need to do a little piece of casting for the children at ‘my’ school as a thank you for a lovely card they sent me before the holidays.

Sorry about the poor photo, its late!

3rd April  – I had my second Pfizor Covid jab a couple of days ago and it left me feeling a bit sluggish (or else it was something else).  Anyway I set too and made another wax for the rear ramrod pipe as I was able to get the muzzle end one and the side nail collar out of the ‘failed’ casting of 30th.  I made the investment and cast it yesterday – I was determined that the metal would be hot enough to flow well into the investment so I think I pushed all the temperatures up a bit – anyway I got a complete silver casting.  The surface finish wasn’t very good but the slight roughness was only superficial  and as I needed to file all the surfaces to fit it , it wasn’t a problem and the result is perfect for my requirements.  I think from looking at the web for casting faults, my problem was related to temperature – I may have got the invstment too hot while melting out the wax so it boiled, or I had the flask too hot when I poured the cast….. still, no harm done.  Today I filed up the casting and inletted it and the front pipe – it took me most of the day!  Anyway that is now all the bits of that  Wogdon pistol ready to go, I just have to put in the pins through the stock for the trigger guard and the pipes..  If I ever manage to get my hands on a real  Wogdon with the Wogdon cast silver butt cap I might make a mould of it and cast one, but for the time being I will leave the butt unadorned.  I went to visit Dick yesterday – I hadn’t seen him for ages and he is in the middle of moving, but he showed me a Wogdon pistol that looks very similar to mine and the ones in the book, only the barrel seems a bit light.  It is pretty much a wreck – Dick was trying to buy it but seems to have ended up offering to restore it for rather less than I thought  would have been reasonable – its missing a cock, etc, the slide safety is broken off, the rear ramrod pipe and ramrod are missing and there are several cracks in the stock and a great chunk under the barrel is missing, plus the rest of the stock is dented where someone used it as a hammer? I would take me at least a week to fix……  Part of the consideration when pricing jobs like that is in estimating the added value of your work, since it’s possible that the client is going to try to make as much profit from your work as they can!  I am always careful to explain to clients when work they want done is going to cost more than the value gain – they often still go ahead for personal reasons, but I think its important to be up front with the information.  In the case of this pistol there is some ‘headroom’. 

 

30th March – I did the 4th casting attempt today with silver but it didn’t flow well into the investment, partly because I forgot to turn the vacuum on, but also I think the silver maybe wasn’t quite hot enough – there are ‘crease marks’ in some places  ( it was pure silver so 1050C melting point) .  Anyway it failed to fill the rather thin shell round the breech end  ramrod pipe.  I can salvage the muzzle end pipe – it is fairly chunky and has metal I can file off.  I also got the cup for the side nail that is OK, so that just leaves one ramrod pipe to do!  I may just try to mount the failed one to see how it would fit, then I can make the next wax with a bit more certainty that it will fit…..  I did a bit more engraving practice for the false breech tang – it is coming along – I made a tool for marking the borders out of two needles glued into a small piece of fine copper tube spaced about 1.5 mm apart………  Tomorrow we are having a bit of a family gathering to fell the stump of the old walnut tree, followed by a barbeque.. I am hoping that there will be some good wood for stocks in the stump – its well (12 year) seasoned but of course wet, but by the autumn 3 inch thick planks will have dried out a bit…..

29th March  – Didn’t take advantage of the lockdown relaxation, but I might go and see Dick some time this week.   I’m now ready for the casting of ramrod pipes in silver tomorrow, then I will be able to do the final shaping of the stock and start fitting and engraving the parts – exciting!  I had a go at engraving something to put on the tang of the false breech – Wogdon  seems to have allowed his engraver a free hand in the design for is tangs – each pair has a different disign, so following in that tradition I won’t try to copy one of his.  When I’ve engraved gun bits for Fred in the US he usually asks me to come up with a design that is like an original design but different – I tend to think that means that while it takes the general form of period engraving it is sufficiently different that someone used to looking at originals would not confuse it as an original.  I though that was a good basis for the tang, and I wanted to include a bit of a 3D effect – sometimes seen on old engravings but rare. Anyway this is what I came up with – the two bits are part of the same tang – I just did the screws differently – I’m quite partial to the Tudor rose ( yes, I know the centre is too big!), but its more likely to be used on a modern gun than and antique (? A Stephen Grant ?) I’m not sure how the metal of the tang will cut, so may need to simplify the design.  I have been using the GRS pneumatic graver for cutting out the background – I am getting a bit better at not letting it run away with me….

Some work still to be done on the ‘folding’.

28th March – I’m writing this while waiting for the investment to cool to 500 degrees C ready for pouring – I had it up to 730 C   (1350F) for 3 hours or so to cure(? bake?) the investment.  The chemistry of the investment is interesting – it mostly seems to consist of a silica – crystobalite, plus, I guess, other magic stuff!  Crystobalite is one of those silica minerals that can give you silicosis and in the investment its finely ground, so I am very careful mixing and using it – one its wet or solid its OK.  I did a couple of small jobs today while waiting for the casting – I have made a proper job of the false breech tang screw and filed it in, plus I made another cock screw – I think it isnt quite right, so I may just trim it up a bit in the lathe – Wogdon’s cock screws have a quite large flange with a curve up to the top, which is fairly small – mine didn’t have quite a large enough flange, I think.  Its difficult to get these things right from not very clear photos and with little in the way of measurements, but if it isn’t right when you’ve made it, it shouts at you that its wrong!  So I got everything ready for casting – fixed the propane burner torch in a bit of a stand with an adjustable flame control so I didn’t have to keep waving it around – got the flask on the vacuum table ready and the brass red hot and sparkling in the crucible, and remebered that you were supposed to heat it for a minute more after you think it is ready, so I did… When I poured into the flask it looked lumpy and I thought it was not hot enough again, but I poured as much as I could in.  I was pretty sure I had another dud, but when the metal was no longer visibly hot I dunked the flask in a bucket of water and swished it round to disolve the investment, then felt around to recover any casting bits…..   Much to my surprise/relief all of the cast was complete and good – there were three tiny bubbles on one bit – much smaller than a pin head and easily filed off , but even the file marks from a No 6 file on my waxes were visible, and as far as I can see, no detail was lost, so I feel reasonably confident to try the silver casting – after all I can always remelt it and start over.

Straight out of the flask with a quick brush with a fine wire brush in the battery drill to get rid of the investment

I haven’t done any further shaping as that would wait for fitting if I was going to use them – which I don’t plan to.

27th March – I cracked the bubbling investment problem this morning – I was wondering where the bubbles kept appearing from and wondered if at the very low pressure generated by the vacuum pump, the water in the mix was evaporating – i.e. the water was ‘boiling’. So I put a glass of tap water in the vacuum chamber and after a few seconds it started to bubble, and carried on more or less without stopping for as long as I watched – the same happened with deionised water.  In both cases I’m sure the volume of air coming out was much more than was disolved in the water (just realised I should have tried boiled water too).  Also as soon as I shut off the vacuum pump – the vacuum in the chamber was more or less unchanged as the chamber is very well sealed, it will hold a vcuum for hours – the bubbles stopped instantly.  I guess the water vapour pressure builds, or the slight change in pressure is enough to stop the ‘boiling’.  Whatever the physics, I now know that you achieve nothing by waiting until the bubbling stops – it doesn’t!  The reason I got big bubbles in my first try was that I was still pumping vacuum as the investment set, so the bubbles were trapped. Anyway I did my investment and baked it out over 9 hours as per the instructions, and heated 100 grams of brass.  Unfortunately I didn’t get the brass quite hot enough when I poured it and it solidified as I started to pour, filling the feeder of the flask – so a write off!  I have scheduled another try for tomorrow using a couple of gash waxes and brass!  I had the video camera set to record that one, which is always a mistake – I should get things to work before trying to film them – not sure if the camera distracts me or its just bad juju, but I will avoid filming new things in future!  Anyway I have remade the ramrod pipe waxes to be better copies of the Wogdon ones and will do a silver cast of both pipes together when I’ve had a sucessful brass cast!  Oh, and I got the trigger guard back from the Edinburgh Assay office with a row of tiny hallmarks deeply impressed, so if I need to reshape the tang I still have a bit of metal to play with.

 26th March I’m itching to get to the silver casting stage!  I did another mix of investment, taking care to get the invest,ment powder and tap water more or less at room temperature –  I followed the instructions and thought it was continuing to bubble for a bit longer than I expected, but I stopped the vacuum and poured the investment into a couple of yoghurt pots and it went solid in about 30 minutes from the start – there were no bubbles in the pots, so maybe that has cracked it.  Some of the instructions say use deionised water, so I got 5 litres later – it has the advantage that it can be kept in the house at room temperature – today’s investment mix was just a bit cooler than ideal but near.  I didn’t cast anything this time.   I made another breech end ramrod pipe as when I came to look at the two I’d made, they seemed a bit heavy and large.  Anyway that freed up one of the earlier ones for an experimental cast with brass tomorrow.  The 5th video is now up and running. I noticed that my video on how to strip a flint lock has had 1500 views – that’s good. I’ve been trying various ideas for engraving the false breech – I quite like the idea of doing arcanthus leaves with some 3D  feel to it, plus perhaps a shell? 

25th March  I cleaned up the brass ramrod loop just to see if it would be OK – I decided that the casting is accurate enough that I can make the waxes as exact replicas, and bypass the need to file them up.  I am now left with several jobs to do on the Wogdon that are more or less irreversible, and so require a lot of psycing up to tackle – mostly the engraving of the lock, barrel and trigger guard bow and finial. Edinburgh Assay office rang me and asked for another £12 – so  its cost me £27 to get the trigger guard hallmarked, which I suppose is OK, we will see what it looks like when it comes back shortly.  Wogdon’s silver trigger guard bow engraving varied from the elaborate with very fine egg and dart borders and a floral motif with cut out background  to a very plain floral pattern in the middle of an plain bow – I will probably make a better job of the latter so will go with that – beside which I prefer it.  The cock I found is an old Blackley casting with some quite decent engraving cast into it – its a rather strange design – almost abstract but not unpleasant.  I could file it off and leave the cock plain or put on some other engraving, but I incline just to recut what is there, in which case I’ll steal a bit of the design for the tail of the lock…..    I tackled my Wogdon 5 video – the version I uploaded to YouTube has the first section blank 0 I’m not sure what happened as the video editor also blanks the first part and gives incomprehensible messges – anyway I’ve tried to generate a new one and will upload that when its finished.  I’ve got a couple more test runs to do before I dare to cast up the silver ramrod pipes – that involves aroumd £80 worth of silver, although I can probably salvage most of it if the castings go wrong…  I will put my investment powder in a warm place tonight and use distilled water at room temperature to eliminate those as possible problems causing the bubbles and slow going off.

24th March  Disaster last night – I went out to check and turn off my furnace with the  investment being baked out, only to find that the heating element had become dislodged and shorted and broken.  I left it til this morning to tackle, which meant stripping out the old element and putting in a new one – then I hunted out an  A.C. voltage controller – a little electronic gadget, so I could under-run the element as it has more than enough power for getting up to 730C – it has a PID controller as well but I wanted to stop the element getting so hot..  That done I baked out the investment some more, then let it cool to about 460 for a couple of hours – that’s the temperature for fillling it.   I’d bought a propane blowlamp for melting the brass – wow – made my butane torch look pathetic, anyway I poured the molten brass and had a problem with the vacuum pump and so didn’t put a vacuum on the investment until the metal had solidified. You then take the very hot flask and investment etc and as soon as the metal is no longer glowing red hot dunk it in a bucket of water, at which the investmetnt falls out and leaves the brass object to be cleaned etc,,,,,,  Much to my surprise the casting had filled and picked up all the details from the wax impression!  There were plenty of lumps where bubbles had formed in the investment, which I was expecting, but those are additions and can be filed off, so if it had been a (much) more carefully made wax, and cast in silver it would have been usable.  But I do need to find out what went wrong with the mixing and degassing of the investment.  I did buy 18 insulating firebricks to make another furnace for melting the metal, but given how vicious the blowtorch is I don’t really need one.  Oh and the Wogdon Project video 5 is on Youtube and in the VIDEOS page here – if you do watch it to the endyou’ll see some nasty looking injuries to my knuckles – I got those not from some dangerous engineering activity, but from making tea!  The AGA lid fell on my hand as I held the kettle handle!   Just goes to show you never know where danger lurks – be warned…….. Video link to Wogdon Project 5 is https://youtu.be/-_n6Unq1Ro4   Seems to be a problem with the first part of the video… will need to look into it tomorrow……

 

Vacuum chamber for degassing investment and stand for flask for sucking metal into the investment.

Apart from the add-on bubbles, the defects in the quickly made wax are faithfully reproduced !   Success, up to a point….

23rd March..  I’ve been busy on the project – getting sorted to make the ramrod pipes using lost wax casting.  Now I am puzzled!  I did what one does nowadays – googled lost wax casting, looked at loads of YouTube how to videos and manufacturers recommendations, so I thought I knew what to expect!  The wax ‘models’ have to be set in ‘investment’ effectively a special plaster that makes a cast round them, which sets, is heated to melt out the wax, then heated to 730C to drive out the wax residues and prepare the investment for pouring the molten metal.  All the advice says you have 9 minutes to mix the investment (powder and water) and set it in a vacuum chamber to bubble, then when it stops to pour it into the flask round the wax, then vacuum that, after which the investment should go more or less solid at minute 9 or 10 and  you can begin to heat it after a couple of hours of hardening etc…   Well,  I did the mixing, then put it in the vacuum chamber where it carried on bubbling for about 45 minutes, thern poured it into the flask and put it back in the chamber and it didn’t seem inclined to stop bubbling – eventually I think it stopped bubbling because it got too stiff  after about an hour… I am sure the investment is now full of  holes where bubbles didn’t have the energy to rise through the thickening investment…  So what went wrong?  The investment powder is new and should be fine, the water was tap water, the vacuum was around -30 inches of Hg, so good – the only thing I can think of is that it is quite cold in my workshop and the powder was also cold………..  Anyway I have gone ahead with heating it up to 730 degrees to bake it out.. all the messing about means it is too late to finish tonight, so I;’ll turn off the kiln and restart it in the morning, so I can pour at about lunch time with luck.  I have to say I’m not expecting much luck, but fortunately this is only a dummy run and I’ll cast in brass to save the silver I have.  I will have to do some trial investments into plastic pots so I can see if I can get things right before I try any more waxes – I can just saw them open and look for bubbles…..     I will try to keep everything at a better temperature and might use distilled water if there is any in the tumble drier!   I have done the next video – No 5 – I will upload it asap, it usually takes 24 hours.

17th March – Managed to take a few photos to p[ut in the blog today….  One unusual feature of Wogdon’s duelling pistols was his ramrods.  When he made a pair of  duelling pistols (all pistols were normally sold in pairs) one had a plain ramrod with a horn tip, and the other had a powder measure/loading cup on one end and a ball pulling screw on the other’ . The  meausure/loader was a substantial feature, although how useful it actually was, I don’t know, although I suspect not very!    The purpose of the rod end was twofold – it provided a powder measure so that the charge loaded was always exactly right, and it allowed the loader to insert the powder right into the breech rather than pour it down the barrel from the muzzle (you hold the pistol muzzle down and insert the rod fully, then turn them muzzle up).  This technique is common in competition muzzle loading rifle shooting as it keeps the powder from contamination and losses in the barrel, but I would question how important an exact charge is in a duelling pistol that is normally snap shot.  It probably indicates that duelling pistols were used more often for target shooting in galleries than duelling.  Anyway, I need one for my Wogdon recreation, so I thought I’d quickly make a tryout to workout how to do it.  I figured that I could get away with a 6.1 mm hole in the measure, which let me use a 9/32 x 26 BSF thread.  I should have screwed the two parts together before I tapered them, but I cut them separately, setting the top slide to about 1.5 degrees of taper, which I calculated would be right. Because of holding constraints I cut the tapers on the two parts in different directions , setting the adjustable top slide as near as I could in each direction.  As it was a trial  I didn’t spend a lot of time on the details – it was just to make something to check the ramrod pipes and groove before I got too far with the finishing.  Having said that, it turned out much better than I deserved! I checked how much powder the measure holds – around 0.7 drams – probably a bit low, I would have guessed 1 dram as a good load…..but I was using shotgun powder, not the fine pistol powder so that might account for the difference, or at least some of it.  I made another wax ramrod pipe – I’m still waiting for the investment powder H S Walsh rang me and said the parcel had been returned to them by the carrier with some bits missing, so they are sending another.    

Reversed for loadng

16th March.  Time I put up a few photos, must take some tomorrow!   I was looking at Tony Gibbs-Murray’s book ‘British Gunlock Makers’ last night – it has a lot of useful information relating to the gunlock industry, mostly percussion and later.  I did know that most lock parts were hammer forged not cast, casting requires higher temperatures than could be readily achieved by most small workshops as you have to melt the iron, whereas forging is done at red heat, and he shows a few examples of hand  forged parts.  Two things struck me, the first is how cluttered the lockmakers benches looked in the photos from years ago – made me feel much better about my own bench. The other was in the detailed description of making a mainspring – they had a nifty jig for putting the bend in them – I would copy it if I did enough mainsprings,  The account said that when filed up, the spring would be opened on a bunsen burner to allow the inside faces to be polished.  The test of a good, finished, spring was that if the ends were forced together the tapering of the spring arms should be such that a 20 thou feeler gauge could just be run all the way between the two leaves.  That does make sense of the shaping of mainsprings, along with the need to avoid contact with the barrel.  I started to look at making a top jaw for the cock of the Wogdon, but the more I looked at the cock that came with the pistol parts, the less I thought it fitted,  Holding it up against the 1:1 photo of the pistol I’m recreating it was definately a bit too small.  As luck would have it, my box of spare castings collected over the ages produced one that fitted the photo perfectly – I think it was  one of Kevin Blackley’s rejects as it had some blemishes, but it cleaned up OK.  I drilled and tapped for the top jaw screw, using 1 B.A. as 12 UNF was a bit big and 10 UNF a bit small, and then made a quick cock screw and filed up the top jaw that was part of the cock casting – OK except that I didn’t look at the Wogdon top jaw screw and used the design from the Hutchinson, so I’ll need to change that sometime.  I then had to file the square hole for the tumbler shaft – The way I do it is as follows:-  Find the lowest workable position for the arm on the tumbler, this was before the tumbler hit its end stop and when the spring contacting arm is not running into the edge of the lock pocket – I fixed the tumbler in this position with a small wedge of wood. In this position the cock stop should just be hitting the top edge of the lock.  I cut a neat hole in a card to exactly fit the tumbler square, then take it off and apply isocyanate adhesive and activate it – this makes the card  round the hole rigid.  Now refit the card on the tumbler square and mark the top edge of the lock where the cock stop will hit and draw an extended line along one side of the tumbler square with a ruler.  Now cut the card along the mark for the top edge of the lock and pin prick points along the extended line.  Now you can put the card on the back of the cock over the preliminary hole you’ve drilled in the cock, with the cock stop on your cut line and prick through the extended line onto the back of the lock – you now have your reference for the square to be filed.  This assumes that the stop on the cock was in the right place, of course – it was in this case!  Once ithe cock is nearly fitted, I squeeze it in the lead covered jaws of the vice to swage it onto the tumbler.   Job done….

15th March.  Later.  The Wogdon is beginning to look like a pistol at last. I’m waiting for the form to send off the trigger guard to be hallmarked in Edinburgh, and getting on with the rest of the work.  My intention is to cast the ramrod pipes in silver using the lost wax method so I’ve been making models out of carving wax.  With care it is possible to turn bars of the wax on a lathe, so I’ve been casting bars in bits of plastic conduit.  I made the breech end pipe – its rather large, but it can be filed down when its cast, although that is a bit expensive in silver – I reckoned it will weigh about 45 grams at around £1 per gram!  Anyway I have to find a way of making them!  I also need to make the cup for the head of the side nail in silver – I might try a cuttlefish casting for that, and then glue it onto a rod and turn it to shape:?…  I need to finish off a few jobs on the lock too – I found a couple of frizzen springs that almost fit – the locks have the holes drilled for frizzen springs I don’t have, and they were about 1 mm closer together than the springs I do have.  Its really difficult to re-make holes that are almost right as it involves drilling into the edge of the old hole – in practice it is not even worth trying!  In this case I was able to put a 5 mm end mill through the lock plate in the correct position for the new frizzen screw hole and take out the old 3.2 mm hole completely.  I then hammered a slightly tapered (1 degree) peg into the hole and fused it very lightly on the inside with the welder.  I was then able to put the new hole through the centre of the plug.  If I had been confident I’d have drilled the plug in the lathe with a pilot hole.  Anyway, I drilled the frizzen spring and tapped it No 4 UNF and made a small countersink screw and it all fitted – I cleaned up the spring and hardened and tempered it and it all works well – the boss on the frizzen spring exactly covers the plug I put in, so it doesn’t show..  The early Wogdon frizzens  had a very small roller in the lobe that runs on the spring – it works without the roller, but I will probably fit one for authenticity!  As far as the locks are concerned that leaves me with a top jaw and top jaw screw to make, and the cock to bend a little to clear the flash guard.   At some point I need to make the ramrod fittings, but I guess that can wait till the pipes are installed.  I waited ages before I began to shape the stock,  now I have to wait ages before I can start to apply finish……..

15th March.  The next Wogdon Project 4 video is on YouTube at

Video link
 
Work proceeds at pace, and the videos lag a bit because of the crash and re-install of  the desktop computer I use for editting – the blog I can do from my laptop…  More later today…..

12th March.   A day of further shaping of the stock (and shopping etc) so I’m now beginning to think that it is approaching its final state.  Today I made the barrel bolts to hold the barrel through the loops I put in under the barrel.  There are (at least) three ways to make barrel bolts – you can heat up a suitable strip of metal and hammer a head on it, you can build up a large blob of weld on the end of the strip, or you can take a sheet of thicker metal and mill either side to leave the head at the end.  All ways end up filing it to shape.  If I have a suitable thickness of strip I normally use the welding method, as I did with the Wogdon – I begin to think ‘blob welding’ is a speciality of mine.  If not, or for larger barrel bolts I machine down a strip and file up the heads.  Any way you then have to cut a fine slot down the middle, which I do by drilling a few small holes of 1.2 mm diameter and fretsawing between them with a very fine blade.  My thinnest files are about 0.9 mm thick so I can usually get a start, but otherwise a fine disk on the Dremel lookalike will get you started.   Depending on the slope of the stock the head will be filed at an angle – the one near the muzzle has a distinct slope, the rear one is pretty straight. Anyway that is another job done.  The bolts can be adjusted by filing the loops or slightly bending the bolts until the barrel is held and the bolts don’t fall out.  The ones I made need a bit more tidying up, and the heads are probably a bit on the bold side, but they can always be filed down.  I made a list of all the jobs still to be done apart from finishing the stock and engraving the lock, barrel, false breech and trigger guard I have to sort out the ramrod, pipes and ends etc.  I got to thinking about Wogdon’s manufactory and the work involved in making one of these pistols.  It is thought that Wogdon and most London Gunmakers bought their locks in, probably from Birmingham, and that probably included the set triggers ( see the Wogdon book for this opinion)  They may well have bought in the steel furniture.  They certainly bought in all the silver furniture as Gunmakers were not allowed to work in Silver, and it’s always stamped with a silversmith’s mark.  Wogdon made his own barrels as his method of getting them to shoot accurately (a false belief) was a secret and involved putting a very precise bend in the bore – how he did this is not known, but probably involved bending red hot barrels round a jig (I won’t be emulating that!).  He also put his engraving out to an engraver – at some point to William Palmer.  So by making the silverwork and doing the engraving myself I’m doing work that Wogdon didn’t do. I discovered today that the person I had been sitting next to last March at interviews for a new head teacher developed Covid 19 at about the same time as I did – I wonder who gave it to who? I also  saw research that said that if you delay the second dose for people with my CLL its only 11% effective – depressing!  On a more optimistic note I ‘won’ an auction for a vacuum chamber and pump on ebay so I am committed to going down the vacuum investment road – besides, a 22Kg bag of investment powder arrives next week!  I did plan to make a manual pump and a chamber, but when I got to thinking about how many days it would take to do a half a***d job I figured a bid was a good option.

Barrel bolts and pins to hold furniture ALWAYS enter from the left.

10th March.  More remedial work – the AGA (oil fired cooker) died, or at least was in its death throws.  It happens from time to time as its a very primitive machine.  The filter clogs up every time the tank is refilled as it stirs up sediment, but I did that last week. The other regular problem is the burner which needs de-coking to get rid of a buildup of carbon and gunk.  It is just an open wick system so it just needs the burner taken out ( one union) and a long drill rod put up the oil pipe and the carbon chipped out of the oil reservoir –  takes about 45 minutes but the AGA needs to cool down first, and then get up to temperature again.  All done by lunchtime.  I made a test barrel bolt yesterday and got both slots working, so I felt entitled to get on with shaping the stock at last.   I rough shaped the butt on my belt sander and did the rest with Japanese wood files and old metal files The expensive wood files are OK on some directions of cut but difficult on others, and don’t leave as smooth a finish as I had been led to believe – not my idea of a bargain!  Anyway I got all the preliminary shaping done so most of the excess wood is removed and the shape is basically defined.  I then sanded with 120 and 240 so that I could see any faults and also run my fingers over the surface – touch is much better at exploring the shape than sight on wood where the surface has grain and is matte.  I did a bit of detailed work around the lock, but there is more to do, and I haven’t yet filed in the false breech or the trigger guard tang, plus I think there are a few minor shaping issues.  The Wogdon duelling pistols were unusual in the shape of the butt – the book helpfully gives the dimensions of each pistol – the one I am working from has a very wide end to the butt – I have made it a bit smaller than the width given but its still a lot bigger than most of the duelling pistols of that era – the Hutchinson is very slim by comparison.  It is all coming together now and looking good – I am left with tackling the ramrod pipes – Giles has 3D printed one in PLA that should be usable in an investment casting, and I’m going to try to make some in wax tomorrow.  Then I have to make a vacuum chamber and get or make some form of  vacuum pump and get my furnace going and find a decent gas torch.  I’ll try and do a video of the casting……

9th March.  Had a chance to minister to my ailing desktop PC in its agony.  Turned out to be not so bad, although rather long winded. A quick ‘Google’ (on my laptop) got me to the Microsoft site that offered a download that would make a USB stick that could be used to boot up the defunct beast.  My only problem was finding an empty USB stick with enough space on it.  But it all worked, and to my surprise there was no requirement to show that the computer had a legitimate copy of Windows 10.  It seems as if Microsoft has such a big and solid chunk of the market that they have dropped the paranoia over licenses, thank goodness. The downside of reloading Windows is that it lost all my installed programs, but as the alternative to breathing life into that machine would have been to buy a new one, I was no worse off, and saved £500.  Looking at Hallmarking the trigger guard I saw that you need to register with an ‘Assay House’ (London, Birmingham, Chester or Edinburgh) and have your own mark made at a total cost of a couple of hundred pounds!  Anyway a quick phonecall to Edinburgh Assay House provided the information that I could get up to  two items hallmarked without registering at a more reasonable cost ( probably about £25 including return postage) – not sure if the other Houses do the same deal.  I am homing in on shaping the stock, and finishing off a number of small jobs that need to be done before then, including fixing the false breech with a screw I have already made (No 8 UNC) and making and fitting the barrel bolts.  I guess I ought to pin the trigger guard in place, but I may leave that as I might want to inlet it a bit more when the shaping is finished.  Idly reading the Wogdon book after dinner, as one does, I spotted that most of the duelling pistols actually pin the trigger guard tang through the butt, as I was expecting.  The one I’m basing mine on seems to be an oddity in that I can’t see any trace of a pin.  If I hadn’t had the Hutchinson to hand I would probably have pinned it, but the hook is good – they were hooked under a tab let into the butt, but I used a screw with a large flat head to engage the hook, which has the great advantage that I can readily adjust the holding by screwing the screw in or out 1/4 turn.  In the background I’m thinking about how I will cast the ramrod pipes in silver using a lost wax process – I will have to make a setup to do it, possibly using vacuum casting  – I have already ordered the powder to make the investment moulds so no going back………. Oh, and I checked in Kaye and Laby – the physicists bible – and discovered that silver is the most thermally conductive metal bar none – I had a feeling it might be….

8th March.  Unfortunately my desktop computer is terminally ill and will need some serious attention when I get time.  Has fun getting the hook made for the tang of the trigger guard, and then getting it to work properly.  Then the real fun was silver soldering the parts of the trigger guard together.  Holding them in place while I soldered them required a jig, so I used the original trial stock I had made and cut slots for the tang tab and the finial tab and wired both to the stock after cutting out a piece in the middle around where I had to solder.  There were three little problems in soldering!  1) my torch is really not man enough for the job. 2) silver has a very high thermal conductivity so lots of heat runs away up the bow which is a good radiator of heat. 3) wood is inflammable. Anyway I managed it, only the tang and finial ended up about 3 mm too close to fit the stock, so I had to resolder the tang joint.  Altogether a major trauma!   But its done and after a whole lot of cleaning up of oxide and flux etc it looks good.  I have been looking up details of getting it hallmarked – a legal requirement if you want to describe it as silver.  So at some point it will have to go off to an Assay Office to be Hallmarked at a cost of about  £24.  The original £130 worth of silver is now about £75 worth due to shaping, much of it ending up on the floor in fine filings – if it was gold it would probably be worth carpeting the workshop and burning the carpets!  Next job is probably shape the tang when the stock is shaped, then polish and send for hallmarking, then engrave. I’m not sure where to have the hallmarks put – possibly on the inside of the bow? Some old guns had them in conspicuaous places, occasionally they were inside, but, I think, not often?

7th March.  My desktop computer is trying to repair itself –  it tells me it will take over an hour!  Hope it hasn’t trashed all my videos. I am editing g this on my tablet. I was a bit concerned that my trigger guard wasn’t authentic, but when I rechecked with the Wogdon photos I found that the shape and single rolled edge were in fact correct.  I roughly filed the trigger  guard tang to curved profile and bent it and inlet it, then had a look on the photo and the Hutchinson to see  where the pin that held the tang in was positioned, but couldn’t see any pins so I took the finial fixing pin out of the Hutchinson to see how the whole trigger guard came out. Turned out the tang is held by a hook similar to the hook used to hold the tang of the butt cap on long guns. I must have known this once –  I’m sure I had the Hutchinson to pieces years ago. Anyway I got a bit of scrap silver and made a tab and silver soldered it onto the tang in the  middle.  I was being particularly stupid and left the lead jaws in my vice while I soldered. That made a bit of a mess and got some lead on the silver.   Now need to cut a slot for the tab and make something for the tab to hook under.  I had a thought that it would be fun to make the stock for the second pistol out of the walnut tree that is now just a stump.  It was taken down 20 years ago as it had honey fungus but the wood inside seems fine and should be well seasoned although very wet. When I was doing a lot of wood turning I used to ‘season’ wood in the microwave –  You could take green wood, rough turn it, give it half a dozen bursts in the microwave till its moisture content was reduced enough by weight, and it was then completely stable for finishing.  You just have to be careful not to scorch the wood as it can get too hot.

6th March – Last post was after midnight yesterday.  Made good progress with the trigger guard bow as well as a weekend job of attacking the stump of the rotten walnut tree with a chainsaw as its about to fall down (the stump is 10 ft tall) – at the moment its clad in almost a foot of old Ivy and bark and rotting wood that is stopping me get at the remaining strong part. .  I bent up the bow round a selection of mandrels, it took a while to get right as when I got one end right, the other end was wrong!  In the end I think I got a reasonable shape!  Putting the rolled edge on wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated because the curvature allowed most of it to be put on with a straight flat file with one dead edge with minimal work with the riffler files.  It has quite bold rolled edges – I might fine them down a bit, the originals usually had two rolls, the outer larger one and a fine one inside, but I am not sure that my techniques will allow that degree of refinement and I’d rather end up with something that looked smooth and workman like rather than mess it up – we’ll see!   I am happy to leave the bow for the moment while I do the tang and inlet it, then I can see how they solder together, and see if the bow needs any more work before joining the bits.  It will need a decent bit of engraving, but I can’t really do that until I’ve soldered the parts, as the oxide layer from the heat needs to be cleaned off and that would degrade the engraving.  An interesting thought- on Tuesday the Rijksmuseum put a super detailed (40 GByte) photo of Rembrant’s ‘The Night Watch’ on its website ( google ‘The Night watch’).  Apart from the fact that it was called that late in its life because the varnish had darkened it, I was interested to note that the soldier holding the matchlock has his finger down the barrel!  Everything in a Rembrant painting has a meaning – what is the reason for that detail?  Incidentally the gun  is a matchlock with a lever tricker (later ‘trigger’)and appears to have a rather elaborate brass match holder.  Have a look, the photo is an amazing piece of technology in its own right.  Oh, and my blog has now had over 3 million visits since I started it……………

6th March  Sorry for the gap in posts – I’ve been busy on the pistol  and am now making the trigger guard from sheet silver, which is interesting.  I realised I hadn’t ordered enough silver to make the tabs on the back of the finial and tang so I thought I’d cast up some scraps  into a flat sheet and use that.  I had bought a small crucible and a graphite mould from ebay so I got out my small oxy/gas torch and had a go…. I can just about melt the silver but only just, so when I come to pour it, it solidifies as I pour it out – still I did get a bit that I was able to flatten out on the anvil and make a tab with.  I soldered it on the back of the finial that I had filed up with ‘easy’ (680 degree) silver, but after I had done that I realised that I will have to solder the bow of the trigger guard too the finial near to that joint – I should have done the first joint with a higher temperature silver solder so it doesn’t melt when I do the second – I’ll have to try to keep the first joint cool somehow….  I’m generating lots of silver filings, but can’t find a good way of collecting them – it goes against the grain to start with 40 grams of silver and end up with 20 – luckily the price of silver had gone down to £1.09 a gram when I finally bought it, rather than the £1.20 it reached a couple of weeks ago.  The spring I made last week works very well and looks good – I now have to make the frizzen spring or adapt the castings I have – they are an almost perfect fit, but that creates a difficulty because there are two holes in the lock plate, for the fixing screw and the peg, and the distance between the holes is just about half a peg diameter less than the separation on the castings – thats a problem – as I can’t just drill a new hole – I think I’ll probably drop a 2 or 3 mm end mill over the existing peg hole covering both the old and new hole positions and  then peen in a peg and weld it on the back, that will let me drill a new hole in ‘clear’ metal. An alternative would be to make a spring from scratch – I have done it, but its easier with slightl bigger springs as it involves welding the bit for the fixing screw….. Looking at the lock again, I see that the peg hole is pretty near the hook on the back of the lock that holds the front of the lock in place, so there isn’t a lot of room to weld… Maybe think again… Doing this pistol is one long adaptive process!   I finally got round to pruning this blog and transferring last year’ stuff to a separate post so the scrolling works better….

Bits of the trigger guard in various stages.  Finial still needs a bit of work and then engraving…

27th February – difficult to believe that ten days ago it was freezing!   Bit the bullet and made a mainspring for the Wogdon lock – it fits and looks OK and the lock seems to work but I lent my infrared thermometer to Tom so I couldn’t do the hardening and tempering safely, so I avoided playing with it too much.  I cut a strip off a circular saw blade for the next one, but that is only just over 2 mm thick so its slightly thinner than I would have liked.  I do have one piece of 3 mm spring steel left but I like to keep that in reserve!  I was trying to find suitable strip on the web without much joy – however there is one spring steel supplier that claims it will supply small quantities so I’ll try them on Monday – I’ll also ring Kevin and see if my a miracle he has some in stock. I keep looking at the Wogdon stock and itching to start the rounding, but I have to finish getting the profile in plan and elevation right before I can do that, or else I am just making problems for myself.  I reckon there are a couple of mm to come off each side of the barrel area in plan, which will make drilling for the barrel bolts a bit less risky. ………  I have to go tomorrow to look at a thatched cottage that Tom is in the process of buying, by way of a survey – I have more hands-on experience of the pitfalls of old property than most professional  surveyors (as far as I know none of my work has yet failed!), and am not easily scared by a few minor issues – and I should get my thermometer back! I’ll be glad when March 8 arrives and we can legally meet one person in our gardens – I am being compliant, but I’m sure a lot of people are not taking much notice – it is very difficult in the nice weather and having had ‘the jab’ to keep to the rules, but overall I think it is sensible for the long term.  Oh, and the swivel clamp for my vice (see 21st Feb) is in use all the time!

I’ve set it to the right gape but its not yet hardened so I don’t want to compress is too many times.

 

I hope it works because its one of my better looking springs!

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 (Hutchinson barrel behind.)

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.

CLICK ON THE PHOTOS FOR A BETTER VIEW!

 

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.