This site contains details of what I do – it does not mean that it is safe or legal for you to do the same, and I accept no responsibility if you do. You are responsible for ensuring that what you do is within your capabilities and is safe and legal in your country. Guns, even antiques, can be dangerous and if you don’t know what you are doing get expert help. Many antique guns are of historic and/or financial value, and its your responsibility to find out if what you want to do will damage their value. Remember, leaving them as they are won’t diminish their value but inappropriate repair might well make them worth less, maybe much less! If in doubt don’t do it.
from Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..
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Welcome to my site – you’ll find this post is a sort of diary where I put things I’m doing that are (almost) relevant to the subject – they ‘fall off the bottom’ after a few weeks – bits from the diary may get put into existing or new posts when they fall off. Please feel free to contact me via the comments box in each post or by my email as per the CONTACT tab at the top. If I can I will respond – email will usually get a quicker response. Many of the guns illustrated belong to friends or clients who have given permission for them to be included.
Most of the photos on this website are mine, a few are from other sources or are photographed from books. The guns photographed mostly belong to other people who are happy for them to be on the web – I always ask. My photos are copyright – you are welcome to use them for your own purposes, but not for gain – please always attribute them to cablesfarm.co.uk. All my photos have been reduced in resolution using photoscape (excellent & free) to save space on the website, they are normally 1200 pixels wide, occasionally 1600 for more interesting things. The image you will normally see on your screen is at a lower resolution still, as wordpress fits it to the page and decreases the resolution very considerably to speed up loading. Clicking on any photo will show you the full 1200 or 1600 width version if your screen resolution allows it – they are very much clearer. All the photos were originally taken at much higher resolution – up to 6000 pixels wide – if you want a higher resolution version of any of the photos e.g. for publication, please contact me with details and we can if necessary discuss copyright and I can forward full resolution copies. For serious research publications I am happy to take new photos of guns I have access to. If you right click & ‘save image’ from the normal web page you will get an image of (for the J LANG 14 bore for example) 94 KBytes, if you left click on the image and download from the larger image that comes up on a blank screen you’ll get about 573 KBytes, which is what I uploaded to the website – if I send you the original cropped image it is 8.257 MBytes with a horizontal count of 5885 pixels !
So now you know why the photos in the normal view look a bit murky! Just click on them for a better photo.
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;-
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
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!
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;-
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
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.
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)
9th Jan – Started on the ‘works’ for the lock – I decided to begin by trasferring the parts from the original lock to my lockplate – I can replace them with new later. I made a spring steel jig from the original lock by making bits of steel rod into punches that exactly fitted the screw holes in the lock and marking and drilling the holes, then transferring the plate to the new lock and marking and drilling the holes in the lock plate. Unfortunately there is not a handy thread size to match the original screws – they are 3.05 diameter and 40 t.p.i. – between UNF 4 and 5, so I settled on 4 (2.85 OD) as it has to pass through 3.05 mm. holes – bit of a fiddle as the shanks are now slightly bigger than the threads so another diameter to turn… Anyway I made the 4 screws necessary and it all fits together – I probably need to remake the sear pivot screw as the shank is a bit slack, but that can wait. One of the things I find really tricky is getting the slots in the heads of screws exactly in the centre – I put the slots in by hand using a bit of hacksaw blade ground down to a tapered edge – I have a number of different degrees of grinding for different slot widths. Now I have to make the hole in the lockplate for the tumbler. Despite my very careful jig making I am not absolutely certain that the pilot hole in the lockplate aligns perfectly with the back bearing in the bridle – I realise I should not have put in a pilot hole, but left it til the bridle was in place and then drilled the lockplate through the bridle, but I’ll sort it – I may have to do a bit of adjustment of the hole position as I enlarge it to 7 mm for the tumbler ( I think it can only be 1/4 of a mm out.). Still its getting there! I will need to find my knife gravers to make the slot for the tab on the sear spring – everything got spread around when I vacated my workshop to be the kitchen!
Jig is clamped and held by running instant glue round the edge.
I was quite pleased with the slots in the heads, I don’t usually get them that central! They are a bit too fine.
8th Jan – I retraced my screw making steps of yesterday! I managed to remove the bit of screw from the outboard frizzen pivot support by heating it with a tiny flame and cutting a minute slot and unscrewing it. I made the new frizzen spring fixing screw bigger, UNF 5 as the boss was big enough to accomodate it and it does take a lot of strain. Frizzen springs are attached at the lock plate face, but the force on them is where the frizzen heel touches the roller – i.e. outboard, so there is a force rotating the frizzen spring away from the lock – you often see it on flintlocks, not usually bad enough to worry. Anyway its all working nicely now. The spring closes almost completely when the pan opens – if I were making the lock again with the bebefit of hindsight I would have tilted the pan casting up at the front of the lock so as to leave a bit more room, but it seems to work. I’m still puzzled as to how the screws got to be so hard! I tempered the bit of the frizzen pivot up to 300C for a good 15 minutes but it still snapped when I tried to bend it. at a rather low level of force. I didn’t harden or temper the new screws! I ordered a selection of EN8 round bar so I have a stock of known material in future. I tried silver steel but its a pig to get a good finish when turning so I used the previous material. I reckon I can just get away with the cock in the same place as in the original lock – that will mean that I can copy all the internals ( or I suppose, use them interchangably between the two locks if I’m feeling lazy). Looking at the photos I’d say the cock was a bit big for the lock, but its not so obvious when looking at the real thing – I often see things when I come to put photos on the website that I miss in the flesh. Its good to have the photos on the blog – so often one (I) takes dozens of photos and never looks at them. Reminds me of the joke about some foreigh visitors – husband says “look at this fantastic view'”, wife says “just take a photo and I’ll look when we are back home”.
The frizzen spring doesn’t have a lot of room, but is just OK!
Initial contact may be a little high, we’ll see how it works when finished.
7th Jan. – Its getting near to the time when I have to do my Tax for the year – but for the moment I can afford to play! Todays jobs went OK . I drilled and tapped the frizzen pivot hole and turned a pin with a UNF4 thread tapped into the outboard support. The inside hole was very close to the edge of the ‘bolster’ so it has a minimal head. I fettled up the frizzen spring and centered and drilled the hole through the boss and turned up a UNF4 pin with a countersink head to fit the outside of the frizzen spring boss ( an unusual arrangement) and turned up a small roller to bear on the toe of the frizzen pivot. The Frizzen pivot is quite low down on the lock plate and by the time the spring has a roller mounted there is not a lot of room for the spring to open and close. I closed the spring up in the vice so that its natural opening was a bit bigger than it would be with the frizzen open, but not excessively so – a bit of a guess! I heated the spring up to red heat with my oxy-gas torch (the one that supplied my Covid oxygen!) as my regular butane torch wasn’t hot enough when I brought it in from the freezing shed to properly vaporise the gas and dumped it in water, then polished it on the buffing wheel and found a spot on the AGA hotplate that was about 305 degrees (using a radiation thermometer) and put the spring down, covered with 3 layers of aluminium foil and closed the lid for 10 minutes to temper it. The screws and the roller were hardened using Blackleys colour case hardening powder – I stupidly tried the frizzen pivot screw without tempering it and broke off a bit of the threaded end in the hole – fortunately leaving enough to work, although it may give trouble in use. I just didn’t appreciate how hard/brittle EN8 could be! The tricky part was getting the holes to mount the frizzen spring in the right place so the bump on teh frizzen pivot goes through the null point at about 30 degrees opening and thereafter throws the frizzen back covincingly – I did manage to get that right although the spring might benefit from opening a bit to give a bit more snap – we’ll see when it sll together and we have the cock and mainspring etc working. Bother – I was sitting there opening and closing the frizzen when the frizen fixing screw sheared off – even after I had tempered it to 280 degrees, not sure what is going on – will sort out tomorrow and get some photos!
6th Jan Since we are now in lockdown I couldn’t go and get Jason our expert welder to weld in the pan, so I did it myself – it made a bit of a mess of the lockplate but it has cleaned up reasonably well given that the pan section didn’t have much of a margin and was thinner than the lockplate. It will work… Next job was to sort the frizzen – the nearest casting I had didn’t quite fit – it was either right for the pivot hole and wrong for the pan, or vice versa. I araldited the frizzen into the correct place for the pivot and drilled a 2.4 mm hole for a pin – just as I started to drill I saw that it wasn’t quite right, so had to pop the lock in the AGA to soften the araldite and start again. Having got a good pivot hole in the lock and frizzen, I cut the frizzen halfway between the pivot and the pan and filed the joint so that I could glue the pivot and the pan in place and tack weld the frizzen back together – that worked rather well, and even cleaned up reasonably – my only doubt is whether it will be strong enough in use. I filed up a rather large top jaw casting to fit – although why I didn’t just start from a bit of 6 mm plate as I usually do, is a mystery… Anyway that is done so I set up the cock and ran an end mill down the back of the top to clear the cock screw and tapped it No 12 UNC – I’d have preferred UNF but I don’t have a die for that size. I turned a matching top jawscrew from a scrap of EN8 16 mm round bar. With a bit of judicious filing on the back of the frizzen it now fits perfectly and holds a flint nicely, although I need to raise a few spikes on the gripping surfaces. Now I can see how the flint hits the frizzen and decide where to put the tumbler hole. I had a look at the lock of my John Manton double flint gun which has a similar shaped pan but a cock with a ‘spur’ – semi French ? – I have a very similar cock that I was thinking of using, but the spur cock would need the tumbler nearer the flash shield so it could act as a stop. I did some measuring – the arm on tumblers that carries the link to the mainspring defines the leverage and tends to be more or less the same length on all similar sized locks. This arm has to clear the ‘bolster, whose rearward extent is fixed by the poition of the side nail – this means that the distance between the side nail and the tumbler axis needs to be more or less constant. In my Manton the side nail is quite a lot closer to the touch hole than on my Nock lock, so the tumbler axis can be nearer the pan, hence the spur cock will fit. If you didn’t follow that, never mind, its another example of the inter-relationship between all the different bits of the lock – its no wonder that the designs stayed the same for long periods. With the frizzen in place if I put the cock on the original tumbler position the flint strikes the frizzen a little near the top, although I think it would work OK ( I seem too remember about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up is usual – however, I’ve just had a look at the Manton and it strikes at exactly the same place on the frizzen as mine, so I won’t worry and will keep the same tumbler centre. Next job is to make the proper frizzen screw – The screw obviously passes through the frizzen as a plain shaft but can either be tapped into the outboard end of the frizzen support, or into the lockplate end. The Manton has the screw head on the outside and the thread in the lock plate, but I think its more usual to have the screwhead on the inside of the lock and the tapped thread on the support arm. I think I’ve also seen the scewhead on the inside of the lock, and a tapped larger thread in the lockplate so the end in the support arm is plain. I will probably copy the Manton. The screw that holds the frizzen spring can similarly either be tapped into the spring itself with the screwhead on the inside ( the more common arrangement ) or screwed in from the outside with the head visible. I have little choice as the spring casting I’ve got is intended to have the screwhead outside and I’m not sure there is enough metal to file it into the other pattern.. After that its the inside ‘works’.
I did a bit more filing before welding but you get the idea….!
Cock is in the position is in the original Nock lock – I think it is OK…
I rather wanted to use this spurred cock as on the John Manton but it won’t fit!
4th Jan I bit the bullet and engraved the name on the lock – more or less OK! I made the hook on the toe of the lock to go under the screwhead that retains the front of the lock – the lock plate is slightly curved so that the lock can be fed under the screw – I hadn’t noticed that before. My technique for the hook is to build up a pile of weld, then file it to shape – it ended up with a curved back as that is what the weld did – it works perfectly! I tacked the pan into the lock plate – it was a bit of a mess as I made a few mistakes that I had to weld over, but it turned out OK in the end – I have just left the critical joint under the pan on the front of the lock – I’ll need to be feeling confident to do that – my TIG welding is not very expert and I’m a bit out of practice. It all looks as if it is coming together – I need to make a top jaw and top jaw screw so that I can see exactly how the cock falls on the frizzen before I drill the tumbler hole, and put in the pivot for the frizzen. I’m not sure if there is enough metal in the frizzen in the right place for the pivot. I’ll araldite the frizzen to the pan and drill a small hole through the support bracket, frizzen and lockplate to see how they align. I’ll need to do a bit of sorting on the tail of the frizzen to get the lump that engages the frizzen spring to go through the slot cut in the pan support – another complication…… Makes you realise how complex and inter related all these bits are! And that still leaves all the internals and the frizzen spring……….
Photos not up to my usual standard, not sure what happened – sorry!
3rd Jan Still quite a lot of messing around finding all the bits of my old workshop that got moved out when it was a temporary kitchen, and putting them back. I had tmy engraving microscope, but not the hone that I need by it for sharpening gravers. I put the TIG welder and Argon back but then had to find the rinder to sharpen electrodes, and so it goes on! I filed the bevel/chamfer on the lock plate – more or less Ok, and did a bit of practice engraving on EN 8 to make sure I could cut the border lines well enough – I decided I could, so they are on the lockplate too. I cleaned up the cock so I could see how it fitted – I want to keep the same tumbler position as in the original Nock lock as it enables me to copy the shapes of all the internal components. I can’t, for instance, move the tumbler towards the pan as that would not leave room for the arm on the tumbler that carries the link to the mainspring, and shortening the arm would call for a stronger spring…. Its all interconnected! if I were just making a flint lock for display or a an ‘antique’ it probably wouldn’t matter too much, but my aim is to make a gun that shoots, and that has implications for the internal mechanism etc. The main issue for me is that some flintlocks fire really fast and are good to shoot, while others don’t seem t obe amenable to tuning for fast ignition – and it would seem that this is more art than science – indeed a black art!
2nd Jan – Dry fitted the pan into the lock plate, which took a lot of filing and trying – Its important to get the pan positioned correctly in relation to the touch hole – which is a little tricky as the touch hole itself hasn’t been made yet and the hole for it is 9 mm diameter. Its important that the touch hole is slightly above the pan because for fast ignition its the flash from the burning powder that ignites the main charge via the touch hole – the flash travels much faster than the burn rate through powder, so if you pile up powder over the touch hole you may get more reliable ignition but it will be slower than flashed ignition. my double Manton has little ‘shutters’ on the frizzens that cover the touch holes and push any priming powder away from the touch hole. The shutters have a small hole to allow air to escape but will (probably) keep any powder from the main charge from entering the pan. It was a Manton patent but never caught on. Anyway the pan is now ready to weld, but I think before I do that I’ll file the chamfers on the lock. I did try a cut with a graver on the lock material, but the EN8 seems harder than I remember, or else its so long since I engraved anything that I’ve forgotten what it feels like! (I probably need to anneal it! what a pain) I’ll probably put my name on the lock if I can cut it as I am not trying to pass it off as the work of Henry Nock!
1st Jan. 2021 – HAppy New Year – lets hope it improves rapidly, although the signs are not particularly good at the moment. Just hoping we don’t all go the way of Essex! I spent a few more hours filing and fettling on the Nock Lock – first core was to take a blank of 8 mm x 50 mm EN 8 steel ( this is moderately hardenable – ? about 1/2% carbon) and mill out the lock plate 3.5 mm thick leaving the bolster, then cut it out with an angle grinder and 1 mm disk. I clamped it on the bed of the milling machine and nibbled away some of the edges, then filed it to fit – have to be careful to work slowly and avoid damaging the edges of the lock pocket with burrs thrown up on the metal. Once profiled I put it back on the miller and thinned the tail down to about 1.6 mm and filed a concave step to match the original (its a common feature). So we now have a fitting lock plate with stepped tail and bolster in the correct place to receive the pan. At this stage its worth marking a centre punch for the side nail, as that will fix the plate relative to the gun – an easy way to do this accurately is to grind the blank end of a drill that just fits the hole in the stock and use it as a centre punch – it will not make a particularly good mark as its probably too soft, but you can see it clearly. At this point I could see that the bolster plus plate is the correct thickness and is touching the breech block – the breech block is slightly domed around the tapped hole for the barrel so I may need to recess the bolster to match as I can’t touch the breech block its – too hard. I eventually selected a pan casting that had already been cut down, and I’ve go a couple of frizzens that will probably fit, plus a couple of cocks. The net step will be to cut the lock plate to receive the pan casting – I may need to juggle the bolster and casting in the region of the frizzen pivot to make sure the pin is secure and works properly – the casting has been cut a bit close to the hole.. Having cut the plate for the casting I’ll clean up the plate properly and put a chamfer round the edge and do any engraving that is needed – its easier to do that before the pan is fixed in – I hate trying to engrave/re-engrave complete flintlocks as the pans always get in the way. Once the pan is welded in, or at least tack welded, I can finally sort out the frizzen, and then I’ll be in a position to select a cock – I have two possible ones, I think one is a little on the small size and the other may be a smidgin too big, but once the pan and frizzen are installed it will be easier to choose. It may be possible to open up the small one. Then I’ll be able to see where to put the tumbler hole – I have marked the original location from my card template but it can be altered slightly, although it can’t be pushed too far towards the tail of the lock or there isn’t room for the sear spring. There are so many variables to be sorted, and with a limited range of parts at my disposal, and only having made a couple of flint locks before it is a challenge – still that is why one does these things!
Possible parts – when the pan is in it should be easier to choose to best fit.
30th December – OK, its the new flint lock for my little Henry Nock – the pistols can wait! I got out my drawers of bits and pieces and had a rummage – I have 4 or 5 pan castings that Blackleys make for reconverting percussion back to flint from full lock sets, and several frizzens and cocks. Its a matter of sorting out which are most suitable period wise, and which are near enough in dimensions to fit – The original lock on the Nock looks as if it had a semi rainproof pan, not one of the very tiny pans that went with French cocks – I do have a set of castings for a late Mc Knight double with tiny pans and French cocks ( I don’t want to break up the set) – the cocks are tiny compared to earlier ones. I also have a pan section taken from the same lock and a somewhat larger flintcock with a spur that might do with the Mc Knight pan, and a frizzen that can be made to fit. Since I want the gun to be interchangeable between the new flintlock and the percussion lock, I dont want to modify the lock pocket or any of the woodwork, certainly not the opening. This means that the main defining dimension of a pan section is the overall thickness, as the pan needs to touch the breech accurately to avoid sparks getting iside the lock, while the outside of the pan casting lock face needs to be flush with the level of the existing lock face. I also have a pan casting that has been cut down ready to weld into a lock, but I’m not sure about it as the cut is quite close to the pan etc and I’m not sure if I can weld it neatly enough – I suppose I could get Jason in Haverhill to do it, but I’m trying to stay away form people while the pandemic rages! I guess that as I want the flintlock to shoot and am not trying to fake it back to flint, function is more important than looks!
Strightforward drum and nipple conversion so not too difficult to make it into a flintlock that I can shoot.
These are the parts I picked out that might work for the Nock.
26th December – The Kitchen was finally properly finished ( bar a ittle bit of snagging) at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve when I finally got the gas hob conneced and working, so just made it to finish Penny’s Christmas present with 8 hours to spare! Pretty pleased, so now I can relax for a couple of days. After that it will be time to reclaim my workshop from its temporary use as a kitchen and think about a project – I have some bits ‘in the white’ to make a pair of duelling pistols in the Wogdon style, and a couple of walnut stock blanks, so maybe that will get my attention, or I might just warm up by making a flint lock for my little Nock single barrel 16 bore so I can interchange between flint and percussion……. Or I might just have fun and start my disinformation campaign on social media – the revelation that the latest mutation of the covid 19 virus can be spread by email, Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp……………………………… some people will believe anything!
22nd December – Oh dear, I’ve been absent for too long in the rush to finish the Kitchen. Well, after a major move back that involved a complete turnout of the larder ( including replacing the lights that I had cut off when I removed the old kitchen wiring). Anyway I just about made my deadline of 21st and we are now using the new kitchen – we had our first meal there at dinner tonight. I’ve started a separate post on the Kitchen, with a description of what we did if you are, by any chance, interested! Anyway here are a couple of photos of the finished kitchen before we moved in and cluttered it all up!
‘Sideboard’ made by Matthew with my design of handles.
December 9th. At last the grouting of the floor tiles is complete and we can get the units in to work on the tops and fix the main unit. It took around 4 man days to grout the floor – about 1 1/2 hours per square meter! Anyway it now looks good – I’m in the process of sealing the tiles – the sealer is special in that it is permeable – like everything else in this floor – the instructions say keep applying sealer every hour until the floor is not absorbing it – I’m not sure how long that will take, but I have put on 3 coats and its still soaking it up – perhaps I’d better go and put on another coat! We had been working on the kitchen for 3 months as of yesterday (excluding my construction of the main unit )- I’m hoping that we will finish by 21st December so we can be in by Christmas – not that there will be much of Christmas. Anyway the pressure is on! When we have finished I’ll gather up the bits of this post and make a dedicated post and maybe put up the costings if I can bear to add it all up.
December 6th. Had what is probably my last shoot of the season near Beccles on Saturday – luckily a fine day after the rain and snow of Friday. Shoots are a bit out of practice at the moment because lackdown put a stop to them, so things were perhaps not as slick as usual and there was rather a lot of hanging around, but at least it wasn’t too cold. We were doubled up on pegs so Pete and I shared a peg. We had a pretty barren first three drives as we were well out of the action, but the fourth drive was fine and I had a few good shots – overall I got 4 hits for 8 shots, which was pretty good going for me. Anyway it made a nice break from the kitchen! Things in the kitchen department are moving to a close, but slowly…. We got the extractor fan installed, and a lot of cleaning up done, and today I sealed about an eigth of the floor and grouted it, and painted all the woodwork in a nice dirty white colour. I designed a grouting funnel – a 12 inch long by 6 mm wide funnel for putting the grout into the gaps between the tiles as it really needs to be quite runny to get to the bottom of the gaps – about 25 mm deep, and it seems to work pretty well. I need to get Matthew to make a variation with one vertical side for grouting the gaps round the edges of the floor. Based on the time it took me to do about 24 tiles today, sealing and grouting will take around 20 hours more, so we’ll both have to go at it… One good thing is that with the cold weather the relative humidity in the kitchen is below 40 % and the temperature is raised to about 20 C, so things are drying out nicely.
December 3rd – The pressure hots up to finish the kitchen – at the moment the key holdup is getting the floor dry enough to put the sealer on the pamments so we can grout them – if you try to grout without sealing the very porous pamments, you stain them badly, or so I’m told. It’s interesting watching the colours change with time – when the tiles arrive they are very pale whitish pink , when wetted they go pinker, then as they dry out they get paler and then after a day or two go yellow – quite a bright yellow. I think that fades slightly as the floor dries out, but most are still quite yellow. While waiting for the floor we have fixed the rest of the wiring, cleaned and very lightly polished the wooden doors and put in some of the plumbing. I had fun bending a pipe to carry the propane to the gas hob – obviously as its a gas pipe I was keen to avoid joints as far as possible but a few are necessary as the pipe run is too long for one length of tube – any way I managed to put 8 bends into the pipe and still had it coming out where I wanted it! I got the lights fixed yesterday – I’ve now ordered some G10 bulbs with 120 degree beams instead of the 35 degrees of the IKEA ones. I am tempted to fire up the underfloor heating to try and dry out the floor – the makers of the heater say 6 to 8 weeks for the screeds to cure and dry out and the top screed only went on a month ago, so I guess I had better wait a while! I’ve had several emails from viewers of this blog asking about guns they have, and possible repairs. I am often asked how much a gun is worth, usually on the basis of a simple description and no photo – obviously its more or less impossible to give a meaningful estimate. Even with a couple of not so good photos (why is it so difficult to take a decent phot given how good modern phone cameras are?) it is usually almost impossible to see the condition in sufficient detail to be accurate. I can usually guess a minimum price assuming its in poor to fairish condition – usually a few hundred pounds if it’s reasonably original. After that the price doubles for each step in condition – x2 for reasonable condition and fully functioning with mostly original parts, x2 again if in good original condition, and x2 again if it’s in near original condition and cased, or if its rare or otherwise interesting. The name on the gun can make a big difference to the starting minimum price. So you can see the difficulty in estimating effectively blind. The best advice is to look through current antique firearms auctions and see if you can find anything similar as a starting point.
November 29th – more laying of pamments on Friday – tried to tweak the mortar mix and pre-wet everything, and added a bit of lime putty to increase the plasticity – it did work a bit better, and we got another half of the floor done – that leaves about a quarter to do, but it will involve a lot of cut tiles so it will take the best part of a day. Unfortunately some of the tiles didn’t bed properly – I hadn’t noticed but several of the tiles were very bowed down in the middle and didn’t seat properly as the overall mortar thickness wasn’t enough to accommodate the bowing ( up to 5 mm) and they didn’t bond round the edges so when I walked on them 24 hours later they rocked. Interestingly the tiles turned bright yellow around a day after they were laid, except where they were not properly bonded where they stayed white/pink – tapping them reveals any bits that don’t have a proper bed under them, so I’ll go over them and see what needs to be done – poorly bedded ones can be lifted and relaid, or if there is a poorly bedded edge I might be able to run in water followed by thin grout. It will be sorted in time! I put in the lighting fixtures today – I had to modify them as they were intended to be fixed to a plate screwed onto the ceiling but the fixing needed to go into the side of the light base and the beams get in the way. Fortunately I’d glued disks of wood to the laths for each fitting, so could screw up into them. The lighting is a bit overkill, at least I suspect it will be when its turned on, as I was overcome by how cheap the IKEA TROSS triple G10 fittings were ( £7 each) and I’ve put in 8 fittings – with 3 LED bulbs of 5 watts each that is a massive amount of light. I will put in the IKEA smart bulbs so I can control at least some of the fittings. Even the cheapest unsmart bulbs cost more than the fittings, which incidentally are very well made – smart bulbs cost up to 5 times the fitting cost!.
November 26th – Got the limewash on the walls eventually, so now into floor laying. This turns out not to be as straighforward as I hoped. Conventional commercial tile cement is a complicated mix that is formulated to hold its water and remain plastic while you move and level the floor tiles, and works well – the only problem is that its pretty impermeable and so won’t do if you want the floor to breath, which I do as it prevents the moisture being forced outwards to the walls, which have no damp proof course, nor any possibility of fitting one, being flint, clunch and lime mortar. So I was advised to use a lime mortar to bed the tiles. I made up a fine mortar with NHL 5 lime and kiln dried block sand as being fine and so not stopping the tiles bedding down fully if necessary. The only trouble is that the tiles (pamments) are dry and super absorbant, as is the floor, so any mortar has its water immediately absorbed and doesn’t give any scope for positioning. In the end we managed to lay the tiles by flooding the floor where we wanted to lay mortar and spraying the pamments till they were wet and using the mortar almost in the consistency of soup. Its still necessary to get the tile in almost the correct position and its not really possible to do any fine levelling – if the tile goes down unlevel it has to be prized off ( they stick within a minute) and the whole process of laying started over again. We managed about 20 pamments an hour once we got it organised, probably a quarter of the rate with ‘normal’ tile cement. Still we did get almost 40 laid in the afternoon after messing about a fair bit working out a method. – we have a total of 204 to lay, about 20 sq meters. I’m wondering if we have the best mix of mortar – I might put in some lime putty which might hold the water a bit longer….. To add to the fun of laying them, the size varies somewhat so its impossible to get completely uniform joint gaps – we are aiming for 7 mm minimum, but the variation in tile size appears to be 2 to 3 mm at times – I’m glad we didn’t go for a smaller joint gap, I wish we had gone for a slightly wider gap – 8 m.m. would look more even, but when grouted it will all look fine – if we had wanted a perfect, regular floor we wouldn’t have spent a fortune on hand made pamments!
November 20th – Now down to all the niggly jobs that come with prep for decorating – we decided to get as much as possible done before laying the floor tiles so they don’t get messed up with splashes of limewash and its a slow series of annoying jobs cleaning and filling etc. The walls will be limewashed in colours that I’ll mix myself – acrylic pigment intended for art can be bought in half litres and that is enough to colour many litres of lime. The lime putty is mixed with water to the consistency of milk, preferably a few weeks before its needed to let some of the lime disolve in the water. The pigment needs to be mixed with plain water so that it is thorougly mixed and no lumps exist – stirring it in a jam jar with a 1/2 inch paint brush works well – it can then be poured into the lime mix. The acrylic in the paint doesn’t disolve properly if you put it directly in the lime, it forms small lumps and the finished limewash paints streaky. Limewash is a lovely finish although it needs a lot of coats to cover well – we have 5 coats of white on the ceiling to cover the plaster. One technique I used before is to finish off the limewash with a straight coat of clear limewater which then basically turns to limestone on the wall. The stuff I put on the walls 25 years ago is hard and smooth and can’t be washed off – any attempt to remove it brings off the plaster with the paint, but as it makes a firm base coat there is no point in removing it. We moved some of the new units through the kitchen to get them out of the way and they look fantastic – can’t wait to get the floor down and the units installed. The units are all built on carcasses of 16 mm ply that a friend has as scrap from his business which he kindly biscuit joins for us – the unit below weighs in at around 35 to 40 Kg without the 38 mm black walnust top, so moving them around is quite a sweat!
Matthew’s side unit
November 15th – a bt of a pause while we worked away on the kitchen… Its getting round to all the small details while we wait for the floor to dry out sufficiently to lay the pamments – probably another week. Each evening I lay a newspaper somewhere on the floor with flat plastic hawk on top of it, and in the morning the degree of dampness in the paper is easy to judge – its gradually getting dryer day by day, but still there is obviously water rising through the floor – not sure if it will decline to zero any time soon! I levelled off the section of wall to be tiled behind the hob and set the worktop level with a batten and tiled – I couldn’t decide whether to tile up to the beams or stop one course down, but when I’d got it tiled to the beams it looked wrong, so off they came. There was an oak frome round a set of shelves next to the tiling, I stuck masking tape over the oak to keep plaster splashes off it, which made us realise how much better everything looked if it was a paler colour – so it will be painted in due course. Things are beginning to edge towards the decorating stage in the sink unit half of the room – I’m contemplating tiling the floor in two halves so that I can still work in half of the room while the other half dries. Anyway things progress – Matthew dug a French drain on the outside of the North wall, which had been very damp – we thought we should do it before we finally leave the EU on 1st Jan as presumably French drains will be banned thereafter……… I suspect we shall be in for a period of chaos then – Felixstowe docks is already delaying unloading container ships by up to 10 days so who knows where it will all end – probably in tears! I’m still mystified about the ructions in No 10 – none of the ‘explanations’ in the press make any sense to me. The photos show another ‘good buy’ from Screwfix – mains powered 20 Watt Led worklights are great, specially since they fit neatly onto clamps on the beams. We have 2 in constant use.
One way and another there will be enough wood around without the frame!
November 8th The top screed went in just fine on Tuesday – added about another 2 tons of sand to the floor, but it came out pretty flat and was quicker than the first screed – it was not so thick so less waiting for the mixing in the small mixer we hired – 25 mixes exactly for this screed. We have so far used 6 tons in total. By Thursday it was OK to walk on and Matthew returned to his cabinet making and I tidied up the edges of the floor. First and second fix of wiring for the services has now started, and there is a lot of it! It is amazing how many electrical bits and pieces a kitchen has – a fair number can’t easily be accomodated by sockets above the worktops – so extra circuits are needed for oven, hob, extractor fan, water softener and underfloor heating, plus dishwasher and fridge. Add in a generous 9 or 10 double sockets spread around and that is quite a lot of wire and boxes to be let in and wires burried or preferably put in trunking! We can’t leave the wiring any longer as I am at a stage where I need to do the tiling on the wall behind the units, and the sockets sit in the tiling……. So we have another lockdown – this time it doesn’t seem to have stopped things like the first one did – there is still plenty of traffic about and most work is still going on. Not everything about the lockdown is clear – there seems to confusion about what is or is not allowed. Organised game shoots are off, but rough shooting is allowed, Angling is off, but fishing is allowed (work that one out if you can!). Matthew can still come and work because I am paying him and it is therefore work, whereas if I wasn’t paying him it would not be allowed ( we are working in different places – he has the workshops, I am working in the old kitchen). Our salvation is that Screwfix is still functioning for pre-orders online. I now have most of the appliances lined up, although I’m waiting for the sink and tap, and the worktops are not due to arrive for a week or so. Anyway its all going well, and the floor is drying out nicely so we are on schedule to lay the pamments in around 2 weeks, which gives us time to finish off most of the other jobs that can be done before the floor is laid.
There is a handy space for the services in the recess where an old outside door was.
November 2nd – I laid the heater cable on the floor in the rather poorly attached plastic strips, not easy as I couldn’t put any tension on the cable to straighten it, and my plastic strips were rather widely spaced as I didn’t order enough! Anyway with Matthew’s help unwinding the cable it all went down. I was pleased that the length worked out almost exactly right for the layout I had planned – we laid the 105 meters and I only had to shorten one loop by about 600 mm to get it all to fit perfectly. I nipped over to Anglia Lime to get more NHL 5 – Natural Hydraulic Lime – used in place of cement (OPC) for greater permeability. as the first screed was a bit sand rich. Anyway tomorrow is THE screeding day – about 2 inches to be laid, and it must be level enough to lay the pamments on with between 6 and 9 mm of mortar and get a completely flat surface – quite demanding! The first of the appliances arrived today – the oven.
1 November – Seven weeks to finish the kitchen! We finished off the first screed last week, but everything was setting and drying out so slowly that I put on the Aga and a 1 kW fan heater and the dehumidifier 24 hours a day – it has been drying out much better, the first coat lime plaster has now gone hard and the floor is giving up its excess moisture – the dehumidifier is pulling around 10 to 12 litres per day from the air and just about managing to keep the RH around 70 percent or a little lower and the temperature at 24 Celsius – in a day or so we will lay the 2 inch top screed on top of the in-screed electric heating wires. I marked out the heating cable layout – its a loose cable not a mat – and stuck plastic guide strips to the floor with Fix-All . The floor has a very loose top surface so the bond is not good, but probably enough to hold the wires in place while the screed is laid. The heating cable I was supplied with is a ‘single core’ cable, which means that power is connected across the cable from end to end so it has to make a complete loop – I have spent some time tring to work out a path that is the exact length of the cable, with a part that can be adjusted. The only thing concerning me is that we have to be able to barrow the limecrete to the working part of the floor – we’ll put down boards which will rest on the plastic strips but might displace them – I’ll think about using some wooden packing pieces to support the boards. I plan to put wooden battens to level the screed to so that it is a reasonably flat surface to lay the 12 x `12 pamments on to without having to use excessive amounts of mortar to lay them. I’m hoping we can carry on the work during the lockdown – I ordered all the materials, appliances and worktops last week so they should be delivered shortly. We will finish the screed on Tuesday, which is the only 2 man job apart from lifting the worktops at the end. I think Matthew will continue working – it is construction, which is a permitted trade and we don’t need to work in the same space – half the house is a building site! He says last lockdown he got stopped by the police and asked where he was going! Anyway he can always claim that he is going to assist his frail old father!
Strips for locating heating cable – I didn’t buy quite enough, hence the gaps!
26th October – Went to the AML clay shoot at CGC on Sunday – I wasn’t shooting very well and found the targets monotonous and a bit repetitive, and a bit too much hanging around waiting for University gun club members taking their time with some indifferent ‘coaching’. I was shooting in a squad with friends so that bit was enjoyable, but I don’t think I’ll be going to the AML monthly shoots very often – I prefer shooting with a couple of friends without the competition structure. The Kitchen progresses – on Friday we got most of the first layer of the floor screed down but at 5:30 with about a square meter more to do, we ran out of sand. My screeding wasn’t perfect, but its only the first layer so it doesn’t have to be perfectly flat – I did manage to get it smooth within about +- 4 mm over the main floor by laser – I’ll have to do a little better on the top screed so the pamments lay flat. We have to wait til Wednesday for more sand so we are getting on with sorting out bits and pieces – replastering bits of the walls, tidying the wiring and sorting out the main window cill and surround. I realised we have been seven weeks on the job and only have another 6 to go before we are supposed to finish for Christmas, although what sort of Christmas we will have in the present Pandemic remains to be seen.
9 hours on my knees screeding!
21st October -Floor materials arrived yesterday and we barrowed in 4 big bags of Geocell glass foam (at least Matthew did) – quite a job to spread it evenly, and in the end we didn’t have as much depth as we anticipated. Today I hired a wacker plate to consolidate the floor material but it was not a straighforward job – the wacker works fine going in a straight line, but turing corners it skids round and throws up a ridge on the outsside. The Geocel doesn’t really compact like a normal fill as its not graded very well – its made up of bits that would pass a 30 mm seive but without much fine stuff . I spent the morning chasing ridges round the floor and didn’t get where I hoped to be, and ended up with a surface some 20 to 40 mm below what I was aiming at and certainly not fit to lay electrical underfloor heting on. I did a small experiment running the wacker on top of a bit of the geotextile barrier sheet and that certainly helps to get rid of the ploughed bits, so we’ll do that tomorrow. Given how difficult it is to compact the fill, I won’t order any more, but instead will make up the shortfall with a thicker slab which we’ll lay in two goes with the heater wires between – I think the geocel will still give adequate insulation.- most of the floor will still have around 150 mm of fill, and some will have the wine bottles as well. Yesterday we put in all the electrical conduits that go under the fill – we had to lay them with the wires threaded as they are long runs with lots of bends.
19th October – I was expecting a large load of materials for insulating and laying the new kitchen floor today, but it didn’t materialise. I had a bit of a shock – trimming round the walls to get the earth from the foundations – large stones and flints in old lime mortar going down at least a foot and a half , I realised that the old chimney bricks were resting directly on the ground at floor level without any foundation and I’d cut the ground away flush with the brickwork – since it was likely to dry out a bit when I put in the foam glass ‘gravel’ insulating infill, I was a bit concerned that it might crumble away and destabilise the chimney. As the ground at the bottom of our excavation was as hard as iron I decided that I could just underpin it to that level, which I did with 4 courses of brick – I did wonder if I should dig out for a proper, deep, wide footing, but the chimney is about 3 bricks thick and I only really needed to underpin the outer skin to stop the earth crumbing away. Anyway it all went well and not a single brick of the chimney came loose apart from one bit of mortar facing. I’ve learnt over the years of messing around with old houses that it pays to avoid trying to make radical changes to structures as its easy to get carried away and end up with an impossible amount of work and doing more damage in the process – in this case I think the chimney probably dates from around 1700 or earlier and hasn’t moved in the last 100 years! I am not easily frightened by building problems! Matthew put in my wine bottle insulation in part of the floor – it will be covered by about 150mm of the glass foam chips. The whole floor is designed to be breathable on the principle that if the floor is a vapour barrier the ground moisture is diverted to the walls. Doing it this way makes life a little more complicated (& expensive) but it is a known technique for old houses – so there is around 150 mm of the glass foam chips followed by 80 mm of ‘limecrete’ – basically concrete made with hydraulic lime instead of Ordinary Portland Cement. That will be followed by the unglazed pamments which will have a permeable coating – I have yet to decide what that will be. I am putting electric heating under the 80 mm limecrete so it will function as a storage heater and can be run off off-peak electricity – it will have to heat about 4 tonnes of limecrete so its not going to respond very quickly! Matthew put my ‘patent’ floor insulation in a depression in the centre of the floor, to go under the glass foam chips;-
My patent additional insulation – should amuse anyone who digs up the floor in years to come!
Starting to dig out under the chimney wall – will it bring the whole massive chimney down ?
17th October – Frantic activity! Managed another shoot on Monday near Bures – very good day, and the weather held. We managed to dig out the kitchen floor to a depth of about a foot in 3 days – got rid of 4 trailer loads of soil etc. The local farmer kindly takes it for his landscaping so we keep it well sorted from rubbish. I now have to put in the conduits for electrical wiring, and trim round the edges and get a few bits sorted before putting in the insulating wine bottles and the glass foam insulation to a depth of around 6 inches. The material is scheduled to arrive on Monday along with 27 bags of natural hydraulic lime for the screed, and 3 tons of sharp sand, so altogether it will be a rather busy day. I hope we will get most of the floor laid by next weekend, then it will be a case of letting it harden for a couple of weeks – I hope no longer! As soon as its part gone off I’ll put boards down and get on with the walls etc. and take them up when I’m not working. Fun weekend threading conduit under the living room floor is in store!
The last shovel full of kitchen floor!
Last of 4 trailer loads of earth!
9th October – Finished the plastering of the ceiling – a few of the panels at the end cracked a bit but I managed to rework the lime plaster to get rid of most of them, and put a skim of lime and chalk over the second coat plaster. Matthew has put together the carcass of the cabinet, and is now working on the front frame, so it will be mostly completed shortly. I’ve been levelling up some of the walls round the window with hydraulic lime mortar – its lovely stuff to work with as it sticks to vertical surfaces – you can either flick it on or smear it, and it stays on and doesn’t slump, at least up to about 2 cm thickness. We have now run out of excuses for putting off the digging up of the floor, so next week should see that started. It is a major job as we have to excavate 300 mm deep over 20 sq meters of very compacted earth – given that when you break solid ground you end up with 2 or 3 times the volume it could yield at least 12 cubic meters – probably 6 – 8 tons! All to be sifted by wheelbarrow. I have no clear idea how long it will take the two of us! I’m off shooting on Monday so we will probably start that job on Wednesday or Thursday – I’m guessing it will take about 8 to 10 days to complete then we’ll put a layer of wine bottles as insulation, followed by some foamed glass, an 8 cm slab of limecrete, and then some electric underfloor heating and the pamments – Oh and put in the electric and gas somewhere under the slab!
Someone suggested that it would be ‘better’ to use plasterboard between the beams – he hadn’t seen them!
7th October – got most of the plastering done, thank goodness – with luck tomorrow should see it finished – its tricky plastering between the beams, I’ve used several rolls of masking tape in an attempt to keep the beams themselves free of lime plaster – might put a photo of the job tomorrow if its done! Matthew has been making the drawers and doors for the next cabinet – he was pretty amazed at how quick it is to make dovetail joints with the Trend jig and router. They have the advantage that the joints are rigid and aligned when knocked together, so don’t really require any other fixing or clamping, just a check that the drawer is square – i.e. drop in the bottom, and a squirt of glue. I was given a nice little gun related gadget by a friend – a brass and boxwood shot gauge by Robinson. I’m not really sure of the date, I don’t think its very old – my guess would be 1920 to 1940 (ish) but I’d be interested to hear from anyone who can shed any light on the date or on Robinson. I checked it with modern shot and it reads very accurately. Reminds me of old school rulers. And what was the ‘Patent Shot’ referred to on the second scale ? I re-stocked on 1.2 mm and 2.2 mm HSS drills for making nipples – from my favourite supplier Tracy Tools – they are only 50p each so I bought 15 of the 1.2mm and don’t mind if I have to use a new one for each nipple I make.
The shot in the gauge is, as it shows, No. 7 1/2 shot.
4th October – Apart from getting myself covered in plaster from head to toe, I’ve had a couple of other little problems to attend to – my radial arm saw, the basic tool for all the work Matthew is now doing on the second cabinet, blew up – fortunately only a short in the wiring where it flexes when you cut, but it took a fair while to strip it down to get at the wire to repair – done now. Also my hone packed up and had to be stripped and modified to cut out the variable transformer speed control as it had expired – so now its on full speed, which is more or less how I always use it anyway. I’ve had to buy a dehumidifier as the plaster is taking weeks to dry out and I need to get on with the final coat. I had an interesting gun job – make a pair of nipples for a John Manton shotgun. I took the old nipples which were a bit oversize for No 11 nipples and made new ones to the same dimensions, as I thought. When I came to fit them in the barrel I discovered that the flanges above the thread need to fit inside a recess – so the flange diameter is critical – mine were slightly too big. I haven’t seen breech blocks like that before, they usually have a raised rim at the top of the thread so the flange diameter isn’t critical. – it also had the side nail through the breech block (I have seen that) and a vertical sear. Anyway I was able to turn down the flanges, but I decided anyway to make another pair of nipples that fitted the hexagonal driver that came with the gun. I got carried away and decided that a video on making nipples was overdue, so I hope that will surface soon… Oh, and I had a request for a personalised decapping tool – I’m nearly out of blanks….
1 October – Lots more work on the kitchen – the new stapler arrived and just about worked – next time I’ll get an air driven one- so the laths are up and I’ve put on the 1st coat and started on the finishing coats – I have a shortcut techniqe for lime plastering that seems to work although its not an approved method – after the first coat of sharp sand and lime putty 3:1 with goat hair (really!) and scratched up with a pointed lath has hardened ( almost a week at the moment) I put on a second coat of lime putty and plasterer’s sand with a bit of calcinated clay to form a more or less smooth surface over the dampened 1st coat – after an hour or three when that is hardening up a bit ( its lime so doesn’t set like gypsum plaster) I skim very lightly over it with a lime putty and chalk mix to smooth off any depressions, then after that has hardened up a bit I go over it with a damp sponge to get rid of any obvious marks. The effect is to leave a surface that isn’t clinically flat, but is very slightly undulating. Well, I like the effect although I’m sure it would give a professional plasterer the heeby jeebies. Matthew started work on another kitchen cabinet – to match the other one the doors needed a central panel of elm, while the rest was oak. It is not easy to buy elm as Dutch Elm Disease got rid of most of the timber years ago and timber merchants laugh if you ask them, but I managed to get a very nice plank from ebay that has enough timber for three cupboard door panels – it turned out to have a very good grain, and should give two matching outer doors and a fine central door – a win and not unduly expensive. I actually did a bit of gun work – a client reminded me that I was supposed to be doing a bit of engraving for him and I couldn’t face using the microscope in my rather ramshackle metalwork shop so I moved it back into a corner of the temporary kitchen and did a bit of engraving – a trigger guard tang and a couple of screws – as usual I forgot to take photos…. I also had a couple of pairs of nipples that were a bit too big for modern caps to try to slim down to get them to take 1035 caps – they were superficially hard so I ran them against the linisher belt in the chuck of a battery drill – unfortunately I took a bit much off a couple and they were a little loose, so I made a new pair of titanium nipples. The bit that always makes me nervous about the operation is putting the 1.2 mm hole about 3 mm deep into the threaded end – I put a pip in with a small centre drill and then drill with the 1.2 mm drill, but if you get it wrong or the drill is not sharp it just work hardened/polishes the bottom of the hole – you have very little feel from the tailstock wheel and you can sometimes see the drill bow under the pressure – it usually means using a new drill bit – I reckon I average about 1 drill bit per two or three nipples. If you are unlucky the tip of the drill breaks off in the metal so its best to drill the hole before any other operations so that you can just face off the rod ( 10 mm dia. offcuts of titanium T5 from ebay) and start over.
22nd Sept – bit of a hold-up on the kitchen – the replacement staple gun won’t be here til Friday so Matthew has a lie-in and then built a roof over part of the yard to house the working area when the weather is no longer so perfect. I did a bit more of the first coat plastering- about 20% now done – its slow as much of it is detailed edge stuff. Got to find another two or three day’s work to occupy Matthew until the stapler arrives! Mystery on the Covid 19 front – Penny went to have an antibody test today ( she had not had any symptoms when I got it and she was in the house looking after me) – the pharmacist initially said she hadn’t had it, then saw a faint response and said he had only seen that response once before ( me, but he didn’t know we were related), so we are not greatly enlightened! My friend and fellow gun restorer is moving and giving up the game, so I’ll go and see if I can buy any goodies from him – there are a few breech loaders I have borrowed that interested me, including the Collarth and the Gibbs and Pitt. I might rescue some of his stock of castings for flintlocks. I’m still unsure whether I’ll bother to look at Bonhams tomorrow – I should be working but I might put my tablet on in the old kitchen and see if anything cathces my eye!
The work shelter Matthew built in 2 1/2 hours.
21 Sept – Slightly chastened by a follower of this blog lamenting the absence of gun related stuff, I had a quick look through Bonhams catalogue for this Wednesday – quite a lot of interesting stuff, and if I dared to go and have a proper look I might be tempted to overspend. There is a very nice cased Forsyth scent bottle gun with all the bits if you have a cool £8000 plus premium minimum. Several pistols caught my eye – and mostly at almost affordable prices if you forget about the premium! I have this idea, probably completely wrong, that cased pistols are better vale than uncased – The little cased Egg is neat and so on………. It is interesting to see what has happened to antique firearms prices – the very low interest rates in general have attracted people to what are euphemistically called ‘investment grade’